Summer Of Fun

My time with my children is moving so quickly. These happy days of childhood will be over all too soon, and in my earlier years as a mother, I was often so deep into survival mode, that I couldn't take the time to reflect on how quickly the days were flying by. 

As I have grown to understand that my time to build relationships and influence my children is limited, I am even more intense about creating memories while we can. Because of this, I try to take time each season to brainstorm with them some favorite activities to complete. Each season has it's own special celebrations, and because there are fewer national holidays in the summer, we make a point of thinking up special summer celebrations.

Last summer, I found this amazing post by Ann Voskamp, which inspired me to look at even ordinary things as a celebration. As I started highlighting these occurrences to my children as special celebrations instead of taking them for granted as part of the everyday, our summer gained a little sparkle and delight.

This summer, we sat down and talked about all our dreams for the summer. Some of them are simple while others will take a bit more planning, but because we have created a culture that values simple fun, my kids didn't even think of asking for tickets to Disneyland, or a Hawaiian vacation.

On our list;

1. Sleep in a tent

2. Go to the beach

3. Roast s'mores

4. Have a party

5. Swim

6. Eat ice cream

7. Jump in a lake

8. Go to the fair

9. Go to a farmers market (I grow a fair bit of our fresh food, but haven't completely detached from grocery store produce.)

10. Ride bikes (we live on a dirt lane, so this takes a special effort.)

11. Pick berries

12. Read a novel (this one is for me, the kids seem to find time....)

We rescued a baby bluebird.

Through the years, we have also tried to find special books to celebrate the seasons. 
Preschoolers and Peace highlighted some great picture books on this post.

We checked out a few of those, but have also enjoyed A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor as a book to celebrate the seasons, and also, Swallows and Amazons for a wonderfully fun summer read aloud.

Had a family vacation.

What makes your summer extra special?

Went to the beach!

and read.

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Nature Journaling

I have always tried to include nature journaling in my homeschool. I have a photo of my children, taken ten years ago, of them at a historic site journaling their lovely surroundings. Old notebooks are filled with drawings of trees and whales from those early days of nature journaling, and nature guides such as the Golden Guides were frequent companions on our forays into the wilds.

Our nature journaling has gotten a boost in the last few months with the addition of just a few amazing resources. 

The first resource that has helped us in our nature journaling efforts is the amazing artwork of Kristin Rogers which is featured in the bundles from the Wild and Free homeschool community. Kristin is a photographer and artist from Southern California who is an avid nature journaler and homeschooler. Her artwork has inspired more nature journaling in my homeschool, but it has also inspired me to take the time to nature journal. My artwork is pretty basic, and I often want to pass it off as that of one of my youngest children, but I have so enjoyed sitting with my children and visiting together over paints and paper, instead of just giving them nature journaling as an assignment while I go on with other tasks.

The other resource that has made nature journaling more fun in our homeschool is the beautiful resource from Simply Charlotte Mason, "Journaling A Year In Nature". This is an amazing resource which has given us some great prompts to guide our nature study. The journal is spiral bound card stock, organized by season. The hard cover and spiral binding make it very convenient for travel, and the heavyweight paper holds up well to watercolor painting. The journal is organized by season and has pages specific to different kinds of natural wonders. 

My son and I drew crabs in the section on animals and insects, and my daughter and I painted tall trees in the section on trees. The journal also includes inspiring quotes to give you "something to think about" while you are journaling. We took the journal on our recent ten day family camping trip and filled it with drawings and paintings of the natural treasures that we found.

We saw so much natural beauty on this trip; soaring trees and wafting ferns, tiny crabs hidden under rocks, and beautiful rushing waterfalls. I took lots of pictures, but we also enjoyed sitting quietly in the trailer after a day of exploration and recording our finds in our Simply Charlotte Mason Nature Journal. 

We have incorporated drawing and painting into every subject of our homeschool. We do written and illustrated narration in place of book reports, draw and paint narration for history subjects, and paint our way through science studies. Resources that help us become more proficient at recording what we are learning, such as "Journaling A Year In Nature" are a welcome addition to our homeschool.

If you are looking for some supplies to go along with your nature journaling, these have been recommended by artists that we follow.

