20 Things We All Learned On Vacation


Our trip started on May 1st and was to go until May 10th. We had two planned hotel stays, one in Chattanooga, TN and one in Mobile, AL, all the other nights were to be spent tent camping. My husband was graduating from the Nurse Practitioner program at the University of South Alabama and we decided to make the trip to graduation into a vacation/graduation reward for us all. It has been a long three years and we were all glad for graduation day!

We had a great time but it was also a time for learning for us all!

1.) It takes a lot of gear for a family of five to go away for ten days of camping! We still couldn’t see out of the back window having only packed three pair of clothes for each person and carrying a huge luggage box on the trailblazer.

2.) Wool socks are a must! Early May in the NC mountains, TN, and KY is COLD! Everybody had wool socks after the first night.

3.) A toddler and a mommy in a mummy sleeping bag is not the best option, even when there is a cot involved! After three nights Sallie had her own cot and sleeping bag.

4.) Cats go camping sometimes too. While we were doing laundry at one of our campgrounds we met a man and his cat that were camping while house hunting in the area. Sallie loved playing with the cat and walking it on the leash.

Sal and cat

5.) Mammoth Cave Campground in Mammoth Cave National Park, KY is the most beautiful campground we have ever seen! We loved it and hope to return for a week long stay next year. While there the boys did the Junior Ranger program and earned their badges. The gift store also gives a teacher discount! Never forget to share that you homeschool. That discount paid off!


6.) There is a lot of history inside Mammoth Caves! There are so many tours to choose from that we would need 2 weeks to do all the tours offered. We took the historic tour. Eli’s favorite thing he learned on the tour is that you can write on cave walls with a candle. Stephen Bishop, a slave, explored Mammoth Caves and is responsible for discovering more than half of the currently discovered cave system at Mammoth Caves. Stephen taught himself to read and write in the caves by doing smoke writing with candles. We also learned that there is a 4th generation tour guide there. He is a descendant of Stephen Bishop.

7.) Chattanooga, TN has a wonderful splash pad and carousel in Coolidge Park!

splash pad

8.) A ten person tent can be erected in just a few short minutes when it has to be put up almost everyday. A twelve year old can be quite helpful in the process.

tent setup

9.) It is ok to drive late into the night while all children are sleeping, walk/drag everyone into a hotel with only the clothes on their back, and fall into bed. No teeth were harmed during this event!

10.) At Least one child will tire of camping even though he doesn’t help with camp setup or breakdown. He was very glad we spent two additional nights in a hotel that were not planned. The late night travel a couple of nights didn’t permit a campground to be used.

11.) When you drastically change your diet (go from vegetarian to vegan, no gluten, no soy, no sugar) a restaurant you ate at two years ago (before said changes) will taste awful to everyone! That’s one of those mama tried to tell you moments but that’s between you and me…

12.) Mosquitos in AL fool you. In NC the mosquitos are out all day long. In AL they apparently wait until dark and then get you good!!

13.) Those seashells…aren’t always empty. Eli had collected a nice little pile when I informed him that they were taken already!


14.) Some turtles have furniture pads underneath their shell and thus slide nicely across the floor. We also learned that some turtles enjoy having their shell rubbed just as we like to have our back rubbed. It just feels good!turtle

15.) Four people get extremely excited when the 5th one graduates! The boys learned that hard work pays off for everyone involved. They both walked daddy across the stage at graduation.


16.) It is nice to wake up on Sabbath morning and only drive five minutes to church. Our church is one hour from our house, one way. We stayed one night in Thomson, GA and there was a church five minutes from our hotel. We had to go. Yay for short drives to church!!

17.) Sometimes you bypass a visit with out-of-state family because you don’t want to bring home their sick germs. Hard for the kids to understand but with some explaining it was a unanimous decision.

18.) No matter how far you are from home the last day of travel feels millions of miles away.

19.) That idea of “we’ll have a little more room in the vehicle coming back because we will use up propane, food, plastic ware, etc.” does NOT hold true at all. Not even remotely close! Remember the teacher discount plays a part in this…

20.) It is awesome to come home to a clean house, full cupboards and refrigerator! My mom took care of feeding our cats and watering our garden each day while we were gone. She cleaned those things that are hard to get done with three kids around and restocked our food supply so we wouldn’t have to rush out to the grocery store as soon as we returned home. I hope I am as thoughtful a mom when my kids are grown!

We had a great time and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for camping. Hopefully this vacation will hold many memories for all of us.

dance steps

These footprints will be something I remember because I danced with my boys on them and they couldn’t have been happier to do so right there on the sidewalk with people walking by us. They begged to keep dancing…Oh how my heart melts just to remember it!

Until next time!

