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I Miss How Our Life Improved During Quarantine

Am I the only one who’s missing being cooped up with family? If you would have told me on March 15 that I’d be looking back and thinking of what I miss about the stay-at-home order, I would have had some choice words. Those first couple of weeks I cried more than I had in months, but then we got into a groove. We found a new normal. And then it all shifted again.

It was time for the world to open up and go back to work.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what I miss about working from home with my son and husband around. It was more time at home with our son than when I was on maternity leave. My husband was forced to temporarily close down his business, so it was important for us to look at ways to save money. The time presented challenges for us, but we chose to make positive changes.

Saving Lunch Money
Before WFH order, I would get takeout most days of the week. I work downtown and there are so many delicious options. At home, we were making lunch for three of us and made much more economical, healthy choices.

Eating Healthy and Meal Planning
We were bad about pizza and takeout prior to staying at home. My husband and I quickly shifted to Pinterest boards and meal planning. We started picking two to three meals before purchasing our groceries. Our goal was to get multiple servings out of each meal. My husband is now officially a casserole king.

Reduced Impulse Purchases
There’s a reason my husband does the grocery shopping and I limit my trips to Target. I’m a sucker for impulse purchases. During SAHO, we did all of our shopping through delivery services. When you are looking at the shopping cart together and cutting costs, you quickly realize what you need and what you don’t.

Cooking Dinner
My husband generally gets home before me, so I rarely cook dinner. When I could end my day at 5:30 pm and walk a few feet to the kitchen, I was able to perfect a few new recipes to add to my cooking repertoire. Ask me about my gluten free beef stroganoff.

Sleeping More
When you take out morning prep time and commute time, you can suddenly get more sleep. I was averaging an hour more sleep a night and letting myself wake up naturally.

Starting the Day with Gratitude
I knew I needed to focus on the positive to start the day and set the tone, so I would spend a few minutes in meditation, prayer or writing in a gratitude journal. While I took the time for this daily pre-SAHO, I realized how critical it was for my general attitude during SAHO.

Getting Laundry Done
Surely I’m not the only mom who’s always behind on laundry. I was consistently caught up on laundry the entire time we were at home. For the first time ever. I’d throw in a load before starting my work. Change it out after a Zoom call. I could easily keep it going throughout the day.

Working Out at Lunch
I used my lunch hours to either bike with our son or take a power walk by myself. I didn’t have to worry about being a little sweaty or offending any colleagues when I returned to work the rest of the day.

Rocking a Fresh Face and Hair
I was at home for nearly 90 days before returning to work. I can count on one hand how many times I put on full makeup or curled my hair. I quickly figured out I could wear my glasses, pull my hair back and put on a bold lip for Zoom calls. The first time I left the house a friend commented on how great my skin looked. I told her it was because it finally had a chance to breathe after all these years.

Consuming More Water
I try to drink my daily quota of water at work, but I’m not consistent. While at home, I set a timer and would walk the 10 feet from my “office” to the fridge to fill my water bottle.

Helping the Environment
I drive about 30 miles round trip each day, which is roughly 20 minutes each way on the highway. With additional errands and running around town, I end up filling up my tank every 7-10 days. From March 15 to May 15, I never filled up my car once.

Spending Extra Time with Family
Being around my husband and son during this uncertain time brought me comfort and put everything that was going on in the world in perspective.

Moving Forward
The SAHO reminded me to value time with my family and focus on self care. While I can’t carry all of these lifestyle changes forward, I realize I need to make an effort to continue these in order to be a better person and mom.

What do you miss about being at home as a family?

How To Plan An Outdoor Summer Movie Night At Home

One of my family’s favorite summer activities is outdoor movie night. My kids love being allowed to stay up past bedtime, eating loads of junk food snacks that are normally off-limits and seeing their favorite movies on a giant screen all from the comfort of our yard. No worries here about admission and snack prices, sitting next to a noisy stranger or your feet sticking to the theater floor. We loved outdoor movie night even pre-pandemic, but if you’re not ready to crowd into a packed theater quite yet, it’s a great time to give this fun activity a try!

