Let’s Play Math

When I started homeschooling my son, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into.

I had been a 5th grade math and science teacher for a decade, but teaching your own children is a different beast. You see, my kids are perfect angels at school, and while still good for me, they let they’re more carefree side show in mama’s presence. I won’t complain because I know this is they’re safe place, but I knew creating a space for learning would have to look different than it did in my public school classroom.36223065_10108233436304492_3775347961957974016_o

My daughter is super studious and loves to learn. She pours over books, plays school tirelessly, and writes books and agendas for fun. My son, on the other hand, has always been a little more free spirited. While he’s always been on track, I never thought of him as an advanced learner. That all changed when our life became the classroom. With a month, my 4 year old was reading and his math skills were off the charts.

I turned every standard into a game and met him where he was at. I had a 4 year old who loved to play, why not just play with him? Some people disagree that learning must take place in the old fashioned way with paper and pencil, but with a decade in the classroom, my observations are far more wide spread than through my lens as a mother. I reflected back on my time in the classroom and recognized the things I did that truly made gains with my students.
*hands-on activities
*escape rooms
*discussion based learning
*reading for fun
*allowing students the chance to see their self worth through conversations, growth mindset, literature, activities that nurture their non-acaedmic talents, etc


I began to see him as a learner who grew when he was engaged and having fun and nothing was fun about a worksheet, nothing was fun about writing when his poor little hands hadn’t developed the fine motor skills yet to master proper pencil holding. All that would come, IN TIME. jan_4121b

Imagine a classroom where you meet a kid where they’re at, engage them in lessons they want to learn, and modify when things aren’t going well. While that is the goal of every public school teacher, with a classroom of 22 (sometimes x 6) that’s just not feasible to meet all students where they’re at. Enter the beauty of homeschooling. You, the parent, can serve as the teacher and modify the lesson to meet the exact needs of your child.

If I learned nothing else as a teacher, I learned that when kids love learning, they will learn so much more. Challenge yourself to stop when things aren’t going well. If you feel frustrated or they feel frustrated, give yourself the grace to pause and ask “do we need to persevere or can we find a new approach?” I thought my son struggled with math until I pulled the board games out. Questions that had once made him cry were easily answered when it meant that Captain American could avoid the chutes and climb the ladder. PLUS, who doesn’t want to spend a day cozied up playing board games with their kids?

Maui with Kids

In late August, my husband and I stumbled upon some crazy cheap airline tickets to Hawaii – $400 from Atlanta to Maui – um, YES PLEASE.

We quickly searched for rentals and decided it was too good to pass up. You see, in September, when all the kiddos go back to school, the prices on tourism driven places drops significantly. We snagged a beautiful two bedroom condo right on the beach for half off. Tucked on the Maalaea Bay, away from the popular tourist filled hotels, we found our own little slice of paradise. It was less than a mile from the aquarium and a great place to base out of for our daily excursions.

Booking so last minute gave us the crazy idea to keep our trip a surprise. So we researched and planned and NEVER told the kids. Then on Sept 19, we woke them at the crack of dawn.

“Do you guys want to skip school today?”
(half asleep) “yeaaaa”
“Great, you have ten minutes to pack a bag, we’re heading to the airport.” and then we walked out of the room.

The night before we had packed our one suitcase for our family of 5 and were ready to roll out. When we arrived at the airport, we gave them a folder with riddles and activities. In order to discover our destination, they had to complete the puzzles. The kicker is we flew to San Fransisco first and with a 7hour layover, decided to spend the day exploring. After lunch, we had the kids complete one more activity which told them we were going back to the airport and heading to MAUI! ❤ ❤ ❤

With our condo directly on the beach and our bodies wired for EST, we woke early every morning to sunrise on the beach and were ready to crash not much after sunset on the beach. We got our beach fill that way (and stayed sunburn free) and spend the rest of the days exploring the amazing wonders of the island.


Day 1: arrive at 7:30pm. RUN to Costco, stock up, head home to crash. Costco is your best bet for inexpensive grocery shopping and it is a mile from the airport, making access super easy. There is also a food truck market across the street. If you arrive during the day, stop by. There are so many great local eats with amazing pricing. Everywhere else on the island is pricey.

