Today is the final Q&A post. It has been fun answering these questions and really just seeing what questions you guys had. I’ll have to do this again!

How did you come to start your blog? It was originally an extension of my photography website – a place to post sneak peeks for clients. I never set out to become a blogger. I was a photographer that had a little corner of my website with a blog. It always makes me smile when people ask for advice on how to start a blog or become a ‘professional’ blogger. I have no idea!

When did you realize that it had grown into such a wide audience?  Around the time of my oldest daughter’s birth I posted a tour of her bedroom. It was probably the response to that post that I realized, “wow, people actually read this!”

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What visions do you have your blog/photography in the future? My biggest hope for this blog is that it would be a life-giving corner in the online world. Yesterday a comment was left that my blog is a “welcome oasis of common sense in the chaos of the internet.” That comment made me smile so big – I’m a fan of common sense, so that pretty much made my day. I hope that tangled up in my randomness and mess would be beauty that helps others see the beauty and gifts in their own lives. I hope that in some small way my feeble words and photography would impact the world in a positive way. I hope that one day my kids will be able to read my words here and get a small glimpse of who I was during the early years of my motherhood.

I’m wondering how you manage to write a blog post and edit daily pictures each day. Do you schedule your blog posts ahead of time (meaning topics) or just whatever moves you when you sit down to write? How often do you write each week? I don’t write daily very often. I usually try to write a couple of posts at a time and schedule those. For the most part my blog is just whatever is going on in my life and in my head. Every now and then I do a sponsored post or a collaboration and those have to be scheduled for certain days. It is hard for me to keep those time commitments, so I don’t do very many. I’m more of a free spirit blogger…just whatever is going on. I’m always jotting down ideas for posts or thinking about it as I go about my normal day. I might have several posts in my head, snap the pictures over a few days, and then sit down and write the posts at one time.

You do quite a few guests post did you search those out or did others randomly ask you? I have never searched out guest posts, but the ones I’ve done were requests. I typically only write guest posts for friends or Mpix.com. Early on when I began blogging I agreed to more requests. Over time I’ve realized I barely have the time to write on my own blog, so I don’t guest post much anymore (maybe once or twice a year).

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Has the blog given you “celebrity status” around town, and if so, how does it feel? This one made me laugh. No, I don’t feel like the blog has give me ‘celebrity status’. Every now and then someone will stop and say, “hi” and I am grateful when they do. It doesn’t happen often – if I have celebrity status around town I must terrify people from saying “hi”! There have been a couple of times someone has said “hi” when I have a kid or two with me. It is really fun when that happens. Blogging is a common topic in our house. I share with my kids (esp. the older ones) about posts I am working on and I’ll read them comments from time to time. I also share with them the hard parts of blogging too – like when people say mean things to me or about me. It is good for them to see how I work through when someone doesn’t like me. It is even more fun when they get to meet someone in town that does like me! A couple years ago I was finger knitting a garland during my oldest son’s basketball practice. He came up to me with a smile and said, “This is why people like you. You do weird things just because you like them. I like that.” I like that I get to share blogging with them and every now and then they get to meet someone new that reads my blog.

Any tips on the business side of blogging/photography? Chris handles a big chunk of that for me. He has his MBA and all that is stuff he enjoys. So taxes, accounting, etc. – Chris has always managed that for me. I definitely recommend making sure you are educated on taxes and save accordingly all year. I’ve seen a lot of photographer friends face really difficult times due to the unexpected regarding taxes. I’m probably the last blogger to ask about regarding the business of blogging. I kind of just do my own thing. I’m slowly learning new things, but I’m about 5 years behind most bloggers. My friend Ruth is an expert on the business side of blogging, I would recommend checking out her blog products for tips on the business side of blogging.

If you could have a craft day, what would you want to make? Have you seen pictures of painted globes? I have a ton of globes and have been wanting to try my hand at painting one.

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Do you have any Oklahoma vacation blog posts you’re thinking about doing? About 10. I’d like to take my kids to the southern area of the state. We’ll wait until everyone else is back in school!

Favorite place to go in OK? I don’t have a favorite…too many places to choose from! Anywhere quiet, remote and in my trailer.

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So, now that you’ve freed up some time, would you consider offering a wood shop class?  That has never once crossed my mind. Dad – want to teach a wood shop class with me?

I know you work by the example your family gave you in regards to working with children and power tools but what safety tips, lessons, etc. would you have to share? I need to think through this. I might try writing a blog post soon with more about wood working.

Any books, classes, sites tools to start with?  My favorite tools are my drill, saw and sander. You can build just about anything with those.