The Equipment

Your two must-have items will be a projector and a screen where your movie will be viewed. Selecting the right projector is key for a successful movie night. There are many options available; check the specifications as you will need a projector appropriate for outdoor use with the correct input connections (to connect to your laptop, DVD player or phone). As far as sound goes, there are a variety of Bluetooth speakers that can connect with your device, or speaker systems you can plug into your computer to bring near-theatre quality sound to your movie in the great outdoors. When we lived in the country, we used a large, inflatable blow up movie screen because space wasn’t an issue. Most inflatable screens are quick to set up and take down in the event that bad weather rolls in- always a factor to consider when planning your movie night. Another option is to use a hanging screen or one with a triangle stand. If you are the DIY type, you could make your own with a a few simple materials or even use your garage door or a sheet draped over a clothesline. Many of the DIY screens use PVC pipe and a sheet or drop cloth. Decide ahead of time if you plan to use a DVD player or your Netflix account playing on a laptop. You may even be able to connect your cell phone directly into your projector. Be sure to test your equipment ahead of time. Set up close to electrical outlets with accessible extension cords if needed.

The Seating

During our movie nights, we usually drag a few lawn chairs and blankets over to the screen. You could also blow up an air mattress if you’re looking for a cozy movie experience. Or try these adorable DIY outdoor movie seats made using plywood, hinges and lounge cushions. A fun idea I spotted on Pinterest is to use a kiddie pool (minus the water obviously) and toss some blankets and pillows in there. One of my favorite things about outdoor movie night is getting to throw on my old sweats or ratty pajamas and curling up with a blanket to watch a movie in my own yard! If you plan to invite guests, have a few extra blankets and insect repellent on hand.

The Snacks

Will you ask guests to bring their own snacks or provide the treats? When we have hosted movie nights in the past, we provided popcorn and bottled water, but asked guests to bring a favorite treat or drink if they wished. I purchased several packs of reusable popcorn buckets from Dollar Tree and my kids love them! Shower caddies work perfectly as inexpensive treat-holders, too. Many theaters allow you to purchase to-go popcorn if you want the real thing. This upcycled palette recreated into a snack stand looks like a fun and simple way to display treats. But often during our impromptu movie nights, we just toss snacks onto an old folding table and it works!

Are you ready to try an outdoor movie night? Whether you keep it simple or go for a themed movie-watching experience, chances are your family will be asking to do this again soon!

Everything You Need to Know About Homeschooling in Wichita: Sports Teams, Co-Ops, Arts & Music Programs, Virtual Schools and More

Whether you’re a veteran homeschool mom, new to homeschooling entirely, or just new to homeschooling in Wichita, you’ll love this comprehensive list of resources for families who choose to educate their children privately at home. From co-ops and sports to virtual education programs and enrichment activities, everything you need to know about homeschooling in Wichita, Kansas is at your fingertips! wichita homeschool convention

Did we miss a great group or fun activity? Comment below and let us know!


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Dear Kindergartner, School Isn’t Supposed to Look Like This

Dear (Almost) Kindergartner, 
 
We have had the very best summer. I don’t want it to end!
 
The spring was really tough since you didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to your beloved preschool, your teachers, or your very first friends. It all came to an abrupt halt on March 12th, 2020 when our state decided to close schools due to the encroaching global pandemic. And even though you cried for a solid week because you didn’t understand why your little life changed overnight, you still managed to demonstrate unbelievable resilience.
 
So this summer, we took a bit of a break from the chaos of distance learning and the sadness of a lack of closure to a special chapter. We have certainly been enjoying a nostalgic, old school summer. But in reality, I’ve been avoiding the spiral of anxiety surrounding the pending announcement of what school is going to look like in the fall.
 
As you know, I’m nostalgic because I’m your mom. I make a big deal out of small moments and a really big deal out of big ones. So we’ve been talking about kindergarten for a long time. We have built it up, and you can’t wait to go to school just like your big sister. 
 
Except now, we are in the middle of a pandemic and waiting for the announcement of a back to school plan. There is no brilliant idea, no solution. There is no solid plan A, let alone a plan B to make us feel any sense of relief. Every possible scenario for the fall only brings up more questions, and we (you) will have to continue to be flexible and adaptable. 
 
Of course we are going to figure it out, and of course amazing things can come from struggle and hardship. Kiddo, you are going to do unbelievable things! But right now, I’m grieving what was supposed to be. I am grieving because this is the year you – the baby of our house – head to kindergarten. And this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
 
Kindergarten is supposed to be…
 
…picking out new shoes and a backpack.
…taking that sacred walk hand in hand to the classroom.
…achieving lightbulb moments and learning to read.
…making little friends and bringing home art projects. 
…waving to the big kids and older siblings in the hallway.
…having lunch in the cafeteria.
…learning new skills at recess.
…attending classroom parties and field trips.
…getting to know parent volunteers and educators in the classroom. 
…exploring the school library. 

