Can I ask you a big favor, homeschool mom?

Hiya friends!

I wanted to give you a head’s up that I am taking a little break from this space for a few weeks in order to have some fun with my kids, get sunburned, and read a lot of silly fiction.

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 4.44.16 PM

But I promise I am going to return full of ideas and all sorts of plans!

And in the meantime, Cait and I are going to keep recording podcasts for you.

I am also considering giving Periscope a shot.

Podcasting has already shown me that there is a wonderful, thriving community of fun homeschoolers out there, and I would love to connect with you guys in some new ways. So you can now find me on Periscope! My name is @quillandcamera.

I was thinking about doing a self-care series on there this summer – how does that sound?


I also wanted to ask you a super HUGE favor. If you have a minute and haven’t done it yet, I would love it if you would take my quick blog survey.

It’s really short, I promise! And when I come back, I want to come back with the stuff you need most to support you in your homeschooling journey.

**(The survey is now complete – thank you!)**

So until we meet again – have a super fun summer!

Much love,


Why it’s OK for you to keep learning too, mama

I sort of mentioned this on Monday, but we’re having a good time here with some informal summer learning.

And I’m learning a valuable lesson – for a long time, I felt like pursuing my own hobbies and interests sort of took away from homeschooling my kids.


But it’s the craziest thing – it turns out that it’s just the opposite. The more I learn, the more my kids are encouraged to follow their own passions.

So today, I’m talking about life-long learning over at Simple Homeschool.

From my post:

“I still love to learn.

I want my kids to have that, or rather, I want them to keep it – I don’t want them to lose it in middle school, especially since middle school starts for my son in the fall. And so I’ve spent a lot of time the past several months trying to figure out how to keep a love of life-long learning alive for my kids.”

I hope you’ll come over and say Hi!

Follow that trail – it will take you everywhere.

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Follow that trail

There have been times that I’ve worried that the rabbit trails were distracting us from the greater work of homeschooling.

You know – math or memorizing state capitals or something.

(The stuff we learned in school – the stuff people told us was important for 13-15 years or so.)

And so maybe there were times I’d think that learning everything there was to know about birds shouldn’t be such a priority.

It’s taken me a few years to see that that kind of dynamic, interest-driven learning is something else entirely – something so much bigger than “vocabulary words” and history dates.

It’s the kind of learning that sticks, far beyond a test or report cards – not that we do either of those really.

Still, it surprises me when something sneaks up on us, and suddenly everything has changed.

Like right now I’m editing a dog treat cookbook written by a 9-year-old, and we’re learning hand-lettering and Braille.

Look at all those Frindles!
Look at all those Frindles!

It happened like this – my family was watching the amazing Read-Aloud Revival live author event with Andrew Clements, the author of Frindle, Lunch Money and a whole bunch of other books that kids devour in the summer while curled up with the dog on the love seat.

There were so many things I loved about that event – and so many things I loved about that man, but for whatever reason, what kept sticking in my brain was that he had had sort of crummy handwriting as a kid, but still managed to hand-calligraphy his son’s wedding invitations.

And so I started to wonder a bit about calligraphy.

I remember my mom and grandma went through a brief calligraphy stage while I was growing up. I think it followed a hand-painting ceramic figures stage (I recall a large gray cat) and was right before they started making these things under domes that included silk flowers …

And so when I visited the art store with my kids a few weeks later, I grabbed a sketchbook and a couple of calligraphy markers.

Nothing expensive or huge. Less than $10. This isn’t taking up horseback riding.

That night I went home and pinned things and put some books on hold at the library, and the next thing I knew, I was working on hand-lettering with my kids, which is different than calligraphy and feels less fancy to me, which makes it less intimidating.

My kids and I sat around the table watching YouTube videos for several mornings in a row, and when the books came in, we picked out favorites and tried a few things.

They had each bought pens and paper at the art store too, and so we had brush pens and fine-tip pens and various markers to share, and as we tried different techniques, we each found ones we liked.

Somewhere in there, my daughter saw something about Braille, and the next thing you know, we were grabbing Braille books from the library and learning about Louis Braille.


This could be called a stage, or a phase or something, but I prefer to think of it as Passionate Learning.

And I am seeing more and more value to it.

Just like when my mom and grandma tried out the different art projects and found what they liked, my kids are trying things, learning things – taking in lessons here and there.


And that’s powerful stuff.

They are figuring out how to pursue passions and interests, and that we can keep learning far beyond “school.”

So I’m starting to really love the trails.

I’m finding that they are taking us everywhere.

Want to try hand-lettering? Here are our favorite resources:

Our favorite Braille books:


Beating the Sunday night blues

For a very long time, Sundays have been very hard for me – at least harder than when I was in high school and I could watch Baywatch while setting out my outfit for Monday and painting my nails in a shade to coordinate.

