New Friends All Over the World

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I love being part of a travel community.  We are very new to it and I never imagined we would ever be a part of it. But here we are making friends from around the world in a life that only seemed like a dream.

A few months back, I was bitten by the travel bug. Hard.  It was almost if I realized at that very moment that there was an amazing world that needed to be explored.  I needed to see it all.  So, my quest for figuring out how to travel long term began.  It is my ultimate goal to take 6 months to a year and travel full time.  I began following quite a few other families who are already living this lifestyle.  I noticed right away that most who are involved in long term travels are very willing to share their experience, share ways to save some money, tips on the best places to stay and so on.  Many families even end up meeting up with other families after meeting through blogs.

I made a comment on a blog I follow and through that I was contacted by a family from England that was looking for some advice about travelling to Bangkok.  I was happy to help give them a list of our favorite places in Bangkok.  After talking with them a little I found out that Bangkok would be the beginning of an amazing adventure of travelling around the world!  Just a little jealous...but they have worked hard to get it all in place.

After spending three weeks at various beaches due to crazy protests in Bangkok, An Elliott Abroad finally made their way back to Bangkok.  I was so excited to meet them.  We met up with Chris, Adele, Izzy, & Lewis at Playtime Ekamai, a huge indoor playground. You never know how it's going to go when you are meeting people you have only spoken to online, but as soon as I met them it was like catching up with old friends.  All five of the kids acted like they had known each other forever.  Not one issue of tattling or fighting the whole time. That is unheard of!  I was able to spend 6, yes 6, almost uninterrupted hours speaking to Adele and Chris about their upcoming plans, homeschooling, traveling and more.  It was a wonderful day.

Playtime Ekamai

 All the kiddos.  They became fast friends.

 Digging for Dinosaur bones

We were all sad to say goodbye.  The kids were begging to stay "just a little longer".  But, I know our paths will cross again with this fun family!  I am looking forward to following their travels and whenever you make it back to Bangkok, An Elliot Abroad, know you have friends waiting to welcome you back! I am very thankful for this community and our opportunity to make friends around the world.

Safe Travels!
Check out their adventure at 

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Homeschooling Part 2: The Pros and Cons to Homeschooling

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The other day the boys and I were talking about how most brothers and sisters do not get to spend all day together.  I explained that most families only get to see each other at night and on the weekends.  I watched their little faces try to process that scenario.  They could not wrap their minds around it.  My boys do not know any differently.  This is the only schooling they have ever had.  After having this conversation it made me start to think about some of the unexpected pros and cons we have encountered with homeschooling.

The Pros:  

The boys are so close:  They like to call each other "frienemies", but honestly they are best friends. Sure, they have their share of fighting during the day, but they stay up laughing and giggling when we put them to bed.  They ask where the other one is right when they wake up in the morning.  My boys are building great relationships with each other and I hope they remain great friends as they grow up.

Ask loads of questions: The boy's Mandarin teacher commented on how many questions the boys ask during their lesson.  She was not used to that, mostly because when you have a class of 30 kids you do not have the time to answer that many questions.  The boys are able to ask questions, dig deeper into a topic without being rushed, and try to fully understand a topic before we move on to the next subject.

Learning is a whole day experience:  We can start our day whenever we get around to it.  No rushing through breakfast or yelling at the kids to hurry up and get dressed.  The boys are able to sleep in as long as they would like and are also able to stay up a little later and hang out with their dad instead of only seeing him for a couple hours in the evening.  We can have some school in the morning and if we don't finish before after school activities, we can complete our lessons after dinner. We often have lessons on the weekends if we were unable to get through the whole list for the week.  It is a pretty relaxed day.

Working on some math with their dad in the evening

The kids get to be kids: Schools today put so much pressure on kids at such an early age to get ready for standardized testing.  My boys have only taken a couple of tests and they usually do not realize they have even taken a test.  We never make it a big deal and usually they do not even study for them.  They either know it or don't know it.  So, they just get the luxury of enjoying school instead of being stressed out.  They don't have homework, because I know what they learned during the day and if they can tell their dad what they learned during our dinner, than I know we can move on.

We know their friends really well: Some may think this is a negative, but the kids really only interact with other kids in the afternoon.  Usually they are at our house playing soccer or riding bikes, but sometimes they play at the playground at school.  We know who they are interacting with. We know all of their friends parents and what their family life is like.  This is not to be too controlling of them, but when I am at the school playground and hear or see what other kids are doing, I am usually shocked.  I do not want my boys to talk or act that way.  I am really happy we know who the boys are playing with.  There is plenty of time for them to grow up, but for now I am happy to just let them be kids.

