Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing Disney inspired back to school ideas.
There is something about back to school season. The joy. The anticipation. The shopping. The lists. The smell of fresh school supplies in the dollar spot at Target. The bulk packs of Kleenex (and some to send to the school as well.) The adorable outfits. The endless hunt for an orange pocket with brads folder.
I love scrolling through Facebook. All the kids are so pulled together. Exclaiming over how much my friends children have grown and looking at their cute back to school outfits is almost as good as it gets. By the end of September (if not the end of the week) the kids are back to regular clothing. But for one day at least, they’re super adorable.
As I looked at photo after photo, I noticed a sad lack of Disney back to school signs. Well that’s no good! To help you add a little pixie dust to your first day of school photos I created some free Disney inspired first day of school printable signs. For fun in my free time.
Our biggest problem is we can’t get enough of the books! I cannot tell you how many weeks we read “just one more chapter” because we become absolutely enthralled by the characters and plot. And still, Chris loves finishing up his school early everyday…so he can get some more time reading by himself! The deep conversations, peaceful quality time together as a family and my son’s renewed love of learning all link directly back to our decision to Sonlight.
My kids love the books.
Starting to homeschool was daunting, but given our family’s love of reading, Sonlight seemed a natural first choice. Taking the guesswork out of homeschool is such a blessing! Left to our own devices, our whole family would gravitate towards the same authors again and again (Karen Kingsbury and LM Momtgomery for me, Berenstain Bears and American Girls for Kylee, all of Stephen Biesty’s books for Christopher and CS Lewis for all of us). Sonlight introduces us to new (to us) classics, challenging and expanding our world view with each book. Thank you for helping our homeschool and family grow.
I love the simplicity of opening curriculum and teaching.
When I first opened my first box of Sonlight and sorted each book into a stack, there was a slight moment of panic…until I opened the Instructor’s Guide. The IG broke down the overwhelming idea of an entire year of reading into easy to manage days and weeks. A few weeks into the year, we hit our stride. I’m so thankful that homeschool helped me to resurrect my son’s love of reading. Watching my children’s enthusiasm for learning rekindled my own urge to learn more. I’m amazed at how much history I never knew or forgot!
I love that both of my kids can learn from the same curriculum even though they’re two years apart. I love that the instructors guides break down a year of work into easy pieces. I love that my kids are so curious about the world. I love that the biggest problem with our curriculum is that the kids want to read all of it on box day. I love that my kids don’t think of Sonlight as work. I love snuggling up and reading with my kids on cold days and hot days. I love the flexibility of our homeschool schedule. I love discussing the world with my kids instead of hiding from the world. I love that my kids come to me with their questions. I love that my kids love nonfiction. I love that I am learning along with my kids. I love that my kids love reading. And I love that Sonlight takes the guesswork and legwork out of pulling together a comprehensive curriculum.
Did you ever wonder if Disney Student Seminars add magic to your vacation, educate well for a variety of ages and “worth it”?
First, to address the hardest…
Are Disney Student Seminars “Worth It”
From a dollars and cents perspective, by attending the Disney Student Seminars you stand to save you a considerable amount of money on ticket prices. Or you get many more days worth of tickets for what you would have paid for tickets. It all depends how you look at it. One of the student seminars each fall and each spring is offered free with purchcase of these reduced park tickets. Now you don’t get to pick which of the programs is free (Disney only offers one around September/October and one again in January/February), but free is hard to beat.
If you want a bit more control of your schedule, there are many seminars offered throughout the year for a fee.
In terms of time, you will be using roughly one morning (or more if you register and pay for more) of vacation time and park ticket time attending your seminar. Each of the seminars we attended finished in time for rides before lunch, but that’s time you aren’t riding rides, going to shows and touring the parks.
Instead you would be busy riding rides (with an educational explanation or background attached), going to shows (related to the seminar) and going on a guided tour through the park.
Do Disney Student Seminars Feel Like School?
No. The cast members make every effort to make this educational, interesting and fun. When you hit a class that matches up with your kids interests and age level (as all of the seminars with a narrow age range do spectacularly) it’s magical.
Keep in mind the seminars with extremely wide age ranges can be hit and miss. Stick to subjects you are interested in, and it’s as magical as any other day in the Epcot. Before rope drop.
Are The Disney Student Seminars Educational?
Yes. And informative. And fun.