Beating the Sunday night blues

It was a simpler time, sure – I had no one to answer to but me and a few teachers who insisted on giving out weekend homework.

But Sundays didn’t feel stressful or overwhelming then.

They just felt like a day off.

Somewhere along the way they definitely stopped feeling like a day off and instead starting feeling like a day to do everything – clean the house, grocery shop, meal prep, school prep …

Back when I was teaching co-op classes, Sundays involved a trip to at least one craft store to get supplies.

Our co-op wasn’t until Tuesday, but I felt like I had to have everything ready to go on Sunday night anyway.

I thought this was just a me thing until Cait and I recorded our first episode of the podcast.

When she asked if my anxiety and need to get situated got worse on Sunday nights, I almost jumped out of my chair.

“YES! YES!” I wanted to scream. “YOU TOO?”

And so for the past few weeks, I’ve been working to reclaim my Sundays, at least a little bit.

Reclaiming Sundays

Hop on over the the Homeschool Sisters site to read what I’m doing.

P.S. It’s definitely kind of working …

Have a good week, friends!

Love, Kara

Make it a Summer of Minecraft with Connected Camps

This post was sponsored by the lovely people at Connected Camps. My opinions are my own, but I was compensated for my time. For more information, please see my disclosure statement.

I have to tell you that my kids think I am the coolest right now.

Because I get to write about Minecraft, which is their favorite online game. (To put it into perspective for my generation, it’s like if your mom had gotten the chance to write about Super Mario Bros. 2.)

That is to say that they are pumped.

And frankly, so am I, because I’m just beginning to learn about the educational potential of Minecraft. I know my kids have learned multiplication, goal-setting, the careful use of resources, and even about circuits – but they are so driven to learn more.

That’s why I’m really excited about the Connected Camps Summer of Minecraft, which begins next week!

The Summer of Minecraft Camp is a 5-week virtual camp program intended for kids ages 8-15. It teaches Minecraft coding, architecture, game design, engineering and more.

It’s intended for beginners to advanced players, and from my mama perspective, here is the best part:

All courses are moderated by counselors to help answer questions and ensure a safe online environment.

BUT, kids are still able to work together  – The Summer of Minecraft Camp provides a connected learning experience which fosters creativity, collaboration and problem solving through projects like design jam events — cool things like working together to build a city in the sky.

This is perfect if you have kids like mine who would like to take their game play and coding skills to the next level, and crave the chance to work with other people via a server, but maybe you’ve felt a little nervous about just letting them loose on the BIG ol’ wide Internet.

(Or maybe that’s just me … ahem.)

This camp starts on June 27 and goes through August 5. And if you use the code QUILL20, you can receive 20 percent off!

To learn more:

  • This video tells you exactly what your family will need to get started, and I love the way Tara talks about kids who have a passion for coding – I have one of those and I am constantly on the look-out for safe opportunities for him to learn from an expert since I have no background in that area.
  • If you’re wondering what it looks like for your kids to get IMMEDIATE answers to their coding questions, watch this video. I love how the counselor walks him through each step, and really understands Minecraft in a way I just don’t … yet.
  • And finally, you can show your kids THIS so they can get an idea of the fun in store, but my guess is the minute you mentioned “Summer of Minecraft Camp,” they probably started hyperventilating, right?

To sign up:

To register for the camp or for more information, visit Week-long camps start at just $49, and don’t forget that you can use the code QUILL20 to get 20 percent off.



P.S. Connected Camps was created by three “girl geeks” on a mission to make coding and digital arts accessible and fun for all kids – I kind of love that, don’t you? They also make sure that kids from low income families have access to computers so that they can take part in camps and programs.

Yup. I really love that.

You GO, girls.

We’re out of bread: Chatting Homeschool Overwhelm with my pal Cait

It’s funny, because as much as I turn my own head blue telling my kids to be careful on the internet, the internet has brought me some of my very favorite people in the world.


Take Cait, from My Little Poppies. I can’t remember when exactly now Cait and I found each other, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that she is a soul sister, and by that I mean that I can trust her with my crazy.

Not many people get to see my full-on homeschool-panic crazy. I try to keep it under wraps.

I mean, I blog about homeschooling – I should not advertise the fact that sometimes, I literally just want to spend the day in bed watching Kimmy Schmidt and eating genetically modified potato chips, right?

On the other hand, though, I think that it’s important that we have people in our lives who know what we look like without make-up, who don’t care when we show up in our PJs – people we can confide in, who really know us, and who like us anyway.

This homeschooling gig is still an uncommon road, and it’s kind of huge when we feel like we aren’t entirely on our own.

