life lately and homeschool beginnings




we started our kindergarten homeschool year yesterday.  it went really well, thanks be to Jesus, because if the first day had been hard, i would have cried and wondered what i got myself into. ; ) it was interesting setting up things for school, it's hard to live in 650 sq. ft. as it is, let alone schooling in it, too! i have our school stuff tucked away in little pockets throughout the house - it's not ideal to have it scattered, but this way it's hidden and not overwhelming our home with abc, 123. we have half of their bedroom set up like a classroom and then we sit at our tiny two seater dinner table for arts and crafts and writing. we also plan on going outside as much as possible! 

i love seeing my babes grow and learn and discovering where their strengths lie. we really love Five in a Row (you can read more about our homeschool decision and curriculum here), so it gets me more excited about our days and planning out our year.  it is all overwhelming and wonderful at once.  i'm thanking God for "His spirit who gives life. Knowing it is the Holy Spirit's work (not ours) to regenerate hearts frees us to pray that he would work powerfully through both our weaknesses and our strengths" (-Thompson and Fitzpatrick, Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions).  this Truth brings me such comfort and relief - especially after the first day of homeschooling! thankful the Lord gave Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick such wisdom to share with parents (they were so kind to send me a copy of their new book - what a blessing!).

homeschool, honestly, has been a good distraction from the reality of our life right now.  kelly and i talk about how we basically hit the "restart button" on everything, and let me just say, that going to Seminary with a family, is a great way to start over. and by great way, i don't mean that it feels really great. ; ) it's challenging and humbling, going from a somewhat normal life, to working part-time jobs, and trying desperately to see what exactly the Lord is doing right now because it doesn't quite make sense. when everything has gone the opposite of plans, it's easy to want to know what the new plans are. but we don't see that far ahead, yet - however, we know the One who does and that has to be enough for us. i read this randomly, as i am not a normal reader of her blog, but it has stuck with me and was meant for me and says what i feel - 

We may sorrow but we still sow. And though we are broken, we still bend and begin; we do our work though we weep. We tell our hurts we must still do the task at hand if we hope to harvest; though we may not feel like it, the fields need seeds.
So we hang out the clothes as we try to hang on, and we stir the pot as all the pain spills, and we still sow though in tears, and let go of every seed, burying hopes and hurts in faith, and out of loss, new life will unfurl, our tears watering rows. God is with us. And it’s His tender with-ness that binds up the wounds. - Ann Voskamp
He is with us, and that is enough. this reality brings sustenance and joy for everyday life and ministry and homeschooling and wifehood and friendships and all of it.


so, we're homeschooling!


sometimes life is surprising and the Lord leads you to unplanned places.  for me, that's kind of how homeschooling has come about.  i never had any problems with homeschooling - i was homeschooled a few years - i was just kind of under the impression that it wasn't in my personality or skill set. but the more i'm learning about shepherding and the more i'm thinking about making disciples and how it pertains to our children, the more i want to be their teacher in all things.  there were certain practical aspects of our choice too - for one, i don't always have our vehicle in the afternoons to pick up hunter from school, and we most likely aren't going to be living in this school district after the seminary closes in two years. i didn't love the idea of my kids going to a school for at most two years and then having to start all over at another school. kids are resilient, yes, (i switched schools many times and turned out fine!) but since we have the choice, i thought i'd rather tackle less transitions.

all that to say this: the biggest reason we are choosing to homeschool is because of an awesome opportunity our county offers.  we will be a part of a public charter school, which will pay for our curriculum and supplies, and i will meet with a teacher once a month to provide work samples and attendance records.  so, it's a way to try homeschooling for free (a definite blessing that we could not afford if it was not for this program) while having the help from a teacher, if necessary.  i felt like it would be silly to pass this up.  we have great friends also doing this program so we will be able to do field trips with them and we're in an excellent co-op with others in the program.

