Our chicken coop situation, project & video on YouTube!

When we moved to this property we knew we’d have animals in the future. We also knew there was an existing chicken coop attached to the shop and a detached tack shed but otherwise no other animal “structures” on the property. The coop hadn’t been used in years and the run was pretty demolished by who knows what.


So since I’ve spent the first 5-6 mths on this property cleaning up around the 8 acres, fixing up the house and doing minor repairs inside I decided it was time to start on animal projects. I’d love to get my chickens and pigs before we come out of winter just because I want to have them here and give them time to adapt to their new home before we go into summer, as I presume that will be the hardest time of year for them here in southern Arizona.


So last week I decided to go ahead and start doing something about this chicken cook situation. Below I’ll show you photos of what it looked like before and also some photos of the work we did on it last week PLUS a video tour I posted on YouTube! The link to that is near the bottom of this post!





This is the outside storage area, like a “carport” off the coop.



Inside the coop



Inside the coop



Inside the coop. It has a little shelf over there in the corner and there is power in here to YAY, I can add a light on an automatic timer switch if I need to give them either more light in the winter or put a heat lamp in there. In the summer I’ll have a fan on each size of the breeze way circulating air in there to try to keep them cooler.



Behind the coop, the old run. With a big desert bush in the middle.



I’m not sure what is up with that half way behind the storage area but it looks rough!



That bush.







Outside storage area as of about 2 weeks ago.



Over the last few months as I have been removing or trimming trees I have been saving certain limbs that I thought would be useful in the coop. I read an article about having some limbs attached to the inside of the coop and that the birds like to “chill” or “play” on them, lol! So that is what some of these are for!



I cleared out all the stuff I had in there and just raked out the whole area. It was just all nasty. I moved these little storage shelves I had in the shop out there as temporary storage. Then once I did that I got to thinking about how that opening faces the south and how this little area gets good sun exposure but not direct all day long. So I got to thinking this might be a good area for a temporary green house type experiment. Or maybe when I start seedlings inside I can bring them to this spot to transition to outdoors before I plant them outside. More research to be done on that though later!




Then the door wouldn’t open more than 1 foot…




So I started raking all the dirt out of the way blocking the door and quickly realized it wasn’t just that but 1 of the hinges on the door was broken.





I got the hinge repaired, added some support nails and got the dirt all cleared so now she opens 75% of the way and closes perfectly since it’s all level now! Yay!



I put some pots here because I’m just trying to envision really what it’s going to be like. I know there are a few herbs that are really good for chickens and since I’m also studying Permaculture at the same time I have decided there is at least 1 fruit tree that I’m going plant right beside the run so they can eat the fruit when it drops (plums) and then also I’m going to plant blueberry bushes along their fence line for them to eat as well and I can harvest the other side they can’t get to. But to start I’m going to plant some herbs in pots near the door so that those can start growing and I will use those to cut some off and give to them as treats as I walk by all the time.





What you see here is the coop in the middle, a covered storage area on the left, to the left of that is the wood fence to my backyard, on the far right is the outdoor storage area beside the coop that I showed you above and to the right of that is the gate that leads to my house and where I park. I had to tackle removing this big bush since it takes up (what I presume) is all of the OLD run. The new run will be much larger.





Before I started this project I put out a reqeust on Facebook on local farming/homesteading pages asking for advice on how to remove this bush/tree and if anybody knew what kind it was. Since this is the desert and that thing was surviving all by itself just fine without being watered or cared for I knew it had to have deep roots. Which would make it harder to remove.


Luckily, within a few minutes I had some very helpful people sharing great info with me! Turns out it is a Greasewood bush also known as a Desertbroom bush. These guys not only are natives to the Sonoran Desert and DO have super deep roots BUT they are also very beneficial! They need no maintenance technically and their leaves have medicinal purposes. So upon researching the type further and confirming it is in fact a Greasewood bush I found that the leaves when crushed and used in numerous ways are anti bacterial, anti viral, relieve muscle aches, help upset stomachs, you name it! I’m all about having “useful” plants on the property so I was very glad to learn all about this guy here on the farm and how really there is no reason for me to get rid of him. The birds will like some shade and might also want to play in some of the lower limbs so I decided to keep it.



Since it has a bunch of smaller limbs I didn’t think my chainsaw would work, I thought I’d have a lot of kickback. So I did first try my jig saw and a hand saw and neither went very well. So I went and got my chainsaw and Riley helped hold the smaller limbs down while I cut so that they weren’t popping back.



We got the majority of the bigger ones along the bottom cut out and pulled away.



Then got to work on the smaller ones around the bottom with the pruning sheers.



So we got a lot cut out but the run was still a mess and the sun was setting.



This is what this guy looks like close to the ground. Lots of big and lil limbs just going all over the place. I’ll have to make sure to prune this every few mths so it doesn’t get all wild again but that’s totally fine by me.



Finally got the whole area raked out of debris, trash, horse poo, etc.



She’s all cleaned up! The biggest thing left to do for the run is build all new fence around it, put in a gate/door, predator proof the bottom with hardware cloth, put netting over the top and add some features inside the run that I want to do like you’ll see below in my Pinterest inspiration photos. So yeah, still a lot to do but cleaning this up motivated me to keep at the project finally!









I’m still amazed at how it actually looks like a tree from a distance even though it’s just a bush. It is so tall it has to be at least 3-5 years old. And something that has survived that long on it’s own I just couldn’t dare remove.


Here is the video on YouTube I just published today talking about this chicken coop project, doing a tour of the inside, introducing my puppies to you all (lol!) and a photo collage at the end of all these photos I just shared on here!





I want a run built like this but with netting over the top!





I like the idea of having a super cute door like this on the run as a “gate” just because it’s so cute! And I may have an extra door or two I could use for this it is just a matter of making it work. But I do love the pop of color as well!



I’m going to plant some things in the run in boxes like this for the chickens to eat as they grow UP because I just think it’s such an awesome idea! So this will go outside in the run!



I’ve also read that chickens like to “play” on stumps and I have plenty of logs big enough for this so I’ll jam a few in the ground in the run for them to play on.



Not only am I in love with the “fresh eggs” sign and just have to have one but I also love that they have all these potted plants and flowers right outside the chicken coop. I probably won’t do any non edible flowers unless I’m trying to bring bees to the area (there’s an idea….) but I will definitely do herbs and cumfrey right outside the door and also along their fence line.



I love this PVC automatic chicken feeder idea!



I want the chicken coop to be on solar for the minimal things that will be running out there and not really because it needs to be because there is already power to the coop but just as a step to gradually move all structures on the property to solar and all NEW structures will be only on solar.



This is one of the ideas I saw where they use tree limbs in the coop for the chickens. In fact, I hope my coop looks a lot like this one because I’m going to paint it white in there and I also have to do the ceiling and I have enough limbs to do a setup just like this one for my chickens.


Well, thank you again for stopping by and checking it out! I hope you enjoyed the post and the video! If you have any suggestions on what I’m working on or what type of dual purpose bird to raise here in the Sonoran Desert that can handle the heat, I’m open to suggestions!


Please subscribe to stay up to date on what we’re doing here on our start up homestead! =D




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DIY twin bed frame FREE!

So a couple of weeks ago I decided Riley needed a new bed frame. Let me clarify, he has one…but it is at my ex’s house still and so when we moved here we just put his two mattresses on the floor and he didn’t care because…he’s a boy…and…he was glad he could go plop down or throw himself on his bed, lol, without having to worry about breaking anything! Ha! Boys! Well it got to bothering me and one day in the backyard taking clothes off the line the pile of old wood 1x4s caught my attention and I GOT AN IDEA!!!!


The idea to TRY to make a twin size bed frame totally out of just our mind’s creation was born! I could have looked it up online to get some guidance but I was just pumped to go at it, do it with Riley and us figure it out together along the way through good ol’ fashioned trial and error!




Here we go!



This is a pile of 1x4s we had laying around from a trellis we tore down.



This is a 2×2 post from what used to be part of a porch or something on the back of the house. Now it just hangs out there all alone so I cut that off with the chainsaw to use as the 6 feet or supports.



We did measure the mattresses and stuff to figure out what our final width and length would need to be once assembled, I let Riley do the math while explaining a few things to him and then we cut some pieces down to the size we needed.



I let him do A LOT. Because once we started the project he really got intrigued and had a genuine interest in building something tangible which is probably the first time he’s ever done that. Typically if I need something demolished, he’s my guy. But now, I’m fostering this love of building in him as we both have much to learn and it’s a very good thing!



I must say that he approached this project with this idea that (based on HIS experience in his video games and especially Minecraft) that he can just build and do anything. Even though in real life he lacked a lot of the actual skill and really had zero experience. And I quickly noticed his “Get it done attitude” quickly changed to “What in the world am I doing here” because he realized his ideals of what he thought he knew how to do were not really in line with reality. This was a beautiful thing for me to see as a Mother!!!! I took it as an opportunity not to criticize him on the false security his video games give him but rather to sit and show him how to properly hammer in a nail, ways to hold it, how to hit it in straight, how to fix it if it isn’t straight, etc. Once he realized he didn’t know a thing about it, lol, he was willing to listen to Mama Bear.



A frame is taking shape! AND we lost daylight. This idea was born at like 4 or 5pm and it got dark quick so we put the tools up and headed in and Riley himself (I totally was too) was super excited to work on this again the next day. Anything I can do to encourage him to be self motivated to get outside and especially work on a project (being as he’s home schooled, basically an only child with his younger brother living in Arkansas, we have no neighbor kids nearby and he’s an introvert anyway) then I’m all for it!



So Day 2 we set out and since he had gotten a handle on a lot of the basics on day 1 with just using a hammer and nails and putting stuff together, I did a lot of over-seeing. Proudly, might I add.



Max had to come out and meander around, wondering what we were up to. Once he laid down right in the middle here, lol, until he was in our way. Riley liked having his best buddy around to watch or “help”! 😉



Well now that is kinda lookin’ like a bed frame! =D



We measured our support pieces, nothing here is perfect, let me say that. I made sure that the frame was level, were the right final dimensions and all the feet were level. Beyond that, we left the wood that old peeling blue paint that was on that aged trellis for at least 10 years. We cleaned off each piece and actually came across a few pieces that had termites on it so those got pitched to maybe use later for something else. So these were all cleaned up, dust free (mostly) and bug free but definitely is not perfection, which we’re totally fine with.



He has a navy blue bed skirt somewhere but for life of me I couldn’t find it so temporarily so we could revel in the accomplishment of the completed project, I put this green one I had on there.



Tada!!!! <– As Riley would say! =D It is done! He has this Angry Birds blanket my Mom got him years ago and now that we have our sewing machine I plan to quickly learn how to quilt to make both of my boys awesome bed quilts in their favorites themes. Riley’s will be a Minecraft quilt and I’ve already picked out the inspiration and pattern so hopefully I’ll get that done this winter!



Here is an over view of the final few steps!


Riley, is SO happy with the project! Not only did he do probably 80% of the work but we did this in 2 days, just an hour or two each time, he learned a lot, I learned a lot, I immensely enjoyed watching my child’s knowledge and experience grow in a subject I’ve never been afforded the opportunity to teach him until NOW and he has a bed up off the floor.


Even though when I first mentioned this idea he wasn’t even sold on having a bed frame because he liked his mattresses on the floor NOW he is convinced. He loves it, our dog Max who sleeps with him loves it, everybody is happy!


I kid you not for days when I’d walk into Riley’s room and he’d be laying on his bed watching a video on his phone I’d just look at him and say “Omg, you’re on your bed! How awesome is that thing!” and we both would just beam with pride!!! That is a feeling INSIDE that you can’t replace and you sure can’t buy!!!





If YOU know of any other super, super easy wood working projects my son and I could try together please comment below here on the blog so that we can look into them! Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a post! <3

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Making bed rails out of reclaimed wood!

So here on our little farm we’re all about reusing, up-cycling, no waste, etc. I have this gorgeous wrought iron headboard and foot board I snagged from a local friend about 2 years ago now. At some point in the process of a move the side rails were lost and then this sat in storage for a long time because we had a king sized bed. Upon moving to the farm the only bed I had was an old set of full size mattresses and then this head board and foot board. When we moved in I was able to buy side rails somewhere (I don’t even remember) and so I eagerly put the bed together. To my dismay, (and it was great dismay) the full size mattresses just BARELY fit into the rails and so basically every other time I got in bed the mattress would fall through onto the floor and I’d get super, SUPER irritated.


After re-fixing that probably 5 times I gave up and took the bed apart and had the mattresses on the floor for a few months. I mean, I’m not fancy and I have no shame. My mattresses are comfortable and the whole house was really “in transition” AND we rarely have company over so who cares anyway.


Then one day a couple of weeks ago I was walking around in the backyard while taking a break from digging in the future garden and came across this pile of 1x4s that we set aside when Riley demo’d part of the backyard pergola and I thought of my bed! It just hit me!!!! How I could cut them down to the size I need and make supports across the bottom part of my bed. My Mom had told me months ago that’s what I needed to do to fix the bed issue but I just kept thinking I needed to go buy 1x4s and since I just have a car and didn’t want to spend the money on it I just put it off.


Alas, a new project was born!


bed support - 1

With Riley home schooling now I like to take every opportunity I can to teach him anything hands on, useful, homesteading skills, building skills, etc. And honestly about half the time we’re learning something new TOGETHER as I’ve never done it either. It all makes for fun times! Here is Riley using a jig saw for the first time, right after I used it for only the second time ever!


We cleaned off the old boards, took nails out and then cut them down to the size needed for my bed frame.


bed support - 2

Then we brought them in and laid them across my bed frame put together again and they all fit perfect. I mean, it took us maybe 15 mins total and that includes gathering the jig saw (got from a yard sale for $5 back in the summer) and the saw horses (got for free as a salvage find on an abandoned property) and getting everything ready to measure, cut and go! Super easy project! And totally free, which is my favorite part.


bed support - 3

Well…no…maybe my favorite part is having my beautiful little bed all set up again for the first time in a long time! I love how old it looks and it just fits in well with my room decor and my old quilt! Love, love, love!




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Prepping Lemongrass for winter!

Have you ever heard of LEMONGRASS!?!?!


Well just in case you haven’t, the first time I heard about it was when I was researching “natural” ways to repel mosquitoes here on our homestead.

To break it down, as stated on this website; “Lemongrass is a tropical herb packed with strong citrus flavor. The lemon taste is prized in Asian cooking, as well as in teas, sauces, and soups. In the garden, lemongrass forms a tall, grassy clump 3 to 5 feet tall. Its appearance rivals that of many ornamental grasses and can easily fulfill a similar role in the landscape.”

Lemongrass being a grass, lasts outdoors most of the year but lasts longer in warmer climates. Here in Arizona we’re in Zone 8 so it lasts the majority of the year. It is recommended to uproot it and plant in pots in the winter and bring inside when temps are below 40 degrees.


Our Plans

We want to have a good defense against those pesky mosquitoes this next year and when a local small farmer mentioned on her Facebook page that she had some free Lemongrass stalks for anybody who wanted some I totally went and grabbed up some. They sat on my front porch for over a good month because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to risk it and go ahead and plant them in the flower boxes around our front deck now and pray they survive the winter or what. So we finally did this week for Riley’s handicraft lesson in Gardening (his choice), which is the word to describe the extra curricular subjects children learn with the Charlotte Mason Method for home schooling. I explain handicrafts in depth in this post.


Where do you get it?
If you aren’t blessed with a giving local farmer or friend who has some lemongrass on their property, where do you find it? Well, it’s actually SUPER easy! When I was researching HOW to take care of this cute little grass I came across a blog post about how you can buy lemongrass in the grocery store and prep it to plant! <–Make sure you check that out!


Over on the blog The Prairie Homestead, whom I eagerly follow because she’s currently living a lot of my dreams on her farm/homestead and her blog is packed full of USEFUL information! I found this post on her blog about how to grow and use Lemongrass and in that they start it from a seed and germinate the seed! Awesome! At the end of the post there are also some linked posts with ideas and recipes for other uses for lemongrass other than as an aromatic bug repellent.


Something I plan to get obsessed with in the very near future is homemade soap making and you can find my ideas for that on my Pinterest board Soap and more soap! DIY Ya’ll! And you can use lemongrass a lot in homemade soap recipes! Things to come!


If you just want to follow all of my MANY Pinterest boards you can find my page here!


So after our research online a few days ago Riley and I gathered our donated lemongrass stalks, some empty pots we had in the shop and a bag of soil.



As we went through all these steps I was trying to teach Riley the little bit I had learned about lemongrass and the little bit more I learned about planting in pots that I learned from my Mom growing up.



Those donated lemongrass stalks!



It took us MAYBE 20 minutes! But it was a great “Gardening 101” lesson for Riley’s once weekly gardening handicraft for home school.




Proud boy!



This is what I hope our lemongrass looks like come late winter or early spring!



The GOAL is that our lemongrass will look like this by late Spring and it’ll be happy in its new home in the flower beds around our front deck. I’ll probably put some out by the shop as well since I often find myself there. And if we do our pool in the backyard again next year then I’ll put some out by it because the bugs were pretty annoying out there this past summer.


There is no telling if we did it exactly right or what will come of it but that is the fun of doing something new the first time. If we have issues with our potted sprouts I can at least get some at the grocery store and try to begin again before Spring. Live and learn!




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Our First Day Home Schooling – online studies


In a previous post, you can find here I mentioned that I decided to use the Charlotte Mason Method for our Home Schooling curriculum but that does not include math. So I spoke to a few friends and I thought we might do something online since math is one of Riley’s best subjects anyway. And pretty much everything else I had decided to do through books and hands on experience so that left nothing to do online and Riley was really looking forward to some studies being done online.


So after researching a few different online options I found IXL which offers math and language arts for K-12, basically. You can register any number of students, all work, grades and progress are tracked for you and daily updates are emailed to the parent’s email to let you know what accomplishments they got done that day. You can sign up for math or language arts only for $9/mth or you can sign up for both for $15/mth! I signed up for both since we can cancel it any time so if WE decide that method of either isn’t working great for him then I can just cancel it and not have money wasted on supplies and books.


So our first day doing home schooling we did just math and language arts online because my other materials hadn’t arrived in the mail yet after ordering them online.


Online free assessment tests

So we started with an online math assessment which showed Riley placed half-way through 6th grade Math which was a touch ahead of where he should be so that was great. So we dove right into it and started working through math problems and he was doing great. I knew the first several lessons should be material he already knows so even though I didn’t think he’d need me hands on, I sat there with him to go over everything and see how it worked out and how he did with it. It was a success!


Language Arts

A subject I had always known wasn’t Riley’s strong suit but there wasn’t an assessment test for it so we just started with the 6th grade level and he fumbled hardcore through the first lesson. So I opened up the 5th grade section and thought I’d go through the first few sections until we found stuff he did for sure know and he INSISTED he didn’t know any of that material either. So, we decided to start there. So he is officially a touch over a year behind in language arts but at this point moving forward we will be focusing on everything one on one so I’m confident we can cover some good ground the rest of this school year. And my primary concern will be making sure he understands these fundamentals to move onward and upward from here.



There were NO fits or emotional break downs on our Day 1! haha! But, all we did was math and language arts online. I can’t wait to go over how things went once we got our Charlotte Mason materials in the mail!




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Why I chose the Charlotte Mason Method for home schooling

When I decided for sure in Mid-October 2015 that I was going to home school my 11 year old son (the full story here) I dove into research. I remembered that home schools often have local co-ops so I started researching those. I talked to a friend of mine in the next city over who I knew was a home schooling Mom. She gave me a wealth of information and pointed me in the direction of a few local co-ops that have groups on Facebook and she invited me to those. On there I met a handful of other local women who home school and several were eager to talk to me, hear my concerns and give me advice.


Then I reached out to one of my dear friends in Arkansas who I know also home schools 4 kids and her simple words to me were “You have to check out Charlotte Mason. Just research her.” And that lead me down a rabbit hole of 6 hours online (no kidding) reading and researching everything I could find about who this woman was, what she taught and why she was so special.


The first website I read end to end was the Wikipedia information about Charlotte Mason which you can find here

All of that information lead me to many more websites and books and inserts from books she had written.

In short, I will tell you briefly about her.



Charlotte Mason was born January 1st, 1842 and although she had no children of her own she spent her life trying to improve the education for children in England. To quote the entry on Wikipedia, “Her revolutionary methods led to a shift from utilitarian education to the education of a child upon living ideas. She based much of her early philosophy on current brain research, on the writings ofJohn Amos Comenius, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, and others, and on the collaborative efforts of those whose beliefs about education she admired, as well as her vast experience as both a teacher and a trainer and mentor for new teachers.”

The foundation of her thinking was that parents are the best educators and this was developed because in her time many children did not go to school at all. So she felt like if they were going to stay at home with their parents until they got jobs, they should at least spend that time being taught properly by their parents. So her first few books published were books to teach parents HOW to educate, why it was important, child development, etc.


Another quote I love, “We may not make character our conscious objective,” she wrote, but she believed that parents and teachers should “Provide a child with what he needs in the way of instruction, opportunity, and wholesome occupation, and his character will take care of itself: for normal children are persons of good will, with honest desires toward right thinking and right living. All we can do further is to help a child to get rid of some hindrance––a bad temper, for example––likely to spoil his life.” – Wikipedia


In my most humble of explanations I will say; the CM Method is to teach the child as a whole being, treat them as an adult and not someone less than, teach above them so they rise to the occasion, treat them with respect and teach in a calm manner, and not let the education end at books alone. The CM Method asks the educator to teach the main subjects but also insure that children spend 1-3 hours a day OUTSIDE in nature studying or playing.








Reading is tied to everything Charlotte Mason. For example, some of her curriculum books, (which can be bought through the website Simply Charlotte Mason here) are lesson plan books that for kids above grade 4 combine learning 3 subjects in a way to tie them together so that the student can grasp a concept fully, imagine it, see art from that time, etc.


“She spread before her students a feast of ideas from a wide variety of sources—from Shakespeare to knitting to Bible to tramping through field and stream to algebra to singing to foreign languages. And woven throughout it all, she emphasized the habits of full attention, best effort, and learning for the sake of learning.”

“All designed to help the child grow; for we learn, to grow.”



On the Simply Charlotte Mason site you will find this useful explanation; “The Charlotte Mason method is based on Charlotte’s firm belief that the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind. So a Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”


Living Methods
For example, Charlotte’s students used living books rather than dry textbooks. Living books are usually written in narrative or story form by one author who has a passion for his topic. A living book makes the subject “come alive.”



Nature is Paramount!

Never be Within Doors



A nature-diary is a source of delight!


Children are encouraged to not only BE in nature but to get out in nature to learn about it. There are guided lessons but mainly kids are encouraged to seek and explore and record what they find and what intrigues them.




“A beautiful and sturdy journal with gentle prompts to give you ideas of what to look for in nature study throughout each of the four seasons. Inspiring quotes, helpful nature tips, and heavy paper with plenty of room for drawing, painting, and writing about your nature finds. A lovely weekly guide to hours in the out-of-doors!”


Other VERY useful skills to explore!


It also asks that children learn about famous works of art and musical composers on top of 3-5 handicrafts and life skills per year. Handicrafts are hands on artistic endeavors that children can learn and grow from.

Here is a recommended list of Handicrafts:

Chalk drawing
Charcoal sketching
Clay sculpturing
Finger painting
Flower arranging
Iron sculpturing
Leather tooling
Loom weaving
Oil painting
Pencil sketching
Picture framing
Rubber stamping
Scroll sawing
Spinning fibers
Watercolor painting
Weaving pot holders



She also recommends that children learn valuable LIFE SKILLS, even from a young age. Where as if these things are taught at home you are creating more well rounded adults who are more likely to become more self sufficient even as teens, as opposed to the children who were not taught these skills.

The CM Method Life Skills could include:

Auto mechanics
Changing a car tire
Changing a lightbulb
Checking the car’s oil
Cleaning: mirrors, sinks, toilets, tubs and showers, baseboards
Clearing the table
Driving a car
Drying: clothes, dishes
Electrical wiring
Emptying trash
First Aid
Folding: clothes, towels, sheets
Mowing the lawn
Organizing: closets, cupboards, sheds, attics
Painting a room
Raking leaves
Setting the table
Sweeping the floor
Vegetable gardening
Washing: clothes, dishes, windows, car


Don’t forget the Arts!!!!!!!!


“Looking for a good art teacher? Check out this encouraging and professional art instruction in a wonderful series of videos, covering a wide variety of art media: watercolor, pencil drawing, pastel, sculpture, acrylic painting, ink, and more!

This wonderful series of instructional videos will introduce to you and your children a wide variety of art media: pencil drawing, watercolor, acrylic painting, sculpting, pastels, ink, and more. You might try several projects that teach one medium—all the pastel projects, for example—and enjoy progressing through the levels with that one art type. Or you might select a variety so your family members can experience several types of art and find the medium that resonates with each one.”


Picture Study Portfolios


“Everything you need to do art appreciation, all gathered into one beautiful package: gorgeous art prints, an artist biography, information on the pictures, and more!”

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.”—Charlotte Mason


The Stuff They Left Behind Portfolios


“Awaken your children’s minds to the treasures of the world’s famous artifacts and architecture! These large, full-color photographs, along with background information and leading discussion questions, will help your students gain a deeper understanding of history. All conveniently collected and stored at your fingertips.”