Disney Student Seminars Trip Report
Walt Disney World
January 28, 2015 Nine Nights
All Star Movies
After thoroughly enjoying “How Things Move” at the Magic Kingdom, the three Mousekateers approached our last overcast day at the Disney Student Seminar (formerly called Homeschool Days) with a spring in our step and no small amount of enthusiasm.
We arrived early as requested to walk over to the American Adventure pavilion for our next student seminar. Our check-in of 8:30 turned into quite the crowd of people. I bumped into Jodi Whisenhunt, of Magical Mouse Schoolhouse while waiting to scan our MagicBands to get into the park.
She is just as fun and encouraging in person as in Disney blogs and online. Jodi’s been homeschooling for a bit longer than me, with correspondingly older kids so that was fun.
Epcot Disney Student Seminar
This morning’s talk, Disney Student Seminars Presents: Honoring African American Heritage Month with guest speaker, Khalil Kinsey, of the Kinsey collection offered an interesting insight into all kinds of people I’d (sadly) never even heard of. If you get a chance to swing into the Kinsey Collection downstairs on the left side of the American Adventure pavilion, do.
Although fascinating, the talk aimed for the upper ages of the group (Kindergarten to High School) so I took Kylee for a potty break in the deserted world showcase and walked back through the empty pavilion.
At the end of the presentation, we enjoyed our very own showing of An American Adventure as Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin brought history to life. Both kids gawked at the animatronics and several times asked (not too quietly) if they were really animatronics.
Would I recommend the Disney Student Seminars? With absolutely no reservations! This is a fun, educational, different way to visit Walt Disney World.
Back to Exploring Epcot
After such a week full of magical sunlit memories, the cold and drizzle well and truly set in.
So we did what any logical person does when it rains in Epcot.
Duck inside somewhere warm and dry and eat!
A vegetarian platter at the tangerine café is a wonderful value. For $10.99 you get humus, tabbouleh, lentils, tangerine couscous, olive salads, falafel, fresh warm pitas and lentil salad. Kylee declared this the best falafel in Walt Disney World (and frankly after sampling falafel in five different restaurants in a week, she’s an expert.) She and I split the plate. Chris enjoyed his chicken wrap as well.
Then off to future world for a nice after lunch rest in the Universe of Energy.
I know many people are down on Ellen’s Energy Adventure, but between a love of Bill Nye the Science Guy show courtesy of Netflix and dinosaurs, it’s still a must do for our family.
The temperature continued to drop.
I guess we *had* to go shopping for a cute hoodie. So with that done, we headed into the Seas to visit with Nemo and Friends and a few manatees and of course, Crush.
The sun peaked out and the weather was just about perfect for the rest of the afternoon! There was one last thing to do in Future World that the kids never experienced…
try Beverly at Club Cool.
(Video will be uploaded when/if I find it.)
After our brief visit with Duffy early in the week, we all happily waited to meet him!
Then the kids headed to the recruitment center at the Odyssey Bridge to initiate Agent P: World Showcase Adventure. After saving the day in Norway, a Mickey Pretzel break needed to happen. (No pictures! Because honestly, it’s ripped to pieces before I’ve finished swiping my MagicBand. Needless to say, we went back for a second.)
We thanked the Phoenicians at Spaceship Earth, visited Mars (thankfully on Mission Green this time) and embraced our Disney Side with one last visit to Figment and the Imagination Institute…but still one last character waited for the kids to meet.
And after a last picture with Spaceship Earth…
we took a short walk over to Italy for a simple dinner. Via Napoli served up some yummy pizza, but seemed loud or echo-y. The kids though tired, cheerfully colored and dug into their pizza. We swung by the Mexico pavilion, where Kylee enjoyed chatting up the KidCot Stop ladies and trying out her Spanish. We cruised down El Rio Del Tiempo with the Three Caballeros.
Then I switched the kids to Tron-mode.
A few glow in the dark bracelets makes it much easier to keep track of the little Mouseketeers in the low lighting around the World Showcase during Illuminations. Our last FastPass of the trip held our spots for Illuminations and the cold drove us back to indoor attractions as we waited. Back to visit the Phoenicians! Then after a quick potty break, we grabbed some much apprectiated hot cocoa at the Fountain View Starbucks and headed out to watch my favorite of all the Disney night time spectulars.
