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Review: Conner Prairie

Each school year we enter into the sacred time with new hopes and expectations for the future.  It's always a feeling of excitement and with fervor we rush into the newness of our schedules: armed with the unspoken promise that our efforts will indeed bring forth a new era of accomplishment into our lives.  

Each year as a homeschooling family we try to carve time out of our schedules for two field trips each month for the duration of our school year.  Sometimes we fail, other times we flourish.  No matter what the future within our new year may bring, for the past several years our inaugural field trip has been to a place that has never failed to invoke a feeling of wonder and to evade our schooling with excitement. 

What is this place?  

It's Conner Prairie.  

Located in the heart of Indiana (which is the heart of the Midwest, keenly inside the heart of the heart) is a place that has evolved over the years into something nothing short of magical.  

We had the joy of being hosted this year by Conner Prairie in exchange for this, my own words about the place called Conner Prairie.  

First let me tell you about our trip this year: 

The Prairie opens each day at 10 am so we planned to be there right at the beginning.  Arriving in the morning is always so fun because the animals haven't met the full heat of the day yet.  We found frolicking lambs, squealing piglets, and playful kids (in the goat variety) wherever we turned.  While we are not strangers to the barnyard scene, we certainly are not accustomed to it on a daily basis.  Conner Prairie's farm life comes in just the perfect way...lots of experts to explain things and buckets of hand sanitizer.  

After saying hello to the animals we scoped out our map and decided that Treetop Outpost was the next place for us.  

The thing I love the most about the Treetop Outpost (or the treehouse as my kiddos call it) are the amount of activities there are to do within the area.  Kids with varying interests can enjoy different activities at the same time while mom is nearby.  Our kids are 10 and 12 and I love letting them wonder through the Outpost without me, giving them a sense of adventure and independence while mom is waiting at the bottom for their return.  

After lots of fun running, making music, digging, and exploring we decided to partake in a Make and Take craft.  For only $5 per child they were each able to construct a wooden treasure box.  We adore Conner Prairie's crafts because they are solid objects that the kids can take home and treasure.  I always walk away amazed by what they were able to construct and at how much of a value each craft is. 

If you decide to do a make and take craft, be sure to make it a point to talk to the workers who oversee the crafts; they truly are a plethora of knowledge from the history of Conner Prairie to the best places to eat once you leave, I've had some very interesting and insightful conversations with these wonderful people.  You can tell that they are deeply invested in Conner Prairie and not just an employee.  

Our day progressed and as the heat intensified I felt we were slowing down, like a little family moving through glue.  

We stopped to play in a tug of war game in the Prairietown area outside of the general store we explored.  

After that I was losing Cal.  Most of you know he has High Functioning Autism.  We reach a point where enough is enough and he just needs some quiet and alone time.  

Last year was when I discovered Conner Prairie has these Quiet Spots.  I adore that they don't have just one but several throughout the prairie.  Because let's be real, can be worse than trying to move a child in a full panic all the way across the complex to a quiet area. I've done that at other places and let me tell you, it's not fun.  I counted no less than 5 Quiet Spots on the Conner Prairie map but there could be more.  I can't say enough about these areas you guys...they are a godsend! 

We found one right on the edge of the town by the restrooms and for a momma in crisis mode it is a dream come true...quiet, well lit, cold, with a box of sensory resources to use.  I am highly impressed by Conner Prairie's attention to detail in this department.  Weighted blankets and fidget toys are calming for us and they had both.  Amazing, you guys! 

After our break we refueled (Conner Prairie allows outside food to be brought in) and then we headed out to the Civil War Journey area.  

If you have older kids learning about the Civil War, this is such an ideal destination.  First of all, let's be real, there just aren't many field trips you can find within Indiana, or the Midwest for that matter, about the Civil War.  And while it was very neat for us in the past to travel to places like Gettysburg or Savannah to learn about the civil war history there, in reality it's just not practical in most time frames of life.  

The Conner Prairie Civil War area does an amazing job of transporting you back in time by having you walk across a real covered bridge to enter.  There are a couple fairly intense representations of Civil War action, a house to explore, and more!  

