Meet 4 Families from Illinois />

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Meet 4 Families from Illinois

Taylor of Rockford, Illinois

My husband and I have 2 children: Bella who is 2 years old and Finn who is 1 year old. I am an EMT and my husband is a Paramedic. We live on a little farm and have a big garden and a couple dairy cows. My husband and I enjoy helping others, working in a big city and then coming home to our quiet homestead, or maybe not so quiet with a 1- and 2-year-old.

Gina P. of Southern Illinois

  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Hannah, 17
  • Haedon, 15
  • Hudson, 9
  • Hadlyn 7
  • Momochan, our bunny
  • Thomas, Foxy and Kate, the cats
  • a Betta, aquatic frog and algea eater

We are a special needs homeschooling family. Both of our boys have autism and our youngest has OCD and sensory modulation disorder.

Amy from Illinois

  • Amy (nurse)
  • Lee (architect)
  • Andrew (7 1/2)
  • Caleb (6)
  • Dog Penny

Abigail M. of Central Illinois

  • Mom
  • Dad
  • four girls
  • two guinea pigs
  • one fish
  • a Golden Retriever puppy named Lizzy


How do you Timberdoodle?

Taylor: I found out about Timberdoodle through my search for wholesome homeschooling educational books and toys. With extensive research of products and personal reviews from other parents, I fell in love with Timberdoodle. I have bought games and books for my babies this far. My 2-year-old is in love with learning books and reading at bed time and my 1-year-old is infatuated with interactive leaning games. Their products have proven to be superior to any others I’ve used! I’m looking forward to starting preschool/pre-K curriculums with my kids!

Gina: We used Timberdoodle when our 15-year-old son was in kindergarten. It was awesome for our special needs son. We have been away from it for awhile and are now starting again with our youngest two. We initially were just going to use bits and pieces but have ended up getting almost all the things in your first grade list except for the reading and science options.


  • Online research
  • Love hands-on things!
  • Love the custom curriculum kits!!!

Abigail: I've known about Timberdoodle from early on in my homeschool journey. I look forward to perusing the catalog every year, especially for games, toys, and books that encourage thinking skills. These activities bring fun into our homeschool days.


Tell us about a typical school day at your house.

Taylor: We start out with a protein-packed breakfast, usually eggs and bacon or bananas and oatmeal. Then we work on writing skills. My 2-year-old daughter is working on letters and numbers. My 1-year-old son likes to draw pictures and working on his colors. We often use this time as an art/writing combo. We then usually have a music time where the babies play with their instruments which include a piano, tambourine, drums and maracas. Our math time includes working on numbers and counting. Then we usually have a clean up time and lunch time. In the evening we have a science time which includes studying fossils and rocks. Also any new fun science experiments. Because the kids are young, they have a limited attention span, but they absolutely love having a routine and learning time. Bed time is filled with lots of book reading, including touch and feel books, books with flaps and funny rhyme books.

Gina: We never start at the same time because our kiddos have sleep disorder so we never know when everyone will go to sleep. But we do have a routine of breakfast, quick pick-up and then school. We do language arts and math and Bible as daily work. The rest of the activities we use as free choice but they must choose 2-3 a day.

Amy: Kids up at 7:30, playtime and breakfast, school at 9:00. Usually try and get done by lunch but often finish reading and combined subjects after. We condense five days of materials into four days as I work once a week. Music class, classes at zoo, children’s museum sprinkled in.

Abigail: We are usually up around 7:00. Our routine is to eat breakfast, get dressed, do chores and then start school work before 9:00. We begin with our together work, usually a read aloud, science activity, or memory work that can be done with all ages. Next the girls rotate doing math and spelling with me. The younger ones are done after that and I can work with my oldest to do the rest of her assignments, finishing up by lunch. We save our Notgrass history for the afternoon.


If we peeked inside your home on a random Wednesday afternoon, what would we see?

Taylor: Probably lots of toys and books, with two kids running around. Probably will hear a lot of singing and giggles too.

Gina: My youngest son would be swinging in his hammock chair, my oldest son would be coming downstairs to do schoolwork, my oldest daughter would be hanging in her room and the youngest would be looking for food. There is probably a mess of some project still laid out, Daddy is at work and there are random cats spread out in various napping spots.

Amy: No one because both kids have music! On a Tuesday or Thursday probably playing games or kids playing together.

Abigail: The younger three playing, eating snacks, taking turns on the computer, watching PBS Kids while my 5th grader and I work on her history lesson.


If you could take your family anywhere you wanted for vacation where would you go?

Taylor: Miami Beach in Florida is beautiful. I went there many years ago before having children. Now I would love to take my kids there to see the ocean and search for seashells!

