Finding Florida

12 Tips for an Amazing Time at MNSSHP!

mickeys not so scary photo collage

One of my favorite nights of the year is right around the corner! Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World! The night is pure magic! If you ever get the chance to attend I highly recommend it. It is fun for all ages! This will be our 5th year attending MNSSHP and we have learned some really valuable tips and tricks that have helped us along the way so I wanted to share them with YOU!

  1. GET THERE EARLY– The party technically goes from 7pm- midnight…but they will begin admitting MNSSHP ticket holders at 4pm. Getting there early not only allows you to have some extra time in the park before the party begins but it helps avoid the large rush of people entering just before 7pm. In years past they have had a special entrance line for MNSSHP ticket holders to enter and get their wristbands. Like most things at Disney it runs like a well oiled machine!
  2. DRESS UP– Get the whole family involved in the party fun! This is one of the only times at Disney where adults can wear costumes!! I promise you wont be the only adult dressed up! We have noticed a pretty even split between those in costumes and those without. Have some fun with it! We do a family theme every year and it has been a blast! Even my mother-in-law gets in on the action!! It just adds an extra layer of magic to your evening! Just be sure to follow the rules that Disney lays out for costumes…for complete dressing guidelines click here
  3. FLORIDA IS HOT– This goes along with the costuming. I can’t stress to you how hot and humid it is in Florida in early fall. I have seen so many people dressed in full costumes and just melting into a puddle. It does get a little better once the sun goes down…but usually the humidity doesnt die down very much. HOT!
  4. TAKE A NAP– Trust me on this one…especially if you have kids! Have a low key day…hang by the pool, relax, and take a nap!! This is a MNSSHP tradition for us. My kids are well past the age of napping, but we still always take one before the party. We usually get to the party right at 4 and go till about 11:30 or so…so to avoid meltdowns and sleepy kiddos just take it easy!
  5. BOOK FASTPASSES FOR 4pm– While you can’t book fastpasses during the party, you can still schedule some for the hours prior to the party. If you plan to get there for 4pm you can definitely schedule in a couple of rides before the party even starts! Hit a few rides before the party festivities start and then you will have more time for the party extras!
  6. PHOTO OPS– During the party there will be LOTS of places to stop and get special MNSSHP photos taken. Totally worth it!! These are photos that you can only get during the Halloween party so I totally recommend doing it. One of our favorites is just outside of the gates to Magic Kingdom…the Headless Horseman makes an appearance!
  7. PLAN BEFORE YOU GO– Make sure you check out a schedule of party events and map of the event before you go…for reals! There is SO much to see and do and EAT that you dont want to miss anything! We like to take a few minutes and plan out what is most important for us to see and do…for example…which parade do you want to see, where will you eat dinner, what rides are most important, do you want to see any of the extra shows or characters! Go with a plan and the night will be so much smoother!
  8. DON’T MISS THE PARADE– MNSSHP Parade is among the BEST parades that Disney puts on…and Disney does a good parade! Stake out your spot early and make sure you get your little ones up front so they can see. If you have little ones I recommend the earlier parade…it is usually busier but you dont run the risk of your kiddo zonking out in the stroller and missing the whole she-bang! I will warn you…the song to the parade will be stuck in your head until the following year…but thats OK because it is awesome 😉
  9. TRICK-OR-TREATING– It isn’t just for the kids at Disney. Grown ups are totally allowed and encouraged to go trick-or-treat. Disney isn’t shy when it comes to giving out fistfulls of candy either…be prepared for some serious sugar. If you or your kids have food allergies…don’t worry…Disney has you covered. You can exchange your trick-or-treating loot for some treats that you can enjoy!
  10. TAKE A RIGHT– When you entered Magic Kingdom…bang a right! You can enter through a special passageway and here you can get a candy bag and a special goodie bag! There are also a couple of photo spots here!!
  11. SPECIAL CHARACTER MEET AND GREETS– All the villains come out to play at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! This is an awesome chance to catch up with some characters that aren’t usually out and about in the parks. Certain characters like Jack and Sally are hugely popular though, so if they are on your must-meet list…be prepared for a loooong wait! The 7 Dwarfs are also a hot commodity…the line will typically last a couple of hours. There are a lot of meet and greets with shorter lines however…Mickey and friends are available to meet in their full Halloween attire! Pooh and Friends are also dressed in super adorable Halloween costumes and their lines are not bad at all! Halloween is also a good chance to meet the Princes along with their Princesses!
  12. PLAN YOUR EXIT– Now, if you have been to Magic Kingdom you will know that getting IN and OUT of Magic Kingdom isnt always easy. You basically have a monorail, a boat, or a bus if you are staying on property. Exiting the party at midnight with EVERYONE ELSE is no fun…none at all. I have two pieces of advice…if you are like us, bust out a little early…before the second parade gets out. You avoid the rush and and can pretty easily grab a boat or monorail. If you don’t have exhausted children and don’t mind waiting, I say hang back and take your time exiting. Hang toward the back of the park and wait for the mad rush of people to get out before you do! You might even be able to snag some half empty Main St pics!