FUN GF costco items: Kona dark chocolate macademia nuts and Teriyaki Pork Jerky

Day 2: Drive around the area, enjoy the pool, and head to the movie theater to meet The Bucket List family at the Smallfoot premiere. THIS was a major highlight for my kids since they dream of their own bucket list. If you don’t already follow this family, be sure to check them out on youtube or instagram. Their videos are such a great way to introduce your own kids to different parts of the world while encouraging bravery and kindness.42672707_10108531126979992_6770476318157963264_o

Day 3: Iao Valley (easy, friendly hike for all ages) and then we spent the afternoon wandering around Lahaina, checking out the big banyan trees, and eating all the yummy Pork and Fish tacos at the Fish market.


Day 4 (sat): We stopped at the Swap meet over by the University and fueled up on coconut water and the most delicious Brazilian Cheese bread. This swap meet is a must for anyone looking for souvenors. The vendors supply to a lot of the retail shops, so you can shop here and save a lot of money. The kids found $1 bracelets for their friends and beautiful Hawaiian outfits for their American girl dolls. 42274495_10108514244228162_3600743964983951360_o

We then worked our way over to the Wai’hee Ridge Valley Trail.


Now unlike Iao Valley, this is a moderate hike. Roughly 4 miles round trip, I would highly recommend lots of water and some snacks. We made it about 3 miles because we didn’t want to break the kids and it was worth every.single.step of the journey. 7,000 foot views allow you to see down into the ridge and out over the ocean. It was truly remarkable. We had a rule for the kids, no whining. If they had a problem, they could say it IF they also had a solution.

Ex. I’m tired, can I take a nap.
I’m hungry, may I have a snack.

This magical rule changed the hike and we all made it ❤42675061_10108530965059482_4295119372202016768_o

Day 5: Haleakala – Don’t complain – just set your alarm early, make the 2 hour drive and enjoy sunrise 10,000 feet up in the clouds. DRESS WARM. You are in the clouds and that high of elevation means a massively different climate than down below.

Be sure to grab a pass ($1.50) to get in, as the park no limits visitors at sunrise so everyone can enjoy the view. Passes sell quickly but at 4pm each day they release more tickets online for 48 hours out. Its a national park, so bring your annual pass or pay $25 for admission. If early mornings aren’t your thing, don’t worry, Haleakala is beautiful all day! On your way down, be sure to stop at the first overpass for a closer look into the crater.42723696_10108531128082782_7425799374459895808_o

Head into the Ranger station and let the kids experience becoming a junior range.

Afterwards, we head into Kihei where the boys enjoyed beer and we enjoyed the outside cornhole sets and then we headed to Coconuts for some seriously delicious Fish Tacos. This was one of my favorites and so gluten free friendly.

Day 6: Road to Hana

There is so much to see, so download The Shaka Guide app on your phone. Based on GPS, he’ll talk you through all the highlights, give history on the area, and help you time out your trip to maximize your experience. He told us about some gems, we surely would have driven past, such as the Gulch.


Day 7: We decided to take it easy on our final day and let the kids choose our activities. They wanted a beach day, so we did a quick costco run for souveniors and a gas fuelup and grabbed the most amaaaazing Kalua Pork from Da Kitchen. This restaurant is a popular one, so we ordered our food to go and enjoy it at home.

Maui was everything and so much more than I ever imagined it could be.

We wanted to make sure the kids knew our choice to travel during the school year was not a reflection of our disregard for education but rather a way to enhance it. They had many activities to complete,  but with the beauty of the island we had many discussions on the types of rocks, we scouted our igneous rocks, and climbed the now dormant volcano, Haleakala. We kept an eye out for native animals and plants and fell in love with the sight of turtles, manta rays, three horned chameleons, and much more. In addition to our schooling, the kids completed a daily journal and brought along both fiction and nonfiction books to further experience Hawaii.  These were great for the long days in the car, the flight, and downtime between activities.

1. Kids travel journal
2. Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #28: High Tide in Hawaii
3. Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever
4. Magic Treehouse: High Tide in Hawaii
5. American Girl Series: Growing Up with Aloha
6. Junie B Jones: aloha-ha

1. Fish Market in Lahaina – fish and kalua pork tacos (not pictured because I inhaled it like a fatkid)
2.Da Kitchen – Kalua Pork, DO IT!SEP_8289
3. Coconut’s Fish Tacos covered in coconut milk slaw and mango salsaSEP_8005.jpg
4. Poke bar in Foodland (spicy poke and seaweed salad) – NOT ALL pokes are gfSEP_8290

We tried (twice) but never made it inside Maui Brick Oven – 100% gluten free but operates on weird hours

Gluten Free San Fransisco and Maui

We recently traveled to Hawaii with a 7 hour layover in San Fransisco. With the length of time between flights and San Fran’s easy public transportation, it was a no brainer to spend a few hours between flights enjoying the beauty of the city.

