back to {un}school: 5 ways to inspire the love of learning


back to (un)school

“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” ― John Holt


Children are born with an innate desire to understand the world around them; they are curious, want to discover, and learn.

Whether your child goes to school or is homeschooled, the concept of real learning can and should be taught by you, their parent.


Yes, there are teachers, texts, assignments, and grades for most children, but the heart of what it means to LEARN goes so much deeper than what can be taught in a classroom.  The core of learning comes when a child (and adult alike) is free from fear, open to discovery, and curious.  Inspiring our children NOW to love learning is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.


Here are 5 Ways to Inspire the Love of Learning in your Child:

1. Don't compartmentalize the concept of "learning" to be exclusive to your child's education at school, the education from homeschooling, college, etc.

We do our children a disservice when we only refer to "learning" as taking place in a classroom because they will only connect learning with someone else's agenda over subjects and assignments.  Real learning takes place when your child feels comfortable, relaxed, and open-minded, and interested.  It can take place in school, at home, at the lake, or through a telescope in the backyard.  It can happen anywhere, at anytime.

As parents, our personal understanding and concept "learning" is quickly picked up by our children. We can inspire them to love learning by speaking of school, homeschooling, unschooling, etc., as a means for real learning to take place, not the be all, end all.  Learning can and should go beyond their formal education.  It should be exciting and thrilling throughout their lives, beginning now.



2. Help your child to regularly recognize their interests and natural curiosities.  

For our children to really love learning it means they need to begin at a young age to follow their inner voice, their innate desire to understand their world.  By helping them recognize their personal interests/abilities, we can assist them in their path of discovery which always leads to learning.  Try sitting with your child once a month, once a quarter perhaps, with pen and paper and help them verbalize what excites them.  Once you know what your child is passionate about (science, bugs, architecture, geometry, cooking, etc.) you can assist them to make real learning happen and often.

As your child is encouraged to explore what he/she is really interested in, they will feel confident in themselves that they can personally find satisfaction through their discoveries.  You are there to assist and guide.



3. Create a year-round environment for learning.  Move away from the idea that learning starts in September and ends when schools is out. 

Your child will be learning throughout the rest of his life.  Create a safe environment for him/her to be excited to learn year round.  You can do this by treating learning as a thrilling, personal experience by not assigning the term "learning" to just what happens in school/homeschooling and is "turned off" over the summer.

Here are a few ways to create a year-round "love of learning" environment:

  • Plan a regular family night to the library, through all the seasons of the year.  Let your child be free to choose the books he/she finds interesting and make it a special family tradition.  As the parent, teach by example and load up on a pile of interesting books yourself!
  • Plan family trips, holidays off of school, and free weekends around a particular field trip, location, or activity that would further your child's interest in a particular topic.  Dig deeper than the local children's museum.  Arrange a personal tour or experience that fits your child perfectly.
  • At the beginning of the year (or school year), make a list as a family of the things you want to do/explore together as a family based on what everyone is interested in.  Review the list regularly and fill in your calendar with those activities for the year to ensure they take priority over less interesting trips/activities.



Think outside the box as to what learning looks like.  Try to remove the preconceived notion that learning looks one particular way and that way is how all children should learn.

If you are a parent you know that all children have different personalities, ways of internalizing the world, and different skills and interests.  Learning, then, will look different from one child to the next.  And more importantly, real learning happens beyond worksheets and assignments.  It happens out in the world.

When your child spends hours of his free time building with blocks, he is learning many lessons that are answering his internal questions about how he relates to his world.  When your child can't get enough of particular history books (that's my Johanna with Pompeii at the moment), don't stop her engaged reading time in order to switch topics during homeschooling to fit in math.  See that the most important learning is taking place now.  Anything else would be a distraction from real learning.



Put your child's education first. 

I love hearing about the mothers who take their child out of school for a day for a family trip.  A family-planned field trip to see or do something that the child/children are excited to do.  You are the foremost example and leader of your child's education.  Be open minded.  DO what feels right.  Listen to your heart and your child.