Y’all. It was cold! Sitting in the warmth of a torch when I normally avoid them (who needs heating in Florida?), the kids loved every bit of it.
The park closing, we headed to the restroom on the way out then dawdled over the glowing sidewalks under the righthand side of Spaceship Earth. We silently followed the crowds out between the Leave-A-Legacy monoliths. Halfway through the entrance plaza, we turned around to wave and say, “Goodbye Walt Disney World!”
I know, it’s blurry and wobbly. I found myself consoling a very sad, very tired little mouseketeer. Thankfully, she fell asleep in my arms as we joined the bus line and headed back to our hotel.
Grateful that the next morning involved sleeping in, I tucked Kylee, still asleep into bed, let Chris shower and popped him in bed. Then I took a long hot soak.
After months of people questioning my sanity for attempting to take two kids to Walt Disney World with no other adults, I survived, the kids survived and the three mouseketeers not only survived, but “did everything (that we wanted to do) at Walt Disney World.” And loved it!
With our bags packed, tagged and dropped off to the Magical Express kiosk, breakfast beckoned. I double checked our tickets multiple times and the kids reflected on favorite rides and things they’d do different/the same/more next trip.
An hour after loading onto the magical express, we headed into the airport. Security contained E-ticket level lines without FastPass. I wish they planned for a little more time to get to the gate on the shuttles, because by the time we arrived at our gate, we had only a few minutes to swing by the restrooms before boarding. Too close for my taste.
Thankfully, the seatback contained free movies! This is perhaps the easiest flight I’ve ever taken with kids as both were too tired to do more than watch Big Hero 6 and nap.
Our airplane arrived on time, we found our luggage easily and headed off to wait for Ben to come pick us up. With that, my kids first really real trip to Walt Disney World (does a single day count?) was history.
Leaving behind nothing but laundry, memories and magic.
This is Part 18 the finale of the world’s longest ongoing Trip Report “The Three Mousekateers.”
Additional sections will be found on the Trip Reports page after they publish!
It seems like things just were flowing. Studies flew by easily. Appointments and hiking and playdates streamed together in an intricate dance without being either too overwhelming or too dull. Complacency set in.
Clearly after two years of homeschool, we hit that (as yet assumed mythical) stride of homeschooling.
And then there’s today.
Everything fell apart.
I stayed up to late last night, between reading and discovering a new to me show. (Did you know about HGTV Fixer Upper? Shout out to my mother in law for pointing out the awesome that is Chip and Joanna Gaines. Also I may want to move to Waco. )
So I slept in a bit and woke up close to six. Decided to put off a few chores and prep for the day. My son had some medical things going on, so that threw him off for the day and by the time we normally finished our classwork (or at least the lion’s share) and hit the gym, we only finished a read aloud chapter of The Horse and His Boy, a spelling test (which both kids aced) and a few meltdowns each. It became clear that this was one of THOSE days.
We snuggled it out and hugged and pushed the math aside.
Off to the gym we went, since we all needed the break.
My BFF promised to pray for me as did my Bible study team. After BodyFlow, the kids settled into starting their schoolwork and staring into space while I made lunch. No one got much done. Lunch wasn’t what one kid wanted and the other took over an hour to finish eating. It became clear that this was one of THOSE days.
School wouldn’t be done before our afternoon hike, but because I didn’t want to let the day turn into one of THOSE days, we went anyway. And had a marvelous time!
On the way home tired and sweaty and happy, both kids realized the insurmountable work they had left (roughly 90% of a day) and fell back into despair. So after snack with Mimi (courtesy of FaceTime) I sent one straight to showering and the other sat and worked through language arts. Ben texted me encouragement that I’m not the worst mom ever. Yay! Then I discovered yesterday one kid snuck incomplete vocabulary activities into their work folder…yep, it’s one of THOSE days.
I cried. They cried. They did eventually finish their school for the day (and yesterday).
But not before missing out on our regular movie/pizza/pajama night. I hopped in a warm bath after putting the kids to bed early. Dad came home late (not because it’s one of THOSE days, just because it’s his Bible study night hence the longstanding movie/pizza/pajama night).
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
― L.M. Montgomery
Thankfully today is almost over.