 

Be prepared for a great time. Be prepared for a TON of candy. Be prepared to want to go back again!!

For more information or to purchase tickets click here

 

Homeschooling

Our Secular Morning Basket

secular morning basketI have a confession. I thought that morning baskets were totally off the table because we are secular homeschoolers. For real! I don’t know why! I think it stemmed from the fact that the only morning baskets I had seen were centered around bible study…so I just put the idea out of my head! I had never seen a secular morning basket! Fast forward to this summer, I was re-introduced to the idea of morning baskets by my friend Jessica over at The Waldock Way. It quickly hit me that a morning basket could be anything that I wanted it to be. We could include anything we wanted to and take out anything that we didn’t want to cover. No two morning baskets have to look the same! This was a light-bulb moment for me! I LOVED the idea of having a time in the morning to come together with the kids and set the stage for our day!

Which leads me to my next confession… I am not a morning person. Like…at all! You would think that after having 3 kiddos I would have embraced mornings, but, nope, no such luck. I like to ease into my mornings. Coffee and silence…the dynamic duo. Anyway, my point behind that confession is that I love the idea of having an organized morning basket that will help ease my transition into the world of wakefulness!

SO! Without further ado…here is what will be included in our basket! I plan to have subjects in here that we will cover daily…our read aloud, our American History, and Spanish for example…and subjects that will rotate depending on the day…our National Park unit, Music, and Art. So, let’s take a little peek at each subject we will include!

CALDECOTT UNIT

Caldecott Books

This year I am so excited to be studying Caldecott Medal winning books. I have a picture book obsession! I found this amazing unit through Evan-Moor’s TeacherFileBox online…I will have a future blog post about this because it is ah-mazing! Evan-Moor offers two different Literature Pockets all about Caldecott books…one for grades 1-3 and one for grades 4-6. I plan to do both! TeacherFileBox is a yearly subscription to ALL of the amazing books that Evan-Moor has to offer…we are using it for Literature Pockets, History Pockets, Spelling, Science, and a lot more! You can check it out by clicking here: TeacherFileBox

SPANISH

SPANISH BOOKS

Spanish is a subject that I really want to incorporate every day. These are the two primary books we will be using for our Morning Basket. These are both from Usborne Books & More and they are amazing! Listen and Learn First Spanish Words has several cards with different words. When you touch the picture it will correctly pronounce the word in Spanish! First Thousand Words in Spanish is one of my favorites. It has wonderful illustrations and is really eye catching for young kids as well as older kids. One of the best things about this particular book is that it is internet linked…it has a special website you can go to and it will have a correct pronunciation of each word. So awesome. I have a couple of workbooks that we will also be using but those aren’t part of our Morning Basket so I didn’t add them in this post!

ART

art books

Art is a favorite in our house! We love learning about different artists and different art techniques. I plan to continue the artist studies that I began last year…you can check out  my post about our Picasso study right here: http://homeschoolbythebeach.com/2017/05/29/amazing-artists-week-1-becoming-picasso/ We will us the Usborne Art Treasury as our main book. This book is a must-have for homeschoolers! It features many artists and for each artist it will give you a little bio on that artist, introduce some of their work, and then have a project for you to complete in the style of that artist. SO FUN! My kids really enjoyed it! I also adore the Usborne Famous Paintings Cards…they are really heavy duty “flash cards” with a piece of artwork on one side and then information about the piece and the artist on the back. Great resource!

AMERICAN HISTORY

AMERIAN HISTORY BOOKS

AMERICAN HISTORY BOOK

American History is going to be covered every day…mostly because it is one of my favorites! We are doing a full year or two of American History. We will be covering it in greater depth than just what is included in this morning basket, but these are the items that we will cover in the morning. I love The American Story book. It features lots of tales that occured throughout history…so we will add that to our read aloud when we get to the different points in history. I just found the Explorer Cards from Professor Noggin…so excited. They have so many different ones so I will change those out as we progress throughout history. The same will go for the Safari Toob! They have several different varities that I will change as we go.

Something I am really excited about for our American History Curriculum is all of the living books we will be using. I have some for each time period. This will be one of the first that we read as we are beginning with some early native americans. This one covers the Seminole Indians which is super exciting because we live in Florida! 🙂

MUSIC

usborne classical music book

Time for another confession…we don’t do a lot of music. We LISTEN to a lot of music…but as far as music history or instruction…yeah not so much! I LOVE this book…The Usborne Classical Music Reference Book…teaches all about music history and again…is internet linked! You can scan the codes and you will get to listen to different pieces of music from different time periods. Genius!

NATIONAL PARKS

NATIONAL PARKS BOOKS

We are also planning to learn about National Parks of the US. I came up with this unit based on the National Parks of the U.S.A. book. You need this book…seriously. It is gorgeous. Now imagine my surprise when I discovered that one of my favorite book series has a book on National Parks…M is for Majestic is stunning. It is a gorgeous picture book with tons of amazing information on National Parks. So excited to see where this unit takes us! Even if we just end up reading and enjoying these gorgeous books I will be happy.

A YEAR FULL OF STORIES

SECULAR MORNING BASKET

Lastly we will be incorporating this beautiful book! A Year Full of Stories is a gorgeous book! It includes 52 Folktales and Legends from around the world. I am planning to do this once a week. It provides such a great opportunity to not only learn about folktales and legends but also learn a little bit about different cultures and different parts of the world. I am really excited to dig into this book!

So, that is our current plan! I am so excited to put our morning basket into motion. I will try to post some updates about how things are going and if we are changing anything up or sticking to our schedule!

Do you use a Morning Basket in your homeschool? What are some of the things you like to incorporate??

 

 

Finding Florida

Exploring Florida- Sweetwater Wetlands Park

sweetwater wetlands boardwalk

Last Sunday we set out on another family adventure. This time we headed north to Gainesville, Florida! Before we moved to Florida all I really associated Florida with was Disney, beaches, and TONS of people. I never anticipated how much gorgeous nature there would be to explore. Florida is home to more State Parks, Nature Preserves, and Wilderness Parks than I can even count. I want to see them ALL!

In an attempt to see as much of Florida as we can we are trying to dedicate one day every weekend to adventures! We pick a destination and just go! This past weekend our goal was to hit Sweetwater Wetlands Park and I am so glad that we made the journey! Sweetwater Wetlands is a man-made wetland habitat that is home to some absolutely amazing nature. There is a 3.5 mile trail that you can hike through the wetlands…it is a combination of crushed gravel and elevated boardwalk. One of the biggest draws of this particular park are the wild horses. Sadly we didn’t see any when we visited but we did see prints in the gravel and other…ahem…”signs” that horses had been there… (it was poop). 🙂

When you arrive at the park there is a drop box to pay the $5 parking fee…totally worth it in my book. Upon entering the trail there is a place where you can grab a map of the park as well as some pamphlets that tell you the types of birds you can see…was really awesome because we saw a LOT of birds! There is also a board where people will write which wildlife has been seen that day…my eyes only bugged out a little when I read the words 7 FT ALLIGATOR and COTTONMOUTH SNAKE! Anyway…we headed out and I was immediately struck by how gorgeous this place is…sweetwater wetlands park

Everything was so green…and FLAT! We could hear so many birds and bugs singing…it was just awesome! We also heard something grunting…pretty sure it was an alligator!

 

There are two different loops you can take one you get on the trail. We opted for the shorter loop because it was seriously so HOT. The elevated boardwalk was awesome and so well maintained. We stopped at the viewing pavilion at the beginning to take it all in. observation tower

This park is a homeschoolers dream. There are signs everywhere explaining things and providing mini science lessons. A+, Sweetwater Wetlands Park! As we walked along the boardwalk we saw birds, snakes, and alligators. It was awesome! The boardwalk and gravel path are really well maintained…we saw people pushing baby strollers without any trouble so it is definitely a wonderful place for the whole family!

After completing the smaller loop we really wanted to do the bigger trail but the heat had gotten to be too much for Max. I should have put everyone in hats and filled a backpack with waters…I think that would have helped. So we decided that we would come back again when the weather isn’t 100 billion degrees. I would really love to visit early in the morning or around sunset…I think it would be stunning here.

If you find yourself in the Gainesville area I can’t recommend Sweetwater Wetlands Park enough. It was an absolutely amazing place to get out and explore Florida.

For more information on Sweetwater Wetlands Park head on over to their website at:  http://www.sweetwaterwetlands.org

They offer ranger lead hikes as well that I think would be fantastic! I would love to take the kiddos on one of those!

The park is open 7am to sunset Monday-Sunday including holidays. There is a bathroom available at the start of the trail. We were also impressed to find a sunblock station at one of the first observation pavilions! Really awesome touch! 🙂

 

 

Finding Florida

Florida Off the Beaten Path- Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

I know when the topic of Orlando comes up the first thought is THEME PARKS! I know that is where my mind first heads! I have been visiting Orlando for years and never ventured past the central hub of theme park central! Now that we are permanent Floridians we have made it a goal of ours to explore our new home state. I don’t know if you know this or not…but Florida? IT IS HUGE! Like, really huge! There are so many fun and exciting places to visit!

If you ever find yourself visiting Orlando and you want to find something off the beaten path to do…look no further than the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive! Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is just about 30-40 minutes away from Walt Disney World…but it will feel like a completely different universe! I’m talking dirt roads, birds, snakes, turtles, OH…and gators…LOTS of gators!!!

lake apopka wildlife drive

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is an 11 mile drive along a one way road. Now you may be thinking…11 miles? Do I really want to drive 40 minutes for an 11 mile drive? The answer is YES…yes you do! The 11 mile drive took us approximately 2.5 hours…for real! They recommend allowing 1-3 hours for the drive and there are a couple of reasons for this. The first reason…it is a 10mph road…it isnt intended for you to blast through it like you are driving on I-4…anyone who has had the pleasure of driving I-4 surely knows what I mean! Second…you are going to want to make several stops. Throughout the drive there are spots where you can pullover to see all kinds of wildlife and beautiful scenery…remember those gators I mentioned?! Now, we were traveling with 3 kiddos…so you can imagine that we made several “bonus” stops to find missing goldfish crackers, use the port-o-potty, and let the kids walk off some energy…but I would plan on at least 90 minutes to complete the trip!

Not only is this an absolutely gorgeous drive, but it is absolutely FREE! Free is really good when visiting the Orlando area, am I right? The drive even has a self-guided audio tour that you can listen to as you drive. Pretty neat, hunh? I also highly recommend checking out their website before heading to visit…they have some really helpful information! I was able to print out a map, a butterfly checklist, and a birding checklist before we went…which for a homeschool Mom was like solid gold! You better believe I turned this drive into a homeschool lesson!

HELPFUL TIPS:

  • Make sure you have gas in your tank…would totally stink to get stuck out there
  • Pack lots of water and snacks
  • Camera! So many beautiful things to take pics of
  • Binoculars! These were so helpful to see birds far out in the trees
  • Animal Identification books/pamphlets- here are our favorites for Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians, and Butterflies
  • Wet Wipes- not necessarily for the drive…but if you go anywhere with kids…just have wet wipes…plus…port-potties…

The Apopka Wildlife Drive is open from Sunrise to Sunset on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Federal Holidays. This is an awesome opportunity to really get to experience Florida wildlife. We saw many different species of birds including herons, egrets, cormorants, osprey, and several more. We saw snakes…and a snake getting eaten by a bird! Cirlce of Life stuff folks! We saw tortoises, fish, a soft shell turtle, and no less than 26 alligators. It was truly an awesome experience!

Do you have any favorite places to visit in Florida? We are always looking to add more places to our Florida Bucket List!

 

 

Finding Florida

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida- A Must See for Nature Lovers!

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida collage

During our week-long visit to Naples, FL, the kids and I were looking for some fun and educational places to visit. Boy did we find that place when we found The Conservancy of Southwest Florida. I stumbled across an ad for The Conservancy when I was flipping through an area guide that I grabbed in my hotel lobby! It sounded like exactly what we were looking for…it was close by, the price was great, it was educational, and it was FUN!

We packed up our notebooks (as all good homeschoolers do, right?!?!), grabbed some waters and snacks, and hit the road. When we arrived at The Conservancy I was pleasantly surprised by how BIG it is…and there was plenty of parking…which is awesome! It was a super quiet day being that it was off season…the only “crowds” we saw were a couple of small summer camp groups!

We followed the signs to the entrance and were immediately greeted by a couple of very warm smiling faces. I wish I had written down names because everyone was SO friendly…and HELPFUL! Every person we ran into was so full of information and knowledge…it was a homeschoolers dream!

The first thing we did was reserve our spot on the Electric Boat Tour. The tour is 45 minutes long and included in your admission price!! Because it was such a quiet day we had the entire tour to ourselves! Captain Rick was our guide and he was wonderful. It was a gorgeous day for a boat ride. We saw lots of birds, native plants, invasive plants, and even mangrove crabs! Captain Rick explained to us all about the different types of mangrove trees and their importance. It was a wonderful experience…I highly recommend taking advantage of the boat tour! When you are at the dock getting ready to board your boat, be sure to look UP at the gigantic Oar Fish sculpture! Yikes!

After our boat tour we spent some time wandering around the Learning Labs and Discovery Center. So much fabulous information on conservation and wildlife! We absolutely LOVED the touch-tank! We learned all about Sea Turtles as well!! This was such a fun places for the kiddos! You can even be turned into a human ninja turtle…which apparently my kids are too cool to try…whatever lol 😉

One of the highlights of our trip was meeting volunteer Bob outside of the animal hospital. Bob was so friendly and so full of information! The Von Arx Wildlife Hospital is dedicated to caring for injured wildlife in such a way that limits their exposure to humans such that they can be successfully reintroduced into the wild. Bob brought us into the viewing area which was amazing. You can see in through the window but the staff and animals cannot see you. We were able to see many animals, mostly birds that day, being fed and weighed. The doctors, nurses, staff, and volunteers are so dedicated to helping these animals…it was wonderful to see! Definitely be sure to stop by and see the viewing area…it was amazing.

We explored around a little more and then ending up meeting up with Bob again for a private lesson on how The Conservancy got started and some lessons on how we can help! It was so informative and we really appreciated the time he took to talk to us.

If you ever find yourself in Naples, I highly recommend spending some time at The Conservancy of Southwest Florida. They are such a wonderful organization that is dedicated to protecting the environment and wildlife.

For more information head on over to their website at https://www.conservancy.org/

The Conservancy is located at:

1495 Smith Preserve Way in Naples, FL

They are open from Monday-Saturday 9:30AM-4:30PM

Finding Florida, Uncategorized

A Picture Perfect Day at Naples Botanical Garden

Naples Botanical Garden photo collage

Last week we had the opportunity to do some exploring around Naples, Florida! If you ever get the chance to visit I highly recommend it! It is an absolutely gorgeous area with a TON of stuff to do! One of the top items on our list was a visit to the amazing Naples Botanical Garden! If you find yourself in the Naples area, The Naples Botanical Garden is a must see! It is fantastic!

The Naples Botanical Garden is one of the most gorgeous gardens I have ever had the pleasure of visiting! It is stunning! Situated on 170 acres, the Naples Botanical Garden is known as “Gardens with Latitude”. This refers to the fact that the gardens feature an amazing array of plants that grow between the 26th latitude North (where Naples is located) and the 26th latitude South. Some of the gardens featured are from Asia, Brazil,  the Caribbean, and of course Florida!