If your child is getting burned out or struggling with their confidence in the school/homeschooling setting, do what your motherly intuition is guiding you to do.  Take something off her plate--an extracurricular activity, give her more of your time after school, etc.

Real learning in school or without won't happen if your child is struggling internally.  Fill her cup.  Patch her knee.  Make the best decision for her beyond her attendance record or test score.  How we respond to our children and their needs greatly affects how they see themselves and the world around them.  Don't allow school or homschooling to take away from your child.  Only permit it to make something more of them and if that is lacking, step back and reevaluate.

Perhaps a day away from school/homeschooling to drive up to the mountains.  Perhaps a day to sleep in, collect leaves in the yard, and have a needed quiet day of reading, snuggled up to your child.  Prove to your child that they and their needs come before any other teacher's requests or deadlines.



Overall, be confident as the parent, inspire your child to love life, learning, and to trust themselves.


Here are some excellent resources to encourage your children to own their own education:

[amazon_image id="0471349607" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Guerilla learning[/amazon_image]


[amazon_image id="0465084990" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Free to learn[/amazon_image]


[amazon_image id="1475239068" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Project based homeschooling[/amazon_image]

Go out + live boldly!

the sleepy time gal

anxiety + your freedom



“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”

 Soren Kierkegaard

Ironically, this is very true.

I have a machine that washes and dries my clothes, a machine that washes my dishes, a machine that keeps my food fresh, machines that cook + heat my food, and machines that save me time going to and from places.

So what about all that time I save every day?  I don't ever feel like I have saved up time because that time usually gets filled up whether by my agenda or someone else's.  But the reality is I live in an era where I have large amounts of freedom and time no matter how I talk myself out of it.

If I feel anxiety because the rising sun reminds me that a new morning awaits with much to do it is actually because of my overwhelming freedom in how to use my time, not necessarily my overwhelming busyness.  It is the freedom we all share as modernists in a modern era from choices of when, if, and how to serve, create, learn, make, visit, experiment, push, and live out every single moment of our lives.

That intimidating freedom scares us into inaction because there is too much to choose from.  Or we've allowed so much on our plate as a subconscious approach to avoiding the really important tough decision of how to take action with our own precious freedom.


Start making personal choices concerning your daily freedom as soon as you feel that anxiety coming.

How would you LOVE to use your freedom of time today?

How would you LOVE to use the freedom of your mind today?

Make one simple choice about your freedom for today and then another.  Maybe it's writing a letter once a week to your aging grandmother during your lunch break.  Or hitting the clutter in your house (that your soul desperately needs for peace) while you set your kids up with legos at the table.  Or getting up 30 minutes early to take a walk + mediate before your day begins. Or making that phone call you've been putting off because this is your life and you deserve to no longer feel anxiety.

As you own your freedom one choice at a time, momentum will rapidly build and you will feel more confident to make more and more choices, all the while dissolving the anxiety and taking over every minute and hour of your life.  

This works and it is empowering.

What new action will you take or choice will you make with a current anxiety you are feeling right now?  Make one decision for your situation and begin owning your incredible freedom and build the life you want.

Go out + live boldly!

the sleepy time gal

reading Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less


IMG_2010 This morning I decided it was time to totally change up my morning routine.  I need something new.  Something different to wake up to.


So I went into my calendar and deleted a few blocks of scheduled time in my morning and, while I was at it, in our day.  I'm not sure what I will fill the freed up space and time with but right now I need to see the blank, free space on the calendar.


I've been reading [amazon_link id="0804137382" target="_blank" ]Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less[/amazon_link] lately.  And it's increasing my recent desire to get rid of more, live off of less, and only keep the most essential things physically in our lives and on our calendar.  And so I've been making mental lists of what I will be getting rid of in our house, in our bookcase, closets, kitchen cupboards, bedrooms, garage, and basement while also deciding what isn't the absolutely most important way we use our time during the week.