Any recommendations for someone starting off? What was the first thing you made? I would get those three tools and find a super simple DIY on pinterest with directions. Just start building. Don’t worry about it being perfect. Concern yourself more with learning the tools and feeling comfortable with them. Allow the imperfections to be part of the learning process. Just build.

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Did you ever get your ring pullups? You had to ask. I can do ring pull-ups, but I have not got my ring muscle up. After an embarrassing 14 straight minutes of trying (and getting super close) in front of a crowd, I’ve let frustration win and kind of gave up. I need to try again. Don’t give up, right?

Where  did you get your outdoor string lights? I found them at Target on discount after the 4th of July. I’ve had some from Target before and the bulbs broke pretty easily. This were marked down so much, I thought I’d try again. I’ll probably take them down in the spring with Oklahoma has wild weather.

Can you please, please tell me where you found the great cards you use to help your daughter use sign language? My friend Cindy made them. I think she basically collected images online and added the words. She then laminated them for me.

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Marvel or DC? Marvel

Batman or Superman? Captain America

Coffee or Tea? Coffee. With cream and sugar.

Mexican or Chinese food? Oh that is a hard one. I’m going to go with Mexican though. Chips & salsa. Cheese enchilada with a fried egg on top. Boom.

Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars…I mean Hans Solo and Indiana Jones are the same guy. Star Wars. Harrison Ford.

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What are your current style (in the home) inspirations? Hmmm. Anything tidy and simple. My life feels loud all the time, the less ‘noise’ in my house inspires me. White. Wood. Green. Have you seen Heather Bullard’s studio kitchen? I want to move into that kitchen.

How did you decide the layout and plan of your garden and chicken coop? Any books or blogs you got inspiration and info from? The coop design was based off plans we purchased from Heather Bullard.

Here is a post with a tour and how we modified those plans: Chicken Coop Tour

Here is a post about how we set up our garden/coop plan and books we used: Gardening Set Up

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What did you do on your last date? We ate at our favorite Thai restaurant (Lanna Thai – spring rolls & pad thai) then walked around downtown eating gelato. Our dates are wild!

What’s your next project to work on? Our kitchen. The kids have used the drawer pulls as ladder steps to get into the cabinets. As a result, they broke several and those pulls are no longer available. Our backsplash was a super low budget diy. It has worked great, but I am ready for tile that is easier to clean. We also have not kept up the butcher block countertops and need to re-finish those. Basically, we’ve been brutal to our kitchen and it needs some love.

Where do you get your inspiration? It might sound corny or maybe not even true, but I can find inspiration everywhere. It can be a pile of dirt if I look at it with the right perspective. A constant prayer of mine is that God would teach me to number my days that I might gain a heart of wisdom. I do feel like most days I am going through the day knowing my days are numbered. The reality of how my life will be just a breath does not depress me, it inspires me. It inspires me to linger with my kids, to soak up the moments, to search for beauty, to breathe in sights and smells, and to really KNOW those around me.

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Thank you for asking so many different questions. It really was fun for me too…and I’ll be working on getting my son to write that guest post on his favorite books. I’ll also get together my thoughts for a wood working post. If there are any other posts you’d like to see me write (besides A Day In the Life!:)), I’d love to hear your ideas. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  • Court - I loved reading all the answers to all the questions. I was on vacation the week you solicited questions and didn’t get a chance to ask, but what are your favorite RadLab actions? I bought RadLab a few years ago after seeing it on your blog and use the same actions all the time without really exploring the others much. Would love to know which ones you use the most. Thanks so much.

  • Susan - “Welcome oasis of common sense in the chaos of the internet.” Perfect description of your blog! I look forward to reading it every day. And your last answer about inspiration is great. I love your philosophy of life — thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Donzel - Bummer! I delayed too long and didn’t get my question in! Your white paint & tons of color way of decorating is my fav. What kind of paint do you use? I’ve painted lots of interior walls, and am very familiar with that type of paint / process…but the floor? and the tables? The one time I painted our floor it hasn’t worked very well. Things tend to stick to the paint (floor paint!) even though I let it cure far beyond the recommended time. Our desk is a disaster – the paint is smudging and lifting and smearing where our hands are most often. Absolutely disgusting. No motivation to fix it though, we don’t care for the desk at all! My husband is a cabinet maker, and he said we ought to have used special paint for the desk; is that what you’ve found as well?

