52 Family Adventures- Week One

Our First Week of 2019

If I am going to be completely honest, our first family adventure of 2019 almost didn’t happen.

I had plans to visit a specific nature center Thursday or Friday. But it was raining Thursday and the forecast for the weekend was great. I decided to rearrange our plans to go on our adventure on Sunday. But then, on Friday I woke up with a cold. I spend Friday and Saturday feeling pretty awful. My throat felt like someone shoved a wire brush down it. My nose was clogged, and my head throbbed with every movement. But Sunday morning, I woke up and felt better.

But my six year old didn’t. My poor youngest son started feeling sick on Saturday and was not doing well Sunday. I thought about skipping this week. Or going on two adventures next week to make up for it. But here’s the thing. There will always be obstacles in the way of my goals. Skipping the first week was no way to start my challenge. Even if the whole family could not go, I knew I needed to start this challenge off right.

So I made the choice to visit a nature preserve closer to home with the older two kids. It’s been on my to-do list forever. And I am so glad we did!

Turnipseed Nature Preserve is beautiful! The 265 acre preserve is located in Wendell, NC, about 25 minutes from Raleigh. There are a few different trail options, but we took the Boulder Trail.

A sign at the beginning of the trail showed us how to spot signs of the wildlife that lives nearby. While we saw a few birds and squirrels, that was it for spotting wildlife. But we did see lots of beaver lodges and dams! The kids were so excited! Once, years ago, a friend of mine who works at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, WA gave us a private viewing of some animals, including a beaver. The kids loved the beaver and have continued to think that beavers are pretty cool animals ever since.

After observing the lodges and dams, we decided that we’d dedicate some time learning about beavers this week.

 

Even though our adventure was not what we planned, we had a great time. The kids are so excited to learn more about beavers, and they can’t wait to come back with their dad and little brother.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring!

 

I am already working on more free printables for hiking and learning about animals! If you’re interested in getting your hands on these free printables, be sure to follow my blog!

 

Have you started your own adventuring for 2019? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Preparing for 52 Weeks of Adventure

Planning Can be Overwhelming!

When I decided to to embark on 52 adventures with my kids this year, I wondered if it was too much. It’s hard to plan so many day trips, hikes, road trips etc. Even though I was overwhelmed, I knew that I really wanted this- for my kids and for myself. I started googling and found so many resources that have helped me  get started on my new journey. I’ve heard from some of you on social media. A few of you have expressed an interest in trying your own 52 Weeks of Adventure challenge! I am sharing some of my resources. Hopefully, they will inspire you!

 

 

When in Your State / Only in Your State

When in Your State has listings for each of the 50 US states. There are categories for everything from gardens, to waterfalls, to “haunted” places. Only in Your State has a very similar set up. Thse are great not only for finding fun places to visit nearby, but also for seeking out adventures when  you’re on a a road trip.

Find a Park

The National Parks Service website will help you find a park, trail, battlefield, trail, or memorial near you! Better yet, if you have a fourth grader, all National Parks are free with the Every Kid in a Park program!

Museums USA

Museums USA has a database of museums in every state! There are subheadings for Zoos, Nature Centers, Planetariums, and more!

Hiking

US News lists their pick for the best hike in every state! Thrillist has their own list of the best hikes in each US state. Backpacker has a list with multiple hikes in each state.

Macaroni Kid

Macaroni Kid has listings for several cities. Each area is covered by a different publisher, so content varies from city to city. Many areas have great coverage and are full of info on day trips, local parks, events, and more!

January Adventure Planner

I have created a fun, free printable for anyone who signs up for my email list before 1/5/2019. It will help you plan your first month of adventures!

Sign up for my mailing list here for your free printable! Be sure to check your spam folders. It may take up to 24 hours for your free printable to arrive.

Do you have any resources you like to use to plan your roadschooling/adventures? Let me know about them in the comments!

A Year of Family Adventures

 

The World is Our Classroom

As a homeschooling mom, I love to take my kids on adventures. We go on lots of day hikes. If we get the opportunity, we will hop in the car for a road trip or board an airplane for far-away destinations. We spend many days in museums, at festivals, or attending local performances. Our homeschool motto is “the world is our classroom.” We try very hard to make sure that we live by that idea.