With 3 kids in tow, we kept our adventures to a minimum. We only had backpacks, so luggage wasn’t an issue, however if you have a large carry-on you can store it for $25 a day near the international terminal. This will make walking through the city a much more enjoyable experience.

We hopped on the BART and for roughly $20 a person round trip, we rode to Embarcadero Street. From there is was a 5 minute walk to the Ferry Building. If you are traveling without kids, you could grab a taxi, however, with 3 kids in carseats, the BART while more expensive, was far easier than hauling/renting carseats.

If you have a gluten allergy, the obvious MUST DO is to spend the afternoon eating ALLLLLL THE FOOOD at Mariposa Bakery. We went for the croissants, but grabbed lunch as well. My cousin and I had an everything bagel with eggs, bacon, and cheese and a ham and cheese pastry. The hands down favorite was the ham and cheese pocket. If you only eat one thing at Mariposa, trust me, this is the winner. We are lucky enough to live in Atlanta where the options for gf baked goods are plentiful, so we stuck to items we don’t often see and grabbed a 4 pack of cinnamon rolls and a couple croissants and pain au chocolats to enjoy our first few mornings in Hawaii. These were such a great treat. We took our kiddies across the street, grabbed some glutenous pizza for the kids and spent the afternoon playing at the park.

Back at the San Fransisco Airport, we were traveling out of terminal 3 and were very happy with our gluten free options. The baby and I enjoyed our Chicken and Veggie Kabobs, hummus, rice, and greek salad from Amoura Meditterean. It was a lot of food and they were happy to swap my pita for an extra kabob.

Other options were available, but with only one meal in the airport, I couldn’t try them all. The San Fransisco Soup Company had a gluten labeled menu for lots of gluten free, dairy free, and vegan options. The Vietnamese shop (Bunn Me?) had Chicken Pho listed as gluten free and Five Pie had a gluten free pizza on the menu.

VIPKID Questions

In February 2017, I had recently quit my teaching job and was constantly pondering “What to do after leaving the classroom”, I stumbled upon a “work at home” opportunity in a mom’s group. I was hesitant because there are so many MLMs and scammy programs out there, but I took a leap of faith, signed up and within a week was teaching English every morning to some pretty awesome kids half way around the world. I’m now on my 4th (6 month) contract and am so excited I said yes to the opportunity. I receive frequent questions about this gig from many other parents looking for an opportunity to work at home with their kids. Below you’ll find some of the most frequently asked questions. If I didn’t cover your question, feel free to send me an email and I’d be happy to help you get started.


+How does scheduling work? Is it flexible?

The hours are super flexible. There are no minimum number of hours and no set schedule. You can open your schedule two weeks out or as late as the day before. You get to decide when you want to open hours, and parents will book classes with you based on your availability. When I traveled to France, I didn’t need to notify my boss. I just didn’t open any hours on my schedule for those days. The thing about working from home is you only get paid for the work you do. Work as much as you want or as little as you want, your pay will represent those hours.

+Why does the schedule look so weird?

Our students are located in China, meaning they are halfway around the world. For us teachers on EST we are exactly 12 hours apart. For other time zones, your schedule will differ. Luckily VIPKID lists both the Beijing Time as well as your local time so scheduling is easy.

+I see facebook ads for this all the time. Is this a scam?

My first month I thought for sure I was giving away my time teaching for free, but I CAN PROMISE YOU the job is real, the kids are real, AND the money is real. This is not a scam.

+Who am I teaching? What am I teaching?

Generally, my students range from 5-13 years old. The younger students are learning English basics; such letters, sounds, sight words, and Consonant Vowel Consonant words (CVC words) like c-a-t or d-i-g. This is similar to what American students are learning in kindergarten.

My older students have had English in their school for several years and are working on developing their conversational english. We work on reading and comprehension, enhancing vocabulary, and practicing their grammar.

Almost all of my students are  very well-behaved. They are paying a lot of money to be present in class. With many of my younger students their parents are usually sitting next to them to ensure they are working. It was intimidating at first, but they aren’t there to judge you, they’re present to assist their own child.

+What do I need to qualify to teach?

