Princess for a day!

It was suggested that when traveling with kids, a good idea might be to give them full reign for a day (or two or three).  We decided while we were in Paris, this would be a great place to do it.  There is so much to see and why not change up what we normally would have put on the agenda and let the kids be in charge for a change. Good for them to have the responsibility to figure out what interests them about the city, where to find it on a map and to plan out the day.

First up was our youngest daughter and her day went a little like this:

1. Musee Rodin

2. Walk down the Champs Eysees and Avenue Montaigne for some window shopping.  Or as they say in France, “faire du leche-vitrines” which literally translated means window licking, although we only drooled a little…

3. Stopped for a sweet crepe.

4. The Eiffel Tower at dusk!

It was a truly great day!

Next, it was my oldest daughter’s turn to be princess for the day.  She chose another amazing adventure and it went something like this:

1. Jardin du Luxembourg

2. A special French lunch

3. A visit to the English bookstore Shakespeare & Co. (it was just across from Notre Dame so we stopped in there also).

4. The Sorbonne

I cannot wait to see where they pick to go next!

A word about Homeshooling

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When we first decided to embark on our European tour, panic set in about how we were going to educate our daughters. Yes, traveling on its own is an amazing education, but I certainly did not want to mess it up. Their education is incredibly important to us, as is their having a fulfilling and adventure full life, so hopefully we will combine the two. With lots of research and questions asked, we embarked on our homeschooling journey.

I read that it is important to find how your child learns best and then tailor their learning with that in mind. So the very first thing we did was to give them this quick and easy test and have based their lessons from this. My oldest daughter responds well to learning by reading and kinesthetics. My younger daughter is also a kinesthetic learner, as well as auditory. All of their learning types work well with traveling, thankfully. We have lots of time to read, we are on a constant “field trip” and have had the wonderful luxury to have many long conversations that we never really had time for (so sad) in the past with our busy schedules. If you are interested in finding more about the test I gave them, it is called the Vark test.

I have written about homeschooling already on this blog, but it was before we actually tried it. We now have been going for 3 months and seem to be getting into a routine. Our not so typical routine is to sight-see one day and homeschool the next. Sometimes we school for two days in a row, sometimes we are traveling for two days. We may also spend half the day out and about and half the day homeschooling. We homeschool on Saturday or Sunday too, if needed. The girls definitely like staying in their PJ’s or comfy clothes all day, and I like not having to go through that crazy morning routine, rushing to barely get to school on time.

On days where we homeschool our schedule goes something along these lines. After breakfast, we start with some warm up logic puzzles and math word problems. I picked up a few books before we left and one of our teachers gave us a daily math problem booklet. Next, they write in their journals. Usually, there is a lot to write about from their travel adventures. They also have a nature and sketching journal where we have put in leaves and petals that we have found on walks and where they can sketch castles, country flags or anything they want to put in for their memories. We will then do some languages and I have found (through my sister) a podcast called Coffee Break French to be a quick and easy introduction to the beautiful French language. There are many different languages in this series and we will most likely try to learn a little bit for each of the countries we are visiting. To know just your basic hello and thank you is appreciated and really the right thing to do. We just learned some basic Dutch and Flemish greetings. Both girls have really enjoyed learning French and would like to continue with it, when we return back home.

After languages, we usually set into the core curriculum subjects with math, science, social science and language arts. All are done online and with textbooks and workbooks. We are using http://www.time4learning.com as our basic online course and have been supplementing with other online sources such as http://www.khanacademy.com and http://www.brainpop.com. We are reading lots of books and both girls are working on writing a story using a fun online site called http://www.nanowrimo.org. They are having a great writing project for the month of November, check it out. We bought several textbooks and workbooks before we left, as well.

In addition to the core curriculum, we have been doing small reports on each country that we have visited along with art projects relating to artists from each country. This is probably my favorite part! We have studied Monet when we were in France, John Everett Millais and John Constable when we were in England, Johannes Vermeer in the Netherlands and now Jan van Eyck, here in Belgium. You can really experience where each artist was inspired by walking in their footsteps, viewing the landscapes and cities. It really adds to our understanding.

