Celebrating 1 Year Home! Happy Forever Family Day Zeke!

I can’t believe it has been a YEAR since we held our sweet boy in our arms for the first time!! It’s been a sweet year…and I always make a video for all my kiddos after their 1st year with us–so here is Zeke’s! The pictures sure are more eventful when you bring home a toddler verses a newborn…100 pictures of a baby smiling verses trips to the space center, swimming and beach for our first year with Zeke! It has honestly been easier than I expected!! People always say “terrible twos” are tough–so you would think bringing home a 2 year old that speaks a different language would be super tough (especially for him!)–but miracles happen…and this guy connected to us so quickly even in China a year ago! So thankful for all the Lord has done!! We love you Zeke…and are so blessed to have forever with YOU!

The Bunkroom {custom bunk beds by Custom Cabinetry of Middle Georgia}

We’ve officially been in our new place for over a month now–and we’ve been working away. We’ve had the house painted (most of it by mama Young:), bought antiques to fit the front porch and furniture for the family room–and little odds and ends like “farm art” and such. Zeke had his 3rd birthday this weekend–which was the FIRST one our family got to celebrate with him as he’s been home from China for 11 months–and it was such fun celebrating his birthday for the first time together!! (Okay-so this post is about the bunk room…but I have to give a sweet sneak peak or 5 of his special day!) So we invited his 30 best friends (hey–when you miss out on celebrating the first 2–you have a bigger party friends:) and it was SUCH fun. My grandmother and great aunt even came to town for the fun!!

Happy 3rd birthday to our Zeke baby! Sooooo…now that he is 3, of course he needs a big boy room. He is STILL our baby but the little man is climbing out of his crib and he has been asking for a big boy bed (his language skills in just 11 months are AMAZING!) For now, we are keeping his crib in his room (he likes to nap in it)–and momma is having a hard time packing it up after 10 years of having a crib up!! SO–to make this big move to a big boy bed special AND now that we’ve finally found our farmhouse that we plan to stay in, we decided to call about the amazing Kenny Johnston a builder out of Macon, Georgia to design and build the boys a BUNKROOM!

So for those of you who don’t know us and just landed here–we have FOUR boys and 1 princess. The two youngest boys want to share a room–but in our last house we found that they all often ended up in the SAME room with sleeping bags surrounding our oldest son’s bed. We said when we found our farmhouse, we’d build a bunk room–2 boys could share the room but as I guessed…for now you find them all in there at night. (SWEETNESS seeing your littles all just want to be together!!)

Here’s the finished product!

You could easily have drawers in the bunks too! We decided not to do drawers for now and to wait and maybe add those later! Not having drawers now does add for a little more space for the kiddos underneath the bunks too.

Still have some details to add to their “hero” room. Zeke and Isaac asked for HEROS–and oh my heart…they get heroes! These two youngest boys of mine are MY heroes for all the changes they have bravely made–and they are loving their new room. They all take turns who gets to sleep on the TOP bunk–so we are currently on a rotation system so everyone gets their turn;)

OKAY. FIRST–you may be wondering HOW Kenny a MACON builder built these for me in ATLANTA. Well, he built them IN MACON–and then put them together here at our home. I sent him all my favorite Pinterest pictures, pictures of the space I wanted them in and exact measurements of every corner and turn in the room. He created 3D design computer images–we made a few tweaks to make it appear those bunks were always there and he even added a wall to divide them (trust me…with littles you need division at night;). The computer designs he would send me in the design process looked like this…

Kenny had awesome ideas along the way–and I realllllly wanted to add old panels on the back wall–but in the end we needed to cut some corners and Kenny was awesome about that too giving us ideas to keep the project in our budget without sacrifices quality. These bunks are so well made–and I’m sure some could cut corners–but where my littles are concerned…momma wants quality. They are sturdy and safe–I even slept on a top bunk last night with Isaac who got scared in the wee hours of the night:).

Kenny does travel–and his business in AMAZING when you learn how he reaches out to his community and through his business disciples those he employs. The stories are draw dropping–but Kenny is humble and just salt of the Earth kinda guy. We actually met Kenny and his family through the adoption community when they grew after adopting 2 more to their family of 5 making 7. Later I watched as they temporarily housed a precious sibling group–trying to find the perfect family for them…only to watch them pray for them–and adopt them themselves as they had fallen in love with these girls while advocating for them. Just great folks–and we knew Kenny was the kind of person you want to do business with. Although he’s in Macon–if you live in the Georgia area–give him a call if you are thinking of doing a remodel, kitchen updates or even a custom bunk room like ours. You can find him on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/CustomCabinetryOfMiddleGa or to start the quote process you can give him a buzz at 478-361-6518 and tell him I sent you;).