That’s what Cait and I want to be for you. We want to be your sisters in this journey, sharing all the real ups and downs, and helping you talk through the stuff that’s hard.

So … Cait and I have started a PODCAST!!!

This is a pretty big thing for two introverts who you can’t even get on the phone, but I’m going to tell you, it’s going kind of well.

In the first episode, which is up today, we talk about Homeschool Overwhelm, which is something Cait and I have both experienced, um, more than once, and we’ve even chatted about it before.

But this time, we just recorded that chat, and we came up with some ideas and resources that have helped us, and we think will help you too.

I really hope you’ll check it out!

And if you have questions for us, we’d love to hear from you. Just go to our website and click on “Ask us a Question.”

P.S. I’m glad the internet has brought me you too – I just wanted to say that today.


Here are several ways that you can tune in to see what we’re up to:

We would love if you could leave us a review on iTunes.


If so, send us a message or leave a comment. We love to hear from you!


You can hang out with us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.

How to homeschool? Get excited!

I wish I was good at making charts and graphs and things.

Because if I was, I could show you a chart for what I’m about to say, which is that I’ve noticed a thing in our homeschool – that my level of enthusiasm plays a pretty giant role in how much my kids get into whatever we are doing.

We took this photo when my ebook went live in Amazon.
We took this photo when my ebook went live on Amazon. We were a little excited.

Now sometimes, that backfires. I’ve stayed up nights setting up little projects, only to have not one but both children come into the kitchen, look at the table, and drop to the floor moaning.

“Noooooo,” they both cry, and I mentally calculate if it’s worth it to return the reject pile to 2 different craft stores and Target.

On the other hand, I’ve had books that I literally grabbed off the shelf at the library, unsure whether any of us would enjoy them, and they have started wonderful things in our homeschool – long sort of accidental unit studies that make me wonder if homeschooling is actually just sort of random, and if I have any control over this situation at all.

I do, of course, because most often, when we get really into something around here, it’s because I dig it, and I can’t help but share it.

That’s what happened with history this year.

I heard about a spy operation during World War II, and I literally stopped what we were doing for the day so I could share it with my kids. We took a special trip to the library where we found as many books as we could on the topic, and we spent days immersed in study about a dead guy with a fake identity, who threw Hitler for a real loop.

I write about that mystery and more in my ebook History Mysteries.


Recently, I’ve gotten a couple of questions about what’s in the book and who it’s for and how to get it, so I wanted to share a bit about that today:

What age range is History Mysteries for?

I say 8 and up, because that was the age of my youngest when we started studying the mysteries together. But, I also think that all kids are different, and as a mom to a highly sensitive kiddo, I think it’s important to preview and decide what’s right for your family.

On the other end of the spectrum, my oldest is 12, and he has really enjoyed these mysteries too. And, there are resources listed for Moms and Dads, so even older kids might dig those!

What mysteries are included?

I could go on and on about the mysteries, but I sort of do that in the book, so I’m going to keep it brief and just give you a list:

  • King Tut’s Curse
  • Mary Celeste, Ghost Ship
  • Alcatraz, and the Guys Who Got Away?
  • Operation Mincemeat
  • The Curse of the Hope Diamond
  • The Disappearance at Roanoke
  • Who Killed John F. Kennedy
  • The Salem Witch Trials
  • Amelia Earhart – Where Did She Go?

Do we have to study all the mysteries? What if one doesn’t feel like a good fit?

No problem. You don’t have to study all of them. You can use what works for you and leave the rest!

Is this a complete history curriculum? Will it last my family all year?

For us, these mysteries did carry us through the year. But we took it sloooow and really dove deep with each mystery. And we did other history stuff too!


How do I use the book?

In our homeschool, we would often listen to a podcast or watch a video first thing in the morning. I would introduce books during our morning time study. I strewed a lot of materials, and we would listen to audiobooks in the car and watch longer documentaries at night or on weekends as a family.

My kids definitely saw me reading about these subjects and we would have a lots of informal discussions.

But that’s just my approach. Do what feels right for your crew!

Is this ebook also available in paperback?

No. It isn’t. BUT, if you would like a printable PDF, just send a screenshot of your Amazon receipt to ksawrites at gmail dot com and I’ll send you one! It’s so pretty!!

So where can I get your book?

You can grab your copy right here! And like I said, if you want a printable version too, send me a screenshot and I’ll get one out to you.

And if you have any other questions at all, I’m happy to answer them!Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 7.54.22 AM

I have to say, that when we were studying these mysteries together, I never really imagined making what we were doing into a book.

And then when I did, I never imagined people really buying it.

But it’s currently an Amazon BEST SELLER, and No. 1 in Education and Reference, History and Homeschooling.

I can’t believe it! Thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement! This is really fun!