Over the last week I’ve watched many of my friends capture adorable First Day of School pictures and celebrate the start of a new year. This month marks the beginning of our 5th year homeschooling – so much for my plan to only do it for 1 year! We took the plunge to try homeschooling for a whole host of reasons. Chris works from home and since SnapShops are online, we have flexibility with our schedules. Not knowing how long this season of our careers would last, we aimed to make the most of it by traveling with the kids and camping as much as possible.

But life can just happen if we aren’t intentional.

We started school last week and I quickly returned to feeling overwhelmed with juggling teaching 5 kids and running a business. When I get overwhelmed it is easy for me to focus on the negative and to only see the tunnel without any hope for light at the end. I needed to step back and get perspective…or get a good slap in the face from a loving friend reminding me not to look to the left or right but remember the WHY in my own decisions. The bottom line is I truly love homeschooling, but it is so demanding! I love pretty much everything about it and what has happened in our family as a result. It is definitely not for every parent or every kid, but it is definitely for us. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that and the best way for me to do that is to pack up school books and get away – to take advantage of the schedule perks of homeschooling.

We loaded the kids up for an impromptu trip to take the trailer out and visit Silver Dollar City (yay! for season passes from the grandparents!). A couple of days watching my kids smile and laugh is just the motivation I needed to remember I can do hard things. I want to do hard things because at the end of the day there are 5 kids laughing and smiling and making me well up with so much gratitude I might explode. Homeschool is not for the faint of heart. Neither is public school. Or private school. They all have their amazing perks and they all have their huge challenges. And they all have parents overwhelmed and wondering if they are making the right decision.

I came up for air for a few days. We drove away. We rode rides. We laughed. We fought. We were filled with gratitude. We complained. We just did life and remembered why we have made certain decisions for what school looks like for our family. It was short, but it was good.

I am not sure if I have ever shared our quickest camping meal here before. Pizza pockets. We can whip them up really fast after a day of exploring and all the kids like them. You could get super creative with the ingredients, but we just use bread, cheese, pizza sauce, pepperoni and some garlic salt. Put your ingredients in between two slices of bread, close the sandwich things, put over the flame and then enjoy.




He prefers to take selfies over his mom taking his picture. He does like to pose…however oddly.Corbett is quite the book critic and is happy to tell me if he thinks books are a good fit for his brothers. When a package of 2 books arrived on our doorstep (the author’s wife reads my blog!), he tore into them before I could even look. As we asked him for details on one (Countryside by J.T. Cope IV), he response was, “Yeah. You are just going to have to read it.” He said it reminded him a little of Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia. He hasn’t put it down, so that is a good sign….unless it is dinnertime and he is breaking my “No books at the dinner table” rule.


This is how my kids will probably remember me from their childhood. Hair pulled back. No makeup. T-shirt. The opposite of glamorous and put together. They won’t look back at their growing up years and remember Chris in a suit or me in heels (though heels would be so fun every now and then!). They may not remember a fancy mom, but I do hope they remember lots of pizza pockets, campfires, and a mom not afraid to pull back her hair and get messy in life alongside them.

We’ll return home. I’ll probably return to feeling overwhelmed and then I’ll remind myself to take it all a day at a time and choose joy. I’ll pause in the midst of feeling like too much is on my plate and I’ll remember my WHY. I’ll remember how incredibly good I have it and that my definition of what a ‘hard day’ is, well it is privilege. This is the day – whatever the day holds – that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

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  • Ashley - Man, that last picture is just stunning. Thank you so much for sharing your family!!

  • Heather - Thank you for this! I was feeling much the same way this past week. So many cute pictures of kiddos heading off to school while I was toiling at home over homeschool lessons. It’s our first year homeschooling and we did it for the flexibility to be able to see things in the area we live. This week…no looking left or right and I’m going to take some adventurous field trips to remember why we did this in the first place.

  • kate - I could not love this post more. Thank you!

  • Ashley - Thank you for being honest. I was feeling the same way. That was so encouraging to remember the why.

