Last week things were rough on the Campbell homeschool front. Rough. Meltdowns from both mom and kids seemed to be the norm. Things were taking longer. Emotions were high. I was feeling overwhelmed and less than capable of doing/being all that I felt was required of me.

When Friday afternoon arrived, I think we all breathed a collective sigh. In an effort to remind myself that we do experience a lot of beauty in homeschooling, I sat down to my computer and began looking at recent pictures taken during ‘school hours’.  In the midst of the difficult days, it is good to remind myself there is SO MUCH good happening too.

Early morning donut delivery to friends on their last day of fall semester. Science with frozen eggs.


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Keep in mind, I can’t take pictures when I am actively teaching or engaged in challenging subjects with the kids. They need me to be completely present with them in those times.  Those are also the loudest and messiest times. Most of these were also taken after the mess of books and supplies had been picked up by kids already finished.

These pictures make our school days seem so calm and pretty. The reality is I can only pick up my camera when things are calm & quiet. So, this is about 10% of what our school time looks like, but it is still enough to remind me that even after a really hard week, I’m grateful we have the opportunity to learn together.

It is Monday and I am rooting for a much better week than last week. I know I’m really the one that sets the tone for our school days. It begins with me. Deep breath and a grateful smile coming at you kids.

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  • Southern Gal - I’m about to waken my 8th grader for school with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart. Thank you for the encouragement. Even us “old timers” need a boost at times. 😉 Happy Monday!

  • Danielle - Last week was interesting here also. My oldest 2 were playing/struggling with math and took all day to finish 1 worksheet. I was spent, they were spent. We did a lot of fun projects every other year but this one. This one is different so we are pushing through but oh how I miss having fun during our school day. It is a season, hopefully soon those days will be back.

  • Byron - Grace and peace! “SO much good” is usually something we only realize well after the fact.

  • Jessie - Beautiful photos, and I appreciate your sharing this. Thank you for the reminder of remembering the joy of it all when the hard days roll through. You’re just awesome, no way ’round it!

  • Emily - I think last week was a hard week universally. Fingers crossed that this upcoming week is better for everyone. Thank you for sharing!

  • MC - Wishing you a wonderful week!

  • Jill - Thanks for the reminder that everyone has rough weeks (not just me :)). Saying a prayer for you.

  • Charlotte Buckle - Wow, what a beautiful and real post! I am moved by your hard work and devotion to teaching and learning with your children. It is so inspiring and something I want to consider when I have children of my own.
    Beautiful photos and beautiful post!
    Take care,
    C | http://atlantic-c.blogspot.ca/

  • melanie - Thank you so much for that insight! I always feel bad when asuming that you manage your 5 kids better than I my only one.

    Greetings from Germany!

  • Erica - Your pictures are amazing! I love them so much! Good job!!

  • Kate - I hope this week brings fresh joy and fun as you all learn together! We’ve had some rough weeks too at times. All the things you share are such an inspiration to go about this whole process with joy and a vision for the bigger picture. Thank you! And I’m curious too…do you have any tips for encouraging a six year old who is a reluctant reader? We try and keep it very pleasant and cheerful, practicing for only 10-15 minutes each school day, but even that can be a struggle.

  • Macarena B - I really admire you ! I live in Chile and home schooling is not an option for families living in cities and having a school in the neighborhood. As I work from home, I´m always there when my 4 kids come back from school … and even I don´t teach them I feel the same challenge … mothers definitively set the mood for even everyday activities. Hope you have a better week !

  • Carrie - I observed my first cross fit competition this weekend and thought of you and your picture with your son in the yard with the rope climb. It was hardcore. #respect

  • Byron - Carrie – Ashley is hardcore! She is MUCH respected in our CrossFit box! I tell every newbie “Do what (coach) Brett says and what Ashley does.” :)

  • Tiffany - Amen– and thank you for sharing this. We also home-educate, and today was my 1st grade daughter’s first day back to full-speed (every-subject/textbook-covered in a single day) since the the last week of November. It went great– so thankful for the many, daily blessings, here, too.~ Hope your week is extra-wonderful!

  • Andrea Greene - I hear you! Thanks for your honesty! I am a homeschooling mom too,and could identify with you completely!!! You are so encouraging and I hope your week is full of smooth and grace filled days!

  • Chantel - Amen Sista! Our week last week was super rough. None of us wanted to do school and it was like pulling teeth. So easy to see where we think we fall short when we have our own expectations for everyone. The gloom, clouds, snow storms, and frigid temps aren’t helping us either here in SLC. So we decided that this weekend it was time for a change of scenery and weather and we will drive south for some sunshine and outdoor exploring! Sometimes a break is much needed and well deserved…for all.

