New Parenting Super Bundle Available Now!

Trying to balance homeschooling, parenting, housework, business, etc. can certainly be overwhelming. I would be lying if I said I had all my ducks in a row. I feel pretty lucky to believe mine are at least swimming in the same pond. With all the resources out there for parenting advice it can be rather difficult to decide where to invest your time and money. Enter the Parenting Super Bundle!

This amazing collaboration from parents just like you has a value of $1,283.96 if each resource is bought separately. You can get the full bundle for only $29.97 (PDF version)/$39.97 (eReader version). In addition you can upgrade to the ebook version FOR FREE if you buy before August 14th at 11:59pm EST.

 

 

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What’s Included in the Parenting Super Bundle?

There are 35 eBooks, 10 eCourses, 2 audios, 23 printables, 9 workbooks, and 1 membership site. Topics covered include

  • Activities & Crafts
  • Chore Charts & Planners
  • Discipline
  • Education
  • Faith
  • Food
  • Homeschooling
  • Outdoors & Travelling
  • General Parenthood
  • Special Needs
  • Special Occasions
  • Toddlers and Preschoolers

Check out the website for a full list of all items that are included in this bundle.

In addition there are 4 bonuses available as well.

  • FREE 1-month membership from Musik at Home ($30)
  • 10 free audio stories for kids from Around the World Stories ($30)
  • FREE 1-month subscription from Bookroo ($18)
  • FREE All Natural Bug Repellent & Lotion Bars project kit from Detox Project Box ($25)

Getting Started

Worried you won’t know where to start with all the resources in the bundle? Don’t be! Inside the bundle you’ll find a handy Getting Started Guide so you can find just the right tools for the things you’re dealing with today.

I can’t wait to dive into this bundle myself and I know that you will love it too. One more thing I almost forgot. After you complete you Parenting Super Bundle purchase, you will have a chance to purchase the Conquer Your Clutter Super Bundle for only $27 as well! I don’t know about you, but clutter is probably enemy #1 around my house. With 7 kiddos in 940 sq ft it’s a never ending battle!

Remember to buy the Parenting Super Bundle before it expires on Monday, August 14th, at 11:59 PM EST!

 

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A Year in the Life June- Documentary Photography at the Pet Store

Once again I completely forgot to post my A Year in the Life pictures from last month. As usual the littlest ones were the stars of the show! I must admit right around 1.5 is my favorite age. Learning to walk and talk, but not quite into the temper tantrum stage yet. Even with a new baby around Wally once again was the main subject of my camera lens this month.  DSC06481   DSC06493 DSC06496

The best shot of the month is this one of Wally with Hannah. Wally is absolutely IN LOVE with his sock monkey. He is also over the moon for his new baby sister. When Grandma sent Hannah a sock monkey outfit I knew I needed a picture of him holding the both of them. As you can see Hannah wasn’t too fond of the idea. Wally was unperturbed. He just shoved that paci in her mouth, positive that losing it was the only reason she was sad. Poor girl didn’t stop crying till mommy rescued her, after getting the picture first of course lol. DSC06491

The older kids managed to sneak into a few pictures by holding the very photogenic new baby. Maddy especially loves to help take care of Hannah. I have  feeling these two are going to be best buds.

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Ben likes to love on her too, but not quite as much as Maddy. He gets bored pretty fast adn is ready to pass her on.

One fun thing I did this month was take the camera with me when we went to the pet store. I’ve always been a little too self conscious to bust out the camera in an unusual spot like that before. This time I just went for it. I had a TON of fun. I love that I was able to capture so much of my kids personalities in an everyday situation. I even remembered to hand the camera off to the hubs and get in the pictures myself!

Would you like to preserve these types of memories as well? I can teach you how. Stay tuned for my workshop announcement, coming soon! If you’d like to hire me for a documentary session please contact me for more details and to schedule your date.

CreativeLive Mid-Year Sale: Save up to 50%!

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It’s no secret that I love CreativeLive. Since I first discovered them a few years ago I’ve watched hundreds of classes while they were streaming, purchased many, and even attended two as part of the studio audience. It has been such an amazing educational resource for me. Right now CreativeLive is having their mid-year sale where all classes are up to 50% off!! No coupon code needed, simply go to their catalog and choose the classes you want.

