Teach Them Diligently Convention: A Recap

Last weekend I strapped Asher in his carseat and drove with some friends to the Teach Them Diligently Convention. Only, it wasn’t that easy, because homeboy hates his carseat like nobody’s business. So a quick drive over the mountain in between nursing sessions took much, much longer than it should have, but that’s besides the point.

This was my first homeschool conference to attend. I had no idea what to expect, but I was with good friends and I knew, if anything, I would have a great time with the girls…plus Asher. Lucky for me, Teach Them Diligently was fantastic. It really set the bar high for all future homeschool conferences I attend. The speakers were fantastic. The vendor hall was filled to the brim and then some (seriously, there was an overflow room!) For being a first year event, I was super impressed with the smoothness of things. It was a well-oiled machine!

I had the chance to sit in some fabulous sessions. God used some of them to pierce my heart and reveal things in my heart that needed to be left at the feet of Jesus. Other sessions filled me up and gave me the confidence to follow our convictions about homeschooling, even if we’re in the minority. I couldn’t get to all the sessions I wanted to go to because there were just too many on my list! Some I had to step out of early due to my adorable little sidekick.

I got to connect with other homeschool moms that I know from social media. How fun is that?!?! Some of the meet-ups were planned, but one in particular was completely orchestrated by God and probably the most encouraging for me. I met Jacque from The Grain Loft, a real-life reader of The MOB Society, and fellow adoptive mom. My heart was so encouraged by our meeting. Their adoption story is similar to ours (well, the beginning at least) and it was a pleasure to talk to her and her husband. It was kinda weird to have someone recognize my writing, but kinda cool at the same time.

I also got to meet Melanie Young from Raising Real Men and a fellow MOB Society writer. Listening to Melanie and her husband, Hal, during their Raising Real Men session was fabulous. I have long admired them and what they have to say about raising boys (they are practically experts with 6 boys and 2 girls). Their session, named after their book Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys, was a treasure trove of wisdom for parents of boys.

I got a chance to thumb through curriculum in the vendor hall. Picking curriculum is by far the most daunting thing to me right now about homeschooling and getting to look at things up close and personal was helpful. Although, at the same time, my indecision is getting the best of me still as I look over catalogs repeatedly. As a public school teacher, I never had the chance to choose curriculum…I don’t know what to do with this new found freedom! Although, I think I have narrowed it down to a few. We’re still praying over the decision.

One of the vendors that I met that blessed my heart was Kristi from Samuel L. Collins and the Search For Biblical Truths. She sent me home with a DVD for Jonah to watch & review and an encouraged heart. God used her speaking session to point my heart in the right direction when it comes to planning activities for Jonah. While the ABC’s and 123’s are important, I tend to get tunnel-vision when it comes to that sort of thing and forget that it isn’t all up to me. One of the things that I wrote down from this session in my notes was

“Where is God going to work when you have it all figured out already?”

Ouch. I’m so guilty of this. I think I have to have a plan and be in control, when really, God is already at work. Oh, this session was so good!

I know I’ll have lots more to say about Teach Them Diligently as I read over my notes and listen to the sessions that I missed. (My friends and I went in together to purchase them!) If they have it again next year, we’ll be going again for sure!

iHomeschool Studio | an online webinar with 4 days worth of popular homeschool speakers

Jonah’s Favorite Part of Vacation

Hands down.

Without a doubt.

The BEST part of vacation for Jonah…Swimming.

While he’s always loved the pool, this seems to be the year for confidence and independence in the water. He finally has the core muscle strength to hold himself up with the help of his Puddle Jumper Basic Life Jacket. Last year he would still flop over and land face-down in the water. Jonah also got brave enough to lay back and float….something he practiced alot!

floating http://happybrownhouse.com

I love watching him in the pool. Pure joy.

Daddy & Jonah http://happybrownhouse.com

And these two…

Daddy & Jonah 2 http://happybrownhouse.com

I can’t imagine life without them.