I snagged a few pictures of some of his other current work. He does complete home remodels as well as smaller projects like ours!

A bathroom remodel…

A kitchen in process…

ALRIGHT…so that’s it for the BUNKROOM!! I’ll start posting more of our farmhouse pictures here in the next few days and weeks for you to see how it’s coming together!! We’ve gained a dog (Oreo), caught opossums from under our porch, broken up a fight between a group of turkeys and Rico’s truck, opened up the pool for summer fun, bought a ginormous lawn mower to cut our acreage–and we’re about to build a chicken coop! Goodness…I really need to start blogging again y’all because this will be entertaining and I know I’ll crack up one day how clueless we were (are now!!).

So…stay tuned for some crazy chicken and goat action…and also farm house pictures:) Can’t wait to share our sweet “new” old place with you all:)



Reading, Phonic and Spelling {my fav program…a treasure to share!}

As a former language arts teacher in the public schools (and YEARS of paying for tutors for one with dyslexia)–I have a true appreciation for this spelling and reading program. (No more tutors needed here!) When reading and spelling programs overlap–there will always be more gain for the student, and I can’t say enough about All About Reading and All About Spelling (published by All About Learning Press) which is Orton Gillingham based.

At first, it may feel like a lot of hands on as it’s multi sensory learning (NO WORKSHEETS/WORKBOOKS!)–but it’s so worth it!! Here’s a great article about these two programs, their differences and why doing these together is so beneficial: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/whats-the-difference-aar-aas/

If you are looking for a strong OG program for your kiddo–regardless if your child has a special reading need or is a strong reader (I have both and they both benefit greatly from this program)—and I’m so glad I found it!! (I wish they taught this in college to language arts/reading teachers–it took me 3 years of homeschooling to learn how to really teach phonics to my kiddos, and I wasn’t confident enough to fill the gaps myself so I went to OG tutors despite having a teaching degree in reading as they don’t teach OG in college–which I think is hands down the best phonics approach.

BUT if you just follow the prompts in this program–it is truly amazing how it will strengthen their reading and spelling skills! Many kids miss phonics, memorize words and you don’t realize this until 3rd or 4th grade when their brains can no longer retain as many difficult words. If they start to struggle in 3rd or 4th grade–taking them back is so important…and catching the phonic weakness in 1st or 2nd is even better. (JUST a little treasure I couldn’t help but share!!)

And y’all. I promise they didn’t ask me to write this;). Although I wish they did so they’d hook me up with the next set–HA! Seriously. If you don’t know where to start or it seems overwhelming–here’s the low down.

1. Go to this page and go to “Choose a Level”: https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/

2. Print off the placement test to see where your child should start. They give clear directions on how to give the test for you to follow.

3. If your child completes Level 4 easily–begin with Level 4. If they miss a few in another level–you can remediate just that area or simply start on that level. (I have one that was older that needed to start on Level 2—and another that could whizz through Level 4–so I actually chose to do Level 2 with BOTH. It will only help a child to review phonics no matter how basic they may seem. You may even realize you memorize words yourself and don’t have a solid foundation of phonics also.

4. What spelling level should you start on? You should start on Level 1 if your child hasn’t been in a phonics program before. If he/she has–then they recommend going straight to Level 2. (You can see sample lessons on the website. Level 2 will have words like: hinge, sweet, sweat, dentist. He/she will have dictation sentences to hear and correctly write like: The loud truck when into town.) If your child isn’t reading and writing yet, there is a Pre-Reading Program and Level 1 Spelling would be the place to start:).

Hope this helps! It may seem very simple and basic at first. I have discovered most kids have missed a solid phonics program in schools. If you aren’t sure if your child’s school has a strong phonics program–just ask! Ask what phonics method program the teacher implements in the room. If you get a blank stare–take on teaching your child phonics yourself. If the teacher quickly answers The Wilson Method, Orton Gillingham, the Barton System, etc–then you are good. Just ask how you can reinforce at home. If the teacher says the alphabet, phonic workbooks, etc–you might want to supplement at home. It’s much easier to take a 1st or 2nd grader back to basic phonics than a struggling 5th or 6th grader–so covering this ground early and filling in gaps is definitely a benefit to everyone!!

Happy reading and spelling!!