…getting a picture with the teacher at back to school night. 
…beginning that first leg of your independent journey into the world.

But instead, I’m not exactly sure what your kindergarten experience is going to look like. 
 
If you go to school in the fall, will you have to wear a mask? Will you be scared because all of these strangers are also wearing masks? Will you be able to sit next to your friends? Will you have recess? Will you get to enjoy music class or PE? Will there be centers or circle time? Will you get to wave to your sister in the hallways? Will you not receive a single hug during the school year? 
 
This isn’t what school is supposed to look like. 
 
If you stay home for distance learning, I’m not sure that will be any better? Will you get to see your friends? Will you develop the social skills you need? How will I run a business? How will I teach you to read? How will you learn to love learning and stay engaged with your education? How much screen time is too much during a pandemic?
 
This isn’t what school is supposed to look like. 
 
The hardest part for me is that this is my very last first day of kindergarten. These precious moments are fleeting, and we won’t get them back.
 
But no matter what decisions are made in the coming weeks, you better believe we are going to make it special. We are going to figure it out. 
 
So even though your kindergarten year isn’t supposed to look like this, my hope is that we come out stronger and develop the critical skills of flexibility and resiliency. And in the end, I fully believe that you and this generation of young children are going to go on to do brilliant things and pave the way for our future.  
 
Love Always,
 
Mom

Online Homeschool Options & Virtual Schools in Wichita

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Do you like the idea of homeschooling but feel overwhelmed by choosing a good curriculum? Or maybe you prefer a secular homeschool program with the support of certified teachers?

A virtual school might be a good fit for your family. Check out these local online and virtual options for Wichita kids!

*Enrollment is filling up quickly for the ’20-’21 school year – some schools may no longer be accepting applications

Online & Virtual Schools in Wichita

 Andover eCademy (USD 385)

Education Imagine Academy (USD 259)

Goddard Virtual Program (USD 265)

Insight Virtual School of Kansas

Lawrence Virtual School (USD 497)

K-12

Kansas Connections Academy

Maize Virtual Preparatory School (USD 266)

Online & Virtual Schools (National)

Monarch

Power Homeschool

The Oaks

Laurel Springs School

Click here to return to our
Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling in Wichita!

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! How to Celebrate Our Favorite Wizard

July 31 will always hold a special place in my heart – Harry Potter’s birthday. It may seem silly to some that a grown woman even acknowledges this day, but as a child, the magic of Harry Potter was my escape.  I was 10 years old the first time I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and felt like I grew up with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the Hogwarts crew, as a new book was released each summer throughout my pre-teen and teenage years. Before each release, I’d reread all of the preceding books, locking myself in my room and staying up all day and night until they were all devoured. The first book I bought for my future babies when I found out I was pregnant with my twins was The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a set of children’s stories referenced in the HP series. I married a fellow Potterhead (he’s a Gryffindor, I’m a Ravenclaw wing Hufflepuff), and it’s pretty much one of our top goals as parents to be able to give our daughters their Hogwarts letters on their 11th birthday and surprise them with a trip to the Wizarding World. Pre-kids, my husband and I would spend July 31 cuddled up on the couch watching all of the movies, but now that we have two girls with the attention span of goldfish, we have to get a little more creative with our celebrations!

Below are a few fun ways for any Potterhead to commemorate the day:

Bake A Harry Potter Birthday Cake

Name a more classic way to celebrate a birthday, I’ll wait. Bonus points if it’s round and frosted in pink, with “HAPPEE BIRTHDAE HARRY” scrawled in big green letters ala Hagrid.

Whip Up New Harry Potter-Themed Recipes

Channel your inner Molly Weasley and get to work in the kitchen bringing some of the iconic foods and drinks from the series to life! I can vouch for the delicousness of this butterbeer, and this treacle tart looks delicious.

Determine Your Hogwarts House 

Wizarding World (formerly Pottermore) is filled with quizzes! Spend a few minutes finding out which house you would be sorted into or determining what your Patronus would be. 

Rock A Mask in Your House Colors

Since face coverings are the hot accessory of 2020, why not display to the world which house you belong to? There are many Etsy shops with options for every style, from lowkey to loud & proud.

Watch the Harry Potter Movies

If you have a whole day to spare, have a marathon! Curl up under some blankets and watch the magic unfold in front of your eyes.