While I'm experiencing this removal of the non-essentials I purposefully want to involve my kids.  How does living the life of an Essentialist affect them?  With less of the non-essentials there is less to tidy and organize from day to day.  Their daily jobs are easier.  Their is more time in the day for what they really want to be doing--only the best things over the good and great things.  There is less rushing to non-essential places.  And more mental clarity for creating, thinking, and producing.


What about you--are there physical items and scheduled items using up your valued energy and time that, when it comes down to it, are non-essential?  What are the core things that matter to you right now?  To your family?  Is everything else just pulling you away from what you really are passionate about??


Ask yourself  "Am I absolutely in love with this item/activity/club/book, etc.?" and if your answer is anything but a passionate "Yes!" than take it out of your life.  See what happens.  Are you happier or freer?  Are your kids?

Get more comfortable with saying NO to things.  The more NOs mean that you are choosing your life and how you live it instead of letting others' agendas fill it for you.


Go out + live this brand new week B O L D L Y.  Strip your life down to the very basic things that matter most to you.  And see how much more fulfilled you can really be.

[amazon_image id="0804137382" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Essentialism [/amazon_image]

the sleepy time gal


a child learns: using your library to its fullest

WIN A TRIP As unschoolers, our family doesn't follow a set curriculum.  Because of that, we are free to explore and dive into the subjects we are most interested in at any given moment.  That means the library is one of the most important assets of our homeschooling.

We visit one of our local libraries about every two weeks and come away with roughly 30-40 items from books, magazines, documentaries, and DVD series.  The library really expands any homeschooling experience by providing either supplementary material or primary material for learning and exploring and any given topic.

Our approach to our library visit is simple.  Each child chooses:

  • A handful of picture books (younger children) or chapter books of personal interest
  • A handful of interested topic-specific books
While my kids are enjoying the library (reading books, building with Legos, researching book titles) I help kids one-on-one find their interested topic-specific books.  Some weeks it may be Ancient Rome and baking, other weeks it's bugs and minerals.
Once I've helped each of my kids find their own special books, they return to their personal play/reading in the library and I continue my search for the remaining books/materials.

Each library visit I choose:

  1. One interested topic-specific documentary (if available)
  2. 2+ DVDs from a series we enjoy (Bill Nye the Science Guy, Liberty Kids, Signing Times, National Geographic, etc.)
  3. One classic children's literature book in audiobook form for the car
  4. The next book in the series of chapter books I'm reading aloud to the girls ([amazon_link id="0439129087" target="_blank" ]Royal Diaries[/amazon_link], Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Praire, [amazon_link id="0810993228" target="_blank" ]Sisters Grimm[/amazon_link], American Girl series, etc.)
  5. A new magazine to explore: American Girl, Ranger Rick, Thomas the Train, Astronomy, National Geographic Kids, etc.)
Each child has their library tote full (including Rowan) and I carry the remaining books in a large canvas tote.  We checkout and head home with the girls enjoying a new book on the ride home.  Once home, I make lunch and everyone is sprawled out in the living room quietly enjoying their new books.  That afternoon we sit together on the couch to enjoy our first library-book reading session.  (We do our library book reading with the iPad in hand.  More on that in another post.)
The local public library makes the whole wide world open to our family.  History, science, the arts, mathematics, and beyond have been explored in the comforts of our home and on our couch from the hundreds of books we've checked out at the library.

More library + learning tips:

  1. Visit the library with your kids right before a long road trip.  Let your kids checkout a handful of new picture books to be their entertainment on the road.  Grab a new chapter book to read to them during the trip.  And don't forget a few audiobooks for when you're needing quiet time in the car (possibly during a young child's nap time on the road).
  2. Teach your reading kids to use the library's digital card catalog at an early age.  Those children will love the confidence they have to sit and explore the library system anytime about any subject and then seek out the book on their own.
  3. Change things up by rotating local libraries.  Visit a different library each visit or every other visit.  Some libraries have better non fiction sections than others for kids which makes choosing the interested topic-specific book selection much more exciting.
  4. Organize meet-ups with other homeschooling friends at your local library.  It makes the visit a bit more social and fun for kids and moms.  Watch friends introduce your kids to new book series and vice versa.
  5. Keep your library books in the same place in your home for your children (and you) to return to daily.  Ours are always in a basket by our fireplace.