  • Ashley Anderson - Such a great post! I like what you said about every type of homeschooling being difficult & how all sorts of parents find themselves wondering if they are doing the right thing.

    Do you live near SDC? We live in Springfield, MO, just north of it.

    Happy homeschooling!

  • Liz - Great post to read as I send my oldest to Kindergarten in two days. I feel like I can still relate even though I choose public school. I still have kids at home so my stay at home job is not over but it is so hard to have one go away when he has been with me for 5 1/2 years. BTW I love that you have to have a “no books at the table rule” just shows you are rocking the homeschool mom role!!!

  • Christine - Well said what a great reminder to change my perspective. As a mom and a homeschooling mom it gets so hard somedays to remember why we do what we do and that is in fact a privilege. I was up last night worrying and praying! about a lot of things that are on my plate – finishing a house, my husband starting a business, trying to move in and create some normalcy, and still getting ready to homeschool my 4 kiddos. Yikes, sometimes it’s easy to feel the weight of the world on us. But as I type that out you have done a similar thing and seem to have made it to the other side!
    Hope your week is full of blessing and God’s grace showing up. Thanks for the reminder. Always trying to count my blessings. ?

  • Sarah Wolfe - I can so relate to this post. Even though my oldest two are going to school three days a week now, I’m still plugging away with my three youngest at home, and am needed for moral support for my oldest two with their massive amounts of homework. And even though we don’t get out adventuring much except in the summer (mostly because of sports schedules!), I understand what you are saying. I think we all do it (whatever form of education we chose) because we feel it’s best for our kiddos and our whole family. But there are sacrifices. And in homeschooling you sacrifice a peaceful and quiet house. But I’m hoping there’s plenty of time for that later on in life when my kids don’t want to be with me as much anymore πŸ˜‰ Blessings to you and your year, friend!

  • Jen - Thank you for this! I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed and we haven’t even started school yet. This year I will have 2 in private school, one homeschooling, one in preschool, and around Christmas we will bring home an 8 year old from China…which means homeschooling a child that doesn’t speak English! I know why we’re doing it and we will cling tightly to that. Thank you for the reminder to keep our eyes on our own path!

  • Alicia @ Sweeping Up Joy - “This is the day – whatever the day holds – that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Tara - Campfire sandwich makers are the best! As kids we loved them filled with canned chili and shredded cheese.

  • Anne Marie - Home school Moms are AWESOME!!! You have my highest respect! πŸ™‚ I feel incredibly lucky {blessed} to have a Christian school to send my children to… if it wasn’t for that I would definitely home school! Keep your chin up… and just letting you know… the reason I check your blog every single day {just in case you posted in between M-W-F} is because you let us in on the real life ups & downs and it makes me feel like you’re one of my friends! πŸ™‚

  • Diana - We call those pudgy pies! I love reading about your camping adventures, make me want to go camping again myself!

  • Melanie - Pizza pockets are our absolute favourite quick camping meal! Everyone will eat them too!

  • Lacey Meyers - I feel like I can breathe a little easier just by reading your experience and thoughts on this. I can relate to this on so many levels and am thankful to you for putting it into words and perspective. <3 I'll remember it when we start our homeschooling year in a few weeks, for sure!

  • Leah - I’ve enjoyed following your posts for a few years now. It was fun today to see your family enjoying pizza pockets. We grew up calling them bush pies. Instead of assembling at the campfire, however, we would make a pizza mixture ahead of time:
    Mince and saute: 1 onion; 1 green pepper. Add: 1 chub (500g) pepperoni, shredded; 680 ml (sorry, canadian!) tomato sauce; 1-2 cups cheese, shredded (more or less depending on preference)
    It freezes great, and add a scoop between bread, and you’re in bush pie heaven! (followed by one filled with cherry pie filling!!!)

  • kimberly oyler - i love those sandwich things!! makes a reaallllllly good apple pie if you put canned apple filling between 2 slices of bread, generously, and i mean generously, butter the outsides, pinch the edges and then cook over the fire til golden brown. you’re welcome. πŸ˜‰

  • angie - Ashley! This was just what i needed! We ‘started’ our fourth year of homeschooling today (what?!) and needless to say it was a day of seeing the long tunnel and not the ‘why’. Thank you so much for this reminder. I ‘amen’ everything you said. It is so good to acknowledge there is an eternal One actively guiding within our decisions and to exercise to have faith in that guidance. He is good at being God! May we let Him live within us this year and within all the up and downs of our daily lives that at the end of this year we may ultimately know and love Him more.

  • AmandaH - This is so great! Love this post. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Christine - I really needed this! Some of my whys are similar, but it helps to focus on them, especially at this time of year. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Molly - Thank you for this! We live in China – we just pulled our 5 year old daughter out of Chinese school because it was HARD and now we’re dealing with all the hurt from that and transitioning her to international school. What a good reminder to take it one day at a time. I teared up when I got to the end of your post. Every day on our way out the door – into a city of 8 million people all wanting a glance at our blonde haired girl – I tell her, and remind myself, “This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Thank you too for sharing your life with a whole bunch of strangers – I find it a great escape from the city lights, car horns, and all the people that surround us!

  • kristina - I absolutely love what you said, “Take it one day at a time and choose joy.” I copied it down and I will be referring to it all day just to remind myself. Thanks!!

  • Mia White - As a fellow homeschooler I love this exercise and greatly appreciate your honest candor. Cheers to the new school year!

  • VΓ©nusia - Thank you so much for sharing. In the past weeks your words encouraged me very much in my mom of 4 youngs kids, homeschooler life !

  • Chris Curtis - We love our pie irons. I never thought about making pizzas in them. We usually make desserts with cream cheese and fruit.

  • Kelly - Yes! Thanks for sharing the real. We have begun our second homeschooling year and I am feeling overwhelmed. I think all the mamas out there are feeling overwhelmed whether they are the teacher or they are getting back into routine of early bedtimes and wake up times and catching the bus or driving carpool. We need to give all the mamas extra loads of grace right now!! I like your idea of coming up for air. Sometimes I just try to keep trying harder through it, maybe not the best approach! πŸ™‚ Kelly

  • Carla - I too, needed to hear (and see ) this. We are half way through out school year here in New Zealand but still feeling the same way.
    I too need to remember the why.
    Thanks πŸ™‚

  • Cassandra - Thank you for this post! Thank you for sharing your why & lots of other stuff with us. Blogging can’t always be easy but I appreciate the time & thought put into sharing a piece of your world with the world. <3 And your photos <3

  • Carrie - Thank you for sharing. I admire how you dive in to do what is right for your family and following your passions-helping others capture the everyday. I don’t know how you do it all but it encourages me to stretch myself. A couple of months ago I was having trouble with my Snapshot account and Chris left a message offering to help. I totally geeked out. My husband was laughing at me. I ended calling and have a great conversation that included talk about the Boundary Waters (from MN). I was still geeking out so much I am not sure how much I made sense.Husband continue to laugh at me. It was very kind of you to follow up! So blessed by your blog. My daughter has a similar journey to your youngest. I appreciated hearing about her awesome speech teacher. Yesterday we had to say goodbye to her speech teacher after 3 years for she was moving on to a new hospital. Before this gets ridiculously long…wishing you a great start to your school year. Teach on!

  • efrat - you wrote so beautiful, I felt like you wrote from my heart. we are starting 3rd year of homeschooling, and remembering WHY we do it is so important… and of course the luxury of camping is a huge value. thank you!

  • Rebekah Tice - Love those pictures! Love those reminders! Love your Christ centered heart for your family and his purpose for you right now in this phase of life! THANK YOU!:)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I read the most beautiful thing written by our friend Ruth the other day. She said she wants her kids to remember her with a smile. Oh, I just loved that. And this post reminds me of that! You’re doing a great job!