Read the Harry Potter Books

If you’re looking for a way to draw out the celebrations, why not start the series from the beginning? I’m about halfway through the audiobook of The Goblet of Fire as I write this.

Play Quidditch

This one will have to wait until a post-COVID society, but there’s no time like now to plan for next year! Gather some friends and some broomsticks and chase that snitch! RulesofSport.com breaks down how to play every wizard’s favorite pastime.

More fun for muggles:

July 2020 Family Fun Month Challenge

For our family, we try to make every month full of family fun but it is a specific observance in July. Between it being summer and during the 2020 pandemic, July is the perfect month for this. I’ve compiled a list of 15 unique ways to celebrate or observe family fun month. Most of these can be done while still practicing social distancing, too!

  1. Go camping. Whether it is true camping near a lake or the woods or in your own backyard or living room, camping can be a lot of fun. Check out this list of recipes to make over with a firepit.
  2. Go to the zoo. One of the best things about Sedgwick County Zoo in July is that they offer Twilight Tuesdays. This is when the zoo remains open later into the evening when it is (hopefully) cooler and everyone can attend since it is after traditional working hours. Check their website for special details regarding their new COVID-19 rules.
  3. Go for a walk/hike/bike ride along one or more of these trails.
  4. Take a day trip to visit one of these waterfalls in Kansas.
  5. Have a picnic. We love to have little picnics in our yard, on our trampoline or in our living room. Our favorite is having breakfast outside before it gets too hot out.
  6. Eat local. Find a few different food trucks to support some local businesses and have a delicious meal or snack.
  7. Nothing says summer until you’ve eaten your weight in sno cones or ice cream. These articles can tell you exactly which sno cone and ice cream shops have our vote for being scrumptious.
  8. Go on a scavenger hunt to look for all of the cool Wichita murals we have here. They make for some really cute photos and have inspired my kiddos to create their own at home with their paint sticks.
  9. Join a summer reading program through one of our public libraries. Everything you need to know, you can find on their websites. Reading is the one thing we try to keep up with during the summer. Now that our son will be entering first grade, he has been able to read books to us. Cue the mama tears. The best part about reading is that you can bring a book anywhere. We love building forts or reading nooks around the house to cozy with up with a book.
  10. Dinner and a show home version. After you make dinner or get take out, get comfortable in the living room and watch a favorite movie. Just a warning with this one – the kids might not focus too much on eating their dinner but this is a family favorite in our house. We don’t do this often but they talk about it for weeks afterwards!
  11. Cook a meal together where everyone has a job or a role in the kitchen preparing the meal. I like to have my kids choose a meal, help me make a list and (virtually) grocery shop. They get to see what all goes into preparing meals and learn some great life skills. You could even pick one of those desserts or meals you’ve had pinned on Pinterest for months (or years in my case) that you’ve been wanting to try and tackle it.
  12. Get some popsicles and turn on that sprinkler. Nothing brings back childhood memories like this simple but full of fun activity. I loved doing this growing up but not once did my parents ever play and run in the water with me when I asked. My husband and I try our best to be fun parents especially when our children ask us to. Anything becomes more fun when Mom and Dad join the fun with the kids.
  13. Learn a new skill as a family. It could be fishing, baking, swimming or trying to learn a new language if you older kids. We’ve been learning a little bit more sign language to help communicate with our one-year old and the older kids love to help teach him.
  14. Put on a talent show. This is a favorite for my kiddos because they’re always saying, “Mommy! Watch this! Watch! Mommy, WATCH ME! (I look away for .2 seconds) YOU’RE NOT WATCHING!?”. This is a way that my husband and I can dedicate time to be less distracted and focus on all the cool things our son and daughter want to show up. You don’t even want to know how many trampoline “flips” we’ve seen. They love this even more when we join in and show them something we think is fun.
  15. Do some science experiments. Pinterest has millions upon millions of ideas. Our go-to classic is to add some food coloring to vinegar in a clear container and then add baking soda for a fizzy and exciting show. The other thing we like to do is create “mud” with flour, water and cocoa and dig for our farm animals in all of the mud!

Social Distancing Before It Was Cool

Here at the ranch, social distancing is kinda our jam… we’ve been doing all of the things that seem to be everyone’s “new normal” for generations! Loooooooong before it was cool! 😂

Closures, cancellations, 50% occupancy, and working from home are all things that everyone is getting used to right now. But here in rural America, life is a little different than what you all are experiencing in the city…. it’s basically business as usual.

