Category Archives: Smith Family Updates

Anxiety and depression are no joke

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I talked about perimenopause in my last post. But I need to talk some more about some specific symptoms today….

I dealt with the blues in my adolescence and early 20s, now and then….And I’ve always been a bit of a worrier…nothing really serious. But this stuff that perimenopause is throwing at me is “fer really real,” y’all. I had no idea what this really felt like until now. I’ve read and heard about depression and anxiety for years….but WOW. I am impressed. This is some serious stuff.

It doesn’t help that the last 6 months or so have thrown me some life experiences that have seriously rocked my world. And one after another, with very little break. I’m not sure I’d handle it any better if I was NOT dealing with all these hormones. It’s pretty intense.  But to throw them at me while I’m going through the turmoil of perimenopause and all that she has to dish up to me daily…that’s just not fair.

Come on, life, cut a mom a break, will ya??

This is a time when I need to surround myself with my closest friends, and that circle is shrinking. But I am so extremely grateful for the ones that have been there for me…even though I must tire them with my unloading. (I mean what I say, friends…You MUST RECIPROCATE and unload on me too soon! I WANT YOU TO! Friendship is 2 ways, ya know…I am here for you guys too. Actually I feel like I probably would be better for someone else than for myself right now. It would be nice to think of someone else’s problems for a change.)

Seriously, these friends, and they know who they are, mean the WORLD to me.

And my husband. Oh my husband. He’s my lifeline. Seriously. I have the world’s best hubby.  He is there for me. He loves me completely, and I feel it. And maybe even more importantly during all this…he makes me laugh daily.

And my kids…they are my life. I live for them when things get rough like this. I live for making their lives better. And they make MY life better. They need a whole mom, and dammit, that’s what I’m going to give them. It just will take awhile to figure out how to do that again.

And my brother. Second only to my husband in my life. Thank you, bro, for always being there for me. I tear up when I think of it.

And my parents….oh the crap I’ve made them listen to me whine about over the years…so patient, so loving. More tears. I love you guys.

 

So I have finally seen a doctor, and I have hope that I’m finally going to get the help that I so very much need right now.  A referral to a therapist is happening. Finally. And there may be anti-depressants in my future. In the meantime, I am searching the net for ways to cope.

And what I found is that there are actually a lot of homeschooling moms that are educating their kids while struggling with depression.  That is oddly comforting to me.

And since I always have a very strong need to share my feelings…to get them out…because it feels oh so much better…I thought I’d write this blog post to try to get a little out. And then also to give a heads up to what’s going on with me, why Noodle Homeschool and the Savvy Homeschool Moms podcast have been so often on hiatus these past 6 months or more…and maybe my post might help someone else not feel alone. Because that’s how those other posts out there about homeschooling with depression have made me feel.

I’m not going to go into it all here, though…because there’s some personal stuff that I don’t feel like airing my dirty laundry about. And some of it I am not allowed to share, as there are loved ones whose privacy would be at risk.  And those parts aren’t for me tell. They are their stories, and I’m just along for the painful ride. Trying to help where I can, while keeping myself together, worrying about them, and dealing with my own life events. GAH.

But suffice it to say that my world lately has pretty much been a roller coaster of events and emotions, and sprinkled into the mix, the feelings of having the hope and joy ripped from my embrace unkindly.  Replaced by feelings of sadness, anxiousness, fear, and flat out RAGE. Yay.

But I’m a survivor. And I know there will be light at the end of this miserable tunnel and I’m determined to get there. So for now, I will follow the advice I’m reading online….I will make short to-do lists to check off so I can finally feel accomplished. I will cherish the NOW, and just do the NEXT THING. I will get outside into nature more because that means so much to me personally. It’s always been so uplifting and energizing. I will try to get more exercise. I will try to give my children the opportunities to experience the fun that I am incapable of currently giving them. I will listen to my iTunes playlist of “calming music” that helps center me. I will laugh with my husband and kids daily, because I can’t not. They are just that weird.  And when the time is right, I will unburden this pain in my heart to the appropriate people…even if it’s just to a therapist and my husband.