“No school”

When we first started homeschooling 6 years ago I would have freaked out with a “no school” day. I would have been thinking, “There is work to be done! That workbook will never get finished! My whole calendar is going to be messed up now.” Over the years I’ve relaxed…A LOT! We have quite a few “no school” days throughout our year and I don’t worry about their learning when that happens.

Yesterday was a “no school” day. As I reflect on the day I can see all of the learning that took place despite a lack of paper, pencils, textbooks, and workbooks.

1. Everyone started with their own quiet time and then packed (or was told to pack) a few things to keep them occupied during a mid morning dental visit for all 3 children. Packing and preparation is a necessary skill to learn and is useful in many situations. One didn’t pack anything and he was very bored.

2. The boys each handle their dental visit themselves so each one greets the hygienist, tells her if there are any problems and then speaks with the dentist after the visit. Eli had x-rays taken so both boys looked over Eli’s x-rays and learned what a baby tooth looks like on film when it is getting ready to come out. By examining the x-ray Eli figured out he could pull that tooth with no problem because it wasn’t attached to the root…only one baby tooth left to lose now that that one has been pulled.

3. A pre-lunch grocery trip provided an opportunity to look over produce, comparison shop, and then check-out at the self check-out register.

4. After arriving home they all 3 played outside as I prepared lunch. The boys learn responsibility when they watch after Sallie as she plays along side them outside.

5. They also observed that workmen in the neighbor’s yard had dirty mouths and are not careful with trees in the neighbor’s yard. You might say no big deal observing these things but it really is a lesson learned. They know right from wrong and when they see/hear a wrong they want to make it right. I’m sure the neighbor will be told by at least one boy that her tree was knocked down and that the guy tried to just stick it back in the hole like nothing happened.

6. After lunch Tyson noticed our other neighbor cutting down a small tree in his yard. Tyson loves to carve so he went over and asked for a few branches and then showed what he makes with them. He brought home an arm load of branches and started carving. He has learned a lot of patience as he found the best tools to use and the best way to shape his carvings.

7. Both boys head back over to the neighbor’s yard for bigger branches and make a large teepee in the backyard. They leaned three large branches against one another, bound them together at the top with rope and then covered them with sheets. This lesson took cooperation and planning from both boys. (2 weeks ago they dragged a discarded dishwasher over from the same neighbor and disassembled it before sending it to the curb for the trash truck.)

8. As Tyson carved more branches (inside the teepee) Eli came in the house to knit (something he taught himself earlier this week).

9. A trip to the park always provides an opportunity for dealing with multiple age groups and this trip brought a lot of conversation with an old friend of mine. She learned about things she never knew she needed to know…

10. We finished with a trip to the library where we checked out books to prepare Eli for the National Geographic Geography Bee competition he has entered for next week. His reading started on the way home and each of the boys looked over some books with Sallie.

That was a pretty full day and doesn’t even include the time at night looking up scriptures during family worship and cleaning up after dinner.

If you end up having a “no school” day there is no need to worry. Sit back and pay attention to what your children are actually learning. You might be surprised!

Robin B.

Christmas Tree Talk with Eli and Tyson

As we decorated our live tree this year I thought I would see what spiritual applications the boys could come up with. The question I asked them was, “How does a Christmas tree relate to our everyday spiritual life?”

After a little thought they each gave three answers, all of which surprised me. Keep in mind they are boys so the answers are short and to the point!

Eli: They can be gappy like us. They aren’t perfect.

Tyson: Some look real but they’re not. They’re just fake.

Eli: The ones that are fake but look real are like the people that try to act perfect when they are around people.

Eli: If you drink up water it will keep your brain from sapping over.

Tyson: We need Jesus to live like the tree needs water.

Tyson: If the tree goes dry it’s like our spiritual life dying.

This was the perfect conversation to have during our decorating! I hope you can all have special conversations with your loved ones over the course of your celebrating this Christmas season. Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Homeschooling with a Baby or Toddler

I’ve heard the question many times, “How do you homeschool with a baby/toddler?” The answer is easy. You just do. It becomes normal and for us it happened very quickly and without warning.


Our youngest will be two at the beginning of December. We didn’t get nine months of planning and organizing to prepare our homeschool for a new addition. We literally had no warning at all. We got a phone call…”We have a baby born this morning in Texas. Can you drop everything and go now?” After a two week stay in Texas we were back home with Sallie and ended up taking a month off from school to enjoy the newest edition.

From that point she was involved in everything we did. When we did school outside, she slept outside on the porch with us.


When we were doing school inside, she slept in the middle of us.

Whether she was sleeping or awake Sallie was where we were doing school for the majority of the school day. With her involvement in our day throughout her infancy she has learned the routine. She knows when we do school we stay together in one area. She sits in our laps, climbs on us, or plays quietly in the floor. Some may think that is a distraction but when you stop to think about it there is a valuable lesson being learned by our two older children.


When they grow up and get jobs they will be interrupted during their day. They may be working on an important project, writing an article for a newspaper, writing orders for a patient, or taking a phone call from a client and an interruption comes. Even public school children learn to deal with distractions from classmates, intercom announcements, fire drills, etc. Homeschooling with a toddler will give older children the ability to learn amidst distraction and chaos. Sure, it may take getting use to but I think it can be a hidden blessing.

An involved toddler is going to learn a tremendous amount as well. Sallie sits and colors while we are at the table. She knows where the paper and crayons are kept and where to sharpen a pencil when the lead breaks. She has her own stack of papers and magazines to choose from. She also uses dry erase markers and draws on the white board and then erases it. From the beginning she has been involved in daily chores by helping put wet clothes in the washing machine, sweeping with a small broom, feeding animals, letting the dogs outside to go to the bathroom and calling them in, getting clean trash bags when we take out the trash, etc. She is learning priceless tasks that our other two didn’t learn because I had no patience for jobs done any other way than perfect.


Sallie accompanies us on all field trips unless her age doesn’t allow it but in two years we have only encountered that one time. She sits with the older children, raises her hand when questions are asked (she doesn’t answer, just copies the other children), follows them when walking from one activity to the next and generally acts like she is the same age as everyone else in the group.

Having a toddler and homeschooling teaches EVERYONE! While there may be busy feet running and climbing around during school and potty training breaks or clean ups from potty training accidents there is far more to lose if that funny little person is confined/gated off somewhere else in the house while school takes place. Be patient with your little ones and teach your older children to do the same and you too will see the blessings.

Falling Apart


Someone reading this needs this as much as I do.

Starting out as a new mom at the beginning of 2003 I immediately felt the stress of having to “keep it together”. I felt as though if I didn’t, if I asked for help or fell apart then I would be a failure. I even felt like a failure to ask God for help. We had so much trouble getting pregnant and having fertility treatments that I felt like I was complaining if I told God I was struggling. Why do we do that to ourselves? The Lord tells us in Matthew 11:28 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I started being a stay-at-home mom two months before our first son, Eli, was born. Eleven months later we had our second son, Tyson.

I didn’t do so well with the “keep it together” thing for at least six months but by that time I think I felt like it was time to put back on the non-stressed front. Again, why do we do that to ourselves? Satan has a way of making us doubt ourselves as a mother, wife, and homeschooler. This is not what God wants for his daughters! We should never doubt God and his power and strength to sustain us through anything and everything. “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.” 2 Samuel 22:33 (Not that it will always seem perfect in our eyes but God’s ways are perfect in every way.) Why do we not always turn to Him first? Before we get to the falling apart stage our heavenly Father should have been confided in and consulted. If he is our strength and power then we can be at peace with all that comes our way.

Sometimes we can give ourselves a false sense of security. When you can tell the morning is starting off a bit different than usual, maybe someone’s attitude is off a bit. Do you stop immediately and ask God for a turn around? I don’t always. Sometimes I try to fix it myself first. I think it is a misunderstanding, if it is one of the boys, or with me I may think “calm down, breath, start again.” Where was my conversation with my Father? Why didn’t I ask Him for help first? Not help from my husband (I’m quick to ask for his help) but help from my Father. We, at least I, can give ourselves the false sense of being able to do this great task of motherhood alone and while we can busy ourselves with teaching our children and taking care of them we sometimes forget that there is someone who loves us infinitely more than we could ever imagine and he wants us to seek him and ask (Luke 11:9-10). Even when you have that mounting feeling of falling to pieces at any moment and Satan whispers, “you’ve got it, no need to bother Him”…seek God!

Have you seen your children frustrated and on the verge of falling apart because a project isn’t going well or as planned? Did you ache to jump in and help but they didn’t want or ask for help? Oh how our Father must ache to help us in our times of need.

Can you commit to going to Him first…before you fall apart? Instead, fall apart in His arms. He already knows your troubles, he just needs you to carry it to him in prayer. What a friend we have in Jesus!

1.	What a friend we have in Jesus, 
	all our sins and griefs to bear! 
	What a privilege to carry 
	everything to God in prayer! 
	O what peace we often forfeit,
	O what needless pain we bear, 
	all because we do not carry 
	everything to God in prayer. 

2.	Have we trials and temptations? 
	Is there trouble anywhere? 
	We should never be discouraged; 
	take it to the Lord in prayer. 
	Can we find a friend so faithful 
	who will all our sorrows share? 
	Jesus knows our every weakness; 
	take it to the Lord in prayer. 

3.	Are we weak and heavy laden, 
	cumbered with a load of care? 
	Precious Savior, still our refuge; 
	take it to the Lord in prayer. 
	Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? 
	Take it to the Lord in prayer! 
	In his arms he'll take and shield thee; 
	thou wilt find a solace there.