Gina: Japan.

Amy: On a road trip out west.

Abigail: We like to stay at a local lake that has a cabin we can rent.


What books have you read over and over?


  • All Better! A book where your child can put bandaid stickers on boo-boos.
  • The Pigeon books by Mo Willems


  • The Bible
  • Minimalist Homeschooling
  • Dragons Love Tacos
  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt


  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Little House series
  • Little Women


What tips do you have for surviving a hard day?

Taylor: Take a couple minutes' break, breathe, meditate, and make a delicious cup of coffee. Sometimes when the days get super hard, or the kids are cranky and stir crazy, the best thing I can do is get them out of the house! I bring them to their grandparents or cousins house to play, or the YMCA or library to do activities. Sometimes a change of scenery and new activities makes all the difference.

Gina: Just do the next thing. One thing at a time. Don't overthink the to-do list and what you haven't accomplished. If you just pick one thing to do, after that is done, pick the next, before long you can look back at the day and feel accomplished even if you didn't get to all the things.

Amy: Give yourself grace.

Abigail: Hiding in the laundry room with the good chocolate.


What’s something your child has done that thrilled your soul?

Taylor: When my daughter started to talk and count numbers, that was pretty exciting!

Gina: Both of our boys lost speech when they were around 18 months old due to autism. It was hard to watch them become robbed of something they did so well. But the times when they started to regain their ability to talk to us around the age of 4 thrilled my soul!

Amy: Been encouraging to his little brother as younger brother learns things.

Abigail: My middle two love to make little notes and leave them around for my husband and me to find. It's just so sweet and brightens my day.


How does your family celebrate birthdays?

Taylor: We have a double birthday party for my 2 children, with lots of family. Usually we pick a theme from one of their favorite books like Dr. Seuss or Eric Carle.

Gina: We have a small party at our house.

Amy: Family parties.

Abigail: My husband takes the birthday girl out for a special breakfast, just the two of them. Then we go out to dinner with the grandparents and enjoy some birthday cake and presents. With four children, we just can't do a party every year, so getting to pick where we go to dinner is a special treat for the birthday girl.


What have you done recently for the first time?

Gina: Moved into a new house with all 4 kiddos.

Abigail: My oldest daughter and I recently learned to knit. It was a lot of fun learning together.


What’s your favorite school day lunch?

Taylor: I’m not gonna lie, my kids love a traditional PB&J sandwich most of the time! Then I’ll throw in apple slices, banana or granola bar. We also have a pizza lunch occasionally!

Gina: Roast beef and cheese sticks rolled in crescent rolls and baked.

Amy: PBJ.


How would you manage if you had to homeschool without the internet?

Taylor: Books, books and more books. Hands on learning.

Gina: Lots of books, the library, museums and spend more time outside.

Amy: Lots of literature.

Abigail: Fairly well, I think. My oldest does a few things online, but otherwise we're a paper kind of family.


What tips do you have for other families?

Taylor: Always have lots of patience when your kids are learning something new!

Gina: Don't compare everyone's journey is unique.

Amy: Relax. It’ll work out!

Abigail: Combine different age groups whenever possible. We like to do history and science together.


What is something you appreciate about each of your kids?


  • My oldest son, 15, is very kind-hearted.
  • My oldest daughter, 17, is funny.
  • My son, 9, is very loving.
  • My daughter, 7, is very artistic.

Amy: Kind hearts


  • My oldest is a born leader.
  • Number Two is gentle, yet fierce.
  • Number Three is the wild card, and I love her spontaneity.
  • The youngest is sweet and stubborn.


What song is currently in your head?

Taylor: Baby Shark. My kids are obsessed!

Gina: I Will Rescue You

Amy: LEGO Movie 2

Abigail: The Veggie Tales Esther story has a song about puppies. I've been humming it all week!


Tell us about your family’s favorite games.

Gina: We love Uno, Sum Swamp and Monopoly Jr.

Amy: Right now loving Charades.

Abigail: We love the Apples to Apples Junior version. It's a game everyone can play.


What is your exercise routine and how often do you do it?

Taylor: Going for long walks and running around outside is our favorite.

Gina: Chasing kids and daily

Amy: Walking or treadmill but not near as often as should!


What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in your homeschool that you called a “science experiment”?

Gina: Watched water boil and describe the states of matter. Impromptu lesson while cooking.

Amy: Looked a moldy orange.

Abigail: Last year we extracted DNA from a tomato.


What hard thing are you planning to do this year?

Taylor: Starting preschool and pre-K! A whole new set of challenges and nervous but so excited at the same time.

Gina: Teach my youngest son with moderate autism to read.