If you’re also struggling with anxiety and depression while homeschooling, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Misery loves company, ya know. We are not alone. We can still provide a quality education for our children, despite these setbacks…and we will get past the low times. I know we will. Right now I just am aiming for getting a day without these crushing feelings of overwhelm and sadness.

One. day. at. a. time.  It will happen. I know this.  And until then…thank you for having patience with me.

P.S. These articles helped me…maybe they will help you too:
And the overwhelming amount of comments on these articles makes me feel like there’s a LOT of us out there dealing with this. It’s sad, but comforting.

Homeschooling with depression: The hardest part of Shawna’s homeschool year

 

Homeschooling with Depression, Part I – Survival Tips

 

 

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Homeschooling with Perimenopause

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Oh, my life.

If you are going through this too, I SO want to hear from you in the comments. Maybe we should start a Facebook group for us. This is HARD.

I have always been an emotional person, prone to perhaps overreacting a bit. But I also have always been a very positive person. My husband was always the pessimist while I was the eternal optimist. There was very little in my life that could knock me on my butt once I made it out of adolescence and my emotional 20s. I was pretty rock solid. Usually. My mom’s cancer, my dad’s car accident, that sort of serious stuff would knock me for a serious (understandable) loop…but in general, my life was pretty consistently stable emotionally.

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The look on my face when I’m trying to keep my grip on reality!

NOT so anymore. Thanks to perimenopause.

I feel like I’m losing my grip on reality these days, guys! So much time spent down in the dumps, stressed, depressed, anxious…EVERYTHING freaks me out and this constant low-grade feeling of stress is wearing me DOWN.

It is making homeschooling damned near impossible.

Stressful situations that I would probably in the past have taken in stride…I was usually pretty good at handling stuff like that…are now seriously knocking me on my butt in a big way.

And I know this is totally hormones and not normal for me. And I know this won’t last forever. But it doesn’t help knowing that.

Hubby & I at the Magic Kingdom last week
Hubby & I at the Magic Kingdom last week…happier times

It doesn’t help that lately I have some really serious stuff going on with pretty much every member of my immediate family. From my husband, each of my children and both of my parents…everyone has serious stuff going on that keep alternating and worrying me and some of them even freaking me out…the latest and most serious and scary with my mom….who had triple bypass surgery 2 months ago, a heart attack a week ago, and just a few days ago during our Disneyland vacation was taken by ambulance from the park to a nearby hospital because of totally separate heart issues…long story but she ended up eventually being fine and we got her back home (only after some major drama at the hospital, ay yi yi) and she again had problems so as soon as we got home we had to take her to our local hospital where she stayed overnight til they got her straightened out. GOOD GAWD, enough with the drama!! This was just this past couple days! It’s been a ROUGH week! I haven’t yet fully recovered emotionally. But I know that’s my hormones holding onto things.

And her issues are the most serious, but there’s other stuff that is happening with other loved ones as well and other stuff in MY life as well… that I won’t go into (though nothing else is life-threatening, thankfully, but VERY stressful)… the list is pretty long…that cause me to be in a constant state of stress nearly 24/7. We make it to a calm place for a bit and something else will happen. Because most of these things are ongoing. ARGH.

I KNOW others have it worse. I KNOW this. But that doesn’t lessen MY stress or make my emotions any less difficult to deal with.  If you’re like me and feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed because you know someone that has it much worse–DON’T. I’m giving you permission right now (and myself) to FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL. Because just because someone else has it worse than you doesn’t make what you are feeling invalid!! And don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise!!

So…homeschooling…hasn’t really been happening as planned lately, needless to say.

We’ve talked about homeschooling during chronic illness on the Savvy Homeschool Moms show…but I’m starting to wonder if we should maybe do a show about homeschooling during times of extreme stress. Because my entire life has been this way for MONTHS now, and I don’t see an end in sight…not with perimenopause whipping everything that happens into a tizzy for me. THANKS PERI! (Although, admittedly, a lot of this stuff actually is pretty serious, so it’s understandable.)

If you follow our show, this is why our show hasn’t been happening lately. I just can’t. I’m just trying to hold it together right now. Being on the verge of a breakdown regularly is all I can handle right now. Keeping it together and trying to function for my kids.

