Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Apple Tasting- Free Printable

How does your family feel when you revisit subjects? When we return to subjects, it feels like we’re visiting an “old friend”. There is familiarity but also excitement for adding to what we already know. This is our 3rd time cycling through apples, but each time we cycle we add something to deepen & enrich our learning experience. This year we’re adding in apple picture studies, apple poetry, copy work, & folk songs. (Click here if you want to see how we've studied apples in the past). I also thought that it would be fun to do an apple taste-off. 

My husband has often said that I am good at celebrating even then small things, and I think this was one of those moments. I tried to make a hot summer day fun with an apple taste-off. It costs us about a dollar an apple, then I made & printed these apple score cards (Free for you here). We had a really fun time tasting all of these apples and then rating our favorites. Then, of course, we dipped them in caramel & chocolate chips. If you want to try this with us and rate your favorite apples, I added the score card I made free for you here. Please let me know what type of apple is your family's favorite! Apparently, we are all about the Honey Crisp apple in our home!

xoxo Darby

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Best Brownies (I promise you won't be disappointed)

I have NEVER been good at making brownies. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is a rock star brownie maker. I have tried her recipe numerous times & always failed. I was craving a delicious homemade brownie 3 weeks ago, and decided I would try my hand at them again. I have made this so many times now to perfect the recipe, & I think this is it. These brownies are as perfect as I can get them, not too fudgy and not to cakey, something in the middle with a delicious frosting. What gets me is that these really are so easy to make. I wish I had committed to working on this recipe years ago. Think of all the brownies I've missed! So come on, try these brownies!



1 cup softened butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

walnuts (optional)


6 tbs melted butter

6 tbs unsweetened cocoa

1 tbs honey

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups confectioner sugar

3 tbs room temperature water    

ice cream a la mode (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease & flour a 9 x 13 pan.

2. To make brownies, mix all wet ingredients together in a bowl with a fork, then add the dry ingredients. You want to mix until just incorporated but not too much. Evenly spread the batter into the greased pan. If you are going to add nuts, you can sprinkle them on top right before putting the pan in the oven.

3. Bake for 25-27 minutes.

4. While the brownies are in the oven, mix all of the frosting ingredients together. If the frosting is too stiff, add water. It should have a very smooth texture. Pour the frosting over the brownies while they are still warm.

5. Enjoy!

xoxo Darby

Monday, December 14, 2020

A Loose Parts Tray: Without Going in Debt

Loose Parts.... Sounds a little weird to say.  While this is not a new concept, I have noticed a resurgence in popularity surrounding flexible materials as educational resources in the last couple of years.  I can’t say that I’m surprised considering how many studies are illustrating the need for more activities that foster imagination, creativity, and critical thinking.  The concept of a “loose parts tray” is basically several ambiguous objects in different shapes.  A child is given the tray to create whatever they want to with the objects. Loose parts are also used as invitational manipulatives for learning.

Most people are easily "on board" with how the simplicity reaps great rewards for the mind, BUT what many are NOT so fond of is the price; myself included.  BUT price has never stopped me before.  If I can see great value, I will find a way to make it happen within my price range.  I made my own loose parts tray for my kids for a fraction of the cost that many companies charge, and it wasn’t hard at all! I want to share these resources with you.

First step, was I ordered this bamboo tray with adjustable dividers.  This was the most expensive part, and it was only $20. I have ordered 3 of these now for displaying our peg dolls, but we have one just for loose parts. I have also since, order a circular bamboo tray (this one actually comes with 2 different sizes) to keep life interesting.

Next I perused Casey’s Wood for all of the loose parts.  This site includes peg dolls, rings, buttons, colored beads, scoops and bowls……and friends, I’m talking like 7 cents a piece for some of these things……..CENTS people!  You can get numerous items for under a dollar!  You don’t have to wait forever for shipping and you’re not charged your right arm.  I mean…..can you pass that up? Some items come painted and others are not.  If you want unpainted you could paint them yourself or paint them with your child.  They would probably have a lot of pride in something that they contributed to. This site also has a lot of things that we have ordered and painted as gifts (e.g. candle stick holders).

Then, lastly, PLAY! Use these resources to play, to build, to keep fingers busy during read-alouds so minds can be active, narration, to strew, or for math facts, sequencing, patterns...honestly the options are limited only by your own imagination. If you follow us on Instagram, you've probably seen us use these resources consistently for years, and I love that they have grown with our family.

xoxo Darby

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Lemon Pepper Chicken

I know, I know.  It's been a while. Life is keeping me busy. I have tons of blog posts, but they're all up in my head.  I'm sorry you can't read them; maybe I'll get back here soon.  But for now, here is a really yummy recipe that I've been making lately, and my family is loving it; thought I'd share it with you.