While having a teaching certificate/experience working with kids will give you an extra advantage in the interview, the only requirement is that you have a Bachelor’s Degree.

In the interview you’ll want to emphasize your experience working with kids (teaching experience, sunday school, homeschool, summer camps, etc), there are planety of teacher in the company who do not have a teaching certificate but have experience working with kids.

The Bachelor’s degree is critical. VIPKID wants educated employees. If you have that, I can mentor you through the process. Added bonus is that after being hired, VIPKID offers tons of FREE workshops to help you become a better teacher!

+How can I make $1,000 a month?

Each employee is paid slightly differently, varying between $7-12 a 25 minute slot. I make $10 a class or $20 an hour which will make the math really easy. $20 an hour means that in order to make $1,000 a month, I must teach 50 hours a month. You can create a schedule that works for you but options include but are not limited to:
– 2.5 hours Mon-Friday
– 6-7 hours on Friday and Saturday nights

+I want to make this a full time gig. Is it possible?

Open more slots to teach; the more you work, the more you make. Lots of people make  $3000 – $4000 in a month but that means they work a lot. Everyday? All night on the weekends? Companies aren’t going to pay you for doing nothing, so if you want to make all the money, you have to do all the work. The possibility is there if you’re willing to work for it. Like any other job, you have to find a schedule that works for you and your family. I have friends who are single or who’s kids visit their other parent on the weekends and they take that opportunity to work two overnight shifts Friday and Saturday.

+I see a lot of morning classes, can I work at night?

Yes, remember the days of partying all night on the weekends, now that you’re a grownup, you can make money on Friday and Saturday nights instead. Being on EST, China is half of a day ahead of me. So when it is 8pm Friday night in Georgia, it is 8am Saturday morning in China and the kids are waking up on their weekend and wanting to  learn English. Unfortunately, unless the kids are on break from school though, there are not hours during the week because they’ll be in school.

+How do I signup?

To sign up use my link below. Have more questions? Just ask —> iamglutenfreefl@gmail.com and I’d be happy to help you along the way.


Free or inexpensive summer fun in Newnan and Peachtree City, GA

Take a stroll (hikers only, no bikes allowed) to enjoy some of Georgia’s beautiful landscaping at Line Creek Nature Center (free). The shaded area keeps the mornings and evenings cool and the creek is a great place to dip your toes. The trails are uneven so strollers can not be used on the paths. Kids will enjoy the walking sticks at the front and the FREE library box. Take a book to enjoy or return one for others to read. When you’re done, walk over to Racetrac to enjoy a FREE ice cream cup for kids and $3 16 oz cups for adults (June & July 2018)

Coweta County Public LIbrary has amazed me time and time again with their summer programs. Their classes vary widely allowing for kids of ALL ages to take part in the fun. Musical classes, teens groups, adult book clubs, cursive lessons, art classes, and OUTSTANDING magicians, scientists, and jugglers are just some of the incredible line up in their schedule.

Newnan Children’s Connect Museum- A $5 per person fee gains you entry into a seemingly understated building. With two rooms, one for babies/toddlers and one for infants, the lack of structured play time invites your child’s imagination to come to life. The wall is lined with every craft and tool imaginable to create the ultimate makerspace for your child to design, revise, and create as wild as their imagination sees fit. My kids spent over 3 hours there on our first trip easing in with snap circuit boards and progressing to designing and building a bed for their dolls. Some nails, a hammer, and a whole lot of glitter later and my daughter walked out those doors with a doll bed and proud smile.  We’re so quick to plan everything for our kids from playdates to organized crafts. Take them here and let them impress you with what they can create on their own.

Carl Miller Park
Spend the morning playing at one of the two playgrounds (one for toddlers and one for big kids) and then cool off in the Splash Fountain,  open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm April through September. Parents can also take their little ones on an easy 6/10mile stoller accessible walk around the park.JUL_0488b
Image via McKeeby Photography

The following places have summer reading programs. Pick up their flyer, encourage your kids to read, and when you complete their log you get a prize!