hunter will be starting kindergarten and sage will tag along with us and learn as much as she can, being just a year behind her brother.  if we continue on this homeschooling path, i plan on teaching them the same things with some adjustments, if necessary.  once i decided to get on board the homeschool train, then it's like, what's next?!  the great big task of curriculum choosing.  my friend, sarah, who jumped aboard this train much sooner than i, told me all about Five in a Row.  and then i was hooked! we did some of it for preschool homeschool and the kids loved it.  it makes learning fun and memorable by pulling out themes and subjects from children's literature.  plus there's a bible component to it, too - which is great - i want my kids to know how to apply scripture and the gospel to all of life; this will help give them the tools to do so.  we will also be using Horizons Math, Bob Books, How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (we are 1/3 of the way through and had to take a break from it, for my sanity(! ha!), and Handwriting Without Tears.


i'm hoping we love homeschooling as much as i have loved planning for it! i have dreams about lesson plans. no joke. there's so many resources online to scour and it can be super overwhelming. don't worry, my blog will not become all things homeschool - but i do hope to share bits and pieces along the way. one of my favorite blogs, which has always been my favorite homeschool blog (but her blog is so much more than that, too!) is by my friend, alicia.  she has always intrigued me with homeschooling and has created excellent resources for homeschoolers from ebooks to a planner.  her ebooks are a gift to me - it's like sitting down with someone a few steps ahead of you in life and picking their brain about what has worked and what has not. a true gift!  and then there's her planner - it's such a treasure to be able to see how she organizes and then be able to organize the same way using her same planner (you can even see exactly how she sets it up in this v-log)!  i need that.  i need to see how it's done so i can do the same and then see what works and what doesn't for our family. that's the beauty of homeschooling, it's possible and flexible to change something if it's not working.


most of all, i'm excited to get to be with my kids every day all day. - it's such an incredible gift!  i really really enjoy them and thinking of sending hunter off to school each day was breaking my heart.  i'm thankful the Lord made a way for us to try out homeschooling, knowing most of all, that He is the one working in their hearts despite all of my best intentions, and that kind of takes some of the pressure off. : )

now to hang up calendars, maps, and a weather station and to organize our supplies - all things that will be VERY interesting to do in our itty bitty apartment!  i'll have to get creative and let's hope we still have room to eat and sleep afterwards. ; )  i'll share our space soon!


our top ten san francisco favorites


since we have friends coming to visit in the next week, i've been thinking about all my favorite san francisco spots. after growing up in the bay area (north bay) and now moving back - we live just 7 miles north of the golden gate - we have explored and explored some more, choosing spots best for kiddos and our wallets!  i can't tell you much about restaurants (aside from maybe some ice cream spots and clam chowder) because well, that costs money (kind of a lot - it's not a cheap city!), but we have made it our job to find cheap fun.  thankfully, it's really pretty easy with so much natural beauty to be found.  all of these things are very kid friendly! all photos below are mine and copyrighted (it was hard to pick just a few of these places, too!!); please ask permission for use, thanks!

so here they are, not in a particular order, but in a "if you come to san francisco this is what you absolutely must do" order.

1. Sutro Baths, Land's End, and the Cliff House, cost: free!
parking may take awhile to find - there are several great free lots it's just so busy you have to drive around awhile to find a spot. totally worth it, though!  great trails, great sights, and a public restroom, too! you could spend anywhere from hours there hiking, or just a few minutes to take in the sights.
sutro baths

land's end trails

2. Point Bonita Lighthouse, Rodeo Beach, and Golden Gate Bridge views, all located in the Marin Headland, cost: free!
we are really really spoiled because we don't even have to cross the bridge to see this! this is our beach - the one we venture to the most often.  however, because the Marin Headlands are so close to the bridge and on the Pacific side, there is most likely always fog (especially in the summer) so check the weather first.  it's not horrible if it's foggy, just not as many views.  the lighthouse is only open at very limited times (changes seasonally, i believe, so check the website) and is a hike (1-2 miles depending on where you park) to get to, but very much worth it.  the kids were fine - without a stroller.  you cross a tiny bridge over the pacific to get to the lighthouse. it's stunning. follow the 101 coastal route in the Headlands (there are signs) to see breathtaking bridge views.  there is also a ton of history up there because it use to be a military fort and a nuclear site.
view of Pt. Bonita from the walk there

the bridge to the lighthouse

rodeo beach

there are always surfers at rodeo!