We’d love to roadschool or worldschool full time, but it’s not possible at this point for our family. We have medically complicated kids and need to be near a home base regularly to meet their medical needs. We’ve made it a point to be sure that these medical complications don’t limit their experiences.

In 2018, we worked hard to expand our horizons and explore the world as much as possible.

 

 

We flew to Seattle twice. Our road trips took us to eight states. Our biggest trip of the year was my favorite to date; we flew to Saint Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Not all of our trips were big, of course. We visited the Botanical Gardens at Duke University, many local museums, and visited the Jamestown Settlement to learn about colonial history.

Adventure as a Way of Life

I truly believe that these experiences are vital to the growth and development of my kids. Children who spend time in nature will learn to value our planet. If kids see the world beyond their front door, they will understand diverse cultures and learn to respect then. Kids who are exposed to the arts will appreciate not only the beauty behind art, but the importance of art in our culture. Exposure to museums, zoos, and aquariums can bring science and history off of the page. My kids learn more from these experiences than they do from textbooks.

My Challenge for 2019

This year, my family will have fifty-two adventures. I will post an adventure every Sunday evening at 52familyadventures.com or you can just check out the home page of stepheniepeterson.com to find the newest posts. For the purpose of my challenge, an adventure can be as simple as a hike in the next town, or as grand as a trip to France. I mean, I don’t currently have plans to go to France this year, but who knows! If I did fly to France, I could use a trip to the Eiffel Tower as one adventure and exploring Norte-Dame another adventure. Because of this, though I will post one adventure a week, they might not be chronological. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more frequent updates. I’ll be posting with the hashtag #52familyadventures so be sure to follow the hashtag too!

Do you want more adventure in your life? I’ll be posting tips, printables, and ideas to help you experience adventure with your family! I hope you’ll follow along as we dedicate 2019 to adventure!

 

A Writer’s Life- Querying

Here’s an update for those who like to keep up with my writing. I am currently querying three manuscripts. If you’re not a writer, you probably have no clue what  that means. Querying is the process of trying to find a literary agent. It involves a lot of emailing a lot of rejection.

Querying works like this: an author gets a short email to pitch their book, and then, depending on the agent’s guidelines, 5-50 pages of the manuscript are also included. Hopefully, the agent likes the pitch well enough to read those pages. If they really like the pages, the agent will ask for more. Finally, if the agent loves the rest of the manuscript, they will offer to represent you and try to sell your book to publishers.

It sounds simpler than it is. Agents get hundreds of emails a month. Most only take on a few new clients per year. The vast majority of the time, the answer from the agent is no-if they even reply to the query at all. Because they get so many emails, a lot of agents no longer reply to rejections. The author is left to wait and assume that they’ve been rejected.

There are some agents out there who choose to take time out their busy schedules to explain why a particular project isn’t for them, however an author can’t expect this kind of feedback. The agents are just too busy.

I’ve met authors who sent more than 200 queries before they found an agent. I’ve met authors who only queried a few agents and they all said yes. It’s a crazy process, but hopefully, in the end, a rewarding one.

These are the projects I am querying right now:

Grace’s Ghosts is a middle grade fantasy novel. It’s a little bit creepy and full of magic adventure, humor, family, and friendship.

Toby: The (Mostly) True Story of a Former Bad Dog is a humorous chapter book. It’s a fictionalized story inspired by dogs I’ve known and loved.

 

Bigfoot in Space follows the Bigfoot Family as they leave Earth behind and search for a planet with more privacy. It’s a picture book.

 


I know some of you are thinking, Didn’t you self-publish your other books? Wouldn’t that be easier than going through all of this?

I did self-publish my other books. Unfortunately, I have regretted that from day one. It’s hard to break into the children’s market as a self-published author. While the Nellie Nova series has done well for an Indie project, I feel like I’d rather have an agent and a publisher on my side for future projects.

I’ll keep at the querying process and hopefully, with time, I’ll find the right agent. I can’t wait to see my manuscripts become published books!