It’s perimenopause, I KNOW it’s the hormones making everything worse than it really is. But DAMN.

I have a local friend going through the same thing, and is also homeschooling…so I think it’s time for more girl time with her. We take comfort in each other, I think. Misery loves company.

Also time for another doctor’s appt to see if there’s something more that I could be doing to help myself.

In the meantime…I’ve always found that writing helps me. So I am blogging here today and I will also journal more intimate things. And music. Need more music in my life.

And I also find that nature is a big healing thing for me…so it’s time for me to take my kids out on some nature hikes. Especially now that it’s FINALLY cooled down here in the Central Valley.

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My son in the green/yellow kayak.
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My daughter kayaking recently.

 

We did go on a short kayaking field trip recently…so that was fun. We need more of that.

 

 

I have found that, for me, homeschooling takes a back seat during times of extreme stress. I just have to handle the immediate issues and emotional health of myself and those around me…and focus on us. Math can wait. I just cannot handle too many things at once and I’m just trying to find a happy place again right now for myself and my children.

My kids & I getting ready to go "under water" on the Nemo ride at Disneyland
My kids & I getting ready to go “under water” on the Nemo ride at Disneyland

The kids seem to be doing ok, but I do need to check in with them this week and see what they need because this Disneyland trip was a mixed bag. Fun and stressful.

Perhaps we all need a good cry and go sit out under some trees and just be with nature for awhile. My (newly) 16yr old will need to draw, my 11yr old will need to run and play with friends. I just need to have quiet time to calm down and new, happy things to distract me.

tinasadventureslgThankfully, I do have a new source of joy in my life: my new business, Tina’s Adventures. Fun field trips for homeschoolers. I started it so I could earn some money to finally get my kids out of the house and take them cool places. And so far I’m really enjoying pulling it all together and all the logistics of it. I like doing this sort of thing, these sorts of details of planning group trips…so that will be where I will focus my attention to bring myself the joy I need right now. Get my attention away from the hormonally enhanced anxiety and depression. It helps.

And somehow I have to get my kids back on a schedule this week. THAT will be “fun”. As an ADHDr, I’ve always been schedule challenged…so…it’s always a struggle. So I’ll be looking forward to that challenge…NOT.

At least our homeschool charter program is doing some fun stuff this week, so that will help, I think. Less for me to have to do.

My birthday is this week, on the 11th. I’ll be 46. I’m like 50% grey at this point and showing my age and embracing it. I am totally cool with being this close to 50 and ready for whatever is next. If I can just make it through perimenopause, I think I’ll be ok.

I’m sure most of you out there are dealing with your own levels of stress in your lives…how do you deal with homeschooling while dealing with all these emotions and stress? I’d sure love to hear your techniques! I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out for myself.

I know that what DOESN’T work for me is a super busy schedule. That makes things much MUCH worse for me. So I try to keep our lives as simple as possible. Less stress.

So for me: SIMPLIFY THINGS is a big help. Also nature, fresh air, etc. And journaling. And talking it out with friends and family when things get really bad. And music.

What do YOU do to help your homeschooling and mental stability during stressful times??

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I reject your reality and substitute my own

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i-reject-your-reality

I feel like I am living this….Everything around me is running a zillion miles an hour and I HATE that lifestyle with a PASSION…and find myself, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes consciously, rejecting this lifestyle. Things speed up around me and I often find a way to slow things down without even trying…many times unconsciously.

That go-go-go lifestyle that is so common in our culture? EX.HAUSTS.ME. I want a slower lifestyle, and I am so exhausted from fighting our culture and the tendency to keep piling everything on top of everything. Even in homeschooling!

Many days, I would rather just stay home and veg.
And we do.

Don’t get me wrong…there are plenty of things out of the house that I want to do…travel, explore nature, have fun with friends/family, that sort of thing…I am not a total homebody.
I just prefer a slower pace.

My family is much like me. They would rather stay home and veg, or create things or enjoy a lazy day together. NOT run all over the place every friggin day!

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I’m so tired from fighting this lifestyle…to keep things off of OUR schedule, and hoping friends will find time in THEIR busy schedules for us. Even among homeschoolers it’s quite common.