How We Homeschool {And my 2 cents for what they’re worth}

I’m preparing for my 4th year homeschooling–and this year ahead will be my fullest yet with 2 in K, one in 3rd, one in 4th and another running around in a diaper:) Next year, we’re opting out of preschool for the youngest and letting him roll with our crazy homeschooling. (For us having them in preschool has added to our crazy!) Now–if you are thinking about homeschooling and you have a tiny one and you know you have to put him/her in preschool so the others can focus–then try it! There was a season we had to do this as I was learning what worked for my kids–and it’s okay! GRACE. Lots of grace. And for many families this is the only way homeschooling works!

(Might I thrown in a 2 cents?? DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. Find what your family needs. Give yourself lots of tweaks. And remember what you try isn’t forever. If something isn’t working–change is always an option!)

We have all types of learning needs. But let me just start off by saying that it was dyslexia that led me to homeschool and not something I was very excited about AT FIRST. Now I can’t imagine anything but this–as I see the hearts of my children day in and day out…and I can guide them and simply be with them. I’m so thankful for what called us to this–although it felt crazy at first. I’m a former public school reading/language arts teacher–so I was at one time passionate about my kids going to public school…and now I’m just thankful I have the option to homeschool and get to be with my kids and to be the one watching them grow and learn. Not everyone has this opportunity–so it’s not one I ever take for granted.

(Now–might I throw in 2 cents #2? EVERYONE home schools differently because every child learns differenTtly. If you homeschool, you have the blessing of tweaking learning to your child–so it will look different for every family. ADD ON TO 2 CENTS #1…Do not compare yourself OR YOUR CHILD to others.)

I’ve been asked several times lately about what we use for homeschool–so I thought I’d document that here too:). You never know who might be blessed, encouraged or get ideas from what you share…just as I love reading what others do too!

SO…in a nutshell this is what works (and what hasn’t worked) for our family!

1. We learn together what we can together.

We have more than one child learning at home–so for us…it makes sense to learn from home. There are LOTS of options out there for homeschool like hybrids where kids can go 2x a week where they do the teaching at school and work at home and your home days are “homework” days. We’ve tried this but it didn’t work for our family because we want to be and learn together. I found myself running from the dining room with one child learning World history to the living room for another child learning U.S. History. I was wearing myself OUT. In many ways, it was separating our learning rather than drawing us closer together as a family. {*Hybrids are AWESOME if you don’t want to pick your curriculum, you’d like someone to teach your children while you focus more on the “practice” or homework, you want all of your children to learn individually by grade level in every subject, you want/need a few days to work part-time or focus on smaller children at home. If you have a hard time connecting with other homeschooling families, they can also be a great source for community!) Co-ops are also another thing to think about–but again–you can’t always speed up or slow down as your children are ready for as you really need to stay in sync with the rest of the co-op.}

FOR US…part of homeschooling was being together. SO we wanted to learn together. There are so many subjects that a kindergardener to even a high schooler can actually do together but on different LEVELS. With 5 children, we need to SIMPLIFY, be together and jump ahead OR stay behind when we need to. I also love choosing curriculum that fits our needs and having the flexibility to change things up when we need a change too–but learning together is the most important part and one of the main reasons we homeschool too!

We do our history, science, art, music and most of our reading TOGETHER. (Can you imagine having more than 2 histories, science, reading, etc to teach EVERY day?) Me either. So we do many of our things together. Some awesome curriculums that we use that are designed already for different ages to do together are:

FOR SCIENCE: APOLOGIA (CLICK HERE TO SEE DIFFERENT BOOKS TO CHOOSE EACH YEAR TOGETHER) We’ve tried lots of different science books–and many are weak and all over the place. This is consistent, solid and will engage many different ages TOGETHER.

FOR READING/PHONICS: ALL ABOUT READING (CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE) Being a former reading teacher, I’m a bit picky about phonics and foundation. THIS is hands down the best place to start…and finish. Truthfully, it wouldn’t hurt for anyone (including ME) to start on Level 1 and work my way up with the kids because many of us were not taught proper foundational phonics. This is hands down the best phonics program I’ve used, and I’ve used a billion between teaching public school and my own flock. This is just good stuff. It will help a struggling reader or sharpen a strong one.) We also use for our SPELLING the program that goes along with All About Reading which is called All About Spelling. It’s also available through the site listed above. We are trying a few other things for spelling also (our love with dyslexia needs extra, extra…but for most kiddos–that should be plenty! I just stay far away from worksheets and things that do no tie into a phonics program too).

We also do a novel study a month–again together. The kids old enough to read–take turns reading aloud so the ones who can’t read on the reading level of our novel can also participate. (We LOVE doing Lapbooks and units put together by Confessions of a Homeschooler! They are affordable and worth every penny..and kids of all ages can do them together too! We also love her art, music and other unit studies when you want to mix things up for a bit! That’s the GREAT thing about homeschooling–you can mix things up whenever you want!)

In addition to novel studies, we encourage 30 minutes of reading alone too. If you can’t read yet–then an older sibling can read to you–OR you can use Tag read along books or books on tape (We have TONS that were passed down to us with old school headphones…so fun for the littlest ones. The “ding” to turn the page takes me back to my childhood and my mom taking us often to the library!!)

FOR HISTORY: STORY OF THE WORLD (CHECK IT OUT HERE) This is just MY favorite:) (My Father’s World has a close 2nd for me! You can check them out HERE!) What I do love about My Father’s World history is how they create “synergy groups/family learning cycle” for you! They want their curriculum to be done as a family–so they have created a way for a 1st and 5th grader to rock out history as a family. THIS is a really fun one to do as a family too! We LOVE going on field trips as a family of course–so it makes sense for us to learn together and do the same history for all of our kids so our field trips together go with our learning. We happen to live close to a city with museums–so there are always different exhibits that go along with our learning–so I can’t imagine doing different histories for my loves! It’s so fun to do together as much as we can!! (I loooove this book because everything is done for you as a teacher and the ideas they give you to be creative…oh my–just fantastic!)

FOR MUSIC/ART/ETC: We do take part in a 1 day program at a church for homeschool kiddos called Timothy Ministry. This is where my kids pack in a day filled with art, music, karate, cooking, crafting, etc! They sign up for what they want to do each semester…and it’s fun to see when they intentionally sign up to be in classes TOGETHER!! And it’s pretty nice to have 1 day a week to get things done or to just hang with the toddler:)

FOR BIBLE: We work out way through the Bible by reading the “Live It” application sections along with the scripture that goes with it in the Kids Adventure Bible. You can check it out HERE. Then they play on their own reading and telling stories from Betty Lukens Read Through the Bible. You can find it HERE. YES. It may look old school. It may look weird. But y’all. Old school. And some things old school are just good. We bought the Bible Deluxe Set for $300…and oh my…best purchase ever. If you don’t want to buy that–just buy the teacher’s manual for $22 RIGHT HERE and tell your kids to imagine the felt characters;) It’s tight to scripture–so well told and written…it will have your kids on the edge of their seats what happens next in scripture. No need to reinvent the wheel or water it down when you can have ole Betty. For real. Just good stuff!

2. What we learn separately–we find independent curriculum so we can still all do at the SAME TIME and finish together.

FOR MATH: (This is where it really matters HOW your child learns!) My 2 favorite math programs are Singapore Math AND Math-U-See. My personal favorite is Singapore Math–simply because my kids get it! I like Math-U-See simply because you can buy the DVDs and have the teacher on the DVD teach your child. I would do this if I were in a hard season with lots of kids or if I stunk at math:)

(Time to chime in for 2 cents #3! NEVER change what is working for your kids!! My kids were rocking in out with Singapore. We tried a hybrid that did Math-U-See…and I discovered the DVDS…BUT we switched back to Singapore once I discovered the hybrid deal wasn’t the best fit for our family. When you find something that works–do NOT change it:)

(While I’m thinking about it 2 cents #4–do NOT spend too much time researching curriculum. There is TOO MUCH out there–and you can overwhelm yourself. Find a friend you trust–ask their advice–get the low down…and stop by to scan through a book if you can!! Visit a local store that sells homeschool materials and compare there–and choose the one that looks like it will fit best for your family. And don’t question or look back!! If it works–roll with it and have fun being with your kids!)

FOR LANGUAGE ARTS: Okay…so this is my area. I’m a former language arts teacher. Now–you could get fancy and jump into IEW early–but y’all–that’s INTENSE!! Being a writer and a former language arts teacher–my advice is to not burn your loves out early. Much of the intense report writing, proper paragraph formation, etc can wait until middle school–for real. This is an AWESOME program for 5th grade and up!! But before that…just let them enjoy reading, taking it in, learning how to summarize and grow in their writing skills through something like WRITING WITH EASE, THE COMPLETE WRITER and FIRST LANGUAGE LESSONS. Honestly…this is just sweet, wholesome but offers a strong foundation. I can’t say ENOUGH about this classical trio! Your child will be challenged to memorize, summarize, dictate and learn foundational English as well. Bring in the IEW come middle school…and you’re golden!