  • Ginna - Thanks so much for answering all of these questions! I forgot to pipe in when you asked earlier, but would love to hear how you plan and cook food for a family of 7. Do you have any go-to cookbooks or recipes? Any tips and tricks for feeding a large family? Do you have any rules or routines for getting the kids to help with clean up? Thanks! Love your blog and look forward to every single post! :)

  • Lindsey - I so enjoy this blog – I love your heart and your wonderful photography, and I’m always encouraged by your perspective…
    “The reality of how my life will be just a breath does not depress me, it inspires me. It inspires me to linger with my kids, to soak up the moments, to search for beauty, to breathe in sights and smells, and to really KNOW those around me.” I love that!!

  • Katherine - Loved reading these posts. I’ve been following your blog now for ages… not even sure how I came across it, but still enjoy it. If you ever feel like you need to visit the UK, give me a shout. I live on the Jurassic Coast, which is great to explore as my boys and I do often with our pooch x

  • Rose E. - YES! Captain America! He’s just what a superhero ought to be! ….. I’m a fan.

  • cathie w. - Sad these q/a sessions are over!! I stumbled across your stories during my first pregancy – a few weeks before you announced FireCracker. It’s been so fun getting to know you these last few years. Thanks for opening your heart!

  • Diana - These have been so enjoyable! All your posts are but it was nice to “get to know you” a little better through these!

  • Shannon - So, I barely ever comment, but I read your blog daily. I have really enjoyed these Q&A posts, although I did not ask any questions. However, I wanted to tell you that as a Tulsa resident…I totally think you are a local celebrity!!! I would absolutely LOVE to run into you (or your sister actually) and be able to say Hi and that I read your blog. It’s super AWESOME that you live so close to me, and if I ever did see you out and about I would feel like I was meeting a celebrity. Also, did you and your sister go to Bixby High School? I feel like maybe I actually did at one time know your sister, she looks super familiar. Lastly, I would say you definitely achieve your goal of making this a life-giving blog. I start may day with it and it ALWAYS gives me a boost, reminds me to thank God for the day, and helps me see beauty throughout the rest of the day. Thank you.

  • Jenny B. - I could not think of any questions when you first asked, but now that I’ve read all your responses to everyone else’s, I’ve thought of a couple! 😉 Maybe for next time…

    1. Can you expand on your photo and video storage system? I like the idea of the wireless external drive, but I can’t figure out how to automatically back one up (I currently use CrashPlan for auto backups of my computer). Anyway…

    2. This one’s not so much a question, but an encouragement… You can totally do A Day in the Life. I know you can. You can do it! :) I’ve done Ali Edwards’ Week in the Life every year for the past 5 years, and that documentation ends up being my favorite thing to look back on. It’s the nitty gritty. Stuff I forget if it’s not written down. Not just the cute and sweet stuff, but the mundane too. That’s the stuff that can transport me back in time when I look at it years later. Don’t get me wrong… it’s hard. Especially for a whole week. I have to psych myself up every single year, and I always think maybe I just won’t do it this year, but then I do, and I’m so glad I did. Anyway… I’m rambling, but you could so do A Day in the Life. :) http://aliedwards.com/projects/day-in-the-life

  • JC - Your white balance and color in your photos is always perfect. I’d like a post about how you do that in camera and/or when you edit.

  • Pip - The sign language images are from software called Boardmaker. Essential when working with communication issues, including toddlerhood 😉

  • Tracy R. - Thank you for taking the time to answer so many questions! It was fun to read! Thank you also for thinking about a woodworking post! Sometimes I get into ruts as to what to cook or different ideas for meals. I loved the post you did on the asparagus pizza! A peek into how you feed your family may be good food for thought!

  • Nicoline Bingham - Loved these. Felt like I got to know you more and like you even more :)
    Your blog is my daily blog read. Thank you. Feels a bit strange that I “know” you, but you don’t know me :)
    Thanks for blogging! Your inspiring.

    Nicoline

  • Karina - FYI – The string lights at Costco are supposed to be amazing and super heavy duty. Thrifty Decor Chick swears by them!

  • Katie - I’ve loved reading the question and answer posts! Those icons look like they were made with the Boardmaker program. It’s a really helpful tool when encouraging non-verbal communication. Most school district materials labs should have the program available to use :)

  • Güliz - Çok tatl? bir ailesiniz..
    Mutluluklar…

  • Noelle - A couple years ago, right after I had my baby, I stopped reading most blogs because I felt too much pressure to measure up — have the perfect house, the perfect garden, DIY everything. I have kept subscribing to yours for the exact reason the one commenter mentioned about you being an oasis of common sense. Instead of making me feel inferior, you are so quick to point out that you don’t do it all, that your house and life are not perfect, and yet to be intentional about the things you do do and to invest in your family. In other words, you encourage me and help me give myself grace, rather than making me feel like a failure. So thank you. I’m so glad I found your blog.

