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It Started with a Piece of Big Paper

(A subtitle could be: Our Journey to Minimalism and Starting Preschool, but that was a bit wordy and less mysterious 😉

So, apparently having a second child doesn’t give you more free time for things like blogging…haha! I have really missed blogging these last 3 1/2 months since Annabelle was born, but it was literally impossible to add anything else to my day if I wanted to stay sane (yes, yes I do). Right now, I’d love to blog once a week about what’s going on in our lives – I’ve made a lot of little changes to make our lives simpler, easier, and more intentional this year, and I want to share them here in case they help someone else. I kind of laughed when I typed “more intentional” just now, because so much of this year has felt like I’m on autopilot. I find a good idea and run with it, and before I know it, we’ve got this totally different daily rhythm than we had last December. It’s been amazing how God’s led me from one place to another in the areas of minimalism and preschool lately!

 

It all started with a piece of big paper. I was tired of watching TV (what felt like) all day – a habit that started when I was pregnant and exhausted, and it was too hot to go outside. I didn’t feel guilty about it, because that was a season for us where I needed a diversion for Judith so I could rest. But our TV time had gotten out of hand, and I felt like it was time to start playing with Judith more during the day. Let me start by saying I am NOT the type of person that makes everything fun and happy, that kids naturally love. (That’s my sister – kids adore her!) I’m more serious and task-oriented, so playing games with my kids all day sounded soooo boooooring. (Just being honest!) So I was on Pinterest or Instagram looking at activity ideas for preschoolers, and I saw a picture of a giant piece of paper taped to a coffee table. The mom who posted it left out crayons or colored pencils all day for her kids to draw whenever they felt like it. We had purchased a chalkboard/marker board easel from IKEA a while back, and it came with a wide roll of paper. I cut off some of that and taped it to our coffee table, turned a kids music playlist on Apple Music on my phone, got out the crayons, and started drawing pictures and singing and dancing with Judith. She LOVED it! (Surprise, surprise!)

So we colored on big paper again the next day, and over the next couple days we started a new routine that included: drawing with chalk on the front walkway, finger painting with tempera paints (I had no idea what tempera paint was before this!) on big paper on the patio, playing with playdoh, running through the sprinklers, dancing to kids’ music, and coloring every day. At first, it was pretty boring for me. But I started to find more ideas online and kept changing it up every few days as I learned more, and I started to love creating new activities for Judith while she was asleep at night, and surprising her with them the next morning. (It’s one of the ways I “bribe” her to sleep now! She looks forward to the “new games” I have set up for her in the morning, but she has to sleep for me to surprise her 😉

I’ve always planned to homeschool my kids. I don’t feel like there’s an official age or time that home education begins – kids are always learning from their parents, from the moment they’re born. I didn’t know exactly when I’d start using curriculum (and I’m only using a curriculum loosely now because Judith is on the younger end of preschool age), but I discovered an amazing preschool curriculum called The Peaceful Preschool through my friend’s Instagram feed, downloaded the free sample Letter A unit, and felt it was the right time to get started. The Peaceful Preschool is literature and project based, with a heavy dose of play mixed in. Right now, the entire curriculum is $5 off with code “Spring”.

She loved filling in the letter B with cotton balls on contact paper.

We’re spacing out the 26 letter units to take 2 weeks each, so the curriculum will last for 1 year. This was suggested by Kaitlyn from the Simply Learning blog, and she’s created free supplemental materials from each unit. I liked this idea because Judith is so young, it gives us more time to reinforce each letter and its sound. I mix and match activities from the curriculum and from Kaitlyn’s blog.

preschool poetry tea time

Poetry tea (I mean, iced coffee) time

Around the same time, I started feeling really overwhelmed with the amount of toys and clutter in our house. I’m just so much less stressed when the house is clean, and it was nearly impossible to keep it clean because of the amount of stuff we had lying around. I watched the Minimalism documentary and started purging clutter from every room in our house. I’m nowhere near done, but we’re in a much better place than we were a few months ago. I donated books and clothes, and boxed up all the plastic toys and extra stuffed animals (they can come out in a rotation, or when Judith asks to play with something specific). We even had a yard sale and made $80 from things we didn’t need anymore! I’m following the guidelines from the Minimalism documentary to make decluttering easy: if it doesn’t serve a purpose or bring me joy, there’s no need to keep it around. It is SO NICE not to be tripping over toys all day long anymore! Honestly, Judith loves sensory bins 100000x more than toys right now. So yes, I’m stepping on things like lentils or black beans all day, but they kinda blend in to the floor and we sweep or vacuum them up at the end of the day, which I prefer over picking up toys. The Simplicity Parenting book pointed out something I hadn’t thought of about having a plethora of toys: with so many things to choose from, nothing is special and nothing gets focused on for long. A child grabs one toy, plays with it for a few moments, drops it and picks up another. This was totally happening in our house, which made me frustrated because I felt like she wasn’t really playing with anything, but there were 20 toys lying around at the end of the day.

beach sensory bin

One of her favorite sensory bins included brown sugar “sand” and seashells. So fun!

We started keeping a nature journal to watercolor or draw animals and plants we see when we’re outside. I heard good things about the Jesus Storybook Bible, so I picked up a used copy on thriftbooks.com (save %15 and get free shipping for orders over $10 by using my link) for about $5 and we love reading it every day. We got a fish tank and planted flowers for Judith to take care of (The Peaceful Preschool suggested this and I loved the idea). We shoot for spending 4 hours a day outside – and don’t always make it, but it’s not as hard as it sounds and it’s so good for us. I simplified our schedule by deciding to stay home 3 days a week, run all errands 1 day a week, and take a field trip or nature hike 1 day a week. On the weekends we go shopping or somewhere fun with Garrett. For dinner, I chose a theme for each night of the week, which makes it so much easier for me to then choose a recipe that fits the theme. (Friday is always homemade pizza night, when we get home from our hike. Yum!!) 

Nature journaling

Fridays are one of my favorite days! The weather has been great for hiking so we’ve done a lot of that. Judith enjoys identifying the birds we see.

By the way, this little lady is almost 16 weeks old!

You can follow this part of our lives on Instagram @ginahackbarth (seperate from my @fitoilsmomma wellness account). If you have any questions about minimalism or The Peaceful Preschool, ask in the comments or email me at [email protected] Have you ever purged extra stuff from your home? What does preschool look like for your family?

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