Go out and explore your library.   You'd be amazed by how much learning, growth, and excitement can come from always having loads of interesting books in your home.
Go out + live boldly!

The sleepy time gal

it's spring: explore nature!



 {Annabelle's spring shrine made of front-yard weeds, moss, grass, and unearthed ribbon scraps. } 

Good morning!

I'm so excited it's (technically) spring.  We've recently had cold, wet weather but I know the sun will return and so will my girls' frolicking in the meadow and post-dinner walks.

A few things:

Check out my updated sidebar for spring exploring inspiration!  I've put up some of my favorite projects, exploration activities, and tips for getting out of the door and discovering something new in nature.

If you don't have [amazon_link id="1590305353" target="_blank" ]I Love Dirt[/amazon_link], I recommend it.  It is a simple book of inspiring ideas of how to use each season to explore, ask questions, unearth, and find answers with your kids during each season.

[amazon_image id="1590305353" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]I love dirt  [/amazon_image]


If you want to begin a nature journal, here's an excellent resource for taking that first step: [amazon_link id="1580174930" target="_blank" ]Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You. [/amazon_link]

[amazon_image id="1580174930" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book [/amazon_image]


So be inspired, grab an umbrella, and get outside!


the sleepy time gal

exploring: root's country market in lancaster, pa



Page 1IMG_1934






IMG_1946 IMG_1961

It's hard to believe that since living in central Pa for the past 10 years that the kids and I have never visited the well-known market--Root's Country Market-- in Lancaster, PA.

Everything authentically Pennsylvanian Dutch or Amish was there and in great quantity: canned + pickled everything, interesting meats (still can't get myself to try scrapple),  whoopie pies, hand-carved rocking chairs, and horses + buggies.


I love driving my kids into Amish country and seeing the most beautiful scenes of simple life: young boys in suspenders working in the fields with horse-drawn plows and young girls and their moms hanging clothes out on the line to dry (even in the winter months).  The country market is a perfect reflection of the rich history of Amish and the Pennsylvania Dutch together in one place.  We bought some butter-toffee pecans + low sugar dried pineapple.  We saw goats and chicks there for auction and loved being out in the farm country air for the day.


Check out Roots and Lancaster County if you ever visit PA.


Go out and explore something new.


Exploring series:


the sleepy time gal

rowan's no-sew felt quiet book


Add a little bit of body text (1) I'm very picky about felt projects.  There are so many felt projects out there that look too crafty or not well thought out.  Not that I'm a felt snob but if I'm going to use felt for something I want the project to maintain high quality and craftsmanship.  This may be why this felt quiet book took so long to finish; I would start a page and a week later totally change it because it looked too cheesy.  (Do you creative people know where I'm coming from??)

I remember putting a lot of time and love into Annabelle and Ainsleigh's special personalized soft books when they were young.  They treasured them.  Rowan somehow missed out on getting one of those, still doesn't have a baby book filled out, nor has a first year photo album like his sister have.

It has been a really satisfying feeling putting the finishing touches on his felt quiet book, though, and having him on my lap this past Sunday playing with it for the first time.

I hope my felt page designs and tips give you the confidence to make your own no-sew felt quiet book.  Come and see...



Why no-sew?

I wanted to put more emphasis into the details of each page of this felt book and not be constrained to the machine.  That is the advantage to working with felt: you can cut felt without needing to finish off edges.  I decided to do absolutely no sewing (except the binding) so the entire book would be consistent in terms of tension/stretch on each page of the book.  

Hot glue is the key for this whole project.

For the quiet book, all you need is different colors of felt (I used both craft + wool felt), sharp fabric scissors, metal snaps (for closure) , and hot glue gun + glue stick refills.

Page 2

 {The winter scene activity: 3 snowmen, rainy day gear, sneakers, small pieces for buttons + noses, hats, arms, and cold weather gear.  This activity page has the smallest pieces on it.}


Tip: To make your felt book project even easier, buy a precut package of craft felt sheets at any fabric or craft store.  These felt sheets (usually around 10" x 13" sheets) can be used as your book's pages--no need to cut felt pieces into pages.



 {The summer scene activity: the beach scene!  All of the elements from our beach trips like seagulls, a crab, bucket with sand, shovel, sandcastles, puddle, little boy + his beach ball, and clouds.}


Tip: Glue down the basic backdrop of your felt play scenes onto your felt sheets.  This makes it easy for a child to build onto the scene with the moveable felt pieces and not have to remember what the scene is supposed to be.  In the beach scene, I hot glued the ocean, sand, sun, and birds.  Rowan simple adds to the scene with extra details in his play.

Page 3

{The create-a-face activity: there are multiple hair styles, eyes, glasses, noses, lips, a beard + mustache, crown, and bows.}

Tip: Play around with your felt pages in terms of vertical and horizontal layout.  I liked my face activity vertical so there was room enough for the beard, bow tie, and tall hair.



{The favorite foods plate activity: fruits, vegetables, chicken leg, eggs + sausage, BACON, dark chocolate, gingerbread cookie, hot cocoa, ice water, and utensils.}

Tip: When making a narrow felt piece, hot glue a felt detail onto the piece to make it more sturdy and less flimsy, like my utensils.

Page 1

{The loadable dump truck activity:  add the truck's wheels and load the truck (which really is a pocket) with either rocks or shapes.}

Tip: Make your felt pages more realistic by adding depth.  You add depth by hot gluing another layer onto the base felt piece, like the outer piece with cut-out squares I added to the dump truck.


{The birthday ice cream shop activity: load your bowl or cone with your favorite scoops of ice cream!  Don't forget the celebration balloons.}

Tip: Add glitter, ric rac, beads, and other decorations to create a 3D effect.  I added hot glue + glitter to some of the ice cream scoops to create the drizzled topping effect on the ice cream.


 Where do I store all of the felt pieces?

After you've created each felt page and its pieces, cut out large felt pockets, one per activity page.  Hot glue the sides and bottom of each pocket onto the back of each activity page (excluding the last activity page--it won't need a pocket on its' back).

Fill each pocket with the coordinating pieces for the activity page that the pocket faces.  That means the first activity page's felt pieces will be stored in a pocket you secure to the inside of the book's cover.


How do I bind + close the book?

You have two options for binding your book.  I chose the easiest which was using my sewing machine.  I know this is a no-sew book but if you can machine sew the binding it will be your quickest, easiest option.

Simple sew the pages together with a seam and then sandwich the pages into the cover and sew one more seam.

Handsewing option:

If you don't have a sewing machine, simply hand sew the binding to create a strong binding.  I do not recommend using hot glue for the binding.


Add a few metal snaps to the cover flap for closing the book.  Follow the no-sew snap instructions which will require a hammer.  A few snaps will do the trick.




I hope you make a no-sew felt quiet book.  Make pages based on activities and themes that your child/grandchild loves.  Rowan's favorite pages are the dump truck and food pages, of course.


Which page was your favorite??


the sleepy time gal



Page 1

{Caroline's incredible felt doll + clothes closet board for a friend's birthday party this past weekend.  She imitated my concept of Rowan's felt book and created the coolest gift.  Doll (in underwear) on the front, liftable closet door for two dresses and 3 fillable drawers for tops, bottoms, and shoes.}

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.  

Salvador Dali 

There has been a lot of imitation happening in our home.  This is a sign to me in my little world of mothering and family life that life/unschooling is good, young minds are creating/problem solving, and my kids' understanding of the world around them is expanding. Page 1

{My on-call hand-mixing girl, Annabelle.  After initially fearing the mixer, she now loves the process, the steady control she has to maintain, and conquering a skill some of her sisters refuse to try.}

When kids imitate something inspiring that they see, they are driven by the thrill of trying something new and the satisfaction of physically understanding their world in an intimate way.  Children are driven by imitation.  It drives so much learning and development.  It is the most natural process of learning for children and adults alike.



