Sarah of Wyoming State
My family consists of me, my husband Aaron, 2 children with another due in April, and our miniature schnauzer. My 2 children's names are Jesse, who is almost 6, and Charli, who is 2 and a half.
Natalie P. of Cheyenne, Wyoming
My husband Dave is a computer engineer. He had a curious mind and is constantly learning.
I am a stay-at-home mom who loves to cook, is a bit of a clean freak and who blogs in her spare time.
Octavia just turned 4. She loves all things pink, playing with her little brother and cousins, and making beautiful artwork all over the house. Her favorite book is Pinkalicious.
Jean-Luc is 2. He is our explorer and loves to rough-house. He loves all things dinosaurs and Spiderman.
Melissa of Northwest Wyoming
Hi! Our family consists of dad (Dustin) and I (Melissa) and our 2 little learners- Dagan age 8, and Noah age 2. We also have a 5-month-old Great Pyrenees puppy named Shiloh. We live in a small town, but farm just under 2,000 acres. We spend a lot of time at the farm and love being outdoors.
How do you Timberdoodle?
Sarah: I first heard about Timberdoodle when I googled companies that made homeschool curriculum kits. Even at first glance I loved and still love the ease of use of the website. I looked at many different companies and after doing lots of research over 2 years I always came back to this company. It covers so many of my family's needs and you can tell they do their research on which items are best to use in their kits.
My favorite items would have to be Math-U-See and All About Reading (AAR) programs because they have multiple learning styles all in the same lesson. However my kids favorite item is probably the miniLUK right now. We usually do AAR reading lessons right after breakfast then Math-U-See after a small break. We use the miniLUK during times I can't sit with them the whole time and it's great at teaching independent learning.
Natalie: We are just starting doing preschool at home. We are constantly on the lookout for engaging games and activites for learning. We heard about Timberdoodle through some blogs and The Well Trained Mind forum where the Farmland Math Mat was highly recommended. We hope to add this to our preschool soon.
Melissa: We have been using Timberdoodle for several years and love it! I was searching for a more hands-on curriculum. So when I came across Timberdoodle, I knew it was a perfect fit! My oldest son is currently in 2nd grade and we have used Timberdoodle since Pre-K for him. I also purchased the Tiny Tots curriculum for my 2-year-old this year. I love how it is educational, yet still fun for him. He is learning through play. My oldest son absolutely loves all of the STEM products that come with the curriculum kits! We even keep the ones out from previous years as he likes to "play" with them in his spare time.
Tell us about a typical school day at your house.
Sarah: Every weekday we get started right after breakfast with reading, by then it's usually break time and snack for the littlest. After break we do math. Then it's free play time and we start a few chores until lunch. After lunch we do a subject they choose, take a break for chores and play, then another subject they get to choose. I keep track of what we have already done for the week using the Timberdoodle scheduler so they just pick something from the list we haven't done yet. We are currently doing year round schooling since we take a lot of rest days do to my pregnancy being a little difficult and my kids love learning anyway.
Natalie: We start school every day after breakfast and morning chores (they feed the dog for their chore) at around 9:00 a.m. We start out reading stories. We do one Alphabet or Counting story and each child gets to pick a story as well. After story time we do some sort of game. Today we did fishing for the alphabet and balancing monkeys (a counting game). Their little minds tend to get fatigued easily so we end the session with some artwork. All this usually takes 1-2 hours. It all depends on how on top of planning I am as well as how engaged they are. After "school" they do some free play until lunch time at noon. Dinner is between 4:00 and 5:00. After this they get an hour play time while I clean the kitchen. When I have finished they get to help pick up all of their toys before bedtime.
Melissa: We typically get started around 9:00 a.m. I go through and schedule the whole year before we start, so I know exactly what we need to do each day. (I allow a catch up days just in case something comes up). We do Bible every day of the week. We do math on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We do Story of the World and science on Tuesday and Thursday. We do reading Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and spelling Tuesday and Thursday. The rest of the subjects are spread out across the week. We do either an art project or STEM activity at least 1x a day. We usually get finished before lunch, but some days the toddler demands more of our time, so we have to finish up after lunch. We then do chores and other things in the afternoon. Some days we do our school work in the tractor.
If we peeked inside your home on a random Wednesday afternoon, what would we see?
Sarah: You would probably see a bunch of toys on the floor including a variety of things they built and some school items that haven't quite made it back to where they belong.
Natalie: We have usually finished our structured learning for the day. If mom is lucky you might see Jean-Luc down for a nap and Octavia having some quiet time with toys in her room. More likely both of them with be going crazy emptying the kitchen cabinets or running along the halls with permanent marker in hand. I will be busy trying to put together grocery lists, doing a little blogging if I am lucky, trying to keep the house in order, and making dinner.