  • Marsha - Since we frequent the same area, have you tried Amazing Thai Cuisine behind Schlotsky’s? I don’t know about their pad thai, but their green curry is far and away the best I’ve found in our little corner of the world!!! Love your heart, and love the comment someone pointed out above. I’d love to share it on my FB, if that’s okay?

    “I do feel like most days I am going through the day knowing my days are numbered. The reality of how my life will be just a breath does not depress me, it inspires me. It inspires me to linger with my kids, to soak up the moments, to search for beauty, to breathe in sights and smells, and to really KNOW those around me.”

    Most of my friends ‘hear’ me encouraging them to hug their husbands, especially this time of year. It would be nice to encourage them in a different way!!!

  • carrie - Thanks for doing all of these Q&As – they’ve been a delight to read!!

  • AshleyAnn - Marsha – sure, you can share that. Thank you for asking and thank you for your kind words of encouragement!

  • Dad - What ever you wish, better yet, lets build something, Dad

  • Kassie - The answer to your last question is an answer i can see myself saying on my best of days. I faced a life changing and nearly life ending tragedy just minutes after my first and only baby was born almost 9 months ago. Most days i find the beauty in every moment i have. Today i was sad for myself. Sad for my family, sad for my girl that she may never know the life I dreamed for us all. Reading that answer helped to remind me to keep my chin up and move forward. Let life happen around me and see where this wild ride leads. What is undoubtly true is that it’s entirely too short to go around too sad and missing all the best nooks and crannies. Life is a string of the littlest moments, all put together. Thank you for inspiring me!

  • Alecia - I really liked this series!! I would love to see a post on marriage – you guys seem like you have a really strong partnership and I would love to know how keep it so strong!

  • HELEN CHALLONER - Your words are far from feeble. I am 37 with two littleuns and have recently going through a journey with bowel cancer. Your blog, (which I just happened to stumble across) fills me with love, calm, faith when I most need it. You are an amazing, inspirational woman and I love that you capture the joy in everyday x Bless you x
    (Helen, Liverpool, UK) x

  • AngelaS - I enjoyed reading your Q&A. Thanks for sharing! I particularly enjoyed what you said in your last answer about inspiration and our days being numbered. I need to work on that. :)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Captain America is the correct answer.

Are you getting tired of all the Q&As this week? I really would have tried to fit them in one post, but it would have been WAY too long. Today is questions related to our everyday life…kinda.

I want to know where your struggles are. You make it look so effortless – amazing family, crossfit workouts, crafts, time with extended family…. I guess it’s some version of ‘how do you do it all?’ My struggles. Goodness, I have them. Things might look effortless when you read them on the blog, but keep in mind it is just a blog. My days are the opposite of effortless. So much effort and intention goes into every aspect of my days. One of my biggest struggles in this season of life is related to rest. Despite how extremely important I think it is, I struggle with rest and finding time to replenish my soul. When I don’t step back, get alone and rest – everything else begins to suffer. I’m fighting for rest though…everyday.

You mentioned traveling on a more global scale as your kids get older. Where would you go and what would you do and at what age do you think they are ready? We want to go everywhere! We like to ‘rough it’ when we explore and hit the less traveled roads. I’d love to take my kids across the globe with all we need in backpacks on our backs! For really big trips, I’d like our youngest to be somewhere around 8-10, just so she could really remember it too. We want our kids to experience as many different places, people and cultures as possible.

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I would LOVE some tips on how to be more intentional about teaching my kids about God and his word. We teach them with our lives and through conversations, but haven’t gotten down a good routine of being in the Word together. What resources do you use? Have you found that a structured plan works for you, or is it something that occurs more casually? I would love to hear others’ tips on this too. Aside from the start of our ‘school’ time, I feel like as soon as we get in a groove in regards to structured time, something changes. Casual – as we sit, as we walk, as we go, as we come – fits our family well. Our faith is so intertwined in every aspect of our lives, I feel like it is a natural overflow of discussion all day.

I was curious about your how you approach the tougher moments/days with your kids. With prayer and a deep breath. Honestly, there are so many times I need to step back and ask God for patience and grace. Some days I handle the hard stuff better than other days. I try to consider what is causing the ‘tough moment’…usually there is something deeper going on with my kids that is causing a tough moment or behavior. If I can keep my cool and look for what I can’t see on the outside I can deal with it better. There are also many times I wave my white flag and tag Chris in. When my patience is gone, his usually isn’t – and vice versa.