And before you get tired of hearing about Rowan's quiet felt book,  I'm pretty excited to show you his book tomorrow.  I'll also include my tips for creating your own no-sew felt quiet book.

Happy Monday!


the sleepy time gal

the day the crayons quit: a book review


IMG_1514 You know those children's books that make reading to your kids absolutely delightful?  I have my personal favorites that are too good to keep to myself.  Here is one of our most favorite picture books that I promise won't disappoint.

[amazon_link id="0399255370" target="_blank" ]The Day the Crayons Quit[/amazon_link] is so creatively written.  The book is a compilation of letters from each crayon from the child, Duncan's, crayon box.  It is such a creative approach to what each individual crayon may be thinking from being overused, underused, misused, and beyond.


The illustrations are purely child-like and absolutely convincing that the crayons really are real and have feelings.  The black crayon wants to be used for happier, brighter subjects, like beach balls and suns.  The blue crayon is getting too short and stubby from all of the oceans and whales Duncan colors in.

The greatest part of this book is how authentic and realistic the crayons are: their feelings, needs, and desires from their beloved owner, Duncan.


My kids' favorite part (that creates the most giggles) is the peach crayon's letter.  He is so embarrassed that his paper has been peeled off that he can't leave the crayon box because he's naked.  Seriously, so creative!


By the end of the story, Duncan listens to all of his crayons' requests and adjusts his artistic creations to please each one of them through the ultimate coloring masterpiece (which you have to see for yourself).  My kids love the last page because they get to point out how each crayon's requests were realized in the artwork.  I love this reader-involvement on the last page.

[amazon_link id="0399255370" target="_blank" ]The Day the Crayons Quit [/amazon_link]is an excellent picture book for ages 2-8.


We frequently checked out this book from the library and recently gave it to Ainsleigh for Christmas.  Now it's a part of our collection of our favorite children's books.   I can't recommend it enough!


Make the most of "reading time"  with your kids!

[amazon_image id="0399255370" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The day the crayons quit [/amazon_image]

the sleepy time gal




good luck


IMG_1430 The more I keep up my daily 5 minute journal the more I see "good luck charms" in my life.

I don't actually believe it is "luck" but blessings, inspiration, and positive consequences to action taken.  If I can be confident and disciplined enough to let my desires outweigh my fear (whether in homeschooling, mothering, or personally) then magical things happen.  Like being granted greater desire + discipline to do and be more.  Moments of success.  Overcoming weaknesses quicker.  Power to see positive rather than negative around me.  A happier home life, kids, and self.

IMG_1457 IMG_1452 I know the exact mother I want to be.

And so work daily to remind myself of those traits I want before I'm tested in those situations.  My success rate is actually getting better in those predictable situations!  With daily, written positive affirmations, I can see myself changing from the less patient, sometimes overwhelmed mother of five to the calmer, prepared mother that knows how to enjoy motherhood more and better embrace the challenging parts as well.


I'd say that one of our current "good luck charms" is the power to dream big + then plan.  We catch a vision and then try to capture exactly what it is that we want out of an experience or goal. This truly is one of the greatest lessons I hope to instill in my children at their young ages.

The many tales told this winter while huddled on the couch of [amazon_link id="0531068684" target="_blank" ]The Arabian Nights[/amazon_link] have turned our imaginations towards something bigger and more tangible than just stories...



...something larger than life with costumes, the setting sun out in the backyard, feasting, music, and the tinkling of finger cymbals.

Our "good luck" is actually dreaming + planning mixed together with the right amount of pure excitement.  (This and this were definitely inspired by excitement and the current dose of spring in the air.)


And so with the "good luck" of life existing in the air, we are going full force towards everything that appears attainable and unattainable.


You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world.

But it takes people to make the dream a reality.

Walt Disney

the sleepy time gal