The most challenging part of homeschooling for me has been time, it takes a lot of time to plan lessons. I want to make learning fun for them and we do not have easy access to materials so we have to get creative. It is a good lesson on making do with what we have and it always turns out to be enough. I do get nervous that we are not covering everything as thoroughly as they would be in their public school but it will all work out in the long run, I am sure!

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We have two carry-on sized suitcases that have become our traveling desks. They are filled with text books, workbooks, regular paperback books, journals, files, writing and art materials along with paper. They are heavy but it is working for us so far. We also have our technological devices…Kindles, an iPad and two laptop computers, one of which lost it’s power cord (it started to smoke) so we need to fix that issue… Having all the correct power adapters are important but it really has been as simple as logging into wifi and we are off. Amazing technology!

Overall, I am happy with our homeschooling thus far. I think we are becoming better at it as we go through it. It is still a little odd for the girls to have their parents teach them though, and it is much easier for them to take advantage of us, I readily admit. We have had to lay down some rules and remind them how lucky we are. All in all though, I can honestly say that we are learning so many new things on a daily basis. I feel so inspired and alive. I see all of us growing closer to each other and connecting like never before. With their education, we are so involved that we can really fine tune areas that are needed and explore areas that they are really interested in. It is pretty great! I have never experienced anything like it.

The Tower of London

There is something for everyone at the Tower of London. History, drama, trickery, weapons, torture, death, royalty and lots and lots of diamonds. Since we did not arrive until the afternoon we ran out of time to see the “rack” which my husband was tortured by missing (pun intended, sorry…).


We took the walking tour with a Beefeater, who is also known as, the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary (what a name…I would go with Beefeater too!). He showed us around the incredible grounds of the Tower and then we headed inside to see the Crown Jewels. There are over 11 tons of gold and some of the largest diamonds in the world, absolutely stunning! We viewed Queen Elizabeth II’s crown, which she will wear for the State Opening of Parliament in early November.

On our way out, my husband and daughter met the first female Beefeater and then a gentleman who worked at the Tower and he gave my daughters a special pin from a recent opening of an exhibition at the Tower. The same pins had been given to some of the members of the Royal Family when they attended the opening. We felt very lucky! He then brought us up to a private area in the Middle Tower, which is where his office was located. We were able to climb to the top of the Tower and had an amazing view of Tower Bridge. He told us about meeting some of the Royal Family and his experience as an expert on Admiral Lord Nelson, the infamous royal naval hero. It was quite an exciting afternoon! One we will always remember!

The Joy of Eating in France

Our experience of eating in France has been no less than a delectable celebration of food. Every meal we have had here has been incredible. Food is very regional and being in Normandy, we have certainly enjoyed our fair share of Camembert cheese. One of the most delicious meals we enjoyed was a stew with chicken, potatoes, carrots, broccoli and mushrooms all sitting in melted Camembert cheese. I am afraid to know how many calories.


Baguettes have quickly become part of our daily ritual. We watched families buy 5 or more baguettes in the markets and at first we thought they were crazy, and now we completely understand how you must eat a baguette with pretty much everything. Cheese, of course, but with soups and for sandwiches, also. It is a staple for us now!

We have become friends with the waiter at the local Creperie. Since we are eating with kids, we have to make sure there is something for everyone on the menu, and this place has it all. Galettes are savory crepes and you can have them several ways. Ham and cheese being the most common but the choices go way beyond my French translation. Our girls had the most amazing pizza served on a puff pastry instead of pizza dough, it was out of this world. My husband and I shared a puff pastry filled with goat cheese and tomatoes and I about died, yes from my arteries being clogged and also the euphoric sensation of every bite, it was truly that good!