  • Maureen - I homeschooled for 21 years with my baby graduating in 2010. It was such an awesome, wonderful, beautiful 21 years… so precious to us all with amazing cherished memories. Umm, did I mention meltdowns from both mom and kids? Oh yeah, baby. But like dirty dishes and laundry, they happened, got cleaned up and we moved on to the good stuff. So glad thats what you and other commentors are doing too.
    PS: I have noticed meltdowns of mom and kids from public schooled friends too. Meltdowns do happen, but man, the rest of the time we sure do get, the good stuff!

  • AshleyAnn - Carrie – Well, you won’t see me competing, but I do love a good rope climb!

  • Gian - Thank you for your home school post & past posts. I am trying to evaluate whether homeschooling is a good option for my family & while I realize it is a very personal decision. I wanted to know if you could talk abt how you approached your children abt homeschooling? I know a few of them were already in a traditional school setting. My son is in a wonderful school, but its very test and stat driven, they do worksheets all day and transition 6-7 times a day in 1st grade! He is starting to be stressed and I am not sure how to even approach the subject.

  • Kristina - I hope you have a better week! Beautiful pictures!

  • Amy@AtMulberryHill - Oh, I can relate to this SO well!! I’m homeschooling eight, the youngest three being boys – 7,5, and 3. We still have a LOT of challenging days, yet when I look back at pictures, all I can do is smile. I think you’ve figured it out for me. The pictures are taken in those few moments in between when things are calm and the house is more picked up. :)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I am so sorry things were rough. I wish I had magic words or advice to make it all easier. Just know I think you are amazing and you shine so brightly. Hugs.

  • Kelly S - I totally typed in your URL this morning, thinking, “she is always so calm and their house seems so pleasant…” – as I’m in the midst of a frustrating couple days with my little ones. Haha – glad to know I’m not the only one. :)

  • Melissa - This reset my odometer for the week. Thank you!

  • Analene - Ashley, it’s a truth I’m kinda glad to hear – that your peaceful and uncluttered images are just a piece of the whole (and for me, unseen) picture.

    I see great value in setting our gaze on the lovely, and I’m sure anyone who looks at my blog and photos has a lopsided perspective of my family too. Of course I know what my home and people look like all the time; and yep, I see myself from the inside out (so my perspective of our life is lopsided in the opposite direction. Ha!) but for some reason, it’s easy to convince myself that someone else’s “real” is more fabulous than mine. Welcome to the human condition I guess.

    Thank you for seeing and capturing the beautiful in the midst of real life living.
    And thank you for reminding me/us that your life shares a common bond of imperfection with all us gals!

    Hugs friend!

  • Yanet - The thing is that even if they were not homeschooled, they’d have hard and emotional days. As moms, we have hard and emotional days. I think the important thing to remember is that as a whole, in the big picture, the good outweighs the bad. Good for you for finding ways to keep it in check. Praying for a better week for you guys.

  • Jessica P - Thanks for this post. The hard days make me doubt myself sometimes, but the truth is we all have those days. Every teacher–at home or in a traditional school–has those days. Thanks for reminding me to focus on the beauty. I hope you all have a great week!

  • susie - It must have been hard every where last week. A number of us moms at church last sunday were complaining… we figured it was the moon! Maybe winter is getting long on all of us!

  • jules - Love the quiet between the chaos… and the PE your son is getting in on the stairs too!

  • Tiffany Gardner - Your homeschooling journey has been such an encouragement to me! My kids were in public school and after 4th grade I said YES to god and brought them home. We are part of a CC campus in OKC. I am SO grateful for that community and to learn in the classical way. It is also HARD. Some days are just plain HARD. My oldest is now in 6th grade and I still can’t believe we are choosing to be brave and continue on this journey. Thank you for your words. Thank you for being real. Hope your weeks have been better…. or that you have had some awesome moments on the hard days!

    tiffany

For Christmas my mom wanted us all to get a photo together. My parents, my family and my sister’s family stopped by a nearby park with my tripod in hand. Nothing fancy, just us together was the goal. It is a bit tricky trying to get us all in a photo and looking at the camera using a tripod, but I think it worked out well.

My family

1.16family-10Before my parents arrived I thought I would attempt a shot of my crew and surprise my mom with a print of it. This was our best attempt. I’ve said it before…there is a reason the majority of our pictures are candid. Cue all the awkward smiles. Makes me laugh. Mom, if you want a print of this, I might need to add thought bubbles to it.