Shop Creative Live Classes

When CreativeLive first started they were really focused on photographers. No w they have five different channels; Photo & Video, Art & Design, Music & Audio, Craft & Maker, and Money & Life. They have classes on everything a creative entrepreneur needs. Whether you need help with business, marketing, or actual artistic techniques you are sure to find something useful. If you aren’t sure where to get started here are a few of my favorite classes:

Kickstarter for Photographers and Film Makers

This is one of the classes that I attended in the creativeLive studio. In this class Clay Hebert walked us through the steps to take before and during a Kickstarter campaign to ensure its success. He showed us some case studies on a few successful projects that he had worked with and showed us why they succeeded.

The Creative Newborn Photography Studio

This was the second class that I attended in studio and it was a life changer for me! Julia Kelleher is an amazing teacher and I absolutely loved her passion for teaching. Julia encouraged each of us to find a way to be creative and put our own hearts into our work. She encouraged us to try new things and find a personal project to work on. We got to watch her photograph a few different newborns as well as work on her own personal project exploring motherhood. She showed us the basics of creating a painting in Corel Painter as well as how she mounts her art prints. It was because of this class that I first tried digital painting which I LOVE and is now one of the staples of my business.

Photoshop Classes by Ben Willmore

There are TONS of classes a on Photoshop on CreativeLive and it can be hard to choose which one to purchase! I would highly recommend anything by Ben Willmore. I have watched several of his classes. He has an easy to follow teaching style. He explains things in a simple manner so that anyone can follow along. He doesn’t stop there though, he also goes into more advanced concepts and ideas. I have never failed to learn something new from every call of his that I have watched.

Brush Lettering Bundle

This bundle includes three excellent classes by Laura Worthington. Watching and participating in this class was probably the most fun I’ve had with a CreativeLive class outside of the studio. Laura started with the very basics of how to use the brush to create lines and shapes before moving on to letter forms. She then discussed how to think through and add flourishes and other ornamentation. From there the third class of this bundle discusses how to take a piece form idea through sketching to a finished piece.

These are just a few of my very favorite classes, but there are hundreds more that I have watched and enjoyed. Go check them out now while everything is on sale! You won’t regret it.

Have you watched any classes on CreativeLive? What were your favorites? What types of classes are you searching for? Please share and ask for recommendations in the comments. Let’s help everyone get their perfect class! 

Brush Lettering on CreativeLive-Class Review

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Yesterday I had the chance to watch three brush lettering classes by Laura Worthington on CreativeLive. Laura is a font designer and expert hand letterer. The classes were Brush Lettering Basics, Flourishes and Ornamentation, and Putting Together a Final Piece. Each of these classes can be purchased individually or you can buy the bundle that includes all three at a discount. I really enjoyed following along and doing the exercises along with the class, at least as much of the exercises as Miss Hannah would allow in between nursing and snuggling.

Brush Lettering Basics

Brush Lettering Class on CreativeLive| Smithsquad.com| Online educational resources| Class review
Practicing basic letters with my name.

In the first class Laura discussed the basic tools she uses as well as how to practice the basic strokes and letter forms. The brush that Laura used during the class and that she gave to the seven studio audience members was a Pentel Color Brush pen which can be purchased from Amazon or Blick Art. On Amazon there was also an option for a set of 18 different colors. She also had both regular and tracing paper as well as scissors and tape. When at home she also uses digital tools to refine and vectorize her artwork. I personally was using the Sakura Koi watercolor brush pens and look forward to also trying out drawing directly in Corel Painter, Photoshop, and Illustrator with my Wacom tablet.

After showing us her supplies she started doing simple strokes and shapes to help us get used to the was the brush feels. She showed the proper grip for both right and left handed artists as well as discussing how the motions were different from traditional writing. As a free download with the class she provided a paper with different lines indicating where the different parts of a letter should fall. She had us focus on light pressure on the upstrokes and heavy pressure on the downstrokes. After doing the basic practice strokes we moved on to doing letter forms, both lowercase and uppercase. The final project for this first class was to practice writing your name.