The fun doesn’t stop there though because for dessert it is time for the sweet crepes, which you can have with a multitude of toppings, plain sugar to caramel to Nutella and bananas. From there you can add ice cream or even have it flambéed, quite lovely indeed.
We have been to several of the weekly farmer’s markets. You can find one any day of the week. Fresh cheeses, dairy, meats, produce, pastries, bread and local ciders are just some of the treats you may come across. It is great to watch the locals collect their delicious ingredients to take home. Many of the vendors have beautiful displays showcasing their goods. It is a busy place with so many interesting things to experience. I am really looking forward to checking in on some of the markets in Paris, when we return to France in November. That should be another unforgettable time. I better get in some exercise before then…

Palace of Versailles

Driving up to the Palace of Versailles had us all wondering with excitement.  Would it at all be like Hearst Castle which we had visited earlier in the summer?  Well, not at all, the Palace of Versailles makes Hearst Castle look like a guest house, albeit an amazing guest house!  The grounds where the Palace of Versailles sits are enormous.  The formal French gardens were originally designed by Andre Le Notre and took forty years to complete.

Hard to imagine what life must have been like for the royal families who lived in the Palace before the French Revolution, but what a spectacle it must have been.  Complete opulence. 

Every turn of the corner brought another incredible priceless wonder.

What a treat to see this treasure of France!

Au revoir!

We made it!

Years and years of dreaming, months and months of planning and we are finally here!  Although we are in a time zone sort of fog, I think everyone is in agreement that it has been so worth the wait!

Since we are here for so long, we can relax and enjoy the moment without rushing to see all the sights, which is a whole different way to travel.  Arriving in Paris in the morning, after an overnight flight, we picked up our car for the next six months and headed to a hotel, getting lost but not really worrying about it.  Our little adventure helped us to really get going with trying to remember basic French and was a great introduction for the kids.

Unfortunately, once we found our hotel, we all fell asleep and woke up at 9pm…it took me awhile to realize that the sun was going down, not up…

The next morning we did a quick drive around Paris and saw the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.  We will be back to stay in Paris later in our trip, but had to at least drive by some sights and of course, grab a crepe before heading to Normandy.  We are all in agreement that Paris is a magical city, ahhhhh!

This is where we are staying for the next three weeks.

It is such a sweet cottage in a beautiful part of Normandy.  We have sheep as our neighbors and the only traffic is an occasional tractor going by.  The perfect place to adjust to the time, get started with homeschooling and visit all the amazing places in Normandy.  I feel as if I am dreaming!

Hot, hot, hot!

Well we are done with Palm Springs, thankfully! As much as I love Palm Springs and its environs in the winter, summer is another story.  There is much to appreciate in the Coachella Valley with its desert landscapes, mid-century architecture and wonderful resorts but as much as you try, the heat is just oppressive and there is only so much of being in the pool (which is the only place that makes being outside bearable).  I have had a hard time not being outside, we are very spoiled here in Southern California! 

We have had fun though and have tried to make the most of the heat.  Palm Springs was the best place for us as we try to stay on budget. We do have a pretty big trip planned for the next 6  months so we  needed a place where it was easy on the bank account.

While in Palm Springs we have been lucky to be able to see lots of friends and family, plan a few more stops for our European adventure, get the girls in some French classes and swim classes, watch lots of the Olympics (loved it!) visited the Palm Springs Art Museum and began our online homeschooling.  This was especially good on the really hot days when there was not much else to do anyway…
Don’t tell anyone but both girls learned how to drive a golf cart and a golf ball (you can tell people that part) but not the driving the golf cart part, not sure exactly the “rules” for that one. They enjoyed driving the golf carts much more than the golf balls but still did amazingly well, they get it from their dad! Not an easy sport. Takes a lot to get that little ball all the way to that little hole!

Trying to come up with fun indoor activities, we headed to the bowling alley, they have got to do something about the slimy finger holes in the balls and the shoes! Just saying…yikes!
Now we are in Idyllwild, it is 20 degrees cooler and very nice to see some greenery. Idyllwild is a sweet little town in the mountains with lots of art galleries and great hiking trails. I am excited to be able to be outside without sweating. Next, we head to San Diego to spend our last weeks in the States before heading abroad. Looking forward to seeing family and friends!