Today, despite being “one of THOSE days” we enjoyed snuggles, good times with good friends, a new trail through the nature preserve, prayers and the opportunity to practice not taking THOSE days quite so personally.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
In a strange way, I feel closer to God and my kids and more peaceful after a challenging day than an easy day. On an easy day, it’s hard to remember that I can’t do it all on my own. I’m tempted to do life under my power and take credit for the blessings. On a hard day, it’s easy to remember that I can’t do it all on my own, to turn to others, be thankful for the bright spots and pray.
I started looking through my closet and in the interest of tidying up, I started to pull out a few items here and there that hadn’t seen the light of day in the better part of several years.
I swept through my office/homeschool room and pulled some things we no longer needed.
Grabbed a few toys I’d forgotten we ever purchased.
Then headed off to donate two large bags.
Then searched Pinterest (it’s always Pinterest that seems to get me in over my head) for “organizing ideas.” With all this new found space (or so I thought) and no desire to lose it, I stumbled upon the KonMari method of tidying.
I might be a little late to the game. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo released in English back in 2014. Following a simple premise, this quick read (also available as a free audiobook on Hoopla) puts forth an unbelievable claim: tidying, when done properly, is not a daily thing, but rather a special event and can change your life forever.
While the first section dives into various psychological reasons you can’t keep your house in order (laziness, hoarding, emotions) it is straightforward and light.
Six Steps to Rock KonMari
Commit Yourself to Tidying
Imagine the Finished Product
Finish Discarding First
Tidy by Category (Not by Room)
Work in the Proper Order (Clothes, Books, Papers, Komono – Japanese for Miscellaneous and Sentimental Items)
Ask “Does it Spark Joy?”
While many parts of the book are very helpful others didn’t jive as well with me. While I did Kondo all of my clothes in one fairly dramatic swoop, I didn’t talk to my clothes during the process. (I prefer to thank God for my material blessings rather than my socks for their service.) I refuse to bulk discard my family member’s belongings without their opinion. (It seems unloving and it’s a great opportunity to teach my children discernment.) I took plenty of breaks to feed, read and play with my kids. (Because I’m a homeschool mom so they’re here all the time.)
Working in the order prescribed allows you to work from items that there are physically and volumetrically more of to less. Much like Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball, the “proper order” let’s you get a bit of momentum. You rid your home of larger groups first (which leaves a visible payoff) then work your way to harder but physically smaller items.
Despite staying on top of outgrown clothes and toys and things that the kids decide they’d like to give away (one cabinet is exclusively for stowing outgrown items until amassing enough for a trip) three days of sporadically sorting through everything under the roof produced more 30L bags of clothes and toys and komono than I imagined fit in my entire house. It took many trips to finish donating all the bags.
The one rule?
If it manages to spark joy, keep it. Otherwise, don’t.
My seven-year old daughter, who tends toward hoarding, thanked me today because she loved her new cleaner room. During the tidying of her room, she discovered that while she liked almost all of her things, only about a third spark joy. It became a game to her.
Clothes that don’t suit me, gifts never used, accessories I no longer loved and just plain volume of items that I need to dust, sort and pick around (even when stored or hung ever so neatly) cause a fair amount of stress.
Seems obvious when it’s put in print.
Five trips to drop off donations, several sessions with the kids and their toy bins, and a full recycling and garbage bin later, we mostly completed our trip to the land of KonMari. After a few days, despite the rather shocking amount of our belongings culled, I’ve yet to miss any of it. Cleaning is easier. Putting things back after using them is ridiculously much easier. Getting dressed is easier. Finding things is easier.
The best part of the amazingly relieving and freeing process is getting rid of the emotional baggage that comes with all the things.
At the very least, it forced my to really take a good look around and see how ridiculously blessed I am and re-evaluate my priorities.
I only wish I’d done proper before and after photos of the entire house rather than just the round of Christopher’s toys.
After weeks of prep and slowly easing into homeschool when those first few days turn to weeks and months, you finally embrace the inevitable. You are a homeschooler.
You Know You’re a Homeschooler When…
The librarian knows you on sight and your children know the different children’s librarians.
And they have a favorite.
The favorite librarian prompts them on sight to check out the new “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…” book, hands them their reserved books and sends them with a smile to search the shelves.
You might be a homeschooler if a broken bone turns into a field trip.
