A handful of goodness

Our harvest this year has been so small compared to other years. Instead of a bounty of tomatoes we’re only getting one or two here and there for sandwiches. We usually have so many squash at the beginning of each season that I want to unload them in unlocked cars. No squash at all this year. Not one from our garden. Cucumbers were weird. Zero watermelons. Zero beets, chard, or kale this year. Zero eggplant so far. And, instead of jars and jars of dried beans I’ve only gotten a few handfuls.

It would be easy to look at the little handful of beans and think it a waste. I mean, who could make a meal out of that?! Certainly not a family of four. But that little handful is a blessing still. A bounty untapped. A single bean in that handful holds the genetic information necessary to produce a plant. That one plant has the potential to produce hundreds of beans if cared for properly. From one bean comes hundreds.

I could look at this handful of goodness and think of the ridiculous amount of time it would take to soak and simmer to provide a single serving for one person. Or I could look at this handful of bean seed and see the potential to feed myself and my entire family next season. Maybe even produce a bounty that could be sold or given away. And, while it would be easy to assume that the story ends there for this little handful of seeds, they still need nurturing to make it to next season. They have to be kept dry and cool and protected from rodents who would see them as a winter storage snack. If not treated properly over the winter they could rot, mold, or be gobbled up. The tender information inside of each one could be lost.


Isn’t life like that sometimes? Instead of overflowing larders of happiness, goodness, grace, we get small little handfuls here and there. It would be easy to overlook these moments and miss their potential impact on the rest of our lives. And sometimes we recognize the small-but-wonderful moments when we’re in them but forget them in a drawer somewhere or let them rot or be gobbled up in our winter season of life.

As a stay-at-home mom of a one-income household, I easily brush off opportunities like the glampout as indulgent….excess. It’s hard to justify things like glamorous camping with 14 other women halfway across the country as necessary when you spend most days trying to balance schedules and strict grocery budgets and how you’ll pay for extracurriculars. I told myself many times that it would be fun, but not necessary. Obviously I threw caution to the wind and took some much needed “me time”. And it turns out it WAS necessary.  And the rewards were amazing.


You see, the glampout could’ve just been one of those beans in a seemingly insignificant handful of beans. On the surface, it was 4 days in a lifetime of days. Maybe call it fun. Maybe call it an adventure. But upon closer inspection, it gave me moments that could change my whole life if cared for properly. Those moments could have a lifetime of impact. But, only if I don’t forget them as soon as I get home.

So, for the sake of not letting my moments go to waste, here are a few of those “beans” gleaned from the glampout, documented as a reminder to myself:

I need time for reflection, refreshment and the company of like-minded counsel. 4 days gave me a fresh outlook on life. 4 days for a lifetime of impact. That’s a huge return on investment and something I should invest in more often. I am a better mom, wife, and friend when I take time to decompress. Make an effort to find ways to “get away” every now and then. Even if it’s just a quiet bath. 

Be careful not to live in that weekend. It was a soul-filling experience but the goal is not to perpetually camp in the glampout experience. The goal is forward momentum, application of the weekend, not dwelling on a past experience and trying to artificially orchestrate it in everyday, regular life. Move forward with purpose and intention in the regular moments of life equipped with the knowledge gleaned from the weekend.

People will disappoint you. No question about that. But people can confound you in the most amazing ways, too. It’s a crap shoot. Only the latter one requires courage. Closing the door to experiences because of “people” is like throwing your handful of beans to the birds. You might only have a handful of people who don’t disappoint right now but they can impact your life profoundly if you let them. Don’t throw them to the birds and shut them out because of past hurts. Plant them and water them and reap your reward from them.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own experience and see it as unique and isolating. The amazing thing is, while our individual life moments might be uniquely ours, the struggle is not. Most of us have something we’re insecure about, something we’re uncertain of. If I can recognize this perhaps I can give others and myself a little more grace.

Grace. Oh, grace. The women of the glampout were models of grace. There were so many safe havens I found in these ladies. Either in their words or on their faces. Which is another reminder. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything to impact another. Love and acceptance can show in your countenance as well.

Stop operating under the assumption that God is a perpetually angry God. Not reaching your goal or dream does not necessarily mean that God is withholding something from you because he’s mad or disappointed or because you are doing it wrong. If that were so it would mean that you can get what you want from God based on your actions — your good actions. Stop trying to figure out the formula. Pray this instead: If my dreams are what God wants for me then show me creative ways to reach them. If not, then give my heart a new desire, a new dream. 

Write it down! Stop assuming you’ll remember how you felt right at that moment. You won’t. You will remember the moment but not how you felt. In order to see the blessings and practice greater thankfulness, write it down. Everyday. The little things. The big things. Anything. Be diligent in gathering your “bean” moments so that you don’t let them go to waste. 

Learn to see yourself as God sees you. Beloved. 