We get to spend the day with our kids: Sounds a little funny, but it's great being able to spend the day with the boys.  I love being able to cuddle on the couch and read together.  We cook together, share special moments together, and I get to see the learning process take place.  We also get to take special days off just because or for rewards whenever we feel like we need it.  (Although, today was a tough day. It did not go as planned and there was a lot of frustration and arguing.   Not everyday is perfect and peaceful and those tough days can really be trying on your attitude about homeschooling.)

The Cons:

Hard to turn off teacher mode: I would be lying if I said there were no negatives to homeschooling. I was surprised that I had a hard time distinguishing when I was being their teacher and when I was being their mom. This is a huge one for me.  I feel like when we have completed our "school day" I should be done teaching too.  I have already spent all day with the boys and I have used up a lot of my energy.  I need a little down time.  But this is the time when the boys usually want to play and I find myself saying no a lot. I am tired.  I am really trying to work on having fun with the boys and not always being in teacher mode.    This is a work in progress for me.

Kids are always with you: My homeschool experience in Thailand has not been the easiest.  We are the only homeschoolers I know.  We do not have any family around to take the boys from us.  So without a homeschool community or family, the kids are with us a lot.  Now, I love spending time with my kids, but I do need a break here and there.  We have worked on getting the kids involved in extracurricular activities and getting them together with friends, but I am still always there.  This can really wear me down and then I find this is when I usually am not being the best mom or teacher that I could be.  This is also a work in progress.  I am trying to find the best routine for the boys and myself to have a little time apart. We all need that. I wrote a post about losing myself a little while back that goes a little more in detail about how I am trying to work on this.

Never get a day or night off: So, along with always being together there is the problem of always being at work.  I cannot separate my work and my home life because they are so intertwined.  I find myself teaching all day, then off to afterschool activities, back for dinner,  showers and bedtime, and then I am back in the schoolroom working until 10 or 11 on lesson plans.  This can really cause burnout.  I am not allowed to burnout because my kids need me.  I am their only teacher and I can't call a sub, so I have been planning out a work schedule for me. I need a designated time to work and I need time off.  This is hard when my "office" is just in the other room.

Pressure to get your kids at a high level at an early age: This one is not a major concern of mine, but it is always in the back of my head.  I do not want my kids to be average.  Many times when people hear that we homeschool they want to know what the boys are doing or what level they are at. It's like a little test to make sure we are actually learning during the day.  I don't want spectators to see one of the boys struggling in a subject and say, "See, they really should be in school."  I feel the need to prove that we are just fine and that the boys are progressing beautifully.  I know out of all the cons, this one is just plain silly, but it is one I have dealt with.

Do you have any pros or cons to add to the list?  I would love to hear them!

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How did we get here? Part 1: Homeschooling

Monday, February 17, 2014

I never in a million years thought we would be a homeschooling  family.  When Greyson was a baby, I imagined I would be searching for the preschool that would be the perfect fit.  I was preparing myself for the day I would drop my baby off at school and then wonder what to do with myself.  I'm sure I could have filled my time with cleaning the house, prepping for dinner, or maybe even exercising and  I was even looking forward to the little breathing time I would have while he was at school.  Little did I know that my "breathing time" was not going to happen anytime soon.

When Ben and I started researching preschools, I was really frustrated with the costs. They were so expensive. We were a single income family and honestly, I had a degree in elementary education and felt that I could probably do it myself. So, I decided to give it a try. I loved teaching preschool to the boys.  It was so much fun to see them learning and that moment when they finally "got it".  I really enjoyed spending my time with them.  It was so nice being able to visit playgrounds during the week without the masses of kids.  We could easily explore the zoo or the science museum without having to fight crowds of people.  I was starting to love teaching the boys.

Early Years- First full year of Homeschool

By the time Greyson was 4 years old, I knew we needed to start figuring out what his school options were.  Private school was out of the question.  The school my husband taught at did not have open enrollment.  I was not too thrilled about sending them to the public school in our area, so the decision was made to start homeschooling the boys.  We would try it out and if it didn't work, they could always go to school.

Collecting socks for a local charity for the homeless

It took a bit of time to de-school myself and realize that my homeschool did not have to look the a regular school classroom.  The kids did not have to learn what the typical 5 year old was learning about.  We could choose topics that interested them and go from there. The boys would not have to sit at a desk from 8-3 everyday.  We could learn in the morning, at night or on the weekend.  I was really overwhelmed at first because there are massive amounts of curriculum to choose from. I have switched curriculums many times over the years to find the right fit for the boys. We keep adding new ones every year. It really is trial and error and we just keep learning along the way.