Melissa: We are usually finished with schoolwork by the afternoon, so you may find my 8-year-old and 2-year-old playing while mom does some house work. If it is nice outside, we may be in the backyard playing or at the farm enjoying the great outdoors.
If you could take your family anywhere you wanted for vacation where would you go?
Sarah: My husband and I love the Oregon coast but we have yet to be able to take our children there.
Natalie: I love southwest Florida so we would definitely hit up one of the beaches there.
Melissa: We love Disney World!
What books have you read over and over?
- Charlotte's Web
- Usborne Look Inside Your Body
- Rainbow Fruit Salad
Natalie: Personal favorites are
- The Scarlet Pimpernel
- Harry Potter
- The Count of Monte Cristo
Melissa: The Bible. :) Other than that, I don't tend to read books more than once. There are so many books in my to-read pile, so I would rather read one of those.
What dietary challenges does your family face?
Sarah: My family can't have gluten, grains, nightshades, processed sugar, food dyes, soy... there's more and some of us have more issues than others. So, long story short, my family has more on the list of "can't eat" than "can." We deal with it by only eating what I personally make from scratch. It was also one of the many reasons we chose to homeschool.
Natalie: The kids are pretty good eaters and will eat most things. Before Octavia was even eating solids I read French Kids Eat Everything and that has helped with helping keep our kids happy with a wide variety of foods. We do still struggle with not using food as a reward. The other big struggle for mom and dad is portion control and not passing those bad habits down. Still working out how to best get our habits in control.
Melissa: We are learning my oldest son has a gluten allergy so we have been finding ways to stay away from gluten. I love using an app called E-meals that has a Paleo meal plan so it gives me a way to plan our dinners and give me a shopping list. I love the variety of dinner recipes and my kids love eating the meals I cook from there, so it is a win-win.
What tips do you have for surviving a hard day?
Sarah: First take a deep breath then try and remember that every body has a hard day every once in awhile. It's ok to take the day off and have a pajama and movie day or to only do the most important subjects like math and reading. If you're having more hard days than not maybe take a step back and try and figure out what might be causing it. Is your kid bored from it being too easy or frustrated because it's too hard? Parents as well as kids get burn out so make sure to take care of your needs too! I love going to our local homeschool group get-togethers where the kids get to play and I get to actually have an adult conversation. It's really helpful.
Natalie: Getting out of the house is the number one thing that helps me. If the kids are acting extra rambunctious I try to take it as a sign that they just need to expend some energy. Go to the park, or store, or library. Usually a change of scenery is good for all. A video chat with my best friend is always good for my spirits. I try not to let the kids do too much TV or phone time but I am not above letting them watch if I'm having a particularly hard day or sick.
Melissa: Take some time for just you. At the end of the day, I have about a 30 minute period where I just relax and do what I want to do. The kids and hubby are in bed, so it is just me. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it (husband, family member, etc) I also remember that I will miss these hard days when the kids are grown up and out of the house. Some of the days may be hard, but it is well worth it for the outcome we are creating.
What’s something your child has done that thrilled your soul?
Sarah: My children thrill my soul mostly every day. Homeschooling allows me to experience watching them grow mentally and my favorite is when a lesson actually clicks. Most recently my oldest has just been doing math, a full grade above what we've been working on, in his head and just for FUN!
Natalie: Anytime they say "I love you" or offer hugs and kisses unprompted it fills my soul.
Melissa: My 1st love letter from my son will be something I cherish forever! Also just seeing what a kind, caring person my son is growing up to be definitely thrills my soul!
How does your family celebrate birthdays?
Sarah: Birthdays usually only have family members over and this is when my kids get the really fun learning games that come in the kits.
Natalie: I love making cakes for them. We usually just do a family birthday party with family who lives in town. One tradition that we have started is to do a scavenger hunt where the kids have to search for their party favors. They all love it and look forward to it.
Melissa: Sometimes we just have a family get together, and sometimes we have an actual birthday party somewhere. Two years ago, we celebrated at an indoor waterpark. This last year, we just had a family gathering at our house.
What have you done recently for the first time?
Sarah: I just finished laminating and preparing the whole 1st grade kit. It was overwhelming at first but I feel very accomplished getting it done. My oldest is already on week 4 of it.
Natalie: I held a baby alligator! It was great!
Melissa: My husband and I went on a mini vacation just him and I without the kids for 5 days. It was nice, but we definitely decided we missed the kids too much to leave them again for that long. So next time, it will be a family vacation or maybe just 1-2 days!
