June 23, 2017

Social Media Etiquette - What You Need to Know

This post is brought to you in partnership with U.S. Cellular.

Social media is an amazing way to connect with a variety of people, not just locally but all over the world.  It has given us a sense of community pretty much constantly.  However, social media etiquette often gets swept under the rug – perhaps because people don’t know as much about how to behave on social media, or perhaps because they are essentially behind the curtain and unafraid to share/post whatever they please.

I don’t think a lot of this is done maliciously (although obviously if you watch the news some of it is), but I think do think that it is a lack of information on social media etiquette.

Social media allows us to communicate quickly to a large audience.  This accessibility means we should be careful that what we post is appropriate and conveys the intended message.

I know that I am constantly on my iPhone 7 looking through Instagram pictures, and also posting my own.  I love to scroll through Facebook and see what everyone is up to – it is a great way to find community, and it is also the preferred way people seem to communicate locally as well (kids’ activities I am talking about you!).

Using your phone too much and at inappropriate times can annoy others – in fact 71% of smartphone owners get upset at others for excessive phone use at least some of the time, according to a recent U.S. Cellular survey¹.

Think before sharing – before you post on Facebook or send out a tweet, stop to think about the message that you are trying to convey.  If it is immediately after an emotional event, it might not be the best time to post your feelings on the internet.  A good rule of thumb would be to relax, take a deep breath, and think before you post on any social media platform.

Check the background before posting – we have all seen those funny photo bombs posted on social media.  An easy way to combat this is to take a careful look at your photos before posting them.  Instead of just trying to get the perfect filter, pay attention to what is in the background!

Ask before posting pictures of other people – this is a big one.  There is a difference between posting pictures of yourself and your own kids and posting pictures of other people and their kids.  Whenever my kids are in a big group and I take a cute picture I would like to post to Instagram, I ask everyone involved if it is OK to post the picture.  The answer is not always yes.  I am particular about the pictures I post of my own children, and I know a lot of people prefer to keep their kids completely off of social media.

You should also ask before tagging people in a picture – they may be ok with having the picture, but may not want to be tagged across their own social media with the picture.

Be careful when engaging in online conversation – Facebook statuses and tweets are usually conversational in nature, but it is very easy to get the wrong idea from words typed on a screen.  When you can’t see the person’s face while they are saying something to you, it is easy to take things out of context, or read meaning into the words that isn’t actually there.  Be aware that anything you post online can be read by others, even if they are not actively part of the conversation.

What are some social media etiquette rules you think need more attention?

¹ Between Nov. 10-17, 2016, a total of 701 online interviews were conducted among a nationally representative sample by Consumer Insights, in partnership with Maritz CX.

June 14, 2017

How to Plan a fun Homeschool Rhythm - Summer Edition

There are affiliate links in this post.  If you click one of these links and make a purchase I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

When most parents think about summer, they think about their kids being out of school.  Sometimes they are excited about that, sometimes they are a little frightened to have their kids home all day every day – how do you keep them entertained?!

As homeschoolers that *do school* all year long, we have a bit of a different approach to the summer.

My kids were done with their traditional schooling in mid-April this year.  We took a nice 6 week long break.  This allowed us to get through birthday season in our home, as well as visit with family and generally enjoy the freedom of doing whatever we wanted throughout the day.

Now that we are into June again, we are starting to get into our Summer Homeschool Rhythm.

A summer homeschool rhythm is not nearly as crazy as it sounds.  We do not spend all day cooped up inside at the table.  Instead, we implement a regular rhythm into our days that encourages learning.

The summer months are much more relaxed than our winter homeschool rhythm.  In the winter it is often so cold that my kids do not want to be outside, and they like to lay around all day on the couch listening to me read to them, or reading themselves, or writing a story, or illustrating a comic book.  Actually, there are those days in the summer as well, but for the most part, my kids want to be outside, in nature. 

During the summer, our rhythm consists mainly of block scheduling – and the one subject that works the best for us in the summer is Science.