Farmers’ and ranchers’ lives are continuing, in large part, a lot like they did before all this craziness began. Every single day, ranchers are caring for animals and maintaining grasslands and waterways, farmers are milking cows and planting and harvesting crops. The weather, the season, the accumulated rainfall, and temperature dictate what and when things are happening on the farm…no matter what else is going on in the world.  Farming and ranching are quite simply, essential.

Your freezer might be full for the first time, but only making monthly trips to the grocery store and having overly stocked pantries and full freezers is what we have always done; it’s necessary for our way of life. Trips to town that are 30-60-90 or more miles away to get groceries cannot happen every day (or even every week, for a lot of us) – just to make the trip is expensive and time consuming, so we go once a month.

You may have missed going to restaurants or shopping in stores but out here going out to dinner, a date night, shopping (in a store) is not part of our normal lives. Typically, these sorts of activities are in conjunction with a ‘part run’ or other necessary emergency reason to go to town. Or occasionally it rains (meaning that farming is off the table for a day) and it is a rare opportunity get a cowboy to town.

When we do get an opportunity to shop, we shop ‘local’ in our nearest small towns, because we know that without them, our town wouldn’t survive. We eat at restaurants we love, when we can, because we know they need us to stay in business. Something that has sadly been made very apparent in every town and city lately.

You haven’t been able to see people in person, but out here we seldom see other people, apart from those we pass on the road. Close neighbors could be miles away out here in the sticks.

That doesn’t mean that our lives haven’t changed, don’t mistake me, they certainly have!

Business and businesses are struggling, and we too miss our friends. Our kids didn’t have school, just like yours – and we are ready for them to go back, just like you. We are blessed with an outdoor classroom and obviously a lot of us have a job where we already ‘work from home’ which is a lucky break.

One thing that has become a significant challenge for us here in the rural world is moving everything online – like classrooms and meetings. We lack access to reliable internet, so I am so envious of the virtual classes I see my friends doing with their kiddos, and streaming! or really anything online– so awesome (so jealous!)!

What I do think is nice, is even the largest cities have become small towns in so many ways through all of this. Beyond the stockpile of toilet paper, so many people caring about their neighbors and community in a way they never have before – such a blessing in a sea of craziness.  This sense of community on such a large scale is so awesome. And it will hopefully continue.

For now, just wearing a mask is a sign that a person cares about their neighbors and strangers. A small symbol of community pride, right there on your face for the world to see. It’s not often that you can literally SHOW you care to everyone you encounter.

Small town life it pretty cool too, even if you enjoy it from the big city.

Back-to-School in 2020: Dos and Don’ts from A Teacher Mom

When it comes to the coronavirus, plans can change in an instant. One plan we can count on is that we know school is going to look different this year. Although we are still learning what plans are for our children and their education, there are a few things we can think about as we head into what might be the craziest/most innovative/unique school year ever.  

DO take a deep breath and prepare to be flexible. While we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us exactly how the school year is going to go, we can almost certainly count on it being different than we are accustomed to and probably changing after that. Remind yourself now that you can do hard things! This too shall pass (right?!).

DON’T neglect preparing for a school closure. If childcare is a concern, reach out to a stay-at-home-mom friend or a family member to see if they are able to be on call (of course assuming your child was not directly exposed to the coronavirus and does not have any symptoms). Talk to your employer in advance on what the expectation is for you if your child needs to be home instead of school.  If you’re someone who would be able to help out a family whose parents cannot be home during a school closure, now is the time to be the village.  Reach out to see how you can help!

DO educate yourself early on what digital platforms your child will be expected to use in case of a school closure. Log on, play around, and think critically of what you may have trouble with later on.  Ask your child’s teacher these questions early to avoid delays in responses or confusion if/when schools close.

DON’T forget to take a step back and catch your breath if you feel like you’re about to lose it. There will be inconvenient changes this school year, but remember it’s for the safety of an entire school.  There may be days that you have to be a mom/employee/home school teacher and your child refuses to do what is asked.  Take a breather.  Come back to the problem later when you’re calm.  

DO encourage your child to express how they feel about the upcoming school year. Allow them to talk about what they are excited for but also what they are worried about. Begin discussions early about what changes they may notice this year so that they have time to process and ask questions. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers (no one does!) so remember to empathize and encourage as we all work through this and learn together.

DON’T forget it’s OK to ask for help! Despite what highlights you see on social media, no one really knows how to do school perfectly in a pandