Blogging Boot Camp

I’ve been blogging off and on since 2010. I’ve read lots of books, talked to lots of people, and joined lots of Facebook groups. There are two things that have helped me more than anythign else. First was personal coaching with Christine Tremoulet. You can read all about her awesomeness on my Smith Squad blog. Second is Blogging Boot Camp with Brenda Ster.

Brenda is the owner of the company “The Sassy Suite” which she started to help direct sellers excel in their business without annoying all their friends with spammy marketing tactics. She has some absolutely amazing classes on using social media to sell. Two of the many I’ve taken that I loved are the Suite Success with Instagram video course and the Winning with Pinterest video course. My absolute FAVORITE course is blogging boot camp. In fact The Muchness Mama wouldn’t exist without Blogging Boot Camp. I was a member of Blogging Boot Camp 5.

The best part of this Blogging Boot camp is that they help you with both the technical and the artistic details of creating and maintaining your blog. They don’t just set it up and leave you high and dry to figure out the rest. This course is completely comprehensive on how to use wordpress, pick and change themes, customize themes, come up with content ideas, create basic graphics, etc. Best of all you get tons of help from the other students and the instructors in a private facebook group as well as assistance and feedback from the community at large in a closed Facebook group. I can’t say enough about how fun and helpful Brenda, Wendy, Hope, and the other instructors are. I’d honestly say this course is worth double what they charge.

If you are ready to revolutionize your business, reach new costumers, become an influencer, share your message, and get found on Google the Blogging Boot Camp is the way to do it. Simply click the image below to get more details and get started.

Sassy Suite Blogging Boot Camp

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! 

A Year in My Life- April- Meet My Mentors

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Well would you look at me. It’s the BEGINNING of the month and I remembered to post my “A Year in my Life” photos! The April weather has been gorgeous, and as you can see we’ve spent a LOT of time outside. I hope you enjoy this little behind the scenes peek into our life.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Our new lady goat, Alice. She’s now pregnant and we are expecting kid(s) late summer/early fall.

This month I’d like to talk about some of my mentors that have really encouraged me and taught me as I have worked on perfecting my documentary images. First up is Kirsten Lewis Bethmann. I first “met” her while watching her class on CreativeLive “Family Photography: Modern Storytelling”.  Kirsten specializes in Day in the Life Family Photography. Rather than posed images she captures the real everyday story of the families that she photographs. Her class walked through things like how to see the moments, how to use the available light, and included a behind the scenes of her shooting a session.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Making faces at his reflection while watching the rain through the window.

After watching Kirsten’s class I was inspired to take more documentary images of my own family, and also felt the desire to provide this for clients. I was already moving away from super posed images and into more lifestyle images, but Kirsten made me want to go even further! I purchased her first class so that I could re-watch it as often as I wanted to refresh my mind on things I had already learned as well as hopefully learn something new each time. When she did her second class, “Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home” I watched as much as I could live, and learned even more.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Poor baby was NOT feeling well at all. He was sick for almost a week!

My next big mentor I also discovered thanks to CreativeLive. I first saw Julia Kelleher when she presented the class “Family Photography: Capturing Connection“. I absolutely loved her passion for what she was doing, photographing newborns and their families, as well as her open honesty about her experiences with postpartum depression. I could also tell that she had a true love for teaching and really wanted her students to succeed.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
We had a lot of fun watching these little birdies grow up. Their parents are beautiful red Cardinals and we love having them in our yard.

Then I saw a call for studio audience members for her second class, “The Creative Newborn Photography Studio“, and I decided to apply. Boy am I glad I did! I was accepted and given the opportunity to attend her three-day class live in the CreativeLive studio in San Francisco. It was an AMAZING experience! I not only got to spend three days learning from Julia, but I was able to build relationships with the other photographers that were in the studio audience. Julia really helped me build my own passion for exploring my why. Why am I a photographer? Why am I an artist? What message do I have to share with the world? She really launched me into me journey of digging deeper and rediscovering my own identity outside that of wife and mother.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Check out how this guy is holding the pencil! Only 1.5, but has to be like the big kids. Maddy, is the best big sister and always willing to help him out and cheer him on.