I have never been really great at experiments.  Not because I don’t like experiments, I do.  But, I am not a huge fan of the mess that comes with them, and the fact that my kids tend to want to follow their own instructions on how to do the experiment (I am trying to let this go!).  But, during the summer, it is the perfect time to pull out all those messy science kits go outside, and get to work.

This summer we are working on Anatomy and Physiology.  We actually tried to start this in the fall, and realized that it was going to be too much to include with all of our other subjects during the fall/winter.  I also realized that Jack was a little young to fully grasp some of the notebooking activities, so we set it aside until now.

How do you plan for a summer Homeschool Rhythm?

The first step is to decide how often you plan to have school during the week.  We *do school* about three times per week during the summer.  It works for us.  There are obviously weeks that we don’t do any school because we are on vacation, have family visiting, or the kids are involved in VBS at church, but I aim for a few days each week.

Now, those days do not mean that we are doing school at the table from 8am until 3pm.  That is not the case at all.  Instead, we tend to get to school after lunch time until I put Lucy down for a nap, and then the kids will work independently for a little while.

That is our intensive school time – from about 12:30pm-3:00pm.

When you figure out how many days you want to have school activities – anything that is more formal than “go play outside” or “go read a book” – you can then decide what type of rhythm you want.  Do you want to do an intensive science unit like we are?  Do you want to work on the subjects that you seem to miss a lot during the regular school year by setting up a loop schedule so you are hitting those subjects more frequently at least part of the year?  Do you want to pick something to study as a family and incorporate a lot of field trips?  Do you want to do all the field trips that you thought about during the school year, but didn’t have time to fit in?

Once you figure out how often you want to do school, and then what you want to cover, you essentially have your summer homeschool rhythm down. 

I do believe that every day our kids learn something new, as long as they have the freedom to follow their passions and interests.  While we do a summer science intensive, it isn’t the only part of our summer rhythm.

We follow the “read something, play outside, create something, do a chore” steps before the kids are able to have any screen time.  I also read to the kids every day as well.  Having two kids in separate literature based curriculum levels means that we are doing a lot of read alouds every day, and spreading those out over an entire year makes it work for us.

As the months move on we will add in other parts of our regular homeschool rhythm.  After the 4th of July we will add in the kids new math curriculum, and then in August most of our other subjects will be added in.

In my personal experience, I have found that my kids do better when we don’t take too much of a break from school.  We take breaks when we need to, and having school in the summer helps break up the summer boredom that is inevitably felt by every child at some point.  Plus this schedule allows us to take a good chunk of time off around the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays which is always a bonus!

The main goal is to keep it light, and to keep it fun.  You don’t want your children to dread having school in the summer you want it to be fun so that everyone enjoys their learning time (including mama!).

Do you do any formal learning in the summer?  Do you have parameters for your children before they have screen time in the summer?

June 13, 2017

2017 Garden Tour - Week 2

There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

The weather in Maine always surprises me, although I’m not sure why.  I have lived here my entire life.  Yet, here we are in 90 degree weather when the beginning of last week treated us to mid 40’s!  Needless to say I was not quite prepared for as much watering as I would need to do over the past several days.

Sunday it was 95.  We went to our friend’s house to swim in the pool and hang out a bit, and when I came home…my lettuce had all fallen over completely wilted.  Apparently when it is 95 you need to water your plants…who knew?!

Thankfully most of the lettuce bounced back.

The garden is looking much the same as it did last week.  The main difference is that the radishes are starting to show themselves around my cucumber plants.  If you are looking for a super easy, and satisfying vegetable to grow, go with radishes.  They come out of the earth so quickly, and are honestly ready to eat in just a couple of weeks.  These are French Breakfast radishes, and they will be delicious sautéed in butter – yum!

The weed barrier seems to be working really well so far, although we are still very early in the growing season.  The weed barrier also makes it a little more difficult to water the garden.  It is essentially paper, and you can still water through it, but it takes a lot more water unless I lift the paper and put the hose underneath.  We are still working out the kinks!