When is your next family vacation with the trailer? I wish I knew. We don’t have any set plans right now. The kids all voted to take off fall sports so we could go camping more. I’m not a fan of camping in the Oklahoma heat..so this fall will most likely be the next trip.

8.15homelife-07What are your oldest boy’s favorite books ever? What are yours? I really need to have him write a post on this. I’ll try to get on that…he would love it and so many parents have been asking me! As far as my favorite books…I have a list I want to read, but few I’ve actually finished over the last decade!

Do your kids ever argue? Never. Not ever. Of course they do. For the most part they really like each other and get along well, but yes they absolutely argue. I don’t have pictures of them arguing because I am usually in the middle of them trying to help them work it out. I don’t write about specifics of their arguments, mistakes or bad behavior. I wouldn’t want that stuff shared about me online, so I try to find the balance of being real and honest here while also showing respect to my kids. I think having a big family helps with how they get along. When two need a little space, they have 3 other siblings to hang out with.

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Do you have any tips/tricks for getting your children to help around the house without bad attitudes? I don’t know that I have any tips or tricks. Each of my kids are so different. I have one that is a willing helper all the time. He takes initiative and finds joy in doing things to help others. I have one that is the opposite. We talk a lot about ‘whys’ related to helping, serving and attitudes. We have set expectations that are clear and everyone understands regarding roles in our home. You have to do “A” in order to get “B”.  I do feel like I have to be sensitive to what is causing the bad attitude – sometimes it is something bigger than just not wanting to do a chore and I need to deal with that before worrying about the chore. I’m always looking for tips and tricks too!

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I know you taught your boys Mandarin but did you use it once in the US with your youngest at first? I know she was really little still but did she understand better that way if you did? Our youngest was actually from an area that she was spoken to in Cantonese and not Mandarin….so, the Mandarin did not help. She came from a very unique situation regarding what she could understand. I have many friends that learned basic phrases in Mandarin prior to adopting and it helped their kids through the early stages of adoption tremendously.

Do you have separate “dates” with each of your children regularly? If so, would you mind sharing some ideas of what you do with them? We don’t do regularly scheduled dates. At one point we tried, but it just didn’t work. Instead, Chris and I often take one kid with us to run errands. So, if I need to pick something up at Lowes, I’ll bring someone along with me and we’ll include something special too – like a stop at a coffee shop. I’ve learned my kids don’t care so much about what we do together as much as they value the one on one time. We do special dates from time to time with each of them too. The special dates are more catered to their very specific interests. Instead of taking all 5 kids to do something like ice skating or to a rock collectors show, we only take the one(s) interested. This helps with our budget and each kid ends up getting to do things specific to their interests.

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How do you have conversations with your kids when they see or hear things out in the world that may not be what you want them to see and hear? Chris and I stay pretty up to date on current events. We try to be the first ones to tell our kids about hard stuff. For the most part, they hear a lot from us first. We talk to them in age appropriate ways, but we also don’t shy away from dealing with hard stuff. If they hear something from someone else, we talk about it. We try to help them process what they’ve heard and we pray for guidance as we help them sort through stuff. So, I guess my answer is really…lots of talking. Lots of open communication. Being a safe place for them to work through what they hear with us instead of on their own.

How do you do the leap of faith thing so well? Can you tell me how you got so good at just closing your eyes and leaping? I am not so sure that I do it well, but I do feel like I do it a lot. Doing it over and over again seems to help. I became a Christian 28 years ago. As my life and circumstances have changed, the one constant in my life has always been my faith. In the last 28 years, I’ve made lots of leaps. Lots of walking into the unknowns and hoping to make it out on the other side. Time and time again, God has shown Himself faithful. Not every leap has ended the way I thought I desired. Not every new road led somewhere I really wanted to go. BUT with every leap I’ve been able to look back and see God’s hand in the process.  I guess at this point I just known He isn’t going to leave me – Jesus is my constant, so as long as I have Him it really doesn’t matter where the leap lands.

8.15homelife-16So, yeah…another Q & A post, still feeling odd answering these! Like I mentioned yesterday….I’m figuring out life and motherhood like many of you. I’m certainly not an expert on any of these topics! Tomorrow will be the last Q&A. It is all the blogging related questions and random ones…like Marvel or DC. Marvel. Hands down Marvel.

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  • Anniken - Love your answers… and that you also want tips on the things people ask you. If you ever are thinking about visting norway, you are welcome at our house… it would be fun to read some guest post from your oldest boy, and bookideas for younger ones too.

  • Kellie - Hi Ashley,
    It’s been fun reading your answers. :)
    Tomorrow is the more random questions. I wanted to ask you if you could please, if you didn’t already plan on it, answer my question regarding the sign language post-ups? I leave Sept. 10th for China to bring my little boy home. He just turned three Aug. 1st. He has a bilateral cleft lip and palate, and I think the post ups would help tremendously.
    Thank you so much!

  • Anna - I am loving the Q&As! Thanks for sharing Ashley

  • Carrie - Thanks for sharing, and I love that you are real and yet respectful of your kids and their journeys at the same time. ‘Hands down Marvel.’ Here here. And I’d love to hear from oldest too about his book suggestions and favs.

  • Emily - Thank you for sharing!

  • Jenny - I am loving these Q & A posts. So fun!

  • Angie - Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I really appreciate how open you are to sharing your family life and beliefs.

  • Krista - I love these Q&A posts. And I consistently love your blog. My life is nothing like yours, but I draw so much joy and inspiration from how you and your family live your life. Thank you for sharing.

  • amber - Yes. Marvel. I married a Captain America/Marvel loving guy & now also have 3 little boys, so by default, I am totally Marvel baby. Ha!! Great questions & answers here too!

  • Tiffany - I am really loving these Q&A posts! While I don’t have kids, there’s no harm in letting ideas percolate early. I also wanted to reassure you that I don’t think anyone asked a question hoping to get an “expert” answer. I think there is a huge value in asking other people how they structure their lives, deal with challenges, etc. If you hear a dozen solutions to the same situation, you have more options to choose from when it’s your turn to deal with that situation(or a similar situation). Thanks so much for your openness. One thing I love about your blog is that it’s so conversational. It’s kind of like having an extra friend to touch base with! (And I promise never to be THAT person who meets you and says, “OMG, Ashley, I know everything about your life and we are friends even though you don’t know anything about me!” haha) Your blog is a happy part of my day. Even posts about imperfections make me happy since they’re a nice reminder that you don’t know what challenges another person faces. We’re all in this together!

  • Denise L. - “…as long as I have Him it really doesn’t matter where the leap lands.” You have it right there! I’m around your mother’s age and have been through the most difficult 2 years of my life and have just now been shown that with Him, I’ll land in the perfect place. And definitely not where I thought I wanted to land!

  • MC - Thank you for including one of my questions :) I like Marvel too (my 9 year old agrees).
    I am enjoying your Q&A posts!

  • Kristin S - Ashley, I know you are a private person and doing this series was probably a stretch. Thanks for sharing!

    Your ability to be real and normal is something I admire in blog-world. I think it’s why I’ve followed since Firecracker was a baby.

  • melissa p - I really admire your parenting. You said every day takes a lot of intentional thought, and I have a hard time with following through with all my intentions. Yes, I’m sure you have hard days too, but you obviously (just based on what we see on the blog) are doing so much right. I hope I can get to that point! Thanks for sharing. xxooM

So today’s Q&A is a collection of some of your questions related to our daily schedule and homeschooling…

A day in the life of the Campbell family post? This will probably never happen. I can’t imagine the logistics of trying to document a day or how incredibly LONG that post would be. Though our days are simple, they are also full – especially for me. And every day is different! I’m too much IN the day to even begin thinking about how to record a day! It is a great idea, but I just can’t figure out how I would actually make that happen!

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I’ve always wondered if you are a good sleeper. How many hours of sleep to you get each night? Once upon a time I was a good sleeper, then I had kids. Last night I was technically in bed for 8 hours, but was woken up 11 times (5 kids, a cat, dog, a thunderstorm – they seemed to all gang up on me!). I’m drinking my second cup of coffee right now. Most nights are not like that, but I also don’t remember the last time I slept uninterrupted for 8 hours. Even if all the kids and the animals sleep…something else will figure out a way to wake me up – like the train that runs behind our house. There was a time in my motherhood that I resented how rarely I was able to sleep all night. I’ve come to terms that I’m in a season where sleep doesn’t look like it will in 10 years. I’m okay with that now. For the first two years my youngest daughter was home she woke up between 4-6 times a night. I thought that season would never end. It did. Most nights now she peacefully sleeps all night. One day I will too!

Do you require the children to have a rest time during the day? Yes and no. I have great intentions of holding to rest time, but I don’t always. My kids individually often go find a quiet space to read or be alone. In a way they do self-initiated rest time.

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I would really like to know details about your daily & night routine, including your commitment to exercise. How do you fit it in? What time to you begin your day and when do you ‘crash’? The only thing I do at a certain time is workout. I wake up at 6:00am and head straight to Crossfit every weekday (regardless of how restful the night was). I started this about a year and a half ago and it has been one of the very best decisions I have made for myself in a long time. I am able to wake up without anyone needing me, which puts me in such a better mood when I get home. Working out in the morning gives me so much energy – far more than coffee or any other thing I could eat or drink. It has been a game changer for me. I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll stop.

After Crossfit, I come home, get ready for the day, read my Bible, and eat a slow breakfast outside with whoever is still at the table. Next we do school, followed by house stuff & blog stuff in the afternoons. We usually eat dinner at home together every night and then play outside or go to sports practices. Once we come inside it is time for bedtime routines.  After I talk and pray with each kid, I pick up the house, finish up any work, hang out with Chris and then head to bed. In my dream world, I would go to be at 10pm. That never happens. I need to get better at getting to bed earlier!

I would love to hear a little about your system of organizing your to do lists, lesson plans, project timelines, goal setting, etc. I live by my planner. I tried to use digital planners and phone calendars, but I need things on paper. This year I am using a Passion Planner. It is full of everything. If I lost it, I would be lost.

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I wondered if you might share why you chose to homeschool if that’s not too personal? Without going into too many details (personal to our son), in a very basic sense our decision stemmed from seeing our oldest son lose a passion for learning. He was in a wonderful school with phenomenal teachers – an environment that fostered learning. However, much like I was as a student, he started being consumed more with perfect grades than the joy of learning. He went from reading all the time to having very little time to read. In many ways I felt like I was losing my son, so we made a drastic change. The plan was to homeschool for a year to give him a break from a demanding schedule and help him return to his love of learning. This month we will begin our 4th year of homeschooling. Needless to say, we feel like our kids are thriving and we will continue until we feel otherwise. (my oldest read this and gave his approval for sharing it)

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Favorite homeschool subject? History. I thought it would be art or writing, but I have developed such a deep appreciation and interest in history as a result of homeschooling.

Would you consider a post about your favorite resources? Pinterest! Seriously, I find so much on Pinterest. I do a search there on every topic I am teaching – I can find activities, YouTube links, reading lists. So many homeschool parents have put great resources together that I don’t feel the need to reinvent anything. Pinterest. Hands down my favorite homeschooling resource.

I think there is commonly a tension between “freedom” and “enough” (are my kids learning enough, am I doing enough, etc). What is your approach? I feel that tension all the time. I find when I talk to one mom, I leave feeling like I am not doing enough of one thing. Then I talk to another mom and feel like I am not doing enough of something else. I have to consistently and constantly go back to our goals for our children’s education and these seasons of their lives. Our goals will be different from every other family. We will do things differently than other families. I have to remind myself of OUR goals and walk towards those without getting distracted by what others are doing or not doing.

What does a typical school day look like for you? How do you juggle so many different grade levels? We begin the day together sharing prayer requests, praying, and Bible study. We also go over a few things we are all working on like sign language. We are a part of Classical Conversations, which means we do core subjects with a local homeschool community. Together we go over our Classical Conversations curriculum and I often expand on it (history projects, science projects, etc.). I then work with the younger ones, while my older kids do independent work (math, typing, etc.). After I finish with the younger ones, I work with the older boys. Juggling the different grades can be challenging, but not near as bad as I thought it would be. My oldest is very self-motivated and he sets a great example for his siblings.

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I must admit, part of me feels funny about answering these questions. I am not an expert at anything. I’m figuring out this parenting, homeschooling, scheduling thing every day too. We try stuff. We keep what works and try something new for what doesn’t. Ask me these questions in a year and I am sure my answers will change as I learn from others!

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  • Danielle - Thanks for sharing. I now feel like a wimp for being wiped out after one or two wake ups. Oy. That would leave me comatose! As my husband just told me “you do not handle lack of sleep well.” I don’t! I will be juggling more grades this year so that was interesting to me. I always find it fascinating how people manage it. My boys needed me a lot last year so I have no clue what this school year will look like!

  • babs - thank you for answering my questions. i only know you through your blob but call you “my friend Ashley”. i also pray for you and your family.{including Leslie!!)