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Large Family Road Trip

We just returned from a ten day road trip with all seven of our children. We have gone on long road trips like this before, to Tennessee while we were missionaries in Mexico, and even earlier, we took our then four children to Canada for a two week long driving trip. This trip was different. Now, instead of taking four or five young children, we were taking seven children, and most of them are hardly children. We were taking a van full of big people, with big opinions. When everyone was small, it was easy to say where we were going and to make the decisions about what we would do. Now we would have to take the interests of a wide range of people into consideration as we planned our stops.

The idea for the trip had started when a magazine that I contribute to called Wild and Free, planned a conference in Portland, Oregon. We had talked for several years about taking our children to see the Pacific Northwest, but with our yearly trips to Mexico to visit the orphanage, it had been hard to find the time. However, with the opportunity to speak at this conference before me, the choice to take our children along became an easy one.

It was also an easy destination to want to visit because Scott and I both have special memories from the Pacific Northwest. I spent many summer days walking around Lake Marie as a child and Scott had gone up and down the I-5 to Oregon on his way to visit his aunties several times throughout his childhood. 

We started the trip with a day long drive to our first destination, where we camped beside pretty little Lake Marie. We walked the one mile pathway around the lake, smiling inwardly as I remembered walking around that same lake as a child, and groaning about the awful distance, much as my own young daughter resorted to. The ferns and mosses were awe inspiring, as were the tiny creeks. We had come from dry California, after all, and the rushing water everywhere filled us with joy.

After a sweet visit there with some of my dear relatives, and an amazing tour of my childhood home, we headed up the coast to our next destination, LaConner, Washington. When we pulled in, it was a bit discouraging. We were camping in a hybrid travel trailer and I wasn't at all excited about close neighbors hearing our every mutter through the thin walls. The last campground had been relatively deserted which is exactly how I like it. This one was teeming with people. We finally found a little campsite, which although cramped, was at least surrounded by shrubs, and set up our trailer. 

The next day we headed out early to see my aunt in Canada, and spent the day exploring the outskirts of Vancouver. We got separated without phone service in Lynn Canyon Park when the six and eight year olds who were with Scott decided they didn't want to go over the suspension bridge, and the rest of us were too hemmed in by people to turn around. I kept going, trusting that my husband and I and the younger children would find each other eventually.  We did find each other, and enjoyed the rest of our day with my favorite B.C. relatives.

The next day we visited Seattle, the place of my birth. One of the top places to go on the tourist information was Pikes Place, and since we all were wanting a good cup of coffee, a pastry and some books, we decided to go there. I don't recommend it with small children. My six year old thinks it is okay for him to run ahead like his brothers, and so I spent the entire time in terror that I would lose him among the crowds. After seven children and a Mexico move, I am not the most easily rattled person, but by the time I reached the car I was in tears. 

We headed out of the city to the beautiful Japanese Gardens, which was much more my pace. The whole Washington Park Arboretum was incredibly beautiful, with its lush rhododendrons blooming on every hillside. Someday I will go back to Pikes Place, but definitely not with a crowd of my own people to try and keep track of.

Our Washington campground was situated on the pretty Skagit Bay, and was a natural wonder for my children. The two youngest reveled in turning over rocks and counting crabs, of which there were plenty. The three boys built a raft out of driftwood and set out to sea, abandoning ship and swimming to shore when the currents gave them the impression that they might indeed be carried away.

One of our favorite parts of our time in Washington, was visiting the San Juan Islands. We were hoping to see whales while we were on the ferry, making it the cheapest whale watching trip with nine people ever, and although we didn't eventually see whales, we did eat a gorgeous tart at the San Juan Bakery, find some amazing books at the local thrift store, and finally get a great americano. Being more of a country girl, than an urban dweller, I found the slower pace on the island very refreshing.

We ended our trip in Eugene, Oregon, visiting another sweet relative, after spending two nights in Portland. The waterfalls surrounding the city were awe inspiring, and although I didn't do as much exploring as the rest of my family, because of the extraordinary conference I was attending, I did get to listen to one of our family's favorite musicians and meet his beautiful family, as well as meeting many other amazing women.

Because our time with our children is ultimately limited, Scott and I were so very thankful to explore some incredible places with them. The small trailer got crowded and smelly with all of us staying there, the car rides were long and tiring, but the sights we saw, the people that we met, and the sweeter bonds that we formed with each other, made all the little inconveniences insignificant. 

We only have one chance to raise our children, and intense time together is one of the best ways to connect and to stay connected. What will you do this summer to renew love and connection in your family?