With the heat in the mid-nineties when we visited we also enjoyed their new splash pad, and their new water play feature (again, we stayed here forever because this is always super calming for Cal).  

Conner Prairie is located in Fishers, Indiana, which sits as a cute little hat on top of Indianapolis.  It is very close to the interstates and very convenient to get to.  I think it would be impossible to make it through everything in one day (we only covered two and a half areas this trip!).  Below is a carousel of photos from a previous trip we had to Conner Prairie, just to give you a look at other things they offer: Tomahawk throwing, Fun Science activities (indoors and out!), the William Conner house (that started the entire place!), there is so much to do.  

If you are a homeschooler and would love to visit, I have good news!  

They offer various homeschool activities throughout the year that are focused on an indepth look at various sciences or historical eras.  Water filtration, civil rights, and lunar landers are some of the topics on their calendar. 

And every August and September they offer special homeschool days so homeschool families can come at the field trip price without the amount of students a field trip normally consists of!

You can read all about their homeschool programs and their upcoming homeschool day here.  

I hope you enjoyed our little tour and review!  We love Conner Prairie and we know you will too!

2018s First Day of School

And just like that we are out of the gate with this years new school year.  

Emma is in Challenge A within the Classical Conversations program.  It is basically their version of 7th grade.  While we are so excited for her and for the chance to watch her grow and mature within the program, it has been a difficult transition into conforming to someone else's schedule.  We have always been a family who started school after Labor Day so we could soak up every drop of summer.  But being part of this community means things aren't always just about our schedule and so we've had to start school earlier than we usually do.  I keep giving myself a pep talk about it...starting sooner will allow for more breaks and for us to end the school year earlier than normal! 

We usually take photos of the kids each year.  Last year we did this too...you can read about it here. This year, though, was a bit weird in how we started.  Usually Nick tries to be home and we all kind of do it together.  But he and I were gearing up to leave and the air conditioning in the Flex had taken a nose dive so he was out getting refrigerant to recharge the system.  We started without him but had a great time taking pictures together.  In a weird turn of events, Emma's back to school outfit from last year still fit and she wanted to wear it.  I think anytime you're 12 year old daughter is still willing to wear an Eleanor Rose outfit with Joyfolie Mary Janes, you should take that opportunity and run with it.  Emma is the sweetest thing in mostly letting me dress her still but I know any day now she will be declaring her independence.  Calvin can sometimes have strong opinions about his clothing but thankfully he was easy peasy.  "here're some shorts, here's a shirt" and he's just "okay".  I'm so blessed you guys! 

Back to Home School for Seventh Grade with Eleanor Rose and Joyfolie.  Super Busy at Home is talking about how to have a good school year with cute clothes and lots of excitement!
Back to home school time. We're starting our fifth grade year with our boy.  Read more on Super Busy at Home.

We had a good breakfast together and had our morning time while we sat around the table.  Morning time is simply a time that we are together and doing things together as a family.  We sang a hymn, read some poetry, and read a portion of a book together. We also did a devotion and then I introduced them to their new devotional books that they will be working on individually.  It's a great way to begin our day together.  

Even though we homeschool, we give our kids lists that we take to go do back to school shopping.  The kids love doing this and then when we get home I arrange their school supplies for them.  Some things like paper and glue sticks just go into communal receptacles for everyone to use and some things get placed into their desk so just they can use those.  This always seems to work great for us and it's always fun to see them excited about getting to use their school supplies! Who doesn't love new pencils?!?

Back to School time means lots of silliness and fun school supplies! Read more at Super Busy at Home.

After morning time the kids worked on their work...Calvin only had math, spelling, and handwriting to do. His Classical Conversation community days don't start for a couple more weeks, so until then, he will be doing light classwork.  This gives him an opportunity to ease back into the school schedule. Emma had some "about me" papers to fill out for her first day with her CC class and then had latin to do.  She was very diligent about her work and very thorough with her tasks.  I am hoping she will continue those traits throughout the school year.  Sometimes raising a tween is tough! 

After school work came chores and piano practice.  All in all it was a great first day of school. 