1.16family-01An attempt at a brother shot…1.16family-02And then I just told them to pose however they wanted. This is so much more them. Can you guess the boy that keeps us laughing?1.16family-03First attempt at a kid shot…1.16family-05Second attempt…1.16family-06And then a little begging from me for everyone to just stand and smile…they are getting SO BIG!1.16family-07

This kid. He is quick witted and funny. Like really funny…past the ‘kid jokes that don’t make any sense’ phase and in the actual ‘THAT WAS REALLY FUNNY’ phase.1.16family-08Everyone else was off running trails and climbing trees…1.16family-09While I am posting family pictures, I have to share one of my very favorites from Christmas dinner. Chris’ parents joined my family for Christmas dinner, what a tremendous gift it is for us to celebrate with both of our parents. I hit the jackpot in regards to the family I got to join when I married Chris. Jackpot. I should also take a moment to tell my mother-in-law (who reads this blog) that I will try really hard to remember to print her new pictures and her thank you card from the kids (that I posted on last week!) is on my kitchen counter waiting for a stamp. Yikes. Not so great daughter-in-law! Good thing I know she likes me anyway.1.16family-11Moral of this post: I accomplished family pictures, which included a few of us actually looking at the camera and smiling. I did not accomplish actually printing any of those pictures for the ones that would like them the most (Nana & Grandma). You win some, you lose some. Now off to start ordering prints before my mom or mother-in-law call me!

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  • Kristi Rediske - I love these-families are just great and it is obvious in these picture of all the love in this family.

  • Keilah - You say an “attempt” at a brother or family shot, but you got one. And I think it’s beautiful. You would probably never want them all to make the face or pose you demanded because it wouldn’t be them anyway. Looks like a successful photoshop to me!

  • byron - As ever, great stuff! I think your second attempt with the kids is the best. Just my thoughts.

  • Julie - I got the In-Law Giant Lotto Jackpot when I married 31+ years ago: just the absolute best! They are both with Jesus now and we all sure do miss them.

    The first time my parents met my in-laws (before we married) will always be a favorite memory. We all walked into their little house…and in the entry way was a big box with hundreds of silk worms chomping on mulberry leaves. There is nothing quite like that sight! (Mom B was a first gr teacher.)

    I want to be THAT mom/mom-in-law/grandma!

    I so enjoy reading about your family. Those days pass quickly!

    Blessings to you from NW Arkansas

  • Kristina - Beautiful pictures of a beautiful family! Just found your blog and love it!

  • Diana - Those are great pictures! I love the candid ones. So many personalities shining through!

  • Debbie C - Your funny guy looks so much like his dad. 😀 Love these pics!

  • Jenny L. - Your family is so precious! Get ready because you see the face on the funny son, my son makes and has made that exact face in every picture since he was about 12. He is now 23. Yikes!

  • Kara - these are lovely. I think your family is awesome! my kiddos are professionals at what we call the “cheese/grimace.”‘ candids are also our friend, ha. also, no worries if you don’t answer this… but wondering what lens you use for a big group? my mother-in-law always wants pictures of her whole clan together and I doubt my 50mm. 😉

  • AshleyAnn - Kara – I used my 50mm. I have a 24-70mm, but it has been dropped a few times and I don’t think it works as well as it should anymore.

Three years ago my oldest and I walked the markets in China.  It was a few days before we met his sister and several days before he would visit the orphanage she spent her first year. The impact of that trip on his life can’t really be measured. When given the chance to open his eyes to people and places, especially those far from the borders of our state and nation, I will run passionately through that door. He was 18 months old when he got the first stamp in his passport. I want to blow his mind with sights, smells, people, and interactions. I want to dive into history, politics, social justice, and all the ‘deep’ stuff with him, showing him how he fits in the story of it all.

I want to go. With him. With each of my kids.

1.16compassion-01He has always been the one up for an adventure with me. Very little worries him or causes him to feel fearful. He is steady and confident. His emotions stay pretty much at one level lacking any extremes either direction, much like his mom. 1.16compassion-02This is a pretty special post – you’ll see why below – so I wanted a new picture of the two of us. These are the two most recent shots I have of us. In fact, I could not find one picture where we are both looking at the camera smiling. Most likely this is due to our mutual ability to be anything but active or awkward in front of a camera.  1.16compassion-05In less than two weeks, I will be taking him with me on a dream trip. A trip to gain understanding, to learn, to serve, to play and to advocate. I’m not the most eloquent of bloggers. I am certainly not the most ‘put together’. What you usually find on this blog is my journey in motherhood as a Christian…a mix of photography, projects and a whole lot of trying to see beauty in everyday moments.

In two weeks, we will board an airplane bound for Ecuador as part of a Compassion Blogger trip. For those unfamiliar with Compassion, I will be sharing more in the weeks to come. We sponsor a few children through Compassion. During this trip we will meet one of the boys we sponsor. We will also visit centers run by Compassion and see first hand the work they are doing in Ecuador. Advocating for children – alongside my child – this is a dream come true for me.

This will be the first Compassion Blogger trip which each blogger is bringing her son along too. We will be joining Ruth Simons (Gracelaced), Shannan Martin (Flowerpatch Farm Girl), and their sons.