Although this is a lengthy post and yes a lot I quoted from wonderful websites to help give you a full understanding of the Charlotte Mason Method better than I could simply put into words myself; I hope this provides you a thorough explanation of this style of home schooling and why exactly I chose it for my son.




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Why I decided to home school as a single Mom

Home Schooling

Home schooling is a huge responsibility! You take the power of your child’s only education into your hands. For some families, they were taught through home schooling so they naturally teach their children through home schooling. For me, I was raised in public school and then went to college, briefly! Ha! As a young single Mom at the age of 22 with two small boys, as soon as they were school age they went to regular school. Honestly, I was most thankful for the relief on my budget because having two kids only a year apart in age in daycare so I could work full time cost me about $1200/mth! It really IS cheaper for single parents to work part-time jobs or live off of welfare, if they can pay their bills with that. I never qualified for that because since I was a trained Pharmacy Tech and I had a certain “skill set” I made more than minimum wage which meant I made $50/mth too much to qualify for any state assistance. Oh the joys of that!


Second Grade

I had my first issues with the Arizona school system with my youngest son, Konnor, was in 2nd grade. He had a pretty great teacher and even with his recently diagnosed ADHD and trying to get a handle on his behavioral issues and outbursts of anger (that was extremely unpredictable and rarely the same stimulus) the teacher was great and understanding. I would ask her numerous times how he was doing academically as this was the first year he was actually enjoying school and he had a good teacher so I was optimistic that his academics were on par as well.



He couldn’t read!

Well come to find out before Christmas break he was actually failing his reading portion. The teacher had never given me any info or notice that he was going to get a grade like that! Perplexed, because we would read together at home, I sat down with him with a new book and asked him to read to me. He couldn’t! He tried a few words and got so upset a big outburst occurred. I then realized that the books we would read or he would read to me at home were books we had had for years, which I had read to him many times and he had memorized them! He hadn’t been reading TO me all along. =(


The Arizona school system just doesn’t care

That began my discontent for the school system with their lack of information and lack of a desire to help each student do their best. I realized they really do just PASS KIDS ALONG even if they do not know everything they need to. That year in Konnor’s 2nd grade year they were going to pass him. By April of the following year before 2nd grade ended, we were facing other issues including Konnor’s chronic asthma and allergies as well as eczema and his behavioral issues were beginning to be more than I could handle alone and he was too young for talk therapy as we had tried that as well.


Will Arkansas be better?

So I talked to his father who lived in Arkansas (whom he would visit several times throughout the year and Konnor knew well) and asked if we could do a trial run of Konnor coming to live with his Dad the end of his 2nd grade year and through the summer. I wanted to do this to see if him living in a 2 parent home would help (his dad had now married after our split) and also every time we would visit back home his asthma and eczema would get a lot better due to all the moisture in the air, where here it is so dry and so it exacerbates his health conditions. His father agreed and we took a trip out there.


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It was the solution for him!

The last month that Konnor did 2nd grade in Arkansas he went through assessment tests, he had a very caring teacher, his step-mom was already previously involved in the local school system and so she knew a lot of the people at his new school and he got put into a FREE after school reading program! In the month that he went through that program his confidence had already began to grow, with just the concept of reading. Through that 1st summer in Arkansas he was put into a different full-time reading and academics summer camp. It was like a day care except it was FREE and done through the school system. Over that summer he was able to come up a grade in his reading level. Throughout his 3rd grade year in Arkansas with his additional tutoring in reading and focused one on one attention with other subjects he needed help in he was FINALLY able to read his reading grade level, in less than a year in Arkansas. Mostly through the free programs offered in Arkansas that don’t even exist here in Arizona. The progress he showed over that time was enough to show me that I made the right decision for my son. Of course, (people ask me all the time) it was a very hard decision and Riley and I miss him ALL the time. We all talk on the phone often and we visit Arkansas 3-5 times a year to see him and other family. Thankfully, none of this would have been possible if his father and I didn’t have a mutually respectful co-parenting relationship. Our relationship when we were together was pretty horrible and it took us a good 2-3 years to reach a mutual understanding but the type of relationship we have now for our son is paramount and well worth it!


My older son, Riley, who lives with me here on the farm who I am now home schooling is 2 grade levels above Konnor, with them being 19 mths apart in age. Riley was in 4th grade the year that Konnor moved to Arkansas.