September 1, 2014 - 2:44 pm

Jen Wilmoth - Sooo true!! I started keeping a “Gratitude Journal” within this last year and it has truly been a blessing for me. Sounds like you had an awesome time glamping! It is so true too that we as moms need some time “away” for ourselves to refresh ourselves so that we can be a better wife, mother, etc. What a wonderful post! Thanks! :)

What in the world is a review crew?

homeschool, curriculum, schoolhouse review crew

I mentioned casually to you guys that I was given the opportunity a while back to join the “Review Crew”. But I’m not sure if I ever elaborated on what that meant or who they are. I realize some of you don’t homeschool and even those of you who do homeschool still might not have ever heard of the review crew. I’ve got a lot of posts coming up that will make brief mention of the TOS Review Crew so I thought I’d give you a quick run down on what that means exactly.

The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) began as a quarterly print magazine for homeschooling families and has grown to include 9 different websites supporting various areas of the homeschooling life. One of those websites is the Schoolhouse Review Crew (TOS Review Crew). Another one of the sites affiliated with TOS that you might see mentioned around here in the future is Molly Green. TOS provides so many resources for homeschoolers that it’s hard to even begin listing them all here.

But the one that is of particular interest to our family is the Review Crew. You might see it mentioned here sometimes as TOS Review Crew or just “the review crew”. The review crew is made up of approximately 250 homeschooling families (most of them bloggers) who set aside time in their school day to review products for 6 weeks and report back on how it worked and all the details you might want to know about the product. As a member of the review crew I receive products, curriculum, and books to use. I might not always like the product or want it at all to begin with. But the great thing about being a member of the crew is that you get to try out products that you might not normally have the opportunity to try. For us that might mean that it is a pricey product and we can’t afford the risk to “try it out” because we’ve exhausted our yearly school budget already. Or it might mean that I “judged the book by the cover” and I assumed I wouldn’t like it. With the review crew you have to be open to trying ALL the products. Homeschooling curriculums can be kind of cheesy sometimes in the design department. So I find myself getting caught up on the design and miss out on good beefy content. The crew forces me out of my assumptions and makes me just try it. I mean, Blessed Little Thistle’s tagline is “challenging assumptions” after all.

The other great thing about the crew is that it provides so many different perspectives on a product. It gives the homeschooling consumer a chance to see every possible angle of a product before purchasing it. Personally, most of the products we use in our school day have been researched by me using blog reviews written by other homeschool parents. It’s just a wonderful way to find out what real people think about a product. Truthfully, I just don’t care as much about the review blurbs posted on a company’s website if I can’t follow a link to a “real” person’s blog to get the information straight from the horse’s mouth.

The great thing about the review crew is that I can head over to their site to see if they have reviewed a product I’m interested in. If they have, the product is listed under the vendor’s section on the sidebar. I can then head up to the search bar at the top, type in the review I want to find, and read the main review post on the review crew’s website. Then, if I want to start heading over to some of the crew’s blogs to see what they have to say I can just click the banner at the bottom of the main review and all of the blogs talking about that product are listed there for me to visit.

There are a million (or about 250, which is the same) different perspectives, styles, approaches, and methods I can explore with the crew members. I don’t just get to see what a product is all about. I get to see how classical homeschoolers, eclectic homeschoolers, unschoolers, and Charlotte Mason-ers are using it. I get to see how they incorporated a product into what they were already using and how they modified it to work if it wasn’t what they thought. Sometimes the approaches are genius! Picking a curriculum isn’t just about reading a good review, buying it, pulling it out of the box, and using it like it says. In theory that’s what you do. But in practice it can get a little hairy. It’s not always easy knowing how to use a product with your ACTUAL children. Their uniqueness and individual learning styles can really muck up a pretty product description. But a mama with children similar to your own might have the solution. And it might be something as simple as skipping a particular section or going slower with a product than the manufacturer recommends or using it for a completely different grade level.

In the meantime, I’ve had some really great companies outside of those affiliated with the review crew offer to partner with me for the duration of the 2014-2015 school year. And I’m receiving products from specific companies that I’ve approached on my own for review. So what does that mean for the blog?

After going over my blog posting schedule for the next two months it looks like you should expect, on average, one review post per week until October. I’ve tried to break it up so that you’re not bombarded with products. But I don’t make my schedule with the review crew so I am at the mercy of their schedule. Outside of the review crew I only accept products for review that I think at least some of my readers are interested in. And no matter the source, review crew or not, I ALWAYS give my honest opinion and I’m never required to say that I liked it.

So, if you’re looking for curriculum reviews I really can’t think of a better place to find them so well curated than the review crew.



August 31, 2014 - 4:41 pm

Jen Wilmoth - This is great to know! I have noticed the TOS Review Crew on several people’s blogs and have been very interested in learning more about them for my new blog coming. :) So, am I understanding correctly that you ‘have’ to accept any curriculum that they want you to try & review or do you get to pick ones also that you want to try? That is awesome that you got the Nancy L.’s Science curriculum! Looks fun and I’m sure my boys would love it but it is so pricey!

August 31, 2014 - 4:54 pm

Christy - Jen,
You don’t get to pick necessarily. You do, however, get to rate your level of interest for each product offered to the crew. They try to take that into account. But, if there are a lot of “not so interested” responses to a product, someone is going to have to review it whether it’s on the top of their list or not.