We strategically planned our visit on a Tuesday so that we could be there during one of their Dogs in the Garden days. We don’t have a dog…but my kids LOVE dogs! The gardens offer several times during the week when dogs are permitted. Check out the website for an up to date schedule of events!

Upon entering the garden you will immediately feel like you have stepped into a tropical oasis…it is beautiful. Armed with our map we headed straight for the Asian Gardens. For some reason I always tend to head left and move clockwise…I have no idea why! In hindsight I wish I had started at the Children’s Gardens…they were virually empty at that point and we could have done lots of exploring! Anyway…off to Asia!

The Asian Garden is beautiful…full of water features, ponds, temples, and ruins! It was a beautiful way to start our journey!Asian Garden Sign

 

Our next stop had to be one of my favorite spots in the entire garden. It was a very quiet day so we got to spend quite a bit of time just enjoying all of scenery. The Overlook has an amazing waterfall and looks out over the lake…it is breathtaking! There are loads of shady spots to sit and escape the Florida heat…which was such a relief on a scorching June day!

Oasis Waterfall
Beautiful Waterfall in the Overlook area
Scenic Overlook
Enjoying the beautiful view!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We meandered back through the Asian Garden again and made our way toward the Water Garden. Again…crazy beautiful!!! Things were in bloom everywhere we looked. The greens and purples were so vibrant!

Water Garden Collage

 

One of the main focal points of the gardens lies within the Brazilian Gardens. A stunning waterfall. Words don’t do it justice so I will just leave a photo below for your enjoyment! Gorgeous isn’t it?

Naples Botanical Garden Waterfall

On to the Children’s Garden. I am sad to say that I didn’t get any pictures in there…not because it wasnt gorgeous as well…but we happened to arrive there at the same time as a summer camp and it was super busy. We meandered around a bit but ended up only staying a few minutes. They have tree houses, a water area where kiddos can cool off in the fountains, a rolling hill, and so much more! Also next to the Children’s Garden was the butterfly house which was absolutely gorgeous. We saw many species of butterfly.

We could have spent so much more time here! We already have a list put together for when we return in the future! There are a couple of trails around the lake we would like to check out…and a birding tower to climb! We would also like to check out the labyrinth and spend more time in the Children’s Garden! We also didnt get a chance to check out Fogg Cafe which looks like a great place to grab a bite and get a drink!

I highly recommend that anyone in the area take a few hours and visit the Naples Botanical Garden. The staff was so amazingly friendly, the grounds were beautifully maintained, and it was an awesome (and educational) way to spend the day!

Another awesome thing we noticed was that they had water fountains to drink from all over the place…not only for the two legged patrons, but for the four legged visitors as well. So awesome!

Water Fountain

Admission was $14.95 for adults and kid ages 4-14 were $9.95. We were able to find a coupon online as well so be sure to check that out!

The Naples Botanical Garden is located at: 4820 Bayshore Dr in Naples, FL

For more information head on over to: https://www.naplesgarden.org/

Animals of the 7 Continents

 

Books!

Get Lost in a Book This Summer! 3 Great Reads for the Adventure Lover!

Book Recommendation, Middle Grade, Book Review, Thisby Thestoop, The Explorer, Arlo Finch

 

Summer is the perfect time to get out and take some family adventures! Trips to the beach, hikes in the mountains, camping trips…whatever your idea of adventure is, summer is a great time to get out and explore! Summer is also one of my favorite times to get lost in a good book…ok, pretty much any time is a good time to get lost in a good book…but summer reading is just the best!!

I have 3 awesome books for you that are full of excitement and adventure! These were 3 of our favorite family read alouds this year and I can’t wait for you to check them out! These are all middle grade books but were enjoyed immensely by all 3 of my kiddos…ages 7, 9, and 11…and their Mama…her age is irrelevant to this post ! 😉

First up is The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. This book kept us on the edge of our seats from beginning to end! The book begins with a young boy named Fred on a plane with 3 other children. They are heading to England from Manaus. The pilot stops breathing and the plane crashes. Fred awakens to find that the pilot has died and that he and the 3 other children are alone in the jungle. Rundell writes in such a way that you actually feel as if you are trapped in the jungle with the kids. Fred, Con, Lila, and Max have to fight to survive in the jungle…how will they ever get home…and are they actually alone?