While those two instructors have influenced me the most, CreativeLive has been such a wealth of knowledge and motivation for me. I’ve watched classes on pricing, photography, Photoshop editing, marketing, branding, watercolors and so much more. I try to check out their offerings each morning and tune in to the live classes whenever I can.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Picnicking on the front porch after a morning of working hard in the yard.

Last, but certainly not least, this list would not be complete without the amazing Christine Tremoulet! I first met her in Jeff Jochum’s Team-X Facebook group. Jeff Jochum is an amazing coach, who I have also worked with, and you should definitely check out his book “Work Happily Ever After” if you are a photographer. Jeff really helped me start digging into who I am and why, but Christine is the one who really cracked the nut wide open for me and helped me become clearly focused in my business goals and direction.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Hard work, when done with the family, is fun. Stay tuned for a future blog post on how we use family work instead of chores to build relationship and teach good habits.

After talking with Christine on Facebook quite a bit I signed up for her email list “Blogging Brilliantly” which is now an amazing book. Blogging Brilliantly give daily actionable steps that you can take to improve your message, attract your target audience, and blog with more clarity. I have to admit, that while the advice was amazing, I failed to implement most of it. I think more than anything I was unclear in the direction I wanted my blog and business to go. I desperately want to be a full-time birth/newborn/family life photographer. Unfortunately with baby #8 due in just a few days it really isn’t a season of my life where I can focus as much time, energy, and money, into that business as I would like. I was pretty lost and floundering trying to figure out how to be true to myself and my needs while still honoring the responsibilities that come with being the mom of a large family.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
The kids all love working together to help Dad out. This time shoveling up wood chips to be placed under the fence where the neighbor’s dog keeps getting into our yard.

Christine then invited me to be a part of her first group coaching class “Business Brilliantly“, and I jumped at the opportunity. I knew I needed help and I knew that I trusted her knowledge and mentorship. I was not disappointed! Through her class I was able to really focus on what I wanted out of my life. I was able to weed out the distractions and create a clear message of who I am as a person and a business. I was able to create a sense of peace with the direction I am going with my businesses and excitement about where they will take me in the future.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Getting a ride in the wheelbarrow as a reward for hard work well done

Thanks to these three mentors I am in a really good place right now with my work life balance. I have given myself permission to step back from the photography and art without completely giving it up. I have come to a place where I truly enjoy and look forward to writing in my blog. I have a clear message of what I stand for, who I am talking to, and am able to focus more time on my children in the process. It’s been quite the journey, and taken several years, but I am eternally thankful to the mentors who have gotten me to where I am.

A year in My Life- April | | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Hector really is a butthead, but Leah is the animal whisperer and can be buddies with even the most ornery of animals. I love how this image captures her sweet, sensitive personality juxtaposed with his look of devilishness.

I love sharing these everyday moments with my readers each month. I hope they not only give you a peek into my behind the scenes life, but somehow the experiences and knowledge I share in each post can also help you to find the same sense of purpose and clarity that I have been privileged to enjoy!

If you would like to have documentary images of your family I would love to help you out! While I am not full timing the photography business I am still taking on a few clients each month for birth, newborn, and family life sessions. If you are interested in scheduling a session within ~1 hour of Winder Georgia please contact me!

Who are your mentors either in personal life or business? What have they taught you?

Are you doing a 52/365 project this year? I’d love to see your images so please share your links in the comments and I’ll come visit.

Fear of Failure Blocks our Clearest Path to Success

There are already a million reasons why I have chosen to home-school my kids. Last night, after a bit of pillow talk with my husband, I added another to the list.

I believe that our current educational system trains children to have a fear of failure, and without failure no one can succeed.

With all of the focus we put on test scores and grades our children are conditioned to think that if they can’t live up to the standard of perfection that we have set for them then there is something wrong with them. They are not adequate. They are unintelligent, unsuccessful, a failure. And that’s the end of it. You have failed. Big fat F. Now we have to move on, because the rest of the class is ready, and you will always and forever remain the failure.

WE have taught our kids to fear failure||Jessica Lahey|education|homeschool|unschool

If you get “bad” grades or bad test scores you won’t get into college. If you bring home a “bad” report card you may get punished, at the very least you will be met with disapproval and disappointment. You don’t get free meals at the local family diner for being average. You don’t get honor roll status if you try a harder class and don’t get that A. You definitely don’t get into a “good” college with a transcript full of C’s.

All of this pressure to be perfect is creating a generation who will almost always choose to take the easy road and get the “A” rather than try something hard and risk being labeled a failure.

Did you know that Edison “failed” over 1,000 times while trying to invent the lightbulb?

When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” – They Did Not Give Up

Where would our world be if Edison had been brainwashed into believing that an “A” was more important than never giving up? I, for one, am extremely grateful that when his teachers said he was “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams” as they expelled him from school that he chose to keep moving forward, and ignore their negative criticism. Every great inventor, creator, artist, CEO etc. has failed countless times. The reason they made it to the top is because they treated failure as an opportunity to learn, not a reason to quit.

So why aren’t we teaching this level of dedication and persistence in our schools? I’m sure there are some amazingly motivating teachers that are pushing their students to new heights, but as a whole our system is failing to give the children the crucial fortitude it takes to be successful in this world. this is in no way the fault of the teachers, many of which are every bit as frustrated with the system as I am. This problem is the result of a flawed system that puts too much focus on grades and test scores and does not celebrate individuality and creativity.

We are creating a generation that is content to work for someone else’s dreams because they are too afraid of failure to pursue their own. I personally chose to take the basic level Physics class instead of the honors or AP class recommended by my counselor because I cared far more about my GPA than I did my education. Many of peers made similar choices, and with the increase in focus in standardized testing I can only imagine that this attitude is becoming more and more prevalent.

Failure is an opportunity to learn||unschool|homeschool|no fear
Ben failed at least 20 times before he finally built something that would actually dam the water.

This is why we don’t have grades or testing in our home-school. I can tell when a child has mastered a subject and when they do we move forward. When they struggle we try over and over again until they master it. Mastery and self-confidence are far more important to me than an A or a good test score. This doesn’t just apply to academics. It applies to the playground,  art,  music, building, and anything else that they want to pursue. I wont’ do it for them or help them just so they can succeed. I will allow them to fall flat on their face as many times as it takes so that they can truly learn mastery over their desires and know that they are capable of success, no matter how many times they fail.

I will do everything in my power to insure that my children do no grow up with a fear of failure that prevents them from achieving their ultimate level of success.

How do you encourage your children to dare to try new things and build their self-esteem?


Building a Dam- Unschool Physics and Geometry

A few days ago the kids were helping Dad was a friends truck. While dad was doing the final details and rinsing the kids were having a blast playing in the water run-off.  Ben, our 6 year old engineer, noticed that the water flow patterns changed when they were standing in the “river”. He decided that a dam was required. First he made one with his feet. Realizing that this meant he had to stand still he began the search for alternate damming methods.

First he tried a small stick. It kept washing away. He thought for a minute then decided that if he put the stick in the crack of the sidewalk to anchor it then it wouldn’t wash away. That worked, but it didn’t really dam very much water. “I need a lake!”

He then began experimenting with other materials.

unschool physics|geometry|math|science|homeschool|roadschool

First he tried using the lid to a treasure chest. It was curved, the sidewalk was not. The water went right under, and that idea was quickly discarded. He discovered that fatter sticks held back more water, but then the water quickly built up and went around. After trying a few different sticks that were not flat he finally hit on the perfect solution. He lined up several fat sticks to make a nice long dam that held plenty of water.

This was a great opportunity for an unschool physics lesson. We were able to talk about why the water flowed the direction it did, why the force of the water moved the little stick, and even a little bit about how real dams provide us with energy. We also mixed in a little geometry talking about curved vs. flat shapes, size comparisons, as well as explaining that a stick was a cylinder.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn all around you. You just have to look for them!

What opportunities did you take to teach your kids something new today?

Play Based Learning

I will freely admit that my children spend the majority of their time in play. I know that many would look into our home and feel that I am drastically neglecting my children’s education. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that play based learning is the most important form of education for a child. Play, and even more specifically mixed age play, gives children the opportunity to develop social skills, language and literacy development, cognitive reasoning, emotional intelligence, and motor skills.

Social Skills:

Play based learning|homeschool|social skills|unschool

Social intelligence does not come naturally. It is a trait that is developed and trained through experience. Parents can and should teach, but the best tool for learning important social skills is by playing with other children. There is a great motivator at work, the continuation of the play. When allowed to play freely, with minimal adult interference, a child must learn empathy for their playmates if they want the play to continue. If they do not learn to share, take turns, and negotiate conflicting desires then they will lose their playmate.