Brush Lettering Flourishes and Ornamentation

Brush Lettering Class on CreativeLive| Smithsquad.com| Online educational resources| Class review
Flourishing my name

After a short break we moved on to the second class on flourishes and ornamentation. When you purchase the class there is a free download of several sample flourishes that you can practice tracing to get the feel for them. After practicing some of these flourishes Laura had us work on adding flourishes to our own name. As a demonstration she did my name! First she drew the name and added some flourishes in pencil then when she was happy with the shape she went over it with the brush. My own attempts aren’t nearly as nice as hers, but it was definitely fun.

Brush Lettering Putting Together a Final Piece

Brush Lettering Class on CreativeLive| Smithsquad.com| Online educational resources| Class review
My work in progress, still have a long way to go.

The third class focused on how to create a complete piece of artwork with a short phrase. She had each of the students choose a phrase to work on and talked through each one with them pointing out which words to draw focus to and a few suggestions on how to do that. She then had each person to several thumbnail sketches of their chosen phrase. From there they chose a thumbnail and started drawing a larger version of their final choice. She cautioned that it often takes MANY tries to get to the final product. This is where she pulled out the scissors and tape and showed us how she would take the best parts from each attempt and pull them together to then trace over for her final piece. I decided to practice with the phrase “let your faith be bigger than your fear” which will become the focal point of one of the pages in my Pregnancy and Birth Coloring Book.

I have been trying to teach myself lettering from the book “Modern Calligraphy” as well as a few worksheets form “The Postman’s Knock“. They have both been EXCELLENT resources, but it was completely different to actually watch Laura doing the lettering and talking through her thought process. I think that my books and worksheets will be even more useful now as I am better able to apply what they teach. I am excited to continue to hone my skills with lettering and be able to offer it as a service to my clients soon.

Are you an expert or do you want to learn brush lettering? What are your favorite resources? I’d love to see some links to your work in the comments!

Elenco Snap Circuit Kit- The Best Science Toy We’ve Ever Owned

I can not say enough good things about the Elenco Snap Circuit set that we own. I bought it as a birthday gift for my oldest son when he was eleven and it fast became one of his favorite toys. He could play with it for hours. It has now been passed on to the younger kids and they can’t get enough of it either. Everyone enjoys the set, but Ben (age 7) is the one that really loves it.

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

What’s in the Box?

Elenco has several different Snap Circuit sets and each one has different parts. There are a few basics that are in every box. There is a base plate to build on, circuit pieces of varying lengths and sizes, and special pieces that do different things such as light up or make noise. Right now we have the SC-300 Discovery Kit. It has over 60 parts and an instruction booklet containing over 300 projects that can be built. So far both Ben’s and Corey’s favorite thing to build was the radio.

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

Why are Snap Circuits so Awesome?

The best part of the Snap Circuits toy is the snapping mechanism. The snaps work just like the ones found on clothing and are easy for even the smallest kids to assemble without any pinched fingers. The circuits are contained within the plastic pieces that snap together with the metal snaps allowing them to conduct electricity. The set can then be run on battery power or plugged in with the optional Snap Circuits Battery Eliminator. Each set has hundreds of different configurations that can be built from the instructions, and kids can also create their own once they understand the principles. Another great thing about Snap Circuits as that they are very sturdy. Officially only kids who are able to read are allowed to play with them in our house. Of course this hasn’t stopped the littler ones from snatching pieces or touching when older kids are using them. After 4 years of use and having been packed up and moved 3 times we have never had a single piece break.

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

Are there any downsides?

Of course no product is perfect and just like everything else Snap Circuits do have a few disadvantages. First off only one project can be built at a time. Many of the projects require you to use most of the parts in the box so it is pretty much impossible to build more than one circuit at time. Plus each kit has only one power source, so even if you could build two circuits you wouldn’t be able to power both of them. Second if your child can not read the instructions then it takes quite a bit of hands on help form a parent or older sibling. This isn’t’ as big of a deal for most families, but in a large family like ours I really like to have things that kids can work on independently when needed. This isn’t an issue with the older kids of course, hence our rule that you have to be able to read to get out the Snap Circuits.