 

The next book that you must read is called Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by John August. This is the first book in a brand new series. I read this book by myself first and I loved it so much that I am currently re-reading it aloud to my kids. This book is fabulous! If you love a good mystery, wrapped up with amazing adventure, with a splash of the supernatural…this is the book for you! Arlo Finch is brand new to the town of Pine Mountain. It doesn’t take long before he realizes that this small town is far from ordinary. From the ghost dog in his uncles front yard to the mysterious purple goo that makes bell sounds when it moves…Pine Mountain definitely holds some secrets. August is a master storyteller…a great read aloud for all ages! The second book in the series is due to arrive in Spring of 2019 and we can’t wait to get our hands on it. The second installment is called Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon and is due out in February of 2019!

 

The last book I have chosen is a brand new release called Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain by Zac Gorman. Again, we were hooked from the very first pages. Thisby Thestoop is the Gamekeeper for the dungeon of Black Mountain. She is in charge of all of the creatures that reside in Black Mountain…some not so scary creatures…and other creatures that you wouldn’t want to run into in the day time let alone at night. The day of the official royal inspection arrives and suddenly Thisby finds herself on an adventure deep within the darkest part of the dungeons. She is in charge of escorting the Princess Iphigenia out of the dungeon after she has become separated from her twin brother and all of her guards. Thisby must keep the princess safe from all of the beasts, attempt to find this missing Prince Ingo, and save her precious dungeon from the threat of creatures even worse than the ones she cares for! Not only is this book edge-of-your-seat entertaining, but is is also a hysterical and heartwarming tale of bravery and friendship! It is a fabulously well written and gorgeously illustrated book that I know you will love. Just a word of warning…if you have a younger reader who is sensitive to scary things and monsters you  may want to pre-read the book ahead of time. The book can be scary at times and does have a few scary illustrations! My youngest is 7 years old and he didn’t have any issues with the scariness…but I did want to mention it just in case!!

 

I hope that the adventure lovers in your life will enjoy these awesome books!!

 

Do you have any favorite adventure books that I can add to my reading list this summer??

Books!

Magic Awaits…A book review of The Crowns of Croswald

 

If you are looking for an escape from reality then The Crowns of Croswald is the perfect book to get lost in! I was hooked from the very first pages! Author D.E. Night creates an amazing world of magic and adventure. This is a fast-paced story that keeps the reader wanting to turn the page!

The book is about a young girl named Ivy, who thought she was forever doomed to spend her life tending to the fire-breathing scaldrons at Castle Plum. Little does she know that her entire world is about to turn on its axis! Ivy finds herself at the Halls of Ivy…a school for magic…and what’s more…she discovers that she herself can do magic!

This is the perfect middle-grade fiction novel for lovers of magic, mystery, princes and princesses, and adventure. The pages are full of mystical creatures, secret rooms, and lots of twists and turns. I am thrilled that D.E. Night is working on a sequel… because I am not done with Ivy’s story! I didn’t want the book to end…there is so much more I want to know…and I think there is so much more that IVY wants to know as well!!

I really enjoyed this one…to grab your own: https://amzn.to/2G8HbZB

For more information on author D.E. Night head on over to her site: http://denight.com/

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review*

 

Uncategorized

My Promise to ME…

self care, homeschool mom, happiness

A very wise friend once told me, “You can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first”.  I realize now, that she wasn’t just speaking in general terms…she was speaking directly to ME! She knew me well enough to know that I needed this reminder. She could see that as a homeschooling Mama of 3, I was SO focused on taking care of them, that I was neglecting myself.

Now, being who I am, I of course DID NOT take her advice. I listened. I listened and I didn’t forget her words…but I didn’t take her advice. It wasn’t until many months later that I realized that I needed to take this advice…not only for myself…but for my entire family. My focus had been so fixed on being a mom and a teacher that I had forgotten to do things to make myself happy! I was getting burned out. SO, I made a promise to ME, that I would start doing something for myself every.single.day. It didn’t have to be huge, but it would be something! And do you know what? It has made a world of difference!