What’s your favorite school day lunch?
Sarah: We all love pink salmon with a side of apples and kiwifruit. Pink salmon is great brain food!
Natalie: I always have either leftover or a salad. The kids usually eat the same but are particularly fond of rice with soy sauce. Octavia has also been loving bell pepper with cream cheese lately.
Melissa: My boys love pizza, but since we are trying to stay away from gluten, we have started eating cauliflower pizza crusts and love them!
How would you manage if you had to homeschool without the internet?
Sarah: We would really struggle without the internet. We could do it but we use it so much it's hard to imagine a single homeschool day without the internet.
Natalie: Lots of trips to the library! I would also probably spend a lot more money. I look for lots of free printables and such online so I suppose I would be shelling out more money for that sort of thing.
Melissa: I think we would be ok! We don't really use the internet much at this stage, but I would miss it for ordering and reviewing curriculum!
What tips do you have for other families?
Sarah: The placement tests are of utmost importance! Having your child do work to far above or below their ability will only cause problems for them AND you.
Natalie: We are just beginning. I hear a lot of people say not to worry about schooling for the preschool years. But it's not for them, it's for me! I am still learning to be a good teacher, what schedule works for us, and their learning styles. My biggest piece of advice for other beginners would be to be forgiving of yourself even when they don't seem to be taking it in. Don't be afraid to try something new if what you're doing isn't working. Try to find a balance between flexibility and consistency.
Melissa: I think that scheduling out our year is a huge help! I know what needs to be done and I don't have to worry about falling behind. I write what needs to be done each day on our white board and my son loves erasing things as we get them done. It is also a challenge homeschooling with a toddler, so I have a few tips for that.
- I keep our Tiny Tot toys put away so he can only play during schoolwork time. I give him one or two to play with to keep him occupied for a while.
- I play and read to him while my oldest is doing independent work or something where he doesn't need my help.
- If it's something he can join in on, we let him. He loves doing everything big brother is doing!
- We take breaks where his big brother can just play with him. We could call this recess. :) This gives me time to prep for upcoming subjects if I need to.
What is something you appreciate about each of your kids?
Sarah: I appreciate how much differences, joy and even challenges they each bring into our lives.
Natalie: I appreciate what a sweet and generous heart Octavia has. She is a natural sharer and loves her little brother. She also has an artistic streak. Even when paint ends up on the walls or carpet I can still recognize that artistic spirit.
I love Jean-Luc for his adventurous spirit. He is fearless and all boy. He loves to explore, chase, wrestle, play with sticks. He is also a pretty good snuggler to balance that all out.
Melissa: I appreciate how outgoing and polite they are. They are both so friendly and nice, it warms my heart when I see them being so loving to others. My oldest son is also such an amazing big brother and I really appreciate his help with his little brother!
What song is currently in your head?
Sarah: The My Little Ponies theme song.
Natalie: Paint it Black.
Melissa: God Only Knows by King & Country because it was the last song I listened to.
Tell us about your family’s favorite games.
Sarah: They currently love stacking or building things then destroying them. It's a game they made up between them. For actual games they love anything we can play together which is a little hard with such a big age gap and the youngest being 2 still.
Natalie: We don't do a lot of board games. Maybe Bang, Apples to Apples, or Cranium. We do love going mini-golfing (even though I'm horrible!) and playing croquet in the park along with a picnic.
Melissa: My son and I love any board game! His favorite is Life and my favorite is Clue. We also enjoy puzzles.
What is your exercise routine and how often do you do it?
Sarah: I feel like I get the exercise I need just cleaning and running after my kids on a daily basis. For my kids we have play groups with other homeschool kids once a week.
Natalie: When the weather is nice I love to take the kids for long walks in the park. I do have a gym pass that I use semi-regularly. I do mostly weight lifting using the Strong Curves program followed by light cardio. When I actually do this I aim for three times a week. In a past life I was a runner. Way to cold and windy in Cheyenne to do that!
Melissa: When I workout (which needs to be more often), I workout in my bedroom and do a Beachbody on Demand workout. I love these because there are so many choices and you can find something you love at the level you want. I am patiently waiting for spring so we can start riding bikes and walking again!
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in your homeschool that you called a “science experiment”?
Sarah: My husband left coins and nails in a vinegar and water mixture to show how our stomach's can't really digest them. The mixture surprisingly turned green and left these cool crystals on the glass. He's been trying to replicate it since then but can't.
Natalie: Nothing too crazy! Attempting to garden with my black thumb. We also like to catch bugs. We've caught some pretty big stag beetles that the kids found impressive.