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

The Snap Circuit Kits

As I said above we have the Snap Circuit SC-300 Discovery Kit. They also have two smaller kits (SC-100 and beginner) as well as two that are larger (SC-500 and SC-750). In addition to the basic discovery kits Elenco has come out with several new specialized kits since we purchased the basic kit four years ago. Here are the ones that are at the top of my wish list for expanding our collection.

Should You Invest in Snap Circuits?

Of course every child and family is different, but if you’re asking me my answer is a resounding YES! If you have a child that is even slightly interested in the science of electricity they will love Snap Circuits. If you’re lucky you’ll get 6 hours straight of independent play from this toy like I have!

Elenco Snap Circuits review| SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling | Unschooling | Science | Electronics

Do you have any of the Snap Circuit sets on my wish list? I’d love to hear your opinion of them to help me choose which ones to buy first! Do you have any other similar toys such as circuit scribe or littleBits? I would love to hear your reviews on those as well!

Using a Parent-Child Journal to Create Connections With Your Kids

Using a Parent-Child journal to increase communication and more | SmithSquad.com | Handwriting and Cursive | Language, Spelling, and Grammar | Reading ComprehensionSeveral months ago I read about using a parent-child journal to communicate with your kids. I thought it was an excellent idea, and immediately started one with my oldest child (the only one that was reading and writing at the time). It has been a BIG hit. She loves writing back and forth with me and dad. She usually responds within a day, if not a few hours, and is good at holding us accountable for responding promptly as well.

What is a Parent-Child Journal?

Using a Parent-Child journal to increase communication and more | SmithSquad.com | Handwriting and Cursive | Language, Spelling, and Grammar | Reading Comprehension

A parent-child journal is simply a notebook where we can write to each other. We bought a plain composition notebook, and started with writing our daughter a letter about how much we loved her that pointed out several of her strengths, and things that she did that we appreciated. I told her that she could write back anything she wanted. She could draw a picture, ask a question or tell a story. It didn’t matter, she could say anything she wanted. After one of us writes in the journal we place it on the pillow of the other person so that they can read it and respond. There are so many benefits! It is an opportunity to work on reading comprehension, spelling and grammar, handwriting, and increasing communication. We’ve even started learning/teaching cursive.

Reading Comprehension

Using a Parent-Child journal to increase communication and more | SmithSquad.com | Handwriting and Cursive | Language, Spelling, and Grammar | Reading Comprehension

As adults we usually write far more to our eight year old daughter than she writes to us. It’s a great opportunity for me to use words that she may not know or tell a story about myself as a child. This gives her a chance to expand her vocabulary and practice her reading comprehension. I often will ask her a question at the end of what I write to gently test that comprehension. I’ve also let her know that she can always bring the journal to me to ask about anything she doesn’t understand or look up a word while reading.

Spelling and Grammar

The journal should be a fun activity with no pressure, so I NEVER correct her spelling and grammar. I do, however, pay attention to the mistakes she makes. This allows me to identify gaps in her knowledge of grammar or specific spelling rules she may be struggling with. I can then incorporate these things into our lessons at a later time. Every now and then I can ask her a question designed to get a specific answer to test whether that rule is still a problem.

Handwriting and Cursive Instruction

Using a Parent-Child journal to increase communication and more | SmithSquad.com | Handwriting and Cursive | Language, Spelling, and Grammar | Reading Comprehension

The journal is a great way to get in handwriting practice. It is a fun activity, rather than a chore, and she doesn’t even realize I’m making her work! If her handwriting gets too sloppy I simply bring her the journal and say “I’m sorry sweetie, but I can’t tell what you wrote here.” She tells me and I write it in next to the word “so I won’t forget”. That’s it. I don’t say anything that will put pressure on her to write better, as stated before this is supposed to be a fun, no pressure activity. She will inevitably try to write neater on the next exchange, because she doesn’t want me to have to ask her what her words say. When she expressed an interest in learning cursive I began writing to her in cursive. She is now getting practice at reading cursive. She has to ask me what certain words are occasionally, but her comprehension is quickly improving. We practice her own cursive writing outside of the journal and she can choose to use it in the journal when she is ready.