Bowling with Jonah

While we were visiting family in Florida last week, we enjoyed a new “First” with Jonah…Bowling! I’m not really sure why we’ve never thought to take him before, but I think he enjoyed it. He was so funny to watch. I’m super bummed that the majority of my pictures turned out blurry. I was trying to be respectful of the serious bowling league and not use a flash.

bowling http://happybrownhouse.com

Note to self: Bowling while 29 weeks pregnant is probably NOT the best idea. However, bowling with the “bumpers” up makes it easier. :)

Can I just tell you the name of the bowling alley? Kegel Bowling Center. Every time we drove passed it I giggled and cracked jokes. (Why yes, I AM a teenager stuck in a 30 year old body!)

Disney World on a Budget

I received an email from April and thought I would include my answer on the blog for anyone else who might be wondering the same thing.

April wrote:
I was just reading your vacation blog and wondered, how do you budget a trip for WDW and not miss anything??? Help me out, would ya. Thanks.

The BUDGET….sigh. Trust me, it can be done! Here are just a few of my frugal Disney vacation ideas…

Planning:
I used Mousesavers alot! They have lots of info on the website so be prepared to read. They also have a section of free/cheap things to do at Disney. I think we could have done more from this list and still been happy. Then again, we have an almost 3 year old that is pretty easy to entertain.

We borrowed a book from a friend to help us plan some things out (The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) It is a huge book with tons of info and I got a little overwhelmed by it all. It covers everything you could ever think of asking about Disney trips. From a comprehensive description of every ride to tips from readers, this book has it all. I loved reading up on the rides to see which ones would be appropriate for Jonah’s age. It also pointed out any potentially scary things for Jonah.

Another website to check out is WDWinfo. Once again, this website has tons of information on planning. I liked reading the message boards on this site to glean from the “pros”.

Food:
If you’ve been reading the blog for very long, you know that I “coupon”. We took food from our cabinets for breakfast and lunch. All we had to get were refrigerated things (milk, lunch meat, fruit, etc). The great thing about Jonah right now is that he prefers Peanut Butter & Jelly over most things so his lunch was easy! We packed our lunches and drinks in a soft sided cooler I found at Walmart for $30 and stuck it under the stroller. I packed snacks in our backpack that I wore. We didn’t buy anything in the park. We had already decided this long before leaving and had it set in our minds. (I think this is hardest part of budgeting–the mental battle!)

I have heard from friends that they love getting the meal plan. One friend even told me that part of the “magic” of Disney was eating in the restaurants. While this may be true, we knew that we could do it for cheaper and still have full tummies. This is really a personal choice for individual families.

We used a gift card to eat at Chili’s one night….Definitely not our first choice for Disney ambience, but the cheapest choice for us. We only had to pay a difference of $8. I’ll take those savings! The Chili’s was very close to Disney & our hotel. They had a balloon animal guy working for tips and he entertained us. So in the end, we had a great dinner! No complaints here!

You could always use Restaurant.com (get on their email list and wait to buy until they are 80% off–gift certificates are good for a year) I wasn’t really familiar with Downtown Disney restaurants before hand, but found out that some of the restaurants take Restaurant.com certificates! (Don’t forget to read the fine print on what you have to order at the restaurant)

Souvenirs:
I found some “glow sticks/bracelets” in the Target Dollar Spot and bought them. I took them in my bag for the Spectro-Magic/Electric Light Parade at the Magic Kingdom. Jonah had light-up bracelets, but I didn’t have to pay the park price. I even shared with some of the people around us that we made friends with while waiting on the parade to start. Considering there were atleast 15 in the pack for $1…I think this was a fantastic way to save!

We took tons of pictures! I will use the photo deals I find out about in the near future to print out pictures of our trip and place them in a book for Jonah to look through.

There are shopping outlets close to Disney. There is a store with Disney CLEARANCE items from the park! The outlet store’s name is Disney Character Premiere. Be forewarned this is just like any other clearance rack….it will be “hit or miss” on the items you find. We found a Toy Story shirt for Jonah for $6. Much better than the original price!

There is a place in Downtown Disney by Winnie the Pooh Corner and Rainforest Cafe that you can find cheaper souvenirs. It is basically an alley and everything is under $10.

My thoughts on souvenirs….
Will it be worn? Will it be used? Will I be disappointed if I get home and don’t have this? Then it might be a good choice for you…

Will it end up in the back of a closet? Will it end up in the donation/yard sale pile? Will this be gone after eating? Is it useful or is it just another tchotchke? Then it probably isn’t a good choice….

I hope that helps everyone! Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll try to answer! Feel free to add your tips in the comments to help April!

P.S.–As far as lodging while at Disney, I can’t really help you out. My dad is a Disney Vacation Club member and used some of his points for us. We (and our tight budget) were SO blessed by this! Thank you so much Dad!

10 Random Thoughts on Vacation

  1. What’s the point of cleaning before you leave? As soon as you return and the suitcase explodes, you’re back at square one.
  2. It is always 10 degrees hotter inside Disney World. The minute we stepped out of the park the temperature dropped atleast 10 degrees.
  3. I think I sweat more than the average woman. Seriously. It’s gross.
  4. It never failed. Jonah fell asleep on the ride to the hotel and woke up wide awake as I tried to put him in bed for a nap.
  5. Going to Disney World with an active, independent toddler can be interesting, challenging, frustrating, and then some.
  6. One of these days, Ray and I will go and ride the adult rides and skip the carousel.
  7. It CAN be done on a budget without feeling like you missed out on things! Woohoo!
  8. Sometimes you just have to break the “rules” and let your toddler go swimming after getting back from fireworks for 10 minutes to keep the peace. Besides, at the point, does it really matter anymore?
  9. It takes MUCH longer to get back to your hotel room from the park than you thought it would.
  10. Sleeping in my own bed rocks!

A Day Trip to Disney World

My dad lives a short 90 minute drive away from Disney World. We obviously had to take advantage of that on our trip!

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Jonah loved the parade! The chipmunks gave him high-fives and he thought he was hot stuff. He got to see some of his favorite characters, including Woody from Toy Story.

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We rode the teacups 3 times…and he still wanted to go back for more! He was so funny!

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Jonah earned his “Mouse Ears” and we had his name embroidered for a keepsake. We also got Jonah’s silhouette made. Both of these are family traditions for your first trip to Disney. It was Ray’s first trip too, but he declined both keepsakes.

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Jonah did great with a long, fun-filled day at Disney. He rode in the stroller when asked without getting upset (he’s so independent these days!) and walked through the lines without too much trouble. I had him in a harness/leash so he could walk independently without getting lost in the crowd even though I always swore I wouldn’t use one before I was a mother. Every time we got off a ride Jonah would ask, “What’s next?” The only melt down was in the car after we left the park…as a result of being utterly exhausted.

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We can’t wait to go back this summer and visit again for our “big” family trip. Jonah’s already asked us over and over about seeing Mickey Mouse. I have a feeling it will be a long wait until June!

Children’s Museum of Sebring

Even though my dad lives in a small Florida town with the majority of the population being senior citizens, there is a small, but charming children’s museum. What a great find for us!

I loved that it was a community effort. Each “exhibit” was sponsored by businesses in the community. For instance, the building exhibit was sponsored by a local building company. The Fire Hall exhibit was sponsored by the Fire & Rescue Squad. The Grocery Store exhibit was sponsored by Publix (my favorite place to shop!)The museum was operated mainly by volunteers. It just goes to show that when communities come together you can have great things available no matter the size of the town!

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I have to say that as a former Kindergarten teacher I was impressed. Even though lots of things were handmade, they did a great job of addressing the needs of children. One of my teacher pet-peeves was addressed and there was lots of environmental print for the children to interact with! Well done Children’s Museum of Sebring! We had a great morning exploring!