Overall I am very happy with how neat and clean the garden looks at this point in the season.  And I love to see that my rhubarb and strawberries are all doing quite well.  I actually have not picked any rhubarb yet this year, and so I think I need to remedy that this morning and make a rhubarb coffee cake.

Last week one of the commenters asked for advice for people just starting out with a garden.  My honest advice is to either start small with a self-watering container like the EarthBoxes (this is how my first garden started).  Or if you have a little bit more space, I would pick up the book Square Foot Gardening.  There is a wealth of information in that book just on putting together the right soil to grow vegetables, it is totally worth it.  I have it and love it!  I also love the square foot gardening model because I feel like it is easier to map out what I want to grow, and maintain better than rows.  Of course I don’t have a huge amount of space in our yard for a traditional garden full of rows, so this works best for me in my little suburban quarter acre plot of land.

And if you think you have a black thumb, plant herbs in a pot in your windowsill – my favorites are basil and mint.

Do you have herbs growing on your windowsill?  What is one herb you use most often in cooking?

June 5, 2017

2017 Garden Tour - Week 1

There are affiliate links in this post - if you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

It has been especially cold and rainy in Maine for a very long time, and before that snow, so I was incredibly happy to be able to put in our garden this past weekend.  Typically I will plant everything on Memorial Day weekend, but the garden had to wait – we had family visiting.  While I was able to get seedlings for the garden when we had my brother and sister-in-law here, the garden did not get planted.

Last year I started to do weekly garden tours, and I really enjoyed it.

I will usually share our garden regularly throughout the summer, but having the ability to look back weekly at what was growing, and what sort of animal or bug was trying to devour my plants each week was kind of nice.  Having it to look back on is even nicer.  It is pretty fun to look back over the past 10 years that I have been blogging and see the progress, and also the patterns.

So here we are, week one.

This year I feel like I didn’t get nearly as many seedlings as I usually do.  In fact, I have an entire 4x4 bed that is currently unplanted.  I am planning to put more seeds in there, but I ran out of time on Sunday, and alas, a week of rain ahead of us!

The big change is that I did not get a bunch of summer or winter squash this year to plant, or pumpkins.  Those plants grow so so big, and I need to leave a lot of space for them.  While I love those plants dearly, so do my lovely friends the squash bug.  Last year I had great success by planting radishes around all of my squash, cucumbers and pumpkins.  They were all established before the squash bugs descended.  I didn’t want to tempt fate though, because the previous year I hadn’t planted anything.  I wasn’t sure if my luck was more radishes or more the fact that I hadn’t planted any cucurbits the year before. 

This year I decided to only plant a couple cucumber plants, and we will see how it goes!

I have planted several tomato plants – Big Boy, which are slicing tomatoes, and Roma for preserving in the fall.  I also have a couple of Sungold cherry tomato plants – my kids love them (and so do I), and my favorite heirloom tomato to grow is the Green Zebra Tomato – it is delicious if you ever have a chance to try one!

I also have sweet bell peppers and jalapenos.  I always grow my peppers in EarthBoxes.  They do extremely well and I always get a ton of peppers.  The jalapenos definitely surprised me my first year, and I froze about 3 gallons of them.  I didn’t think they would grow in my short cold growing season, but they did amazing.  I did plant a couple of each kind of pepper in the ground.  I do every year, thinking that this will be the year that they will actually grow – they never have.  I don’t know why I let it take up space.  But, I will them to grow, and maybe this will be the year!

I also planted a bunch of kale, and lettuce.  We have rainbow carrots and green beans, beets and basil, cilantro, rosemary and sage.  I missed my early planting of peas, so I plan to get those in the garden towards the end of June for a late summer harvest…hopefully.  I have never planted peas after April before, so we shall see if they grow.

I still have to plant some tomatoes and peppers in my earth boxes, but I haven’t gotten the potting soil into the pots quite yet.  I have high hopes of a break in the rain tomorrow so I can finish up!