Language and Literacy Development:

In order to successfully play with others a child must learn oral communication skills. They learn new words, and they have to learn how to string those words together to express a complete thought. Often as they play they are faced with situations where they may not know the words to express what they need/want. Learning new words and phrases in this situation solidifies the pathways of true understanding better than any spelling or vocabulary lesson ever could. With mixed ages playing together older children are able to assist the younger ones in developing new words while simultaneously reinforcing their own knowledge and understanding. As children play they develop complex story lines and situation. This creates a greater ability to understand the symbolism, story lines, and differences between the fact and fiction in the literature that they read.

Cognitive Reasoning:

play based learning|emotional intelligence|homeschool|unschool

Through play children are able to learn about and understand the world around them. As children play imaginative games they take on different roles, and act them out. This requires complex thoughts about how another person would act in the currently imagined situation. When playing with a group children have to work together to define the story line, decide who will play what role, and deal with conflict as it arises throughout the game. Through this exercise they practice problem solving, planning, self monitoring and evaluating their own and others’ actions. Every time an adult steps in to organize the play they are robbing the children of the opportunity to develop these skills.

Emotional Intelligence:

Emotional intelligence begin with self-awareness and self-management. These skills are best taught by parents. The next steps, social-awareness and relationship management, are best  learned through play with other children. When a child is sitting at a desk or table doing worksheets they are robbed of the ability to interact with their peers and through this interaction become aware of those around them. When children are able to freely play together they learn to sense others needs and wants and from there progress to managing their relationships with others.

Motor Skills:

play based learning|homeschool|unschool|education|teaching self-confidence

The physical health of our society is going drastically downhill. Play is crucial to developing both fine and gross motor skills necessary to maintaining physical strength. It is during free play that a child learns to coordinate their body movements to accomplish a specific goal. While organized sports and activities can be a good supplement for body development, free play is the best form of exercise for children. During free play they learn to think through a physical task and then accomplish that task. They use their bodies in new ways and strengthen necessary core muscles. With organized exercise and sports children are directed in what body movements to make. This diminishes their ability to learn about acceptable physical risk and truly test their own limits. During free play, they are also able to learn spatial awareness, the effects of force, and confidence in their own physical abilities.

My children are doing the most productive thing that they can do by spending their day playing. I have to admit I struggle with wanting to butt in and tell them they are not being fair, do a complicated physical activity for them, or assist them in negotiating a relationship problem. As I learn to trust them and their processes I am amazed by what they can accomplish. They truly are doing the most important educational work they can be doing.

For further reading check out these articles:

Early Childhood News- “Let’s Play! Using Play-Based Curriculum to Support Children’s Learning throughout the Domains”

CMEC Statement on Play Based Learning

National Association for the Education of Young People “Play and Children’s Learning”

Beginning Photography Educational Resources

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I (Emily) am a photographer. I have always loved photography, but hadn’t felt confident in myself to actually do more than take pictures of my own children. Educating myself on both the art and technicalities of good photography is the #1 thing that allowed me to find the confidence to take the jump and go pro. Here are a few of my favorite resources for the aspiring photographer.

Adobe Photoshop|Photography|Smith Squad|HomeschoolAmazon is having a special right now on the Adobe one year subscriction to the photographer’s bundle ($9.99 a month billed monthly for Photoshop and Lightroom). If you purchase by April 11th they will give you a $25 Amazon credit.

I read many books on Photoshop while pursuing my BFA in Digital Design. Adobe Photoshop for Photographers is the most comprehensive nitty gritty how to book I read. It is my Photoshop bible! It is always on my shelf and I pull it out whenever I need a reminder on how to do something or inspiration to try something new.

For learning the basics of digital photography and editing anything by Scott Kelby is going to be good. I have read several of his books.

The Photographer’s Eye is the best book out there for learning the artistic side of photography. It discusses different artistic principles such as rule of thirds, leading lines, and utilizing triangles and circles that you can use to improve the composition of your shots. The author discusses different lenses and how they affect your image. He also gives several examples of one scene photographed in several different way and discusses the pros and cons of each shot.