That night we dropped the kids off at my mom and dads and took off for our anniversary trip.  It's weird to not be with them for their first week of school but they were given all of their work to do with grandparents and they know what is expected of them.  And like I said, they have a really light school load this first week so it will be okay. It was hard for my Momma-heart to accept not being with them but in the end this was the way our schedules converged so we made it work.  

And that's our day! I can't believe the kids are in seventh and fifth grade!  How did this happen?  When did they get so old?  When did I get so old?  Yeesh! 

Back to Home School Time.  Super Busy at Home.

Happy back to schooling y'all! xo 

Changing Classrooms is Hard!

Y'all change is hard!  

It's hard on me mentally, physically, emotionally, gah, it's just hard.  

These past few weeks we have been working on the transition of flip-flopping our playroom (affectionately known as the blue room) and our classroom (formerly located on the third floor of our home).  

These changes have been really hard on basically no one...except me.  I am such a weirdo.  

You can see some of my favorite photos of our classroom in this blog post.  

Our classroom has always been on the third floor.  Nick had to custom make our shelves and book cases to get them to fit to the pitch of the roof.  It was a really, really special place to me...in my mind.  

The reality of the situation was that we found ourselves in a predicament that we were hardly ever able to get everything accomplished when we had school up there.  We were lucky to start our day on time and if we didn't finish by lunch I could pretty much kiss any chance of finishing our work goodbye.  

In addition to that, the homeschool room very often during seasons of the year looked like a clumsy SWAT team had been searching for something amidst holiday decorations.  Things were strewn all over, nothing could be organized amidst the chaos.  It was bad.  Bad, folks, bad.  If you need to see something to understand you can read this old post but I'm warning you...it's bad.  

Why was schooling so hard up there you ask?  Well, it was really hard to pinpoint the reasoning...I always blamed it on a multitude of things which included it being so far removed from the rest of the house, it being too sunny and warm in the afternoon, it being really dark in the morning hours, it being too cluttered, and on and on and on.  

A couple of years ago God started working on my heart.  I still wanted to homeschool but I wanted it to be an ever-present pulse in our family.  For us it had always been something we do only up in the classroom and then we come downstairs, shut the door, and put it out of our minds.  I didn't want that anymore.  I tried incorporating school more into our every day life.  We did more school in the dining room over tea and after lunch, outside.  While we found ourselves enjoying school more we found our house starting to look like a used curriculum sale was taking place...random papers, books, and projects started to stray to every nook and bump out of our victorian.  And this Momma was getting mad.  

We tried for seven years to make it work.  But there came a breaking point when we decided it was time to change.  For the reasons mentioned above but also with the pitch of the roof it was starting to become difficult for the three of us (including two growing like weeds children) to maneuver around the desks like we had when they were so little. 

So one day on a whim, we changed.  I declared that we were moving the classroom downstairs.  

So we did.  

The toys and craft supplies went upstairs.  We are still muddling through where everything should go on the third floor.  And downstairs we are struggling with where to put everything.  We no longer have an entire floor of the house for our supplies but rather a single room.  Downsizing is now our middle name.  In the process I have found that it was a long over due process.  Projects, books, manipulatives, and supplies for children with much shorter limbs and much chubbier fingers are still hanging around.  Once we've gone through everything I'm hoping it will be a manageable amount for our classroom.  But it will have to be so we will make it work.  

Homeschool classrooms and kiwi crate time!  Super Busy at Home

There are parts of the classroom I will really miss but there are parts of the new classroom that I am really starting to find such assets to our family.  For example, our new classroom (the blue room if you'll remember) has three rose of sharon bushes outside of our massive picture window.  Four birdfeeders later and we have officially become "bird people".  Also, the classroom is right off the downstairs laundry room and powder room.  We have a large utility sink for washing brushes, taking our science experiments, and more.  I can also now fold laundry while watching them do their math.  Very convenient.  

Before the move, our families biggest arguements were about legos.  Dumb I know.  But the kids legos were in the blue room, which we have to go through to get to the laundry room and we have to pass through to get to the dining room from the kitchen.  It was always a fight to get them to pick up their legos in the middle of creating something or to at least scootch them over so I didn't have to plow through them with laundry in tow.  Now the legos are upstairs and, while we still insist on them picking up, they can at least display their finished projects without fear of someone stepping on them.  Where the legos once were downstairs is now a monstrous desk we found at Restore.  

Redecorating homeschool classrooms and playrooms.  Super Busy at Home

With the children getting older, needing more head room, using less supplies, and wanting to create, this is a better solution for our family.  We also have school books on hand in the room off our dining room now for more dialectic discussion around the dinner table.  Words are starting to be debated and chewed upon.  

All that to say, the whole "still in transition" business is so hard for me.  At least once a day I find myself having to re-convince myself that this is a change for the best for the whole family and one day, eventually, I will love both spaces as much as I loved our little classroom in the sky.  


I struggle so much with change.  Do you?  How do you talk yourself down from despair when things are not perfect?  

Time 4 Learning Review

Last month I posted that we were starting to use the Time4Learning online program.  '

I had a lot of people ask me what I have thought about the program so I am writing a review to let you know what we are thinking of the program! 

First of all I would like to say that I have nothing bad to say about the program.  Both of our kiddos used it and enjoyed it. 

As you know, Calvin has high functioning autism.  For some reason it seems that every year after Christmas we are on a slippery slope of decline in his functioning in our classroom.  I am not sure if it is the season with no sun, or being off schedule for Christmas, or what.  So when I was banging my head against a wall trying to find a solution, Time4Learning was a godsend!

I was looking for something that I could give to Calvin to do on those days when all else has failed and I cannot get him to cooperate with schoolwork.  Or the days when you wake up and you know you just aren't feeling it enough to make a day successful in the homeschool realm...you know those days: when you grab the Pamprin and let Miss Frizzle sub for your class.  Those days. 

When I found Time4Learning it seemed amazing.  And I'm going to tell you it is!  Calvin LOVES Time4Learning.  The games on the level he is at (3rd grade) are really engaging and fun.  The only problem I have is that he likes to get every possible score on a test to see what the computer says, so I have to watch him to make sure he doesn't do that.  On the other hand if he does it I figure it is just reinforcing what he is learning so that's not bad, right? 

Calvin and Emma can do Time4Learning on our laptop, my ipad, phone, or on their tablets.  Each of our kids have their own tablets that we have them use for school.  So when we are going grocery shopping or somewhere they are bored out of their mind we can hop on wifi and they can get some learning done!  Content kiddos who are learning makes for one happy Momma for sure!  Win-win!

Another thing I have enjoyed (especially because Calvin is sneaky) is the ability to get on the teacher dashboard and see what he did and how he did at it.  That way when he tells me he did math I can know that he did his math. 

Time4Learning can be a whole curriculum, back up learning, homeschooling, after school learning, whatever you need.  It's not just for homeschooling.  And while we don't use it as a full curriculum there is Social Studies, Language Art, Reading, a place to just write for fun, art, science, and math!  There's so much that it is hard for the kids to get bored.  I love on days that the kids do school on there I don't hear "I'm bored!" 

Emma has been using Time4Learning too but has not been enjoying it as much.  Emma is very much our pencil and paper kind of gal.  She also has noticed that the older grades (she's using 6th grade) don't have as many fun games as her brother gets to do in the younger grade when he's playing next to her.  A lot of her work seems to be an explanation of what she is learning and then questions in a quiz, flash card kind of format on the computer.  She doesn't like this, I still like it because it is still a break from the same ol' same ol' of our every day so it can get her out of a rut when learning.  I would like to add though that a lot of what seems *boring* to her, I don't really know how you would make it gamey and fun.  It required a more lengthy explanation and I think they do a good job at explaining and engaging the student.

All in all, I would say that we love TIme4Learning and are excited to continue on with the program.  This summer we are traveling extensively and I am planning on taking their Nooks and having the program be the majority of school that we will do!  So super excited and so blessed to have found Time4Learning

*This review was entirely written by me, not the good folks at Time4Learning. I was compensated for my review, thoughts, and opinions*