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1.16compassion-08Motherhood changed me. I have so many dreams and hopes for my children. Compassion International has allowed me to come alongside the moms of my sponsored kids. Together we get to watch these children we love have the opportunity to dream big with great hope for the future. I am equally thankful for all that wells up within my own kids as they forge relationships through letters and pictures with amazing kids around the globe.

As I look ahead to this trip, so many prayers for my oldest fall from my lips. So many prayers for the sponsored children and their families that we meet. And so many prayers for the children still waiting for sponsorship.

 

Ecuador

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  • Christi {Jealous Hands} - What an awesome opportunity. Can’t wait to follow along!

  • Catherine - Wow, what an awesome experience. I cannot wait to follow along and hear what you have to say.

  • Lindsey p - I’m so excited for you! And me, because our sponsored child is about to “age out” & we are deliberating about if we will use commpasion again or find another organization to donate to. Looking forward to your posts!

  • amber - There are just no words to describe how amazing this is! You are such an inspiring mom. An inspiring person. Just amazing. Can’t wait to see how this trip unfolds. Beautiful.

  • Kelley - dp you know what cities you will be in? I spent a semester in Quito Ecuador in college. Traveled a lot around the country that year. Some foods to try if you get the chance – fruit vendors on the streets, anything that peels is safe- clementines (mandarinas) or mini bananas (platanos pequeños). Maracuya is a delicious sour passion fruit. Fun to eat with a spoon and sugar. But I like it best in a milkshake- batído de maracuya. I also loved menestra con platano frito (lentils with fried banana, sounds weird, but the sweet and salty are good together) depending on where you’re going I can tell you what fun things to shop for. Lots of neat handmade items. Excited for you! And cannot wait to see your photos of a place I hold so dear.

  • Beth - Ashley… What a great opportunity. I would love to hear/see from his point of view. And as a VERY BIG aside….I read your blog *because* of you not being put together, not *in spite of* it!

  • Jenn - how exciting. i can’t wait to hear more of the trip as the weeks come and the time for the trip arrives. you will be in my prayers over the next couple of weeks. i hope your time is truly blessed

  • Susan - I can hardly wait to see what you share!!!

  • Tanya - What an awesome opportunity to share with your son. I can’t wait to see your pictures and hear about your journey. Safe and happy travels to you all.

  • Byron - God bless you! I love Compassion (and you’ve reminded me that I need to write my kids)!

  • ranee - I just love this so much. We are also big fans of the work that Compassion is doing and each of our kids sponsor a child that shares a birthday with them. I’m so excited for you to have this opportunity and perhaps one day my son and I will do the same! (and getting to travel with those two ladies probably wouldn’t be so bad, either!) 😉

  • Susie - I am jealous! This is my dream too! My husband does not like to travel out of the country so i have been dreaming to go with my kids! Have so much fun!

  • Hermione - You are a good mother, I have read your blog for years (though I don’t know if I’ve ever commented before), and I find your site to be such an encouragement and a beautiful glimpse of what intentional motherhood looks like. I know you’re not perfect, because none of us are, but it is evident that you love your children so very much. Thank you for being such a place of hope and positivity on the Internet.

  • Kayse - What some amazingly wonderful ways you are teaching your children! They will grow to be compassionate, intelligent, people full of love. Kudos!

  • Debbie - Our Compassion child is in Ecuador, too. I’ll be especially interested in following your Compassion trip entries. And how special to share this trip with your son.

  • Kinm Bernal - Hi! I love this post.
    Your love for your childs and to others is beautiful .
    Hopefully, we were many who want respect, understanding other cultures without destroy them .
    In addition, it reminded me some trips with my son and that made me very happy.
    thanks

  • Avenlea Bixby - What a neat experience for you and your son! I would love to learn more about Compassion.

  • Tamara - We LOVE Compassion!!!

  • Kate - This! This is so amazing and awesome. I had no idea Compassion ever let bloggers take their kids. We love the ministry, and I love that you get to do this with your son. Incredible! I’m praying for you both!!

  • Around Our Table: The Next Compassion Blog Trip - Our Savory Life - […] Simons, Shannan Martin, Ashley Ann.  Followers of Christ who are committed to Kingdom work. Who know the value of a child. Who […]

  • Emily - So special! So excited for the two of year and can’t wait to hear your stories and experiences. Prayers!

  • Jessica Engel - Hi Ashley! I am a long-time reader but not sure I’ve actually ever commented. Love following along with your family. I was so excited to see your post on going to Ecuador! I went there myself (with my church) last spring. I am praying for you- for your son- for your trip. I can’t wait to see which villages you visit!

  • Teri - Just came across your blog and read of your Compassion trip. We’ve met 3 of our children. You are going to be SO blown away. I still get goose bumps thinking about our meetings.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh my goodness! I am so thrilled for you! Have a wonderful, blessed, time and know that you will be covered in prayer.

  • Lisa - What an amazing experience for you to share with your son!