Creating Connection and Increasing Communication

At 8 years and younger communication isn’t much of a problem, yet. Our kids are pretty much an open book. As they age, however kids start to have problems, questions, and concerns that maybe they don’t know how to talk about with their parents. This journal gives them an opportunity to bring up those issues in a safe environment. As parents is gives us the chance to pray, discuss and plan how to respond to these problems and questions they will have. It is also a place where we can introduce topics of conversation to our child. For example at age 8 she is ready to start learning about menstruation and how puberty will affect her body. I can introduce the topic through the journal so that when we sit down to have the talk it isn’t uncomfortable or awkward, it’s just an extension of a topic that has already been discussed. As my children get older I hope they will use it to ask me questions about their religious beliefs, relationships with friends, sexual purity, and anything else that is on their mind. This is why it is so important to keep the journal a safe and fun activity when kids are young. As they age they need to know that it is not a place for judgment, it is a place for open communication.

Have you ever used a parent-child journal? In what other ways do you encourage open communication with your children?

Educational Shows- Our Favorite TV and Movies for learning

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I have no shame in admitting that I will turn on a show for the kids just so I can grab a quick uninterrupted shower or nap. Mom’s got to do what mom’s got to do to keep her sanity in tact! We usually watch an hour or two a day after lunch while the littles ones are sleeping. I do, however, try to make sure that the majority of what we watch is educational shows. I simply tell my kids “pick a learning show”, and thankfully they know what that means and follow instructions! We do not subscribe to any television service, and instead us Netflix and Amazon Prime to stream the shows that we want to watch without the bother of annoying commercials. Both services will give you a 30 day free trial.

**some of the shows listed are not a part of the Amazon Prime free service, but can be purchased or rented through their streaming service. We often do this as well and have a great digital library of our favorites**

Reading/Grammar

Leapfrog movies are some of the best for basic reading, and grammar. They are fun adventures that get the kids engaged and their repetition (while slightly annoying for mom) really helps drill the information into the kids heads. We also really love Super Why, Word World, and Word Girl.

Science


All the kids are interested in science, but Ben especially loves watching natural science shows like NOVA. There are tons of other nature and science related documentaries on both services as well including National Geographic, PBS Specials, and independent films. There are also several cartoons the kids love such as Octonauts, Sid the Science Kid, Wild Kratts, and of course The Magic School Bus. Two really fun TV shows are Brain Games and Street Genius. Be warned with Street Genius, however, it is filmed in Vegas, which occasionally means minimal clothing, and many episodes talk about alcohol or he offers a beer as a reward. May not bother many, but also a show some parents may want to watch with their kids.

Math


Once again Leapfrog is the star of the show here. There are several episodes that include basic numbers, skip counting, adding and subtraction, and even multiplication and division. We also enjoy Electric Company and Monster Math Squad.

History


History isn’t as big of an attention grabber around here, but it often creeps up in the science documentaries that the kids love. In addition they do enjoy Mr. Peabody and Sherman as well as a few of the National Geographic or NOVA episodes about ancient peoples.

Morals


Education isn’t all about the academics. Teaching kids good morals such as kindness, empathy, sharing, etc. are every bit as important as the math and reading. Dragon Tales, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Sofia the First, and VeggieTales in the House are the most popular ones around here for that type of learning. WE also enjoy the American Girl movies and many of the Disney/Pixer greats.

What are your favorite educational shows? What types of restrictions do you have on screen time? How do you use screens in your educational plan?

 

Learning Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering

I have often admired those who could do modern calligraphy and fancy hand lettering. I remember trying it out when I was a kid, probably around age 10 or so, with my mom’s scrapbook pens. I wasn’t instantly amazing at it, so I decided it wasn’t one of my talents and didn’t try again. I have a really bad habit of doing that which I am trying to break.

 

As I’ve been learning more about Zentangle, watercolors, and expanding my art talents I decided it was time to give Calligraphy another go. This time I put a lot more effort into researching and I haven’t given up on myself after a few half-hearted tries. I can definitely see the improvement in my work and I’m excited to try additional pens and inks.