5-6 garlic cloves, minced
juice from 2 medium lemons
2 tbs lemon pepper seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 tbs EVOO
2 lbs chicken tenders (I get the organic packs from Costco; you could use chicken breast, just make sure they're all the same thickness)
2 tbs grass-fed butter
lemon slices, for serving
fresh parsley, chopped for serving
broccoli, steamed as a side (optional)

1. Combine garlic, lemon juice, spices, & half of the oil in a bowl to marinate chicken.
2. Dry off chicken, and then add it to the marinade. Make sure the chicken is coated in the marinade & let sit covered in the fridge for 2 hours.
3. Heat the remaining oil & butter in a skillet (I use cast iron), and discard the marinade. Cook chicken in the heated oil/butter 3-4 minutes on both sides.  
4. While the chicken is cooking, I steam broccoli for a side. I've also done brussels sprouts & quinoa before. Get creative, or use what you already have. 
5. Serve with slices lemons & chopped parsley
6. Enjoy!
xoxo Darby

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Simple Scones for Tea Time

Phew, do I have a recipe for you today!  I have been baking these scones all month to make sure my recipe is just right and is exactly what I wanted.  These scones are prefect for the tea drinker that just wants a little treat but doesn't want to bake every single time.  These are small scones that you can freeze and pull out for tea whenever the mood strikes! I bake them on the weekends, so that we have them for poetry tea time throughout the week.  These little bite-size scones wont spoil dinner, but will hit the spot!  Okay, so let me share these simple, fast, and freezable (is that a word?) scones with you!

2.5 cups self-rising flour
2 tbs confectioners sugar
2 tbs butter, chopped
2 cups whole milk
2 tbs white vinegar
1 tsp lemon rind
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Clotted cream
Jam, we like strawberry best

1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 9-inch square cake pan.
2.Whisk together flour & sugar.  Squish in butter with your fingers.
3. Mix together milk & white vinegar to make buttermilk.  Then measure out 1  1/4 cups and add it to the flour mixture. Reserve the rest of the buttermilk for later.
4. To the flour, add lemon rind & lemon juice.
5. Gently mix ingredients together with a knife until is starts to form dough, and then gently knead with your hands.
6. On a piece of wax paper sprinkled with flour, flatten out the dough with your hands until it is about 3/4 of an inch thick.  Using a 1/2 inch circular cookie cutter, cut out scones and place into the pan, just touching.  To prevent sticking, dip cutter into the flour before trying to cut the dough.
7. Brush scones with leftover buttermilk and then bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden.
8. Serve warm with clotted cream and preserves.
9. Enjoy!

If you freeze cooked scones, to prepare: pull out of the freezer and put in an aluminum foil pouch, and put them into the oven.  Then turn oven on to preheat at 425, and set a timer for 25 minutes. Mine are usually defrosted and warm within this time.
xoxo Darby

Monday, June 17, 2019

Year-Round Schooling

Do you school year-round?” I’ve gotten this question & heard it a lot lately (probably because traditional schools are letting out for summer).  For us, we absolutely school through the summer.  I know is doesn’t work for everyone and that’s totally cool with me (I know you know your family best, and doing what fits your family best- you’re awesome- rock on!) This is our 3rd summer of schooling & I’ll share why we choose to school this way:

ONE-  It works for us! My kids flourish with the rhythm of learning.  When we go without the structure, we have a tendency to forget some character traits & educational skills we’ve worked on
TWO- Summers are hot in TX- This girl still has not adjusted to TX heat. It’s too hot to be outside.  We actually make our most progress during the summer months.
THREE- Freedom- When we school year-round it doesn’t mean we don’t take breaks. We do, just not when the calendar dictates.  Because we school in the summer, when it’s cooler in the “winter” we have field trips galore; we go to the beach during the week, in the off-season (yippee for off-season prices).
FOUR- Intensity decreases- The daily pace is more relaxed, and we are less pressured to complete content during the traditional 9-month calendar.  We never have to school 7 hours a day during the year because it’s spaced out over a longer period of time.
FIVE- Environmental learning- I don’t want my kids to think learning only happens Sept-May.  I’ve been intentional to develop a lifestyle of learning, not determined by the calendar or the environment.  Learning is anytime anywhere. I don’t want “lazy learning” to develop, instead I want curiously to shine whenever the mood strikes.

While these are my reasons, I do not think schooling year-round is the only way to incorporate these concepts, this is just how we make it work for us.

xoxo Darby

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Small Things: June 2019

Oh hey, remember me? I really fell off this blogging platform.  Like I really fell off.  I think this has been my longest blogging break.  Or maybe I better just accept that every time I come back to this blogging space it will be after a long break? 

If we were to go for coffee, either in a coffee shop by ourselves or around my kitchen table, what would I tell you?  I would share with you about the small things in my life that are just making life easier or more joyful.
 recap: January ~ February ~ March ~ April ~ May ~ June July ~ January

"What is the ONE thing?" I get asked often what my number one favorite school resource is (click here to see them all), & it is this hundred board. We use it all. the. time. I love that it's wooden & versatile. I have the Montessori color letters & numbers, but I also use mini erasers, jelly beans, rocks, sea shells, etc. with it also. We use it for: counting to 100, counting by 2's, 5's, 10's, addition/subtraction, more vs. less, even vs. odd, patterns, the alphabet, sight words, vowels vs. consonant, word families, spelling, uppercase vs. lowercase, sorting & even fine motor. I love that I can use one item to cover so many concepts that grow with my children. 


What is something that you are loving right now? 

Obligatory Blogger Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this review; I just really like this product.
xoxo Darby

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Day in the Life of an Accidental Homeschooler

Hi I’m Darby and I’m an accidental homeschooler. Homeschooling was never on my radar as something that I would even consider as an option for our family.  In fact, I'm ashamed to admit, but growing up I was guilty of maintaining a lot of the stereotypes regarding homeschooling families.  And here I am now with two little ones (ages 3 & 4 in preschool and kindergarten) that I love homeschooling, and a huge enthusiast and advocate of homeschooling.  Isn't the Lord funny like that? ;-)  And I must admit, that my preconceived notions, were WRONG!
While I never expected to be a homeschooling family, the careers of my husband and I didn't either.  We are a homeschooling family where both parents work full-time. We are an anomaly and I'm okay with that because it works for us.  How does this full-time working family also homeschool? We juggle. We struggle. We juggle some more. We communicate. We are flexible.  We pray.  We are continually reaffirmed in our decisions to homeschool. Let me share with you how we are making this work for us.  (Disclaimer: I'm not saying that our way is the right way, or the only way.  I only express this as what is working for us right now.  It might change, but for now, this is how we are managing).
We entertained the idea of homeschooling, and ultimately made the decision to homeschool our children, because we wanted control over curriculum where Jesus was taught, to enable deep thinkers, to linger over subjects, and the flexibility of time both in and out of the "classroom".  I was also a bit discouraged with the industrial education system, but I am not opening that can of worms today.  To cultivate a culture of learning while working full-time, we have firm boundaries; we say "no" to a lot of extra stuff so that we can say "yes" to the learning lifestyle in our home.  We feel called to this lifestyle so we do not feel guilty about putting this mission field above all other things.  We school non-traditionally throughout the week, and sometimes Saturdays.  If we’re not schooling, we take a field trip on Saturdays, but always rest on Sundays.  Because we have such flexibility, we also school throughout the summer.  I thought initially my kids wouldn’t like that, but it turns out, we all appreciate the structure and atmosphere of year-round schooling. 

Our approach to homeschooling is, what I would call, a hodgepodge: a combination of Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Classical, and Waldorf. I tend to lean more towards the natural side as far as units & manipulatives. I typically choose natural fibers over plastics or sounds. I like to leave a lot of room for the imagination to blossom. And, of course, I turn to books and I schedule in a lot of time for reading.  Scheduling all of this was a little overwhelming at first, but we have established our rhythm and I will share with you what is working for us now, though always subject to change, and I still have so much to learn.
My husband works in the oil and gas industry and works very long hours.  I am a university professor with an unusual schedule.  While I do work full-time, I do not work traditional hours, which provides me flexibility with my time.   Every morning I am up at 6 am, to get myself ready for the day, prep breakfast, read something for myself, and answer emails.  The kids get up at 8 am, are dressed, and head to the kitchen for breakfast.  During breakfast I read the Bible, we practice our memory verse, sing a hymn, and then read a story for something that we are learning about.  These activities are standard for every morning, but from this point on, our days differ.
When I am at the university during the week, we have someone at home with our children.  We call this recess.  After breakfast and our standard activities, the kids play a lot and are outside.  When I get home, we eat and then have what we call Book Day.  In our home, Book Days include getting into my bed, or curled up on a blanket on the living room floor, and spending the afternoon reading aloud over piles of books pertaining to whatever we are learning at the time (insects, music, the solar system, etc.) or just something that we really enjoy.  Our Book Days are very relaxed and do not include a single worksheet, just books, discussions, and sometimes tea.  This has worked well for us because it is scheduled time for reading that reinforces the content we are covering.  We all expect those afternoons and look forward to them.

On other days when I'm not at the university in the morning, after breakfast we have Morning Basket.  This basket isn't really a basket anymore.  It used to be, but now it is more like a bunch of activities that are sprawled out on the kitchen counter for me to quickly grab that I set up the night before.  While still at the breakfast table, we spend 1-2 hours going over activities that are mostly review, fun, hands-on, and highly engaging activities (mostly from our book club subscription or pertaining to a current event or holiday).  Each child has their own activities but we are all working together.  Around 10:30 am the kids get up to have some free play while I clean up the kitchen from breakfast and morning "basket".  Around 11:15 am we have Book Time.  This is always on the living room floor around a bowl of popcorn.  First, I read a picture book aloud to the kids, and then we have quiet reading time with our own stack of books.  I set a timer for 10 minutes for quiet reading time.  When the timer goes off, if we’re all still okay (with our little wiggles) we keep going.  When I first started this exercise, I did small 5-minute increments (because, toddlers), but now we do 10-15 minutes, and usually go up to about 50 minutes of quiet reading together.  We do this about 3x a week.  I like this because I actually get to read, my kids get to SEE me reading, & they get quiet time to flip through their own books.
After our reading time, my youngest goes down for her nap, and then I work one-on-one with my son in our school room.  This is the time during the week where new concepts are introduced, where we work on language arts (phonics, reading, handwriting, word families, comprehension, sight words, etc.), math (comparisons, addition/subtraction, time, money, counting, etc.), science (the solar system, life cycle of a frog, nature exploration, etc.), social studies (the pledge, geography, etc.), and the arts (music & art).  Around 3pm, he goes to my bed for a quiet time, where he will sleep, rest, or read a book.  I quickly clean up his schooling, and pull out what I have prepped for my youngest.  She is only 3, so her schooling right now revolves around a book and we cover numbers, phonics, & art mostly.  A lot of her school is hands-on and active.  Right now, schooling for my kids, and introducing new concepts is conducted one-on-one.  I know that will not always be the case, but that works best for us right now.
After rest time and one-on-ones, we all come back to the kitchen table for tea time.  This always includes art, poetry, and cookies. This lasts about 20-30 minutes, and then the kids are ready for some free play while I cook dinner.
After dinner, my husband usually comes home and there is wrestling, golf or tennis in the backyard, something physical and....... loud lol  Then it's bath, book, and bed time.  My kids are in bed at 8 pm.  We live away from family and do not have free childcare, so it is essential that we keep strict bed times so that I can see my husband and have conversations with him.  Monday nights are our check-in nights.  We always schedule this time.  It isn't a formal meeting, but it is a time where we check-in with each other.  We have to be very intentional with our time and this "scheduled" time has worked well for us and kept our marriage healthy.  Other evenings during the week, I will usually watch a show with my husband before he heads to bed around 9:30/10, or I teach a night class.  But when the house is quiet late at night, I am in Go Mode.

I don’t think I have always been an introvert, & I don’t think I will be one forever; however, in this season of my life, while homeschooling my young children and working, I am an introvert. I don’t get a lot of time alone where I can refuel, & I really need it. The only time that I have found to refuel is when the world is sleeping. So I stay up late. Like really late.  I would rather be sleep-deprived & sane, than rested & crazy. (sidebar- I attribute my ability to work on little sleep to doctoral grad school). I see bedtime for my house as “second morning” for me.  I stay up late because I want to answer emails for students, update lectures, prep classroom activities, edit manuscripts, read scholarly journals, prepare advising materials, to zone-out, to read a book, to be creative & write a blog post, to mindlessly scroll through Facebook, to enjoy the silence, to laminate, or to prep the next school day in peace.  I find the evening is when I'm most productive with preparation for school but also for my own mental health.  I typically head to bed around 2 am.

After a day, whether it was a day I was at school or a day where I was at home schooling, I have found that no matter what, I am educating.  I am leading and teaching All. The. Time.  I don't think it is something that I'm perfect at, but it does come natural to me.  It is something I have been called to do and thus I work hard at trying to be better and to serve more.  I have great peace using the gift God gave me.