5th grade for Riley

For Riley, 5th grade was not a bad year but it was a year that we, unfortunately, moved around a lot. So with 3 school changes throughout that year (totally my fault) he had a hard time making and keeping friends although he did meet 2 boys that he became good friends with that he has managed to remain friends with even after we moved away. His academics never suffered though. During that year I was not concerned about him being in school. Since he didn’t struggle much in school like Konnor, I never worried about him. But my main concern with the school system these years was due to a state wide budget issue the Governor was talking about cutting the already dismal extra curricular programs in elementary schools. Which meant the one day a week that Riley did art and music, he would entirely lose.


To me, in comparison to me going to Kindergarten through 9th grade in Arkansas, Arizona schools always lacked on the extra academics. I’ve always hated that my kids might get LESS from school than I did when I was growing up. I think academics are crucially important but what promotes a well rounded student and therefore, well rounded adult, is being exposed to many different types of studies including ones that encourage creativity and promote life skills, not just book smarts.As you could never survive as an adult with book smarts alone.


New Beginnings

When we moved to our little farm I was considering home schooling him because if I didn’t he’d have to move to a whole new school AGAIN and I felt bad for all the changes. We would be living in a more rural area with no bus stops anyway and so I began heavily researching home schooling. At this time I was just looking into the idea and rules and didn’t really talk to many people about it. I decided to go tour the local school that is K-8 which meant he could stay at the same school for 3 years until moving to high school and that to me was a positive thing, to give him some academic stability after all of our recent moving around.


Sixth Grade_MED

The school tour

The tour went great and I was pleased to find they had a school community garden which supplied produce they used in the cafeteria and they host a weekly gardening club for kids who want to help maintain the garden and learn about it. On top of that they didn’t require any school supplies as they were a type of public school where most of the kids were at or close to the poverty level so the state would donate funds to them to provide school supplies for everybody. I found that interesting but I did like that it would save me money! Then we discovered that kids in 6th grade and up all get a school laptop (a Chromebook) to use for their in class studies. They were not allowed to take them home but at least half of their work in class would be done on the laptop. I thought that was really cool and Riley being a computer guy loved the idea of learning online. So we discussed it and decided he’d go there!


The beginning of the end

Just before Fall break Riley had his first 6th grade parent teacher conference and I was excited to see how he was doing with his grades. Neither of his teachers had contacted me with any great concerns. One day I had ran into his teacher in the office and I had asked how he was doing and he said Riley forgets to turn in assignments sometimes or would be day dreaming in class when he should be working. These weren’t a giant concern of mine. Come to find out, he was FAILING in language arts and had a D in his favorite subject, Math. Not only did the teacher say that his D in Math was due mostly because he would not complete or turn in class room assignments but he then went on to greatly insult him in a very negative tone. I myself even felt threatened and intimidated by how he was talking to us both. The other teacher who was present acted as if she was used to him and just annoyed by his delivery. I was bothered that this teacher who spends over half of the day with my son was so harsh and insulting. He didn’t even act like he was interested in finding a solution to the problem or telling me ways that I could possibly help Riley. He spent 10 mins talking about what Riley does wrong, how he’s a loner (rude as hell, in my opinion) quizzing Riley on if he REALLY has friends outside of class or not, telling him how he needs to stop staying in lala land. He never once gave constructive advice but just insult after insult and I was taken aback. I tried to be friendly with the teacher, out of respect, I am never one to cause a scene. I did make sure to tell the teacher that on Riley’s last AIMS Math tests through the state the end of last year he had placed “exceeds expectations” in his math area so it was really odd to me that he would now have a D in his best subject in less than a few months time.


The talk

We left and as soon as we got out of the classroom I stopped Riley and said to him, “Does he talk to you or other kids in class like that often?” and he said “What do you mean?” and I said “How he was kind of rude and saying all the things you do wrong?” and he said “Well…yeah.” He obviously didn’t think it was an issue but Riley is so mild tempered and sweet that when he feels threatened or put down he just resorts inside himself. He’s not one to defend himself or speak up, and that is one thing I hope I can help him with over this next year because I believe the root is lack of confidence.


He had one more half day of school and then he was out for a week for Fall Break. Over the course of Fall Break I dove head first into educating myself on home schooling. I knew that the time was now. For him to be doing so poorly in his favorite subject meant to me that he was not happy at school or he wasn’t learning well in that type of environment. So the decision was made! In my next post I’ll cover what I found in my research and how I decided on which curriculum we are using now.




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