Here is my very handsome husband in Idyllwild.  It is so nice and beautiful, such a nice change from the desert!

The girls love it here and are out searching for forest faeries as we speak, so sweet!  It is strange with everyone getting ready for back to school and we are well, not…  So excited for our traveling adventures to begin!

Schooling on the Road

Figuring out how to school my children while we are traveling has been one of the biggest concerns of our adventure to Europe. There are so many choices for homeschooling but homeschooling on the road, is a little bit different. In many communities there are homeschooling groups that seem to be very successful but for us, a computer and wifi are what we will rely upon.

I only looked into homeschooling because of our extended traveling and may not have looked at it otherwise. Homeschooling definitely is gaining in popularity and since researching about it, I can easily see why. With the unfortunate state of our schools, social issues and the bonus to have such influence on your child’s education, make homeschooling very appealing. We have been fortunate to have had a very good experience in public schools and have been in good school districts.  I have the utmost respect for the incredible teachers and principals we have had.  Of course, there are always “issues” though and I can only imagine how hard it must be for so many.  I definitely now see homeschooling as an excellent option for anyone who may need an alternative type of education. Once we return from our trip and head back into the traditional school system, I will know we have an exceptional “back-up” plan, if needed, and may end up going that route anyway depending on our experience. I have found several traditional schools that are becoming more flexible to the changing climate of education with more independent study programs suited for individual children, I think this is a wonderful trend. It is so great to get out of that box.

We will be using an online homeschooling program, as lugging around textbooks is not a good option. I plan on supplementing with history, art, foreign language, geography and cultural activities in the countries we are visiting. I am amazed on what there is online these days, really a limitless source of education. I have been collecting an incredible list of online resources and have been using some of them as we finish up the school year in our public school (some are listed below). 

We will gather all the required standards for our daughters’s grade levels to make sure all our bases are covered. We also have to file a private school affidavit with the California Department of Education, we become a private school. We have to keep attendance records, as well. All of this seems doable but I will keep you posted on how it all goes.

Obviously, my children’s education is incredibly important to us and their life experiences are as well.  I am hoping the combination of traveling and schooling will open up their minds to the endless possibilities of life.  They can do anything they want to do, no limitations.

Below is a list of resources that I have found.  Some I have used, some I plan to use…  Most are free but some do have membership costs.

www.khanacademy.org

www.time4learning.com

www.brainpop.com

www.xtramath.org

www.cut-the-knot.org

www.spellingcity.com

www.bbc.co.uk/skillwise/english

www.storybird.com

www.chompchomp.com

www.gosocailstudiesgo.com

www.sciencekids.co.nz

www.howstuffworks.com

www.scistarter.com

www.sciencetoymaker.org

www.kidsdiscover.com

www.makingmusicfun.net

www.artsconnected.org

www.web4.audubon.org/educate/kids/

www.pbs.org/teachers

www.superteacherworksheets.com

www.theteacherscorner.net

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Home is where your heart is…

You know how nice it is to come back home from a trip (no matter how fun that trip maybe) and sleep in your own bed?  Well, that is not something we are going to be doing for a long time.  Goodbye nice comfy bed, I will miss you!  It is time for me to branch out and find other beds to slumber in.  I know not all will be as sweet as you but it is a risk I will have to take.

In a way, I feel like we will be almost gypsy like in our nomadic life.  The longest place we have booked so far is for a month.  When we were first planning this trip, I thought it would be great to stay in an area for 2-3 months to really have time to dig in a bit, but with so many incredible places to discover, our time in each area has to be shortened.

I have found some incredible places to stay using several websites, maps and hours of time.  We like places off the beaten path and unique.  I have found a houseboat to stay in on the canals of Amsterdam and a treehouse for rent in Northern France.  It just takes a little digging.

So our home is definitely going to be where our hearts are for the next several months.  They will all be a little different, but they will all be our “home sweet home,” for that moment of our lives and I am thrilled!