Abigail: Just getting through the daily grind.


What did you do just for fun with your kids recently?

Taylor: Went outside and made a huge snowman that was taller then all of us!

Gina: Went to a McDonald's Play Place. We really enjoy it.

Amy: Trampoline park.

Abigail: Last week we had a snuggle day. We stayed in our jammies and did spelling and math orally while snuggled on the couch. Then watched a movie just because.


What would you name your boat if you had one?

Taylor: The “Two Musketeers” or “Double Trouble” after my 2 kids.

Gina: We Just Look Like We're Sinking!

Abigail: The Lizzy


If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?

Taylor: Pottery, I’ve always wanted to learn.

Gina: Speak Japanese

Abigail: Crochet.


What’s the last recipe you looked up?

Taylor: Keto eggroll in a bowl. It’s delicious!

Gina: Chicken noodle soup in the crockpot.

Amy: Chicken pot pie.

Abigail: No bake oreo pie.


What apps do you use the most?

Taylor: Amazon prime and Thrive market.

Gina: Email and banking.

Amy: Facebook 😬

Abigail: Facebook, Messenger, and Podcasts.


If you could sum up your homeschool style or philosophy in one phrase what would it be?

Taylor: Hands-on learning and repetition.

Gina: Eclectic.

Amy: Organized.

Abigail: Whatever works.


What do your kids want to be when they grow up?


  • Paleontologist
  • artist
  • unsure
  • a video game designer


  • architect
  • engineer


  • a doctor and/or pilot
  • to run an animal rescue
  • an artist
  • a teacher


What extracurricular activities is your family involved in?

Gina: Church and soccer.

Amy: Church, music.

Abigail: American Heritage Girls.


If you have a moment to yourself what do you like to do?

Taylor: Paint, quilt or read.

Gina: Read.

Amy: Read or zone out on phone.

Abigail: Scroll Facebook, eat chocolate, knit.


What’s your favorite school day breakfast?

Taylor: Bacon and eggs, hands down.

Gina: Mini muffins and smoothies


What’s the best homeschool field trip you’ve ever been on?

Taylor: The Shed Aquarium and apple orchard

Gina: The St. Louis Zoo


The grocery store cashier asks, “But what about socialization?” What do you say?

Taylor: They get so much socialization through sports, after school activities, field trips and playing with family and friends.

Gina: I would begin to explain how public school is an inappropriate representation of true society because we are never divided into groups by age after school. Our work, college you name it has a very eclectic mix of ages.


What’s the funniest thing one of your kids ever said?

Gina: My daughter drew abs on her stomach in permanent marker and when I told her it would take tons of baths to come off she said, "I guess that's the price you have to pay for a nice set of abs." She is 7.


What do you do for fun as a family?

Taylor: Play outside and have campfires in the summer with s’mores. Yum!

Gina: Play outside, play board games and family movie night. We also like going to the pet store and Barnes and Noble.


How do you continue to educate yourself?

Taylor: Being an EMT and in healthcare I have lots of continuing ed opportunities which I enjoy!

Gina: Lots of reading.


What are favorite healthy snacks at your house?

Taylor: Apples, bananas, oatmeal and nuts.

Gina: Any type of fruit, hummus and pita crackers.


What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in homeschooling?

Taylor: Working with the kids each individual needs and learning styles.

Gina: Fear of not doing enough or being like others.


What is your favorite thing about having kids?

Taylor: They have such big hearts and so much energy!

Gina: Everything. Having people to love.


Share a favorite organizational tip.

Taylor: Bookshelves are an absolute lifesaver! And toy bins.

Gina: Hide stuff you aren't using in a storage closet less makes me feel less stressed


What special gifts or talents to your kids have?

Taylor: My daughter loves to sing and dance, and has a very good memory!

Gina: My youngest is very talented at drawing.


Tell us something unique or unusual about your family.

Taylor: With both my husband and I being in the medical field, I’d say that we are very comfortable with any sort of family emergencies, medically related, that can come our way with the kids.

Gina: Along with autism and other special needs myself and 3 of my kiddos have OCD.


What do you do for P.E. in your homeschool?

Taylor: Go to the park, play outside, go for walks

Gina: Play outside, got to the park, McDonald's Play Place and a yoga card game.


What’s your best time of day to homeschool?

Taylor: Morning time when the kids have lots of energy!

Gina: Afternoon.


Tell us something interesting about your local area.

Taylor: We have lots of parks, forest preserves which we can take the kids hiking!

Gina: Our town is the home of the GI Bill of Rights.


What dream for your family has come true?

Taylor: Having happy and healthy children who love to learn!

Gina: Getting to move to a new house.