I never imagined that I would be a homeschooling mother.  I never imagined that I would be a working mother while juggling homeschool.  Sometimes I think I’m crazy to try and do it all.  But then.  But then.  But then, there are those moments, where I see my children flourishing, and loving the learning experience, and choosing to linger over subjects because it brings them joy and they want to.  And then I am encouraged, and I know that it isn't just about what I want, but what our family is called to do right now.  I know that we have made the right decisions to be jugglers. With a huge dose of patience, a dash of flexibility, a deep desire for elaborate learning and critical thinking, and a colossal quantity of Jesus, we are thriving accidental homeschoolers, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.
xoxo Darby

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Bees, Butterflies, & Flowers {Free Printable}

Right now I am in the process of gearing up for April.  Next month we are going to be diving into spring, gardening, wildflowers, bees, bugs, and butterflies.  Last spring we spent a lot of time on the life cycle of the butterfly, and barely touched on bees; this year I want to quickly revisit butterflies, but spend a lot of time on bees.  Makes sense, right?  Anyways, I wanted one activity that could be used for both insects, but also used with several content areas.  Today I'm sharing this single activity with you as a FREE printable!
I am a big fan of having one activity that can be used to teach multiple objectives. It’s a big perk, if that activity will grow with my child & I can use it at multiple stages of cognitive development. And if it is seasonally exciting, well then I. Am. Sold. This is one of those activities, and I have it for you today FREE!  Let me share with you all of the ways we use this in our home.
First get the FREE download, print, & laminate (or put into a page protector).  We like to use mini bee and butterfly erasers.
Roll. Use foam dice to roll a number in the top 2 boxes. If your child is not counting above 6 yet, you can use a single dice.
Add. Ask your child to count up the dots, or to add them together for a sum. If you’re past addition, try subtraction. Comparisons also work great here (write greater than or less than on the sheet, or “write the number of the dice with more dots”).
Write. Your child could write the sum as a digit or a word, both numbers presented on each dice, or trace the digit or word. We use dry erase markers since they erase well on the laminated material.
Count. Using manipulatives, get your child to count out the number that was presented on the dice.
Fun. Enjoy!!!!

If you think that your little one would enjoy learning with this, get your copy here for FREE!
xoxo Darby

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Spring Showers {Free Printable}

Looking outside, it looks like spring.  It feels like spring.  It must be spring.  We're close enough to spring to call it spring, right? Weather and the seasonal changes are extremely relevant in our home lately, so I made this printable, and I want to share it with you as a FREE printable!
I am a big fan of having one activity that can be used to teach multiple objectives. It’s a big perk, if that activity will grow with my child & I can use it at multiple stages of cognitive development. And if it is seasonally exciting, well then I. Am. Sold. This is one of those activities, and I have it for you today FREE!  Let me share with you all of the ways we use this in our home.
First get the FREE download, print, & laminate (or put into a page protector).  We like to use small blue glass beads or pom poms to represent raindrops. You could also use brown buttons as “mud.”
Roll. Use foam dice to roll a number in the top 2 boxes. If your child is not counting above 6 yet, you can use a single dice.
Add. Ask your child to count up the dots, or to add them together for a sum. If you’re past addition, try subtraction. Comparisons also work great here (write greater than or less than on the sheet, or “write the number of the dice with more dots”).
Write. Your child could write the sum as a digit or a word, both numbers presented on each dice, or trace the digit or word. We use dry erase markers since they erase well on the laminated material.
Count. Using manipulatives, get your child to count out the number that was presented on the dice.
Fun. Enjoy!!!!

If you think that your little one would enjoy learning with this, get your copy here for FREE!
xoxo Darby

Monday, February 25, 2019

Favorite Homeschooling Resources

I have had several requests for where I find my resources for homeschooling, so I have gathered up my favorite things for homeschooling to share with you. I will leave this at the top of my School page and update it frequently when I find new favorites.  I have organized this list into several areas to help: prep and storing, supplies, art supplies, curriculum, manipulatives, books for mama, & books for kids.

xoxo Darby

Friday, February 15, 2019

Honestly Hawley {January 2019}

And so begins my fourth year of these monthly updates.  I love these capsules to see how our family evolves!  January this year was actually slower.  This is a goal of  mine for this year, to linger and move much slower.  I do think that I made great strides this month to work on slowing down and to not rush through my to do list just to check things off.  The environment in our home is much more peaceful, and as I went through the pictures from this month I am able to see that peace on my children's faces.  In my heart I am feeling much better too.  I hope to keep up with this slower home culture throughout the year.
2016: June ~ July ~ August ~ September ~ October ~ November ~ December
2017: January ~ February ~ March ~ April ~ June ~ July ~ August SeptemberOctober ~ November ~ December
2018: January February ~ March ~ April ~ May ~ June ~ July ~ August ~ September ~ October ~ November ~ December

xoxo Darby
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