Melissa: Our entire garage is set up right now to be a hydroponic garden. It has been a fun learning experiment for my son and we are excited to take advantage of the end product!
What hard thing are you planning to do this year?
Sarah: Actually finish Level 1 AAR for my oldest. We have made it half way through 3 times already but got too frustrated. Today he finished AAR Pre-Reading so we plan to start level 1 again tomorrow. He's actually excited this time.
Natalie: Hoping to move across the country... Oh, and tackling this homeschool thing. Did I mention that I was a beginner? So it's all new and very challenging for me.
Melissa: The weather didn't cooperate with the farm last year, so we ended up having a horrible year. This year, we are trying to figure out how to cut expenses and make up for some of what we lost. I also am in the process of reviving my blog about farming (and eventually homeschooling) which I love, but is hard to find the time and feel like I have value to add to others.
What did you do just for fun with your kids recently?
Sarah: My oldest has a chart he gets stickers on for finishing school subjects. He gets to choose his prize when he fills his chart. He chose watching a movie while we eat dinner. We never do that unless it's a special occasion.
Natalie: We have gone to the library and an indoor playground recently. Also doing painting and other crafts.
Melissa: Yesterday we went and played in the snow and did some sledding. We live in northern Wyoming where is it cold in the winter, but until yesterday haven't had any snow. So we took advantage of the snow and had a great day!
What would you name your boat if you had one?
Melissa: Winter Escape
If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?
Sarah: How to keep my house clean AND get the daily things done.
Natalie: I would love to improve my photography, baking, calligraphy, social networking skills. I also am horrible at sewing. Like to levels where it is dangerous to be around with all the needles that go flying. It's a shame with how much I love fashion. So that is one that I would really love/hate to improve.
Melissa: I would love to learn how to sew! I can do a few basics, but would love to learn how to fully use my nice sewing machine I have had for years. I would maybe even make some of our own clothes.
What’s the last recipe you looked up?
Sarah: Paleo tortillas.
Natalie: It was from BBC cooking. Curried duck with pineapple and beansprouts. It was ok. Probably won't make it again.
Melissa: Our dinner recipe last night which was turkey soup with carrots and zucchini.
What apps do you use the most?
Sarah: Pinterest and my bank app
- Adobe Lightroom
- 5 Minute Journal
- Canva, I love designing things!
- Emeals for dinner planning
- The Weather Channel
- Amazon shopping
- Amazon Music
If you could sum up your homeschool style or philosophy in one phrase what would it be?
Sarah: One day at a time.
Natalie: Classical with a huge dose of practical and loads of fun added in.
Melissa: Scheduled, yet flexible. If a learning experience comes up, we are happy to take it and make up our day some other time.
What do your kids want to be when they grow up?
Sarah: A scientist and maybe a vet.
Natalie: Octavia wants to be a princess and Jean-Luc wants to be Spiderman.
Melissa: At first my oldest wanted to be an astronaut, and then a construction worker, and sometimes a farmer. My youngest absolutely loves everything at the farm, but we will see as he grows up.
What extracurricular activities is your family involved in?
Sarah: My son loves soccer. They both love the music lessons we do online.
Natalie: My husband Dave is a phenomenal dancer and is learning to bowl. I blog, dabble in photography, love to cook and read. We are looking into swimming for Octavia but have not yet started.
Melissa: We have a home school coop we are involved in that we attend every other Friday, and we do field trips and PE sometimes on the off Fridays. We also participate in some of the Recreation department sports like soccer.
If you have a moment to yourself what do you like to do?
Sarah: Watch TV shows with my husband or sleep. LOL.
Natalie: Love to read.
Melissa: I love to read! I definitely read when I have some time to myself!
What’s your favorite school day breakfast?
Sarah: Homemade muffins.
Natalie: If I'm not skipping then I usually have a protein shake or two eggs with a little avocado. The kids love vanilla oatmeal. Other favorites include scrambled eggs with bacon or yogurt.
Melissa: Bacon and eggs or oatmeal and cereal.
What’s the best homeschool field trip you’ve ever been on?
Sarah: A trip to the local fire station.
Natalie: Our "field trips" at this age are usually pretty low key like the park or library. We have gone to the Wyoming State Museum multiple times and once toured at the police station.
Melissa: We toured the fire department and hospital/ EMT and I though both of those were wonderful and educational.
The grocery store cashier asks, “But what about socialization?” What do you say?
Sarah: My kids can talk to all ages not just their social group like most public school kids. Plus I don't want my kids doing and saying what the public school kids do and say.
Natalie: Not worried about that. We try to make a conscious effort to make playdates. We also plan on joining with local homeschool co-ops when they are of age.
Melissa: I would say "He is socializing with you right now, isn't he?" (And he does socialize with the grocery store clerk a lot!) I get a lot of compliments on my son's outgoing personality, so I never worry about this too much.
What’s the funniest thing one of your kids ever said?
Natalie: We went to see Christmas lights and Octavia said "It fills my heart!" We just about melted.
What do you do for fun as a family?
Sarah: We like to paint together or go on walks.
Natalie: We love to chase and tickle. We love to go for long walks in the park.
Melissa: We like to go hiking and boating/ tubing in the summer if we have the time. We like to eat dinner together as a family and spend quality time together. We like to take road trips and go to the beach/ Disney in the winter.
How do you continue to educate yourself?
Sarah: I read books usually about psychology because I love it and it's super helpful with homeschooling.
Natalie: I am a huge reader and do read a lot of non fiction and self improvement. I look for online courses for specific skills. Most importantly I try to get my hands dirty practicing whatever it is I'm interested in!
Melissa: I love learning! I read and do courses on Udemy to learn new things or better myself on others. Right now I am learning about Photoshop to edit my farm/blog photos. I also learn teaching my son. I didn't like history growing up so didn't pay much attention, but now I love it! I have actually learned quite a bit from Story of the World. :)
What are favorite healthy snacks at your house?
Sarah: We all love blueberries and strawberries. Mostly any fruit really is a favorite snack.
Natalie: The kids love apples, oranges, bell peppers with cream cheese.
What’s the best museum you’ve ever gone to?
Sarah: The museum in Cheyenne Wyoming. We haven't been able to travel to many others.
Natalie: Once upon a time I visited the Smithsonian.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in homeschooling?
Sarah: Allowing my kid to take a full step backwards a level when I knew he could do it at the level we were at if he kept trying. In the end allowing him to do what I saw as too easy made him gain confidence that he couldn't gain if we just kept pushing him at the level we were at before the step back.
Natalie: My biggest homeschooling challenges are myriad. I struggle with being consistent, finding the right curriculum, and keeping their attention. Still not perfect but we are finding our routine and working on finding engaging activities.
What is your favorite thing about having kids?
Sarah: They make every day an adventure.
Natalie: They add so much joy, laughter, and purpose. I love seeing them become individuals.
What’s the best vacation you have ever taken as a family?
Sarah: Unfortunately we have not had the chance to do a family vacation.
Natalie: Probably Hawaii or Mt. Rushmore.
What’s your favorite in-a-pinch dinner option?
Sarah: Do left overs that just need to be reheated count?
Natalie: Chicken with whatever veggies we have and hollandaise.
What’s the strangest place you’ve done school?
Sarah: Inside a giant nest my kids built.
Share a favorite organizational tip.
Sarah: I have yet to figure this out.
Natalie: Have a nice looking cube to store all your odds and ends. Have a minimum standard for cleaniliness that gets done everyday so that things don't pile up and become overwhelming.
What special gifts or talents to your kids have?
Sarah: My son can do lots of math problems in his head and builds many great things out of random objects and my daughter is a great climber for a 2-year-old.
Natalie: Octavia loves to color and paint. Jean-Luc is great at climbing.
Tell us something unique or unusual about your family.
Sarah: Most of us, if not all of us, have ADHD (even the adults). We don't see it as a problem and are doing well at making the homeschool days adjusted to our needs.
What do you do for P.E. in your homeschool?
Sarah: In the winter or cold days the house turns into a race track. During nicer weather we go play in our yard or at the neighbor's who also homeschool.
Natalie: Chase or a dance party! When the weather allows we also love to go for walks and playing at the playgroud. The kids are still young so we keep it pretty informal.
Share a favorite inspirational quote.
Natalie: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" -- Norman Vincent Peale
What’s your best time of day to homeschool?
Sarah: In the morning. The afternoon or evenings have much more distractions.
Natalie: We like to do it early in the day while we still have some focus but are flexible.
Tell us something interesting about your local area.
Sarah: We live in a University town so there is always some kind of sporting event going on.
Natalie: Cheyenne is the largest city in Wyoming but it still has a small city feel that we love. It is also very, very windy....
What dream for your family has come true?
Sarah: To be able to homeschool and actually afford the kits. We have to customize to afford it currently but it is still a dream come true.
What’s the most useless talent you have?
Sarah: I can name almost any dog breed by looking at it.
Natalie: Saying the alphabet backwards. Can do it as fast as I can doing it from the beginning.