One thing that we did first this year was to get the fence up.  Last year and actually every year, there is a lovely groundhog that finds my garden before I get the fence up.  That is part of the reason we are planting later than I had hoped, the fence did not get up until Saturday, so we were a little late, but I have high hopes!  Always, as a gardener, I have to have high hopes.

And because my Irises are looking really nice, despite Izzy deciding the middle of my plants was a good place to take a nap a couple weeks ago, a picture of their big pretty blooms!  I love that they are so resilient and I don’t need to do anything to take care of them!

Are you growing anything this year?  What is your favorite flower?

May 30, 2017

What you Need to Assemble a Stellar Homeschool Portfolio

There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

When my husband and I decided that we were going to homeschool, the first thing that I wanted to know was what type of reporting we would be required to do…my daughter was 2 ½ at the time…I was definitely on the ball!  In Maine we have a few different options, the two standard options are some sort of standardized test, and the other is a portfolio review by a Maine certified teacher.

One of the main reasons for our decision to start homeschooling was to get away from standardized testing, so I knew that was not the choice for us.  I love scrapbooking, and immediately thought a portfolio would be a wonderful option for our family.

However, when it came time to do my first official portfolio review last year, I was scared out of my wits!

What you Need to Assemble a Stellar Homeschool Portfolio

I knew that I had the basics covered and that we could show “progress” in each of the subject areas, but my biggest question was – did we do enough?

Today I want to talk to you about the supplies that I currently use to put together a portfolio for review, and then in my next post I will talk about what to include in your portfolio.

When I decided on a portfolio review, I thought that I would obviously make a beautiful scrapbook for each year of school, and for each child.  You may know where this is going – it did not at all turn out that way.  Instead, I realized that I could barely get baby books made for my kids, so I’m not sure why I thought I would have a beautiful scrapbook of their school work for each year.

Instead, I realized that my portfolio needed to be more functional, and take a little pressure off of me.  I was already anxious about having a teacher sit down and evaluate what we had done, I knew that I did not have the mind space to be as creative as I had hoped.

The first item you will need for your homeschool portfolio is a binder.  I have chosen a 3 inch D-ring binder that is 12x12 – the reason for this will be clear shortly.  I may not necessarily have 3 inches worth of paper that needs to go in there, but I like to have the option, and since I have been making binders for the kids for several years now, there are definitely times that I wish I had a larger binder.

The next piece to my puzzle is sheet protectors.  I use these for all the papers that I put in the book.  It may be a little extra work, but knowing that if someone spills something (someone always spills something) my pages are protected, that makes me happy.  I think it makes for a cleaner look as well, and saves me from punching holes in all the work, pages, etc.

The next item that I use is 4”x4” photo pocket sleeves.  Ever since I got an Instagram account I have religiously documented my kids and what they are doing – if we go on a field trip, it goes on Instagram; if they are doing a special project, Instagram; pretty much anything homeschool related goes on Instagram.  I use a specific hashtag for my photos that I will use for a homeschool portfolio, and then at the end of the year I can easily upload them to Snapfish and have them printed for me.

I also do have some normal 4”x6” pocket sleeves as well for the times that I pull out my nice camera and take actual photos of projects, artwork, field trips, etc.  But, those are a lot less frequent than my use of Instagram.

I do print out a good deal of information on my HP Deskjet Wireless Printer.  This printer is really small, which means I can easily tuck it away when we aren’t using it, but it is a powerhouse and does a wonderful job printing color, which I love to use.  I may not be able to make a legit scrapbook, but I am going to use as much color and pretty accents as I can manage!

My last items are my *Erin Condren Teacher Planner Notebook and my Staedtler Pens.  I am a planner, and so I spend a lot of time looking through my teacher planner and writing out exactly what I want to include in the portfolio before I even attempt to put it together.  It makes the “putting together” part so much more seamless when I already know what order, and what items need to go in the binder.