I love getting to see the boys work together.

My favorite question I get asked is, "When are you going to put them in real school?" I love watching their expressions when I say that I don't plan too and they are actually going to real school.  My boys are using a high level math program, are reading at grade level or slightly above. We are exploring a new state a week and learning about two new countries a month. These are our favorites because we do meals based on the state or country we are learning about. They are learning about geology, and famous artists,  and how to make paper like the Egyptians did.  They are taking piano and Mandarin lessons and involved in swim and t-ball.  They are in real school.  They are learning a lot. And I love that I get to learn right along with them.

I would be completely lying if I said it was easy or I loved every day.  Some day are really tough. Some days I question our decision.  But when the boys sit at dinner every night and tell their dad all they learned during the day, I know we made the right choice. Seeing the bond the boys have with each other reinforces that we made the right choice.

Getting to see this everyday...we made the right choice.

If you are thinking of homeschooling, let me leave you with this.  Many people will be ready to give you every negative reason there is to homeschool.  They will be armed with the socialization questions and question if you are really capable of teaching your children. They will be waiting for you to slip. These are the people who are very uneducated in the world of homeschooling.  But then there are the people who are so supportive.  That remind us that we have a very short time with our children and this is a lovely way to spend their early years.  Find people like them to encourage you.  You cannot do it alone.  You need a support system, especially when you first begin.  You will question yourself daily, but just know you are making a huge impact on your children.  You get to experience your child's love of learning and celebrate their success with them.

This is not what I expected for our lives, but I am so glad we chose a new path to follow.

What were your reasons for choosing to homeschool?

(Disclaimer:  I understand homeschooling is not for everyone, nor do I think everyone should homeschool.  I am in no way saying that sending your children to public, private, or international schools are a bad choice.  This was just the right choice for our family.)

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A little love from Thailand

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Oh, Valentine's Day.  The day when you send cute cards, receive beautiful flowers, yummy chocolates and other wonderful gifts for no reason at all except for being loved.  It's a great idea and we should all show our favorite people how much we love them, but I have always been a Scrooge when it come to Valentine's Day.  I don't think Ben and I have celebrated this holiday since we were in high school! I have never really understood the point.

 But when it comes to celebrating Valentine's Day with my boys, I go over the top.  I LOVE celebrating Valentine's Day with them. I have three (well, four) special guys that have completely stolen my heart. And if nothing else, it is a great excuse to have a party with the kids.  I think I tend to make it even more of a big deal because we live in Thailand where it is not really a celebrated holiday, or so I thought.  More on that in a bit.
 I love these hand print hearts that we did.  I found it here

Easy heart yarn decorations. I found it here.

Our week leading up to Valentine's Day is full of Valentine crafts to get our house all nice and decorated.  The boys made cards to send to family in the US.  And we received a special box the day before Valentine's day with lots of goodies to help us make the day even more festive.

 One of our favorite and easy crafts, coffee filter hearts

Use washable markers to decorate the heart 

Then spray with water 

The colors bleed together and make a beautiful craft to hang up.

 I love theme meals, so breakfast was full of hearts and pink treats.  I know it was not the healthiest, but we took a break from our sugar detox and let loose.  We spent the afternoon at the mall. ( The next time I go to the mall, I will be taking photos so you can all experience that craziness that is a mall in Thailand.  I have never experienced anything like it!)  I was also surprised by the sea of hearts and roses I saw at the mall.  Apparently,Thais do celebrate Valentine's Day!   They were selling chocolates, and strawberries, and and in full Valentine mode.  It honestly looked like the Valentine parade at the mall.
 The goodies from the box they got the day before.  Sugar Rush!

Heart donuts and strawberry smoothies for breakfast 

Tried to redeem myself from breakfast.  Cheese and crackers & strawberries for a snack.

After we survived the mall, we came home for diner and finished the night with a strawberry heart cake.  Ben even surprised me with roses and I was honored to receive my very first card from Greyson that he made all on his own without being told too.  As as homeschool mom, I am always having the boys make things for other people, but when it come to holidays I don't receive little gifts from them because I would have to be the one to help them make it.  I was so touched when he handed me the card and said, "I did this all on my own."  It was really sweet.  We all had a great day together.  I hope you all were able to share a little love with the special people in your lives.