If you only ever read one book about photography it has to be Understanding Exposure. This book will teach you how to get your camera off of auto and fully take control of your images. It discusses how different apertures and shutter speeds affect your images. It will enable you to see in your mind what you want your image to have (motion blur, depth of field, etc.) and actually achieve it! Also by getting your exposure correct in camera you avoid editing problems that degrade the quality of your photos such as overexposed highlights and excess noise from underexposure.

One of my favorite resources for continuing my education is Creative Live. Creative Live streams live classes by professionals on every topic from shooting to editing, posing to documentary, and more. If you watch the class live then it is free and you can jump in the chatrooms to interact with other students and ask questions. They also have a small live studio audience. I have been blessed to be in that audience twice now. Attendance is free, you just have to cover your own travel costs and hotel stay. There are two studios, Seattle and San Francisco, so if you live near one of those areas then you should definitely apply to attend some classes.

There are a million and one other resources out there. The most important thing is to just jump in and learn all you can then get your camera in your hands and shoot everything until you feel comfortable with what you are doing.

What other photography resources do you love? What photography questions would you like to have answered?

Are You Common?

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Our current public educational system is based on the idea that every child is “common” and should perform to common standards. They must all study the same subjects at the same time. They must not be allowed to be too far ahead or behind their peers. They must be average in everything. They are not allowed to follow their strengths and passions. They are not pushed to truly excel, but even worse they are not allowed to fail, quit, or choose a specialty.

Are you common? Are you just like every adult around you? Do you group yourself by age and strive to be exactly the same intellectually as those within 12 months of your exact birthday? Do you stop yourself from learning something because Jane next door hasn’t learned it? Do you as a banker feel pressured to learn everything Tim down the street knows about mechanical engineering? Do you do every job that is available to you?

The reality of adult life does not even slightly resemble the system of education that we have forced our children to endure. Why do we expect our children to conform to a system that does not prepare them for the reality they will face as adults? The current schooling system was created for a generation of children who were being groomed to work in the factories. Put them on the conveyer belt, fill their heads with exactly what they need to be useful factory workers then shove them into the workforce. The system isn’t trying to create great artists, innovators, and leaders. The system isn’t trying to create managers, CEO’s or entrepreneurs. The system is designed to create great followers.

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As these “common” standards are developed they focus primarily on reading and math. As a result, other extracurricular subjects are getting severely restricted and even completely cut. Goodbye recess, P.E., Music, Art, etc. I personally do not see these activities as merely fluff. these are the critical activities that give our children a well rounded education. Young children learn primarily through play. It is through these crucial social interactions that they figure out how their world works and what their part is in it. It is through play that they face their fears, develop their strengths, and make sense of what all those crazy adults around them are doing. In our attempts to leave no child behind we are stamping out what makes them human, we are expecting them to be mere robots in a human shell.

Early childhood expert Jane Healy once said “…one of our misguided expectations right now in the education field is that every child should leave kindergarten reading. Well, not every child is going to leave kindergarten reading.” I can’t begin to count how many mothers I have spoken to in person and online who are beyond stressed out because their child isn’t beginning to read BEFORE they even attend one day of Kindergarten. If they can’t read by the end of Kindergarten well then heaven help them the sky must be falling! When did we stop listening to the experts and start listening to the developers of the “common” standards when deciding what our children should know and when they should know it?

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Free to Fly

I want more for my children. I want my children to dream the impossible and make it happen. I want my children to be encouraged and empowered. I want my children to be leaders and innovators. I want them to take each piece of knowledge and truly digest it at their own pace. I want them to forget about subjects and grades and truly love the adventure of learning. I want them to be their own special unique selves without pressure to conform to the “common” standard that some politician has decided is the right way to be.

I want more for myself. I want to be free from the stress of whether they have done enough homework today. I want to be free from comparing my child to the children around them. I want to be free from standardized testing that doesn’t tell me anything about my child other than how well they have memorized a few choice bits of information. I want to be free from timelines and age based expectations. I want to teach my 7 year old algebra at the same time as I allow my 5 year old to be 100% ok with not yet knowing how to read.

My children will be free to fly wherever the wings of their heart may take them. I will be free to love them and enjoy their childhood without stressing over whether they have learned the “common” things today.