Beginning Modern Calligraphy Study Resources

Beginnign Modern Calligraphy Supplies | SmithSquad.com | Speedball pen | Nikko G Nib | Kuretake Sumi ink | water and towel
Here are some of the supplies I use

The first thing I did when I decided it was time to learn again was search for Calligraphy groups on Facebook. I love Facebook groups. They can be such a wealth of knowledge and are a great way to get instant feedback on my work. I was extremely fortunate to stumble on Melissa Esplin’s group specifically for her website calligraphy.org. I am totally drooling over her classes, unfortunately they haven’t been in the budget yet. I will definitely be taking them as soon as I can. I have found her free videos, blog posts, and supplies lists to be extremely helpful.

Asking for recommendations in these groups led me to purchase the book “Modern Calligraphy” by Molly Thorpe. This is an EXCELLENT beginners book. She talks about how to choose pens, inks and papers as well as how to create letters and has several different examples of various letter forms. I love that she encourages students to find their own style rather than simply copying an exact alphabet from others.

Learn for a Latte Worksheet |SmithSquad.com | I got this awesome practice worksheet from The Postman's Knock |Learning modern calligraphy
One of my Learn for a Latte worksheets from “The Postman’s Knock”

The other awesome resource I have learned from is The Postman’s Knock. Lindsey is an amazing calligrapher and puts tons of helpful tutorials, product reviews, and tips and tricks on her blog. She also sells worksheets for learning different styles/alphabets called “Learn for a Latte“. You can download and print a set of worksheets for only $5! She also has a few video classes ranging from $10-25. If you follow her on Facebook or on her blog she also routinely does product giveaways.

Beginning Modern Calligraphy Supplies

using an artist board to get a stable slanted calligraphy workspace | SmithSquad.com | Learning Modern Calligraphy |
Using my artist board outside. I love how I can take it anywhere!

When I found Melissa Esplin’s group I was directed to her list of preferred supplies on Paper and Ink Arts. I compared different sites and since they had the best prices and great reviews I went ahead and ordered each of the nibs on her list as well as some ink. When I bought the Calligraphy book from Amazon I also ordered a Speedball Calligraphy Kit. So far I’ve used the straight holder from that along with a Nikko G nib, and Kuretake black Sumi ink. These are the starting supplies that were also recommended on The Postman’s Knock. It was suggested to stay with one nib and type of ink as you are learning so that you have consistency. I feel like I have really gotten the hang of the Nikko G nib, so I am planning to branch out to trying a few of the other nibs that I have purchased soon. I’m also looking forward to experimenting with brush Calligraphy with my Sakura Koi Watercolor Brush Pens. One other thing that I have found VERY useful is an artist sketch board. I don’t have a great desk space and my kitchen table is a bit wobbly. Using the sketch board allows me to get a comfortable angle on my paper and a stable surface to write on.

A Desire to Inspire

One big reason that I have committed so much time lately to my own artistic education is the desire to inspire my kids. How can I teach them to follow their passions and talents with dedication and hard work if I am not willing to do the same? Watching me learn and persevere is every bit as crucial to their education as me encouraging them to learn. It is so much easier to lead by example than to try to get them to do things that I am not willing to do myself.

What are you doing to lead by example? What new studies or talents are you learning right now?

Sheep to Shawl Festival- A Sheep Shearing Demonstration

Face Painting | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham

On Saturday we attended the “Sheep to Shawl” Festival hosted by the Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham, Georgia. It was a ton of fun! When we got there we headed to the kids area where we got to make bubble wands out of pipe cleaners and rings out of wire and beads. They also had some fun games set up, like rope the rocking horse, some baby animals in pens that the kids could feed and a photo booth with a VERY fluffy bunny.

pipe cleaner bubble wands | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham

 

pipe cleaner bubble wands | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of StathamThey also had several people demonstrating different skills such as blacksmithing, pottery making, and wool spinning. The highlight of the day was the live sheep shearing demonstration. We learned a ton about sheep from the presenter as we watched the sheep getting sheared. For example I didn’t know that sheep were born with long tails that had to be docked for cleanliness reasons. We also learned a lot about different kinds of wool and what they were used for. It was a very interesting and educational experience.