more rodeo

view from the top of the coastal route

this view is at the end of the tunnel (pictured below). the lighthouse is at the end of the point. reminds me of hawaii!

interesting tunnels leftover from the military fort. to get here, follow the coastal route to the very top (the spot where you see the bridge), and you'll see tunnels across from the parking. venture over!

views of the marin headlands just outside the tunnel (pictured above)

3. Highway 1, cost: free (not including gas)
any time spent on Highway 1 is good time.  you can take it to Stinson Beach, Bodega Bay, Muir Woods (see below), or just drive for the beauty of the drive. it's always worth it.

4. Stinson Beach, cost: free!
this town is itty bitty and cute, but often pretty busy in certain seasons (spring/summer). great for picnicking and there's also an adorable park/playground for kiddos in the heart of town.



5. Muir Woods, cost: $7 each, ages 15 and up, OR you can buy an annual pass for $20 that gets in everyone in your vehicle. definitely the way to go!
i can't really put into words the immense beauty that is the Redwood Forest.  it's calm and peaceful, i seriously think you breathe better in there with all that oxygen! it smells crisp and is completely relaxing to walk or hike through.  parking can be tricky, mainly because it's so busy and the lots get really full, really fast.  however, there's a free shuttle on the weekends and holidays at the Stinson Beach exit off of highway 101.

6. Bodega Bay, cost: free, although i strongly recommend spending $6.95 on the WORLDS's best Clam Chowder at Spud Point
this is the beach i grew up going to.  it was closest to my hometown, about 20 minutes and it is by far, our favorite place to go. very quaint, fisherman feel, with little frills, but lots of views. get your chowder or crab sandwich from Spud Point and then drive up to Bodega Head for this view while you eat:

7. Smitten Ice Cream, cost: $4-6
they make each bowl of ice cream from fresh seasonal ingredients right in front of you. let me reiterate: each bowl is handmade in their proprietary ice cream machine and has the smoothest, creamiest texture of any ice cream around! i have loved Bi-Rite Creamery forever (and i totally recommend you visiting both ice cream shoppes, actually!) but Smitten has also taken up residence in my heart. time to get a part-time job for an ice cream budget. ; )

8. Baker Beach, cost: free!
great parking lots, and a short walk to the beach.  also equipped with picnic tables near the parking lots for a great lunch spot.


9. Japanese Tea Garden and Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park, cost: (depending on time of day) it can be free!
if you visit the tea garden by 10 am on monday, wednesday, and friday, (i.e., if you enter before 10 am) it is totally free! it's so serene and literally transports you to Japan.  then, you can walk about a mile to visit the gorgeous Stowe Lake.  it is free, although there are paddle boats and canoes available for rental.
photo 1
(phone photo, unfortunately!) the japanese tea garden

photo 2
waterfall in stowe lake

10. Crissy Field, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the Presidio, cost: free! (unless you want to go into the museum)
you can easily park at Crissy Field (if you park closer to the Presidio it might cost money, but if you stay near the beach the parking is free) and then walk over to the museum. we have done that after a day at the beach (we didn't go in the museum), but the outside is beautiful and worth it.
IMG_3895view from the palace of fine arts (phone photo)
the palace of fine arts (phone photo)
crissy field views (also a favorite photo session location!)

as you can see, there are plenty of free, kid-friendly things to do in San Francisco and the North Bay! i wish i could bottle it all up and send some to you. : ) if you have visited or live near me, what are your faves?!
carissa graham. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.