 Heart cake & roses

My sweet card from Greyson
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Dreams really do come true!-Hong Kong Disneyland

Friday, February 14, 2014

A few years back, before we moved to Thailand, I got a Disney credit card in hopes that one day I would have enough points to help us make it to Disney.  My kids adore Disney movies and I just knew that they would love Disneyworld.  The chances of us actually getting there were pretty slim, but I had hopes that I could make it there with them while they were still little.

Fast forward a few years and here we are getting ready to experience Disneyland for the first time in Hong Kong of all places! We all woke up feeling pretty good from a much needed nights rest.  The boys were so excited about going to Disney.  They just kept asking us when we could finally leave.  I was realizing that hopes and dreams that we have can actually happen, just maybe not how we planned.

Walking through the gates of Hong Kong Disneyland, with the music, decorations, and masses of people, is a little overwhelming.  I know this is silly, but whenever I take my boys somewhere I never imagined we would get a chance to be, I tend to get a little choked up.  I had to pull myself together quickly because we were supposed to be at the "Happiest Place on Earth!"  We really lucked out with the weather on our first day.  The whole day it was in the 70-80 degree range.  It could not have been more perfect.

Right off the bat, we made our plan of action.  What shows did we want to see?  What rides did we have to wait for and which had fast passes? When were the art lessons?  Hong Kong Disneyland was the perfect place as our first Disney experience.  The park itself is really not that big.  It has seven different "worlds".  Our first stop was Tomorrowland.  The boys were absolutely giddy with excitement looking around at all the rides.  My favorite part of all the rides was that our whole family could fit on most of them together and you could take your bags on the rides with you.  We had fun flying rocket ships, fighting the Emperor Zurg in Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and Greyson experienced his first "scary" roller coaster by riding Space Mountain.  We would have stayed over there a lot longer, but there was more to see.

We made it to Disney!!

 Riding in the rocket ships.

  Getting ready to fight Zurg

 Getting instructions from Buzz Lightyear

Grey tackled Space Mountain and love it!

We took a Jungle River Cruise, rode rafts across a river to get to Tarzan's Treehouse and watched an amazing Lion King performance in Adventureland.  If you make it to Hong Kong Disneyland, make sure to see The Lion King Show.  That was my favorite show by far!   I heard the boys mention a few times that they would never forget this day.

We found Tarzan and Jane in the tree house.

We also checked out Mystic Manor, which Britton said was too scary.  If you have little ones and they get scared easily, this is probably not a good ride for them.  Although, I think this may have been the best ride there.  The special effects were amazing.  We also stopped by Toy Story Land to ride the Slinky dog ride.

Another favorite thing we attended was the animation classes they had.  On the first day we had a lesson on how to draw Mickey Mouse.   Everyone in the family, even 3 year old Britton, enjoyed doing this.  The boys really enjoyed learning about the history of animation.  They do love drawing and have been practicing with our Disney Creativity Studio app since we have been home.

 Taking the class very seriously!

They all did a great job!

We finished our night by heading back to Sleeping Beauty's Castle to watch an amazing fireworks show. We oohed and aahed through the whole thing.  One of the most memorable moments was walking out after the firework show and getting to experience a little more of that Disney Magic.  It was snowing on Main Street USA!  After living in Thailand for almost 3 years and the boys not getting the chance to see snow, this was a really special moment for all of them.  They could not stop smiling.

 The castle at night.  Waiting for Fireworks.

 Britton picking snow off his jacket.

If you look closely you can see snow!  Thank you Disney!

It was the most perfect day at Disney and we were excited to head back in a couple days.  We ended our night with a red taxi saying that we should have been in the green taxi line.  Waiting in the green taxi line to be told, no, we should be in the red taxi line.  Finding a red taxi that could only have 4 passengers and not wanting to take all of us home, but then thankfully changed his mind.  Why do taxis have to be so difficult?  Like I said, it's a great system if you know where you are going in the city! Check back for day 3 in Hong Kong.

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A few changes to the blog

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I am in the process of changing my blog around.  New name, new layout, new, new, new!  I want to combine my homeschooling page with my travel page.  So, if you happen to stop by and things look a little different, it is still me.  It is a work in progress, so it may take me a little while to get it the way I would like it.  I changed the name because, realistically, we will not be living in Thailand for the rest of our lives and I wanted the title to fit our lifestyle a little more.  If you have any suggestions on what would make the blog easier to read, I would love to hear them.  Blogging is still very new for me. Thanks for sticking through the changes with me!

Welcome to A New Path to Follow!

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