So, what is it that makes me happy? Well, I am glad you asked! 🙂 I am such a visual person, that I decided I needed to create a visual list of things that bring me joy. You can create a journal page, a digital list, a vision board…anything that helps you keep tabs on your happiness!! I started out with a page in my journal…but my handwriting is terrible…so I converted it over to a pretty little image in Canva…anyone else obsessed with Canva???? So…here is my little list…it’s not huge…but it makes me feel GOOD! (ps…the act of making this list…SOO much happiness…I love being creative!)

Happy mom, self care, list

You will notice that some of these things aren’t huge, monumental, life changing tasks…but…they make ME SMILE! The simple act of drinking my coffee in the quiet without interruptions is HUGE! If I can start my day this way I am almost guaranteed to begin the day with a clear head. Those 10 minutes to wake up and get my brain centered and ready for the day can make the difference between a good day and a bad day.

You will also see that there are some Usborne related items on this list. Books bring me JOY! Being in a position to help other moms earn free books for their kiddos gives me more joy than I can even tell you. After we started homeschooling I let my book business take a back seat…and I missed it! I missed hosting Facebook parties. I missed introducing people to these amazing books and seeing their reactions when they got their hands on our books for the first time.

The act of writing this post and creating this blog has brought me so much happiness. I love to write…I always have. I can count on one hand the amount of times that I allowed myself the time to write since having my first child. I am SO excited to have created this time for ME. I am excited to see where it takes me.

So I have a challenge for YOU!!! I challenge you to create your own list! What makes YOU happy?? Once you have your list, I want you to put it somewhere that you will see it EVERY DAY! I want you to pick something…one thing…to do every day that is just for you. Something that will put a smile on your face and make you feel good! Please come back and share your list! I would LOVE to see it!!

All Things Art!, Books!

Amazing Artists – Introduction to our Unit Study!

art unit, homeschool, secular

I am so excited to share a brand-new Art unit that I have been working on!! Do you have children that love creating art? I know I do! My kids are obsessed with all things art! Whenever they have a free minute they can be found destroying my house creating masterpieces! Because of their love of art, we have a very art rich curriculum. I try to integrate art into so many of our daily subjects. I love seeing them show their grasp of a subject by creating something with their hands!

I wanted to add something more into the mix. I wanted to have a dedicated art curriculum where we would learn about art, art history, and famous artists. How fun would it be to learn about Picasso and then have a chance to create your own Picasso-style masterpiece?? Well, stick around, because we are about to find out!

Enter this amazing book…The Usborne Art Treasury. I adore this book…seriously…I hear angels singing when I open it. This was the starting point for my unit. Throughout this book, they teach us about different artists and each artist will have a hands-on project to go along with it. Exactly what I was looking for.

In addition to my beloved Art Treasury book I discovered a wonderful series of books on famous artists by author/illustrator Mike Venezia. Fan-tastic books! These are written for young minds. They are so easy to understand but full of amazing information about the artists’ life, their art style, and many photos of their artwork. Not only do I love these books, but my kids do too!

Lastly, I turned to YouTube. Now, I am what you would call “crafty” …an artist I am not! I knew that I wanted to incorporate more than one piece of artwork for each artist and for that I would need some serious help! YouTube is an amazing resource…I found a ton of wonderful instructional videos on creating art. I can’t wait to share them all with you!

So, what’s next? Well, I am glad you asked! Every 2 weeks I will be sharing a unit on a different artist. I will share the books I used, the art supplies needed, links to the YouTube Videos, and our finished projects! These are designed for you to go at your own pace. If your kids become enthralled with a particular artist and want to learn more…then go for it!

So, in addition to creating our masterpieces, we have also created an art gallery in our home. We have dedicated a wall that will serve as our gallery. It will feature the art we create based on the particular artist we are learning about. Once we move onto the next artist we will start from scratch!

In addition to the gallery wall, we have also created a timeline of great artists! We thought it would be fun to show the time the artists lived in relation to one another…and Mama loves timelines 🙂

So…without further ado…our very first artist will be Pablo Picasso! Please join us as we create some zany and brightly colored art in the style of one of the greatest artists of all time…Picasso! Stay tuned…