  • Barnes & Noble – read 8 books, fill in the log, get a free book from their approved list (GREAT options available)
  • Books a million– read 4 books from their list and get a Mo Willems pencil pouch and pencil
  • Chuck E. Cheese – read for a certain number of hours and receive 10 free tokens to play games

California Quinoa Salad

Vegan California Quinoa Salad (plus shrimp- not vegan-whomp whomp whomp) – this is not something I would have made on my own, but it was made for me and I loved it. Made it again this week and it is just as good as I remember. Bright and full of flavor. Perfect as a meal or a side to some grilled fish or chicken.
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 cup water
2 honey mangos, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green onion
1/2 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 T balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1-2 lime
In a large saucepan of 1 cup water, cook quinoa according to package instructions; set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine quinoa, mango, bell pepper, edamame, green onion, coconut flakes, and cilantro. Pour the balsamic vinegar & lime juice on top of the salad and gently toss to combine.


Two weeks ago we tried this soup from the Splendid Spoon and it was so good we’ve been craving it since. Full of flavors of dill and the slight sweetness of apple, we set out to make some of our own. Don’t want to make your own? Check out The Splendid Spoon using our link to get $20 off of your first order.

Vegan Borscht

MAR_5797We made a big pot of dill Borscht and froze some individual servings using the Souper Cube. Get one of these bad boys for yourself –Souper Cubes Extra-Large Silicone Ice Cube Tray – makes 4 perfect 1cup portions – freeze soup broth or sauce

Easy Salads



Chop off all your favorite toppings and serve on a counting board. Let everyone assemble how they like. #familyfriendlymeals

Trying to eat healthy, make a salad.

Craving carbs, toss it all on chips or a tortilla.


Chicken Ceasar Salad

Romain + chicken + parmesan +sunflower seeds + black pepper + avocado + dressing   (put it all in a tupperware, shake and serve)MAR_4948

7 Layer Salad

Layer lettuce, mayo, parmesan, peas, green onions, hardboiled egg, and bacon (or replace with chicken)MAR_5582

Meal prepping Made easy

I just discovered these awesome Souper Cubes which has made meal prepping even easier. Whenever we make soup, we eat what we want and freeze four 1 cup servings for later. Afterall, a girl can only eat the same meal, so many times.

MAR_5733GRAB ONE FOR YOURSELF – Souper Cubes Extra-Large Silicone Ice Cube Tray – makes 4 perfect 1cup portions – freeze soup broth or sauceMAR_5797

Splendid Spoon Review

Years ago, before kids, my husband and I were vegetarians. Once I became pregnant with my first, my taste buds rapidly changed and I became a voracious carnivore. Over the years we have been getting back to our roots. While we still love and eat meat, our bodies love us a whole lot more when we stock up on all the veggies.

I have a gluten allergy and dairy seems to be bothering my husband, so we’ve been testing new dairy free recipes. We happened upon one of those delivery services that delivers all the meals prepared and this one is GLUTEN FREE and VEGAN!

Now with the convenience of prepared meals, comes a higher price tag, but for prepared, plant based, nutrient dense food, I’d argue it is money well spent. We decided to give The Splendid Spoon a try. My husband LOOOOVES soup, while I prefer to chew my food 😉 However we were both a HUGE fan.

There are multiple packages available at Splendid Spoon

  • Breakfast $65,  Includes 5 smoothies
  • Lunch $65, Includes 5 pant based lunch/soup bowls
  • Soup Cleanse $65, 4 drinkable soups and 1 plant based soup
  • Program 2.0, $135 – The BEST option: includes everything listed above ( Breakfast + Lunch + Soup Cleanse) – use this link to get $20 off your first order, making the program 2.0 only $115
Soup Cleanse

I’m a big smoothie drinker so it thought this would be my favorite part. The majority of these smoothies do NOT contain bananas. Bananas are one of the main ingredients typically seen in smoothies to make them sweet. Without the banana, they are still good, but not as sweet as you expect. My favorite was the Cacao Almond smoothie and I was especially pleased by how filling all the smoothies were. The Hibiscus was tart with the primary flavors of blueberry and cranberry, the ABJ actually tasted like a PB&J sandwich, and the Cacao Almond had a nice sweet almond flavor.

My husband and I realized we consume a lot of salt in our daily lives because while these soups were packed with flavor, we kept reaching for the salt shaker. I love the balance of flavors of all the soups, but my personal favorite was the Borscht. The sweetness of apple and bright flavor of dill made this a full bodied soup. My favorite part of the soups was that they were all such unique flavors that I normally would not have prepared myself. Each container is 2 cups making this a great meal or perfect to share with your spouse with a side salad.

Want to give the Splendid Spoon a try? Use this link to receive $20 off your first order ❤ We’d love to hear what you think.