Next time I will share what I put in the homeschool binder, and other items I keep from my kids’ school year.

Do you make a portfolio or scrapbook for your child each year?  If your kids are in public school - what do you do with all the papers and projects from the year?

*If you sign up for an Erin Condren account through this link - they will send you a code for $10 off your first order!

Linked to - Homeschool Nook

May 23, 2017

How to use Technology to Keep your Home Safe and Secure this Summer

I am a member of the U.S. Cellular Blogger Brigade, and this is a sponsored post.  As always, all opinions are my own.  
As we move into the warmer months most families seem to be thinking about summer vacation – I know that I am!  And with summer vacation the opportunity to travel arises.  Yesterday I mentioned how we are going to be slowing down a bit this summer, but that does not mean that we won’t be traveling a bit as well.  Having a way to know my house is safe and secure, and the ability to use apps on my iPhone to monitor everything while away is an amazing use of technology.

*According to the FBI, a home burglary occurs on average every 20 seconds in the US.  There is an increase in summer months due to more frequent travel with kids out of school.

That statistic was a little eye-opening to me!  But, fortunately, the latest connected home devices are able to provide us all with a little extra comfort when we are away.  Utilizing U.S. Cellular’s fast, high quality network allows you to easily monitor and manage a variety of functions at your home through remote access on your iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S8 device.

**Almost one third of smartphone owners recently surveyed by U.S. Cellular said they use their device to control their home security system, lighting, or other smart home technology at least once a day.  Almost half note they use that technology at least once a month or more.

How to use Technology to Keep your Home Safe and Secure this Summer

What are the best tech devices to use?

Nest Cam Indoor – With this device vacationers never have to worry about what is going on at home again allowing you to look after the house 24/7.  You are able to see live video and a 160-degree wide angle view, all from your smartphone.  It will also provide phone alerts if motion or sound are detected, so the homeowner will know immediately if something is wrong.

Nest Protect – This is a handy little smoke and carbon-monoxide alarm.  It will send you instant phone alerts if smoke or carbon-monoxide is detected, but will also let you know when the battery is running low or if there is a sensor failure.

Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Opener – A great option for those of us who get far away from our home just to try and remember if we shut the garage door or not.  It will send an alert to your phone if you have left your garage door open while away, and you can also use your Galaxy S7 or other tablet to remotely close it.

Incipio Commandkit™ Wireless Smart Lightbulb Adapter with Dimming – While a bit of a mouthful for a name, it is a pretty straight forward product.  It allows you to turn lights off if you forgot to, and you no longer have to toggle between a bunch of timer switches at home to make sure the lights turn on at specific times.           You can use the app to turn on specific lights with integrated Siri voice commands. 

Ring™ Video Doorbell – A handy device that allows you to respond to someone at the door, even if you aren’t at the house at the time.  You can see, hear, and speak to anyone at your door and always know when a package arrives.

Are you planning any fun trips for this summer?  Do you use smart home technology to give you peace of mind while you are away?

*FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2015 reports 1.58 million burglaries for the year, for an average of one
every 20 seconds.

**Between Nov. 10-17, 2016, a total of 701 online interviews were conducted among a nationally

representative sample by Consumer Insights, in partnership with Maritz CX.

May 22, 2017

My Strategy for the Best Summer Ever

There are affiliate links in this post.  That means if you click on one of these links, and make a subsequent purchase, I may receive a small commission.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House.

When you think about your summers growing up, what do you think of?  What about today?  How do you plan to make this summer your Best Summer Ever?

The long lazy days of summer, those are what I wished for growing up.  I knew that I wouldn’t have any school responsibilities, I would go to camp and see my friends, my family would spend weekends at the lake water-skiing and swimming, and having such an amazing time.

As an adult with three little children, I still look forward to those summer days, but they are not long, nor are they lazy – at least not for me!  But, I do want to provide that same atmosphere for my kids.

My Strategy for the Best Summer Ever