As homeschoolers we have the opportunity to slow down and let our kids set the pace (I suppose some kids would set a hectic pace, but I tend to think most kids would not, if given the chance…) and yet so many homeschoolers continue our culture’s break-neck speed, just with home education instead. I suppose if that works for them, more power to them.

For our family, we’ll pick and choose our activities very sparingly, as we feel inclined. We are not hermits, we do like to get out and about.

I am turning 46 in less than a month and am in the throes of perimenopause and all the ups and downs of hormones, so I am finding that I don’t deal as well with all these threats to our family peace as I used to. I’ve become the grumpy one…wishing the world would slow down and enjoy life more.

I just started a homeschool field trip business, “Tina’s Adventures” to host field trips for homeschoolers in the Central Valley, CA… and that will be a lot of fun, I think, because I can pick and choose all the destinations that I want our family to experience…*I* will be the one in control of the schedule and destinations. This works for me. And I can get my kids and husband involved in the decision making so it works for them. Seemed like a good way to get us out more, yet on OUR terms, vs being pulled in multiple directions by all the stuff going on around us. I can create the life I want, and invite people along (and make some much-needed money in the process!)  🙂

I listened to a podcast recently and one of the hosts talked about her “Year of Nope“. Just saying no to things, to keep her family’s schedule manageable. Yep, that’s my life. Not just a year of it…I think I’ve done this always. Not always consciously. But I have 4 people in my family (every single one of us), that just don’t like to be BUSY all the time. I don’t think it’s healthy, and *I* just hate it. Short stints of it when necessary, sure…but not as a lifestyle. NOPE.

I reject that reality and substitute my own, slower pace. 

 

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Enjoying Nature with My Kids

Enjoying nature with my kids

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SCICON Outdoor SchoolYears ago, I worked as an intern at SCICON Outdoor School (aka “The Clemmie Gill School of Science and Conservation”) in the foothills of eastern Tulare County, CA. In fact, it was where I met my husband, Adam. It was a FANTASTIC experience. Seriously life changing.

For one school year I worked 10-12 hour (or more) days, hiking around in the woods, leading instructional trails, teaching 6th grade kids all about science and nature by putting them in contact with real live, hands-on learning. It was a BLAST! And I was never in better shape, both physically and mentally! You can’t help but be that healthy when you are hiking that much every day and your backyard is the woods and a robust gurgling creek and your neighbors are a wide assortment of wildlife! It was A-MAZ-ing.

Scicon Outdoor School entrance
Front entrance to SCICON Outdoor School, on a cloudy day

But don’t get me wrong…it was also VERY HARD. Did you notice I said 10-12 hour days of WORK? Yes. And often longer. Because the program went into the night. The trails…Skytrail/plant & animal communities, quartz mine/geology, birding, aquatics, astronomy/planetarium, and more…ended before nightfall but then the evening activities began. Campfire, Night hikes, Astronomy, Folk Dance, and Cabin Challenges filled our evenings…not to mention when you had the duty of being the “Village Chief”, in charge of an entire village full of cabins full of children for 24 hours during weekdays (usually 100-150 6th graders plus a dozen or so teen counselors…and yes, there were occasions when you were awaken at night by sick or homesick kids.)

Nearly every night of my 10 months at SCICON I would fall, exhausted into my bed…especially when it was my turn to be “Skytrail” guide….skytrail

Skytrail was the toughest trail: an all-day trail because it was 2 and a half miles one way, gaining 1500 feet in elevation! But it was SO worth it as the view from the top was amazing! (And you got to see the hermit’s cabin and flagpole…the stuff of legends! All the kids raved about it!) And then you still had to come back down!! Imagine doing that with a trail group of 10-15 whiny kids and a couple teen counselors! Yeah…not an easy task, lemme tell ya! skytrail2

My first Skytrail trail group, at the top!
My first Skytrail trail group, at the top, near the hermit’s cabin.
Skytrail trail group, at the top, near the hermit's flagpole
Skytrail trail group, at the top, near the hermit’s flagpole. (I’m the one on the left, in the white hat.)