The patient with the broken toe loves the process of getting an x-ray and wants to discuss the difference between different types of fractures (spiral, impacted or greenstick) with the radiologist. The attending and the nurse both spend most of their time in the room explaining various tests and tools to the patient. The patient is given his x-rays on disc to take home and check out on his own time. The patient is 8.
You might be a homeschooler if you learn to pick your battles in new and more extreme ways.
No weapons on the table? Non-negotiable.
The rest of the Jedi/Pirate/Robin Hood outfit? Totally acceptable school clothing.
You know you’re a homeschooler when you help friends address concerns about homeschooling, socialization and curriculum choices. When you recite all the prepositions in alphabetical order and juggle multiple grades of math and spelling without breaking a sweat. When the very things you once worried about as a fledgling homeschooler now amuse you. When the reasons to homeschool pile up. When you love new bookshelves and school supplies more than new clothes. When your homeschool mom friends are your best friends. When learning never really stops. When your kids “hate” school work…but only count math drill as school work and the rest of writing, reading, foreign language, typing, experiments and learning new things is a natural, fun part of life.
When you look forward to your third box day as much (or more!) than Christmas…that’s when you know you’re a homeschooler.
I know I need to work it in and that my kids love getting sweaty, working out and losing their wiggles.
I’m happier too, come to think of it.
The current CDC recommendations call for at least 60 minutes of activity for all children and adolescents every day. Three days a week should be vigorous at least three days a week while the other days, moderate activity is fine. What do you do when the kids bore of the standard “go outside and play”?
Fortunately, as many ways to work up a good sweat exist as families. To start your homeschool PE off with a bang this fall, I leave you with the best 50 Homeschool PE Ideas EVER! (That I came up with in under fifteen minutes.)
Skip to My Lou – or any other song. Putting music on and having a spontaneous dance party is a wonderful way to quit taking myself so seriously.
Climb a Tree
Climb a Fence
Climb a Hill
Whatever this is:
Help a Friend
Sort the Laundry
Clean the Gutters
Mow the Lawn
Take out Trash
Take out Litter
Take out the Family – We love walking around our local downtown and parks. They are beautiful close and free and as soon as the weather cools off, we’ll be right back out there.
Back Stroke – Any kind of swimming will work. The kids exhaust themselves quickly compared to land based exercises. We live near an excellent YMCA with an indoor temperature controlled pool, so this is a fun add-in year round.
Bear Crawling – Alternate this and crab walking as races around the house on rainy days.
Trampoline – If you don’t have one (we don’t) look out for groupon or other discounts to the indoor places. Again excellent on rainy days.
Go to the Zoo
Hide and Seek
Soccer- Many areas have homeschool leagues during the school day.
That’s enough to get started with your homeschool PE.
What ways do your kids like to burn off their wiggles?
Another passion we stumbled upon this summer is a deep-seated love of drama in both children. It turns out that in trying so hard not to push them into musical theatre (which I loved and still love) neither child tried anything beyond church choir until a friend suggested a local Christian theatre. Camp Lion Kingdom exceeded any and all expectations. Simultaneously encouraging their flair for the dramatic and their love for God.
They sang, they danced, they acted, they bought the t-shirt. Then they arrived back home after the show and collapsed into bed. Then they woke the next morning eager to reenact large portions of the musical. Over time, this turned into reenacting bits of The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Providentially, the Houston NYT‘s fall schedule of drama classes features Narnia, Jr., so after a bemused smile from my husband (he never says “I told you so” but rather beams like the Cheshire Cat) the kids signed up. My kids both look forward to engaging with the land of Narnia and recreating the adventures of Aslan and his followers.
In the meantime, I’m optimistic that the children fall in love with our next movie night, (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, of course!)
Does your family love to homeschool with Narnia?
How do you incorporate drama into your homeschool schedule?
I love the crisp beautifully staged back to school photos that come flooding onto Facebook each fall. The cute printables declaring it’s the first day of fourth grade or kindergarten. The cheerful faces and fresh school supplies are nearly irresistible!
I decided to put my spin on the back to school printable by applying a little irreverent humor and some of my family’s favorites. All downloads are free! I’d love for you to tag @Adventurer_Mom on tweets or @AdventurerMom on Facebook if you use the printable for your back to school photos this year.
Second Day of School (Mom Forgot Pictures)
I love when you’re sitting on social media cruising through all af the adorable first day of school photos only to find a post where a mom realizes in the rush of first day preparations, she forgot to take pictures.