Are you an author? Have you been in the querying trenches? Tell me about it in the comments!

Halloween Science Roundup

 

My kids love Halloween. The only thing they love more than Halloween is science. Combining the two always makes for great fun. I’ve collected an assortment of fun, Halloween-themed science experiments from around  the web. Check them out!

 

Halloween Science Experiments and Activities from Little Bins for Little Hands

19 Spooky STEM Projects For Kiddos This Halloween from BuzzFeed

Ghost Rockets for Kids from Growing a Jeweled Rose

Dancing Frankenworms from Playdough  to Plato

Boo Bubbles from Steve Spangler Science

Halloween Science Experiments from Creekside Learning

31 Days of Halloween STEM Activities and Projects from STEAM Powered Family

20 Halloween STEM Activities from The Homeschool Resource Room

I had fun finding all of these fun Halloween science activities. I can’t wait to do some of them with my kids! I hope you and the kids in your life enjoy them!

 

 

Home Again

Okay. I know I said we were done homeschooling.

We bought 12 green folders, 76 glue sticks, 2 blue binders, one purple, and one white. We bought special headphones, name-brand pencils, rain ponchos, new backpacks, and one really expensive calculator. My daughter planned her first day of school outfit for a month.

The first day finally came. They looked pretty cute. They went to that first day and came home fairly happy. There were of course, a few issues, but none of us expected it to be perfect.

As time went on, however, the little issues became bigger.

My oldest has a lot of medical issues. Right after the school year began, he had what I could best describe as a medical crisis. He missed a lot of school.  As many days as he attended, he missed all or part of the day for illness or medical testing. It was a scary time. And it reminded me of why we homeschooled to start with. When you homeschool, you can change the time of your math lesson to work around a neurologist appointment. With homeschooling, you can have science lessons while you have an at-home EEG. At home, he wouldn’t have missed so much.

We figured out what was causing his health issues and he was doing so much better. But I just wanted to be with my son. I didn’t want to send him away again after having to worry about him. And I wanted to know that if he faced another medical crisis, we could ensure that his academics would not suffer.

I considered having the other two continue to attend school, but we had worries about younger son’s allergies were being handled at school. Protocols weren’t being followed. We could have fought the school on it, but we didn’t really want to.

My daughter is a free spirit. She marches to the beat of her own drum. While she made school work, I could see that spending all day conforming was squashing her spirit and I didn’t want that.

We pulled them out three weeks into the school year.

Thankfully, we were able to get them back into their homeschool classes and co-op and it’s been an easy transition.

My cuties on a field trip we took with our homeschooling group to the State Crime Lab

 

 

If nothing else, we can say we tried it. Maybe it was a failed experiment, but you don’t know until you try, right?

Currently, my kids are learning about Edgar Allan Poe, writing Halloween stories at home, and taking classes in mythology, archaeology, chemistry, and current events with their homeschool group. They’re also taking classes with co-op and obviously learning math, language arts, and history at home.

Life is good. My babies are home and we’re ready for new adventures.

The End of an Era

For the past eleven years, I have spent nearly every day with my kids. They’ve never gone to school. I’ve not held a 9-5 job that required daycare. They’ve of course attended classes, camps, and spent time with family members or babysitters, but the majority of their time has been with me.

That all changes August 15th when they go to school for the first time.

My daughter asked to go to school several months ago. I applied for some charter schools in my area and all three kids got into a school with an amazing reputation. It’s everything I could ask for in a school- small class size, hands on learning, lots of field trips etc. All of the kids are excited.

In less than a month, my time as a homeschooling mom will end. We’ve known for a few months and I am still wrapping my brain around it. I have loved being there for my sweet kids as they learned how to read. I have loved watching them develop interests in academic areas. I have truly enjoyed field trips and messy projects with them. There have been tough moments, but homeschooling has been such a sweet part of our lives and I will miss it- and my kids.

This change will allow for me to focus more on my writing and my health. It will allow them to form new friendships. I would be lying if I tried to say I was not nervous. And sad. Back-to-school sales have left me misty eyed as I realized we did not need to get ready for another homeschool year.