And as Skytrail guide, you did that 2-3 times a week! We loved it but it was HARD! (I even had some crazy friends that did half day trips and did double Skytrail days where they did 2 runs in one day sometimes! They were NUTS, I tell ya!! LOL! But we did have some series nature freaks in our group, LOL!)
I canNOT say enough about this program! I LOVED it. And learned SO MUCH! About myself, about teaching, about nature, science, and especially about leading. It forced me out of my comfort zone in so very many ways. I am very grateful for my experiences there.

ANYWAY…this year SCICON had their first ever reunion of interns and staff! It was SO MUCH FUN!! For 4 days we got to hang out with people I’ve not seen in nearly 20 years! And meet people that worked at SCICON from so many years, all the way back to the 70s!! People traveled to the reunion from all over the U.S.! Friends of mine came from Colorado, Idaho and Alaska! Other people came from other states…and I even heard of another woman there that came all the way from Argentina! That’s how much SCICON means to people! We all are bonded by our deep connection with this AMAZING place we all love!

2016 SCICON Reunion: Some of the 1990s interns and staff and families
2016 SCICON Reunion: Some of the 1990s interns and staff and families. I’m in the Doctor Who tshirt behind the lady in the purple jacket in front. My hubby is right behind me. My kids are higher in the tree.

It was so neat to reconnect with people I worked with at SCICON and meet their families!  We had SO MUCH FUN!! They did a lot of the same fun activities that we used to do when we all worked there…campfire, night hikes (sadly, we got there too late the first night to participate in this), folk dance/line dancing, hermit story, and hiking! Of course we hiked! We even went up Skytrail! Well…my daughter and I did…my son got sick just as we were getting ready to head up…and my hubby was already not feeling well so they stayed below and my 15yr old and I made it to the top. Great workout! We were quite sore afterwards, but it was a good sore! Hiking in nature never feels like a chore to me, not like exercising at home.

Below are the pics from our FANTASTIC adventure at SCICON!! I seriously hope they do it again because it was SUCH an amazing experience that we all were saying that they HAVE to do it again!

My kids definitely benefited from being out in nature. They transform every time we are able to get out of the city and out into nature. It reminds me every single time we are able to do it that I NEED to do this more. I need to make time to get them out of our concrete jungle and out to explore nature, out to breathe in the fresh air and climb trees and play in the water and find the crawling critters and identify the flying things, and marvel at the adorable critters and wonder at every rock and plant…because THIS is what learning is. THIS is how to feed your soul. And we don’t do it anywhere near enough.

My soul was definitely fed during this return to SCICON, as it is every time we visit. And my children just love exploring nature, just like their mama. Definitely education at it’s finest.

I still have such warm fuzzy feelings…from the nature experience and from the time with friends, old and new. Can’t wait to do it again!

 

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Tina’s Nature Adventures are coming!!

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IMG_4407-0.JPGI don’t know why I didn’t think of doing this sooner. I guess I had a bit of an idea about something like this ages ago, but never took it to its full potential in my mind, so nothing ever came of it. Recently this seed of an idea was planted and it has bloomed in a very exciting way and now I am extremely excited and I think it could really work!!

It all started recently when I was lamenting (as I am known to do) the fact that it will be ages before we ever can afford to purchase the land I dream of having, so that we can have property to take groups on nature trails.This is a long time dream of mine, since I used to lead educational trails at an outdoor school years ago and have long dreamed of having a beautiful piece of property in nature somewhere, making a living off of running similar trails on my own land. skytrail

My husband off-handedly made a comment that completely changed my perspective and I am still in shock because usually he’s the annoying voice of reason, squashing my dreams (well, that’s generally how I take his input, lol!)

He said: “Why can’t you rent space from someone?”

Suddenly my mind started whirring. Why CAN’T I use someone else’s space? Why does it have to be my own? For that matter, why do I have to even RENT? Why can’t I take groups onto public land and lead trails there? Of course I will have to look into the legalities, but I’m pretty sure there are all sorts of tour groups that charge groups of people to take them on tours of Yosemite and other such trips in our area…I know I’ve seen them and never considered them since they are pricey.