August 31, 2014 - 5:48 pm

Jen Wilmoth - Gotcha! That makes sense. Thank you! :)

What’s in the box? with Nancy Larson Science for Homeschool

**This post contains affiliate links which support our homeschool, family, and farm.**


Oh man. I have been sitting on a little secret for an entire week now and I’ve been dying to tell you! I received the good news right before I left for the glamping trip in Texas so I’m just now getting around to filling you in!

When I posted our curriculum choices for 2nd grade I mentioned that we hadn’t picked a science curriculum yet and that I would really love to use Nancy Larson Science. Well, they have decided to partner with us for the 2014-2015 year so that we can try it out and share it with you along the way!

ACK!!!! It goes without saying that I am so super pumped! I’ve researched Nancy Larson’s approach for some time and just knew it would be a good fit for us. When the box came I knew it would be another week before we could use it so I debated opening it…for about 2.5 seconds. And then I threw caution to the wind and ripped that sucker open!

You know a curriculum is going to be a hit when the kids are begging to get started simply based on the items in the box. They played quietly for the next 20 minutes with the contents of the box. Well, except for the squeals that ensued each time they uncovered the next item in the box.

So, let’s see what all the ruckus is about. Let’s explore What’s in the Box? with Nancy Larson Science 1 curriculum kit.

Nancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kitNancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kitNancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kit

We are using the Science 1 curriculum kit for 2nd grade. I had originally assumed we would go with Science 2 since Owen is in 2nd grade. But after speaking with the folks over at Nancy Larson, I went with Science 1 instead. Science 2 is all about physics and Owen would’ve missed out on some solid foundational stuff if we’d have skipped over Science 1. The “1″ and “2″ in the curriculum description don’t necessarily coordinate to grade level.

This year we’ll be studying:

  • The life stages of human beings (developmental science)
  • Sunlight, water, and woil (environmental science)
  • Animals and their habitats (zoology)
  • Inside our bodies (anatomy and physiology)
  • Life cycles of insects (entomology)
  • Trees (botany)

Our box contains: 6 books (Trees to Paper, Insects and Spiders, Peterson First Guides: Trees, What Do Scientists Do?, and Your Insides), a butterfly garden habitat with a coupon for ordering larvae, a set of 18 human x-rays, 28 insect learning cards, a package of 33 plastic insects and spiders, pine cones, a ladybug habitat with a larvae coupon, dual hand lens magnifier, a cross section of a tree called a tree “cookie”, student workbook, 6 student “booklets”, teacher’s manual, and teacher’s resource cd. There’s also an extensive reading resource called Literature Connections that will give us book titles to search for at our Library that correspond to what we’re learning in each lesson.

Nancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kitNancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kitNancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kitNancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kit

Nancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kit

We got started with the lessons as soon as I got back. Owen couldn’t stand it any longer. He’d been eyeing that box for a week and it was driving him crazy. Our first lessons are on the life stages of humans. He thought we were going to dive right into beakers and bubbling concoctions since that’s all he really thinks of when he hears the word “science”. I was worried that he would be disappointed when he discovered science was more than that. He had obviously built up some expectations while I was gone of how this science thing was going to go down.

Let me tell you, even though we weren’t donning white lab coats and goggles, he was NOT disappointed. In fact, he was so engaged that it turned out to be the most successful school time we’ve ever had in the history of our homeschooling. That’s huge! There are a lot of times that I just KNOW that I will love a curriculum and the kids don’t meet my enthusiasm. Sure they like it. Sure they do the work. But they’re just not as into as I had built up in my head. That’s not the case this time around. Owen is totally as excited and enthusiastic about this program as I am. At one point he said, “I like this way better than doing school.” Ha! Joke’s on him! This IS school buddy!

Um, hello?! That’s when you know a curriculum is going to be so worth the money. When your kid is so into it that it doesn’t even seem like “work” to him and he doesn’t even realize he’s doing regular school. And when he talks about the content from the day’s lesson even after school is over in general conversation, you know you’ve got a keeper. That’s the most organic form of learning.

The lessons are scripted and the curriculum is an “open and go” kit, so all I had to do was pull out the materials and get started. There was zero prep work on my end. The first lessons few lessons we learned what a scientist does, what an infant is, and what a toddler is. We looked at pictures of babies and talked about when Owen was a baby. He’s been lobbying hard for another sibling for  the past year so all this baby talk was right up his alley.

Nancy Larson Science 1, science curriculum, complete science kit

We’re going to use the curriculum for a while and then report back on our findings, but I’m already so in love with this curriculum. I plan to update you, at minimum, at the end of each of our 6 booklets to let you know how it’s going and what our thoughts are. If you’re thinking about trying out Nancy Larson science but you want a little more inside scoop send me your questions and as we go along I’ll try to answer them from our experience with the kit and the company.




August 30, 2014 - 1:16 pm

What’s in the box with Nancy Larson Science for Homeschool « Blooming Scientists - Homeschool Community for Nancy Larson Science - […] of Blessed Little Thistle  writes. “I’ve researched Nancy Larson’s approach for some time and just knew it would be […]

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