Super Busy at Home

Family blog about homeschooling, autism, saving money, mom blog, travel, vacation, budgeting.

These Items Help Make Learning Awesome!

Over the years we have fine tuned what works for us and what doesn’t.

This past year we took our very large homeschool room up on our third floor and moved it down to our den, located on the first floor. This took an enormous amount of time and thought as we sifted through each item on hand to determine its value in our classroom. After all, we moved our classroom into a much smaller space and which thereby dictated that everything needed a justification for its use of precious real estate in the footprint of the room.


It was really hard and took me a really, really long time (think 9 months, ugh). In the end though I am left with what really works, what we love, and what is useful to what we are studying. For a girl who always liked to have one thing on hand, then another if the first didn’t work, and then maybe something else, this was a struggle.


But now we have on hand things that work well for us and things that we love to use. (at least I love to use, something the kids would just like to not do school, teehee).

A few of you have asked me for some recommendations on things to buy so here they are in no particular order:

Light Up Timer

This is amazing for showing your kids how much time they have. It also gets you off the hook for having to track your kiddos time (or am I the only one who randomly forgets to keep track of the time only to announce, “two more minutes” when your kids ask how much time they have left?). It has a yellow zone so you can set it to give a ____ more minutes left until time is up. This is a much needed feature for our son and it’s really helped.

Multiplication Bracelets

We used these when we were practicing skip counting and now we use them when going over our multiplication facts. I will randomly give the kids these when we are not working on our facts and ask what number all of the bracelet numbers are multiplied by.

Drawing Workbook

This workbook has been in our house for years and for good reason…it’s amazing! When we practice the OiLs method of drawing with Classical Conversations I pull this out but we use it at other times as well. There’s a little story that tells about the animals you draw and there are stickers to use as well (we’ve actually never used those, just the story and the drawing).

HP Printer Connected Ink

Okay, I love our printer! We have had it for about 3 years and it is hands down the best printer we’ve ever had. We decided to take advantage of the HP Connected program. If you don’t know what that is, basically it’s a subscription program for your ink. You sign up for how many pages per month you use and they send you ink when you need it. It is so easy. You can send them back your old cartridges to be recycled and that’s it. It is so easy. I was always running out of ink and pinnacle moments when I didn’t have time to run to Staples for more ink and now I don’t even have to think about it.

Tichonderoga Pencils

We have tried so many pencils. When we started homeschooling (8 years ago!!!) I was a mom who would buy the Target Dollar Section everything to match and it was in theory so much fun! Except the pencils would always break like it was their job and that part wasn’t so fun. Through trial and error I realized that Tichonderoga Pencils really are worth the money. If you have a chewer like me you should also invest in some eraser tops because the eraser will be gone long before the pencil is short so with the erasers you can keep using the pencil.

Sticker Charts

You can get any you would like but I have the ones that we have linked so you can see what I am talking about. These are a great incentive for good attitudes about school and diligence with our work. I give a sticker for each day the kids get their work done without complaining and have good attitudes. Sometimes I will give the chart a set prize value “trip to the froyo place” or I will give it a monetary amount, usually about $5. This gives them something attainable to feel that they have achieved each day. Plus we like to use the little treats when we have a break from school and we remind them what their hard work has earned them.


We used fidgets long before fidget spinners were the craze and we have never used those. Instead I look for quiet things their little hands can play with while we are reading outloud, working on poetry, or whenever else they want to play with them. In my mind fidgets can be anything that keeps their hands busy…so crochet, weaving, playdough, anything could be considered a fidget, right? I love having different things on hand for them to play with (get it, on hand! Eh? Eh?!)

These are the things that are working for us to make our year awesome! If you have any other recommendations I would love to hear them! We are always looking for new things. I will have to learn to recycle things through with our new classroom rather than just hoard everything. I’m excited for the challenge though and hope it will keep us engaged as we will keep only what we love and move through things we are finished with.

Happy learning!

Copy of UPDATE Master Pin Templates Holiday Blogger Bootcamp 2018 – COPY BEFORE EDITING (2).png

Planning our Trip to Georgia

I shared before how I plan our family roadtrips in order to get the most out of them for the least amount of money.

I wanted to share with you now how I am planning our next trip to Georgia.

I chart our route and looked for larger cities that we will be passing through.

I see that we are going through Lexington, Kentucky and Knoxville, Tennessee. I have nothing relatable in my head about either one of those places (do you guys? Do I just live too sheltered of a life?) so I Pinterest them to see what there is to do.

It looks like in Lexington there are some horse race type parks to check out but nothing that is screaming “us” so I’m moving on. I will also point out Lexington is about 4 hours from our house. I want to make sure we cover some distance in the first day of our trip so Lexington is about the closest place I would be willing to go to. Otherwise we’ll have too much traveling to do the next day as we make our way to Georgia.

So the next place I’m going to look up is Knoxville.

There look to be some things but I am not sure if that is where I want to be for very long. We are after all driving through so we don’t have a lot of time to spend.

I now check out our memberships’ reciprocal programs. We have memberships through the ASTC and the AZA. I see that there is a zoo in Knoxville that looks promising but we still have to pay 50%. That’s a great deal, don’t get me wrong, but I just want to make sure that that is something we commit to do with our time. After all, a zoo takes a large chunk of time to go through.

I check out the National Parks website and, duh! I see that Knoxville is just a hop, skip and a jump a way from the Smoky Mountains National Park. BINGO!

I think we might go that way. We love hiking and exploring so going that route ensures lots of fresh air, exercise, and it’s darn near free.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

In case you’ve never been to the Smoky Mountains, it is near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. This is a really neat area but a huge tourist area that makes it really hard to stay on budget. I am sure we will do some things there but we try to steer clear of this area. An example of the area is when we went mini golfing. We went to a scabby kind of place with flaking paint and it was $60 for the four of us. Seriously. That is why we try to plan carefully what we do in the area and we look for budet friendly items.

The Smoky Mountains park spans over 800 square acres over North Carolina and Tennessee. While it is technically one park there are several sections and areas of the park including Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, and more. While there are lots of things to do I think we are going to be focusing on the Cades Cove area.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

Cades Cove offers some of the best opportunities to spot wildlife. When we’ve been through the Smokies before we have spotted deer, bears, elk, and coyotes. We like Cades Cove because of the settlement you can explore as well as the nature. We’ve never had a lot of time to explore the area though, so I think that will be a perfect option for us.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

We are so excited for our trip and can’t wait to get to the mountains!!!

I hope this kind of “me talking outloud to you helps you to see the madness behind my method for planning our trips. I can try to do this with another trip if it helps you! Let me know, friends!

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 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 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'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?