Sheep Shearing | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham

When the sheep shearing was done we went to check out the vendor booths. There were several people selling some great homemade items such as herb tinctures, teas from home grown herbs, pottery, wind chimes, and much more. We had some delicious granola and Cameron got some herbal tea to help clear out some congestion he’s had. Overall it was an awesome day and I can’t wait till they do it again next year.

Taking a break | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham

Time to Plant a Garden

I’ve been wanting to plant a garden for a few years now, but never quite got past the talking about it phase. We’ve had gardens in the past, but they were always planned, planted and cared for by Cameron (Dad). He hasn’t had the time lately, so it’s up to me! I talked about wanting to do this with another homeschooled family. They are renting their house, and putting in a garden would take a LOT of work as they would have to clear out a grassy area to do it. Cyndy (mom of their family) has a lot more knowledge of gardening than I do as well. We decided that they would come over to our house and we would plant one together.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Wally insisted on wearing a pair of gardening gloves, then used them to slap Abbe in the face.

About 3 years ago Cameron cut down and burned a huge pile of branches. The mound has been sitting in the yard ever since collecting debris, worms, bugs and all sort of natural material. About 6-8 months ago he covered this pile in a layer of mulch and then a layer of cardboard. The dirt in this pile is now rich, black, and perfect for a garden! We didn’t’ want to interfere with the natural ecosystem that has formed on this hill, so we just planted right into it.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
One thing I love about homeschooling is the opportunity for older and younger children to work together and build relationships. Jack just ADORES his Gillian!

Cyndy and I both really like the principles taught in the book “Square Foot Gardening“. With such an irregular shaped plot of land to plant on, however, it wasn’t really doable to measure out precise squares. We used many of the principles of how to plant things, but did it in a more freeform layout.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Boris will be losing one of his favorite sunning spots. Sorry buddy.

In case you were wondering 36 weeks pregnant is NOT a great time to be squatting and planting, especially on a hill with slightly precarious footing. Cyndy took charge of most of the educating and planting while I hovered and took pictures.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Discussing the purpose of mulch

First Cyndy talked to all the kids about mulch and what it did for the ground. We told them how we were going to clear away just enough to get to the dirt, then once we saw sprouts coming up we would put the mulch back down around them. This would help to keep moisture in the ground and stop weeds from growing in the soil around the plant.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Reading a seed packet

She then taught them how to read the seed packets and figure out how close together seeds should be as well as how deep to plant them. They then each measured their fingers so they could learn to feel how deep 1″ or 2″ was.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Leah chose to plant carrots

Now it was time to get planting! Each child had chosen a packet of seeds from the stash I’ve had in the freezer for a few years now. The plan was that each of them would plant their selection. It didn’t quite work out that way as many of the smaller ones had reached their attention span limit and wandered off. This was ok, learning is fun and if they were bored they weren’t learning anyway. Plus it was a bit easier to work with less little feet climbing all over the hill.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Is this a good rock?

The kids and Cyndy worked together to carefully scrape away the mulch and plant the seeds. We planted corn, squash, melons, carrots, lettuces and more. We had a few seeds that needed to be started indoors, then transplanted. We cleared away spots for each of those plants and had the kids find some medium-sized rocks to place in them. This way we know exactly where they go in our plan and we wouldn’t accidentally over plant and not leave room.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Our broken blind plant markers written by Maddy

Maddy (8) took charge of making the markers for each plant. We used the slats from a set of broken blinds. They should stand up to the weather great and are nice and visible.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
We found a worm!

I’m excited to see how our garden turns out! If nothing else I’m sure we’ll learn things that we can apply to net year when the area that has been mulched and covered in cardboard is even larger!

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Rachel decided she needed to take a break and just supervise, what better place to do so than Sam’s lap?

Did you plant a garden this year? What did you plant? What methods do you use? Do your kids help? I’d love to hear all about it. If you have a blog about it please share in the comments so we can read and follow your journey too!