  • amber - We’re about to start our first year of homeschooling with our oldest 2. I knew homeschooling would be in our future, just didn’t plan on now. And if I’m honest, I’m just a little worried. Ha! I’m also a sponge for advice. Thank you. And thank you for saying pinterest is a go to for you…because I keep laughing at myself for looking there for ideas. But there’s so much there! Heading off to look at that planner…

  • Emily - I am so glad you shared these answers. It may feel like you’re not an expert, but your older children are in stages mine haven’t reached yet, and we were the first of our friends and family to have kids — even the other moms at preschool are around the same stage we are. It’s so nice to hear from someone who’s on the same path about what it’s like a few miles ahead (like the trail notebooks hikers leave notes in.) Thank you so much!

    And if you’re up for follow-up questions, I’d love to hear more about how your entire family is learning sign language. I have good intentions, but getting the entire family on the same page is hard!

  • Dawn - This post could not have come at a better time! I was in the midst of planner research (for way too long) yesterday and hadn’t found a good solution. LOVE the Passion Planner — just ordered one! So what if half of it is empty since the year is half over, right??! :)

  • Raimie Harrison - Dear Ashley, Thank you for answering my question! Super sweet of you! I would love a post on the Passion planner and how it is working for you. It is always interesting to me how people organize their planning and such info and it ican be mind boggling to choose a planner with so many options. :)

  • Becky - I love that you had your oldest son read your response to the question about why you home school. What an awesome way to honor him and respect who he is as a person!

  • Sarah A - Thanks for doing these Q&A’s. I rarely comment as I always seem to be reading “on the fly” – for instance, when I read the post this afternoon I was going to comment, but my 1-year-old woke up early from her nap and needed snuggles, so I’m just coming back to the computer 7 hours later. At any rate, I’m encouraged by what you have shared, especially your struggles with getting to sleep on time. I struggle with that as well, so it’s (somewhat oddly) comforting to see that I’m not the only one. And it is (again, somewhat oddly) inspiring as well, because I love the way you view your family and all the busy/fun/growth-oriented things you pack into your days. I’m in a not-much-sleep season as well, so seeing what you are able to accomplish in your similar season inspires me to aim higher in mine. So, thanks! :-)

  • Jenny B. - Ashley, I am really enjoying this series! I appreciate what you said about it feeling a little weird. It is encouraging and uplifting to read about how you do life, though. You do such a wonderful job of capturing the beauty of it all with both your photos and your words.

  • Kath - Thank you so much for your time replying to all these questions Ashley. It is brilliant.

  • Josephine - It may feel strange answering these questions, but as a long time reader of your blog, I love reading about how you ‘do’ on the daily with all things that need or want your attention! I’m the mother of two young boys (no plans for any more!) and I’m fascinated to hear about how you co-ordinate the needs of your larger clan! I feel overwhelmed with just two!
    Thank you for taking the time to do the q&a – I’ve been reading your blog since you were pregnant with your eldest daughter (I was pregnant with my first son at the time), and I love hearing about what you’re all up to! Like another commented said, I’m usually ‘ reading on the fly’ and don’t comment often, but you’re a welcome oasis of common sense in the chaos of the internet 😉

  • kimberly oyler - i would like to officially submit my vote for a day in the life post. :)

  • AshleyAnn - Kimberly – How about you come for a day, document our day and you write the post!

  • Natalie - Thank you so much for sharing! I love hearing your heart through your blog, and it’s great to have more insight about your family’s home-schooling life. I admire you and your family so much.

  • Megan - We made it one semester of kindergarten. I was losing my little boy! By all school measures he was succeeding–testing in the 99 percentile, no behavior issues and doing really well. But he was so unhappy and I could just see this light in him being extinguished. He started pretending to be sick and asking to homeschool. I happened to stumble on a Montessori school and we tried that. He finished kindergarten there and I’m 4 did a semester of preschool there. They are both so excited to be going back this fall. We are so happy there. No more desks and worksheets and grades–just learning! I thank god everyday I had the courage to pull him out and seek out what our family needed. I know exactly what you are talking about.

  • Cassidy - I really resonate with your reason for homeschooling. I was not, but I sometimes wish I had been. I was the valedictorian of my middle school (WHY WAS THAT A THING?) and my high school… and I graduated with a perfect 4.0 in my undergrad degree. Now, working on an MBA, I’m striving for the same thing. I hated the subjects that tripped me up on tests. I’m so busy during school – even grad school – because so much of it is spent learning for a test instead of just LEARNING. I also suffered through the same things that all middle/high school kids do… the stuff that doesn’t matter years later and quite frankly, the stuff that I literally no longer remember even studying. (A friend was studying ancient Greece and I couldn’t figure out why. Turns out, I took that class too. It’s world history. Sigh.)

    Basically, props for being able to focus on the learning instead of the grades. He’s so lucky – they all are. Your kids are also going to be so much more well rounded.