So why can’t *I* do something similar for homeschoolers? Charge families to take them up to a public trail and lead the same kind of educational trails I learned how to do (and did quite well, and LOVED doing it) during my time at SCICON Outdoor School?
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And that got me thinking more…

If I do this, then I can have a heckuva lot more diversity than I would have on my own small piece of property…we could go ANYWHERE that people were willing to drive to. And living where I live, there are a LOT of national parks and forests within an hour or 2. Tons of lakes, rivers, forest, parks…hell, we have the giant redwoods nearby! We are not far from the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas and nature abounds, if we just drive an hour or so out…which we never do. (I’m disgusted with myself about that, believe me. We live about an hour and half from Yosemite and I’ve never taken my kids!)

Another thing I realized…I tend to bore of ideas pretty quickly. Maintaining activities is not easy for me and I tend to lose steam after just a few months or a year or so and then my enthusiasm wanes and I tend to drop things. If I waited until we had enough money to buy just the right land and do all I need to do to get this kind of biz up and running, how long will it be before I start to lose my excitement and am looking for the next cool idea? After investing tons of money and time and energy?

Knowing myself and how I am… Which I believe is a result of being a military kid, constantly moving and seeing new things. We had major moves throughout my entire childhood every 2-3 yrs (even international) and minor moves basically every year ( within the same area, just moving houses), so I crave change. I am starting to get the hang of how to keep things exciting and interesting for myself, now that I’ve lived with me so long, lol!! One thing I’ve learned is not to strap myself into something that tends to be more permanent and unchanging. Like I had the idea to create an indoor play place for kids but then I realized a permanent brick and mortar place like that would become like a prison for me over time…and I’d be stuck with it indefinitely! Not an easy business to move on from when I get tired of it!

And I cannot do long term classes that don’t have an ending….continuing month after month, year after year, with no end in sight. I did that with in-home “Mommy & Me” classes years ago…I loved doing the classes, but I realize now that short sessions would have worked better for me…so I could take breaks for some months when I’m just not feeling it…Change things up regularly.

So WHY was I still holding onto this idea of owning and living on a gorgeous bit of natural property where I’d run educational trails for groups for the rest of my life? Maybe a summer camp for variety, but really…that’s an enormous investment for something that I know from experience I will eventually lose interest in!

So now, this new idea…

I can arrange small groups for trips whenever I want…a month or more straight of weekly trails if I am feeling it…then schedule breaks wherever I want! I can run all different topics and I can choose from any number of locations! (Assuming that proves to be legal…if anyone knows the legalities of this, drop me a line!) I can mix it up regularly and do whatever I want, whenever I want, and there’s no massive monetary outlay to get going! BRILLIANT!! Why didn’t I think of this before??

And there’s another bonus: I can finally get my kids out into nature regularly! Can’t seem to get my butt moving on my own. Bad mama!! So excited by the possibilities here with weekly (or so) trips to some of these gorgeous areas around us!

And I’m GOOD at leading educational trails! I know my strengths and weaknesses well….weak on maintaining things that don’t provide enough diversity to keep my interest….STRONG on leading educational activities for kids!

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Beyond SCICON, I’ve done a TON of this sort of thing over the years…teaching preschool, running my mommy & me program, working at summer day camps,  leading annual trips to SCICON to teach about and share the salamander migration… teaching classes at a local kids science center…and most recently, leading activities and teaching occasional classes at my kids’ homeschool charter. (I have surprisingly few pics of me doing any of this.)

I ADORE this kind of work, and I’m GOOD at it!

salamander

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I think this could be a really fun thing that will allow me a lot of variety to keep my interest for some time, and bring us some much needed income!

So if you live in the Central Valley, California, keep your eye open for the new “Tina’s Nature Adventures”! I think I’ll be creating a webpage on my local family site, FresnoFamily.com eventually, once I get going on this.

For now, I’ve been digging out all my outdoor Ed and science and nature resources…going through old lesson plans, dusting them off and seeing how I could tweak to my current needs.

Another cool thing…I learned all about experiential outdoor education from my training and experience at SCICON, but I’ve since learned also about Charlotte Mason education, and I am really digging the idea of incorporating nature journals on my trails, alongside the fun games!

This could be the start of something life changing for the Smith family!

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