Those are our basics…but we do add a few things like Latin/Greek and foreign language too! The kids LOVE learning Latin and Greek and it helps build their vocabulary without having to look up all the definitions because they being to know what words mean by the roots instead. They amaze me how quickly they learn!! We use From the Roots Up (the book and flashcards) for Latin/Greek, and we use different programs for our foreign language. We are still learning Mandarin over here as it’s the most widely spoken language in the world.

(2 cents #5. If you are new to homeschool and the ONE thing you are worried about is socialization. UM. Don’t be. Looking back…I realize when I taught public school all the teachers around me told their students to be quiet and not talk when they entered the room. If they talked–they got in trouble. Your children will have more opportunities to socialize, to answer questions, and to interact constantly with people other than kids just their age as you provide them with different opportunities. We have done everything from homeschool soccer programs–many businesses offer these during school hours just for homeschool kiddos—to volunteering at nursing homes where my kids literally became good friends with the elderly. They were in a PRECIOUS school for 2 years before I decided to homeschool–and I have to tell you that I’ve seen them challenged socially with more opportunities than we ever had in “school-school”. You will need to learn BALANCE and learn how to say “no” often to social opportunities so you keep the “home” in homeschool;) Otherwise you will just be socializing constantly–so you have to balance all the opportunities with the books too.)

(And finally 2 cents #5. ENJOY this sweet season with your kids! Take breaks when you need or want them. Be spontaneous. Learn with them. Explore with them. Find friends to do life with…take breaks together…go on long field trips related to what you are learning…and a few that have nothing to do with what you are learning:). When you have a bad day and you think you are messing your kids up;)…go out for ice cream. Listen to your kids–and share your heart with them too. Fly kites. Swim. Eat ice cream. Cook together…using your times tables. And HAVE FUN.)

If you ever have any questions–please feel free to ask! I’m still learning…and if you have a gem you have discovered…please pass it my way through a comment or by contacting me!

Hope you have a blessed day!



Life on the farm…

Oh my!

We have been here for 3 weeks TONIGHT!

And life is…


We have 2 animal traps set up to catch what we think is a ground hog digging all kinds of business under our front porch. I was certain we caught something tonight–but then I thought it was a coyote just howling…then to realize it was a kid upstairs who decided they needed a little extra rocking. Toddlers and coyotes don’t sound that far off in the distance I have learned;).

We have been busy getting boxes unpacked and things put away. Lots to do in our house–every room needs to be painted and every lighting piece needs to be replaced. Just one room at a time. The painters are backed up and they said they can’t come until mid-May. I’ve already gotten a few rooms done to make it feel more like home so we’ll see how much is left for them to do come mid-May!

Yes–lots of things can wait…but the painting–and the lighting…can not. Trust me when I say the lighting needs to be replaced;) Exhibit A:

Lots of yard for the kids to run and play.

The first room I decided to tackle is actually in the basement. The playroom.

I painted one entire long wall (40 feet long) with chalkboard paint. Then I painted a few things on it that I wanted to stay with acrylic paint. The rest is left for them to decorate with chalk…

Then we painted a wall for the kids to leave their handprints with their friends…

Next came our family room…which is STILL in progress as I make draperies and wait on our chairs and rug to arrive. Here’s a little sneak peak though (and instead of ripping out the Spanish tile–I’m gonna work it folks:) Pictures to come soon:)

Then came the kitchen and breakfast area. Pictures to come of that soon:) It was all GOLD. I mean orange giarrdia GOLD. Now…more peaceful. BUT lots of rooms still have that deep dark gold–so I’m thinking I’m going to cut the painters work in half before mid-May gets here. Anything that’s not gold can wait. Befores and after for sure!

We are really really loving country life! We are getting our back yard ready for goats…and a dog. Because we’ve discovered you really need a dog in the country. For many reasons. Pottying around our porch to keep ground hogs away is just one of them:)

It really is amazing how peaceful things are out here. We are still learning a new pace–of slowing down…and “I’m going to town–ya need anything?” is my new favorite phrase and question.

Can’t wait to share lots of pictures!!!!!!!

But for now–I’m going to CRASH because life on the farm…oh my–and the unpacking…is wearing this momma slap out!

We’ve sure been busy though and we’ve had LOTS of visitors! Friends and family…and even Princess Tetiana!! So thankful how her family is still in our lives!!

ALSO…it’s Zeke’s FIRST Easter with us!! Have to share a pictures of his very FIRST Easter Egg hunt!

Zeke is doing great! His language is AMAZING for a 2 year old…ALMOST 3 year old. I’m soooo excited to get to celebrate his 3rd birthday soooooon! Oh how I’ve dreamed of this!

Okay–off to crash!!

Blessings to you this EASTER!!!

He has risen!!


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