But I am trying to look forward to what comes next. I can’t even imagine how much more writing I will be able to get done when I am not solely responsible for their education. My house will be cleaner. I can actually rest when my autoimmune disease flares up.  I am sure that that they will enjoy their school days.

And I will always be here if  they want to come home. Because that’s what moms are for.

Summer Reading List for Strong Girls

 

Most parents and teachers want to be sure that kids keep reading all summer long. Experts say that kids should read every day to maintain their reading skills learned in the previous school year. The summer is a great time to explore books that kids would not get the chance to read during the school year. For moms of girls, it’s a great time to introduce some strong female protagonists. It’s so important for girls to have great role models in media.

Check out this summer reading list to inspire strong girls. This list is aimed at independent elementary-aged readers, but many of these books make wonderful read-alouds for younger readers as well.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda was one of my favorite books as child. I was so excited when I first got to share it with my own daughter. Matilda is smart, strong, and loves to read. This fun story appeals to both girls and boys alike and has captured children’s hearts for decades.

Nellie Nova series by Stephenie Peterson

I wrote Nellie Nova Takes Flight and Nellie Nova’s Summer on the Run because I wanted to inspire girls.

Nellie appears to be a normal nine year old girl. But Nellie is not normal. Nellie is an amazingly gifted scientist who lives in a family of amazingly gifted scientists. One day, her brother, Niles, who is eleven, teases her, as all respectable big brothers do. This time, however, Niles goes too far when he tells Nellie that girls are silly and no woman has ever changed the world. This sets off a spark of an idea in Nellie’s most amazing mind and sends her down the path to create a time machine and meet wonderful women who made a mark on the world. First stop, Amelia Earhart! With a few bumps along the way and a government agency out to steal her technology, Nellie and Niles are in for an incredible adventure!

In the second book, Nellie and her brother go on to meet Sacagawea and reporter Nellie Bly, but not without more trouble from those pesky government agents.

 

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

 

I love Pippi! A little bit wild and always full of adventure, Pippi Longstocking is fiercely independent, brave, and owns a monkey. Pippi Longstocking is a great summer read for girls of all ages. I might just re-read it myself this summer.

 

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

My nine year old wants nothing more than to be a spy right now. Harriet the Spy was a favorite of mine as a child and I can’t wait for my daughter to read it this summer. Harriet is an aspiring writer who meticulously writes about everything going on around her. When her classmates find her notebook, she’s faced with questions about honesty and friendship.

 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 

I read this book over and over again as a child. Anne was my favorite literary character for a long time. Her ever-optimistic character always inspired me to look on the bright side, and her rebellious streak reminded me never to settle. It’s the perfect summer read!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

This is the kind of book that sticks with you! My kids and I listened to the audiobook version of it and we all felt like we’d lost a friend when it ended. All of the characters are lovable, but Luna is such a fine example of a strong girl. Full of magic, mystery, and a tiny dragon, it’s just the kind of a book your daughter will love on her summer reading list.

I hope you enjoy this summer reading list for strong girls. Did I miss any books that you love?

My Newest Project- Grace’s Ghosts

 I haven’t been as active on my blog lately. I  tend to have seasons when I am more or less active with my blog. My newest book,  Grace’s Ghosts, has kept me so busy that I have neglected this blog.  After many months of hard work, I am finally at a point where I feel ready to share a bit about this project with you all. It’s been a labor of love and I am so excited to tell you all about it.

About Grace’s Ghosts

 Grace lived a quiet life in the tiny town of Tansy. She spent her days at Tansy School, where she was bullied relentlessly. At home, her best friend and cat, Midnight was always by her side. Did I mention that her cat wasn’t exactly alive? None of her friends were.

 While not many people lived in Tansy, thousands of spirits spent their afterlife there, and Grace was the only person who could see them.

 Until the morning of her thirteenth birthday, Grace was content to live her quiet, geeky life with no living friends. As she woke that day, she became aware that every inch of her bedroom was bursting with ghosts.The spirits told her that they were cursed and that any person who ever so much as set foot in the town of Tansy would be doomed to spend their afterlife there. The ghosts suspected that a witch named Lavina had cursed the town three-hundred years before. They begged Grace to find a way to break the witch’s spell.