  • Jill - I enjoyed reading this today. I’m a public school mom and I teach at a small college. My schedule is flexible, but my job has many responsibilities that must be done by me. My kids and I have been back in school for almost 3 weeks and I think we are getting through the transition phase. I appreciate your acknowledgment of the difficulties followed by the gratitude. We’ve had some not minor, but not major health issues with my son this year and I continually wonder if I’m doing the right thing sending him to school. He wants to be there, which encourages me that it is the right decision. Thank you for always being relatable and encouraging.

  • Riann - Thank you for this perfectly timed reminder to remember the “why.” Just exactly what I needed to read today.

  • Ginna Neel - I’m a few posts behind reading your blog, but wanted to ask — what age do you let your kids read Harry Potter? I’m curious if you have a set age or base it on maturity level, etc. πŸ™‚

  • AshleyAnn - Ginna – My oldest is the only one that has been interested so far…it will be more based on maturity level and personality if/when the others ask to read it. That is just us.

So…I’m having hosting issues. I know the blog is loading slow and sometimes not at all. It is frustrating for me and I am sure it isn’t much fun to read for you. If it is loading slow today, I’d just click off and try again next week. No point in spending your precious time waiting for my blog to load. We are working to get the issue resolved. Hopefully it will be sooner than later. Thanks for hanging here with me.

My youngest nephew will be turning 1 in a couple of months. He is such a happy, scrumptious little guy. While my mom and sister took my boys to play laser tag this week, I had the 4 girls and the littlest guy. I forgot how busy a crawler can be and my house is no longer baby-proofed. He kept me on my toes. Parenting is exhausting. Parenting little ones take tremendous physical endurance. Parenting bigger kids takes mental and emotion endurance! Both require grace – for ourselves and our kids.

Little man and I were hanging out downstairs when my daughter arrived with a bag declaring it was time to give him a makeover. This poor guy…four girls that all think he is their doll/baby.

8.16littlest-18.16littlest-28.16littlest-38.16littlest-48.16littlest-5And I’ll state what many are thinking… THE CHALKBOARD IS GONE?! Yep, if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know this wall is always changing…my house is always changing. My friend stopped over and helped me to freshen things up using what I already had on hand. I’ll post more about that soon.8.16littlest-6“Save me Aunt Ashley!”8.16littlest-7I tried to force him to lay on my chest and take a nap. He wasn’t for it. Bummer.8.16littlest-88.16littlest-98.16littlest-10I told her, “I wouldn’t do that. He has teeth now.” You can guess what happened next.8.16littlest-118.16littlest-12I eventually landed on the floor and stayed there.8.16littlest-13I absolutely LOVE the stages my kids are in now, but I sure am thankful for a little guy in my life too. Parenting felt simpler then – love, feed, play, hold. When I really step back and think about though – those are still the things my kids need most. Love. Feed. Play. Hold.

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  • Kate - Hi Ashley!
    Oh my GOSH, this post is adorable! Thank you for sharing it! I am really looking forward to future posts about your living room and painting projects! So fun! I do have to ask though…in the last frame…weren’t you afraid of getting drooled on?? haha!!! Teething babies are usually pretty wet!! πŸ˜‰ Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Southern Gal - Cuteness overload!

  • Ashley - LOVE the new living room makeover! Looks so great!

  • Amy K. - eep! Your words and photos bring back the baby experience full force! So cute, and so exhausting. I’m glad to know that it’s not just me who’s having trouble with your site loading. Rather than click away and try again later, I’ll be clicking and then messing around somewhere else until your site loads. =)

  • Stephanie - I love how you ended this post. Sometimes we become so nostalgic for when our children were babies. But it is true that when we take a short break from the homework, errands, and extracurricular, all our children really still want is to be held, play and have snacks. It’s the simple necessities and they are still just as sweet.