  Grace couldn’t let down her dead friends, so she agreed to help.This decision led her to make discoveries, not only about the curse and the witch who cast it, but also about her own family, and ultimately, herself. There was a reason Grace alone could see the spirits of her village. She was a powerful mage.

 The journey to break Lavina’s curse is far from easy. Thankfully, Grace befriends other mages to help along the way. Can she break the curse and save her town? If she succeeds,can she endure the pain of saying goodbye to Midnight and all of her paranormal friends? If she fails, will she be doomed to spend her afterlife trapped in Tansy?

 Grace’s Ghosts is a great read for tweens. I am currently seeking representation for this project, so publication could still be a while off, but I wanted to tell all of you what I have been so busy with the past several months.  Let me know what you think. Would you or your child be excited to read my newest book?

The Last Time

My oldest son is going to turn eleven in two and a half weeks. It’s hard to comprehend. I swear, he was a baby fifteen minutes ago.

 

His journey has not been an easy one. From pre-term labor scares to a brain injury at birth, from motor skills delays to an eventual diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, from ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, to Asperger’s, from epilepsy which has followed him around like a dark cloud from the day of his birth to memory struggles relating to the seizures, from years where he wasn’t growing and I had to beg doctors to pay attention to the eventual diagnosis of Growth Hormone Disorder, this boy has had to be a fighter since he came out of the womb.

 

We named him Keagan in the womb. It’s Irish, like my Grandma, and it means “little and fierce.” He’s had to live up to his name every single day of his life.  He’s seen more doctors and specialists in his short life than most elderly folks have in a life time. Currently, he averages 14 appointments a month.

 

And now, here he is, almost eleven. He’s smart, sweet, funny, and a fighter.  That child could out-read most adults, and began reading before he turned two. He’s obsessed with science and frequently educates the adults around him about a wide variety of scientific topics. But sometimes, he shuts down. Prone to selective mutism, sometimes language is just too much for his overstimulated brain, so he turns it off to protect himself. Sometimes, when there is too much sensory input for his brain to process, he melts down. He can get violent, especially with me. I don’t say this to insult my son. He’s the light of my life. I say this to give an honest picture of what our day to day lives look like in my home. I understand that my son isn’t mean or bad. When the meltdown passes, he is apologetic and back to his sweet self.

 

Though there are clear differences from my son and other boys his age, he’s also very much an almost-eleven-year-old boy. He loves Star Wars, Mine Craft, and Lego.  He’s also getting too cool for his mama, which brings me to the story I set out to tell with this blog post.

 

This morning, he climbed into my lap, wrapped his arms around me in a a tight hug, and held me in silence for several minutes. I held him back, running my fingers through his hair like I did when he was a baby. I breathed in his scent. I squeezed back. I gave him every bit of my attention for those minutes.

 

Eventually, his brother popped out of his bedroom and called him away to go play and he scampered off happily. I never got an explanation for why he wanted to climb into my lap, but I am glad that he did.

 

The thing is, these cuddling sessions are less and less frequent. One day, probably not too far into the future, my little fighter will climb into my lap for the last time. I won’t know it is the last time, nor will he, but it will be the end of an era. He’s a hugger, an I know I will always get affection from my son, however his days of climbing into Mama’s lap are numbered.

 

I can’t help but think back to the day after his birth. He’d just started seizing and the doctors had discovered a brain bleed. They had to transfer him to another hospital fifty miles away and I was not allowed into the ambulance. Before they swept him away from me, I got a moment to be with him. Panic stricken, I worried it could be the last time I held him. Thank God, it wasn’t. But that moment came back to me this morning. He lived for many more years on his mama’s lap.

 

I am so grateful for my son’s life. And I am not going to take his cuddles for granted. I am going to hold on tight when he crawls into my lap. I will savor the moment when he climbs into my lap because that last time is eminent. How blessed I am to get to have this era come to an end naturally instead of through tragedy.

 

Hold on to your kids. So many “lasts” sneak up on you and you miss them. Try to be present for the ones that count.