  • Tessa - I would love to know details on your rug! πŸ™‚

  • Kimberly Oyler - my sister’s baby napped on my chest for over an hour yesterday. it was THE BEST. until i was hungry and had to pee. then i was like, get this baby off of me. πŸ˜‰

  • carrie Campbell - He’s sooo cute. And I like your new art wall behind the couch. One of the pieces reminds me of DIY you did years ago that was paint by number over a painting you thrifted. (I think… πŸ™‚ well, anyways some DIY showed up on Pinterest 3 years ago and it brought me to the blog and I’m still here 3 years later.) πŸ™‚

  • Byron - You are a kid magnet! Then again, kids love homes with other kids in them and yours is pretty full (cool Moms help with the allure too).

    As, apparently, the only guy who posts here, I have to ask: what is it with women and hanging plants? I honestly don’t get it. Oh well.

  • AshleyAnn - Come back to Crossfit and I’ll explain why hanging plants are wonderful in person πŸ™‚

  • Mel - Did Firecracker take the last image? She’s talented for sure!

    Greetings from Germany.

  • Anne Marie - Totally worth waiting for it to load up! πŸ™‚ I’m always inspired by your posts… And pictures of your home!

  • Halas Tida - Woow you have amazing Kids, Love this room looking Wonderful πŸ™‚

  • AshleyAnn - Mel – she did. When she sees my camera not in my hands, she is off taking her own pictures.

  • Lacey - Your blog is totally worth waiting around for it to load! πŸ˜‰ And my goodness … he’s nearing a year already?? Watching other people’s baby’s grow online sure does make time fly!

  • Gretchen - Where did you get the beautiful rug! What a fun way to add lots of color!

  • AshleyAnn - Gretchen – it is from World Market

  • Julie - Your new wall collage looks awesome!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I am so with you. I love how Mary Alice makes us all slow down.

She always wants to help. Cooking. Cleaning. Organizing. Party planning. Hosting. My little sidekick.

Chris recently began showing her the ropes for how to make a latte using our espresso machine. Almost every morning she grins at me and asks, “Do you want a coffee?” She hasn’t quite mastered the whole process on her own, but she’s pretty close.

50mm, ISO 400, 1/125, f/2.8
barista-01

Typically, she is facing the machine when she makes coffee. I have several pictures of her from behind, but I wanted one capturing her face. I asked if her if she would pour the milk at the table this time.

50mm, ISO 200, 1/160, f/2.8barista-0250mm, ISO 200, 1/100, f/2.8barista-0350mm, ISO 200, 1/100, f/2.8barista-0450mm, ISO 250, 1/100, f/2.8barista-0550mm, ISO 250, 1/100, f/2.8barista-06There are times that I hope to capture an everyday moment, but something makes it difficult. For these pictures, I wanted to capture her face but that was not possible without stepping in and asking her to move. Her face didn’t change and the moment was no less authentic by directing where she stood. There are times I can’t step in because it would completely change the moment. When I can help get light to my subjects’ faces, I take advantage of the opportunity.

You can find more simple photo lessons on the Photo Tips page. To dive in deeper to learning how to use your camera (DSLR and phone) you can register for my online photography courses ~ SnapShop Photography.

SnapShop1200

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  • AndreaB - I love this! such treasured, day to day memories. I cant wait to train mine to do the same for me πŸ™‚

  • Bonnie - I love her dress! Can you share your source?

  • Mel P - Very sweet! I also love her dress! It reminds me of the dresses I buy in Monsoon in Europe. That is my big splurge when I go home – a dress or two for my girls there.

  • AshleyAnn - Bonnie – it is from Target

  • Yen - Hi Ashley,

    I adore your blog. I love the way it serves as a catalog/collection of lessons and memories with your family. As I start my own little family, I really want to be able to do the same thing. However, with the way the internet is nowadays and pictures are often taken from websites and used for other purposes, my husband is wary of having pictures of our family on the Internet. My question for you is, what steps do you take to protect the pictures of your family&loved ones so that they don’t get used inappropriately? Hope to hear from you, Yen

  • Cynthia - Just LOVE this story! When my daughter was around this age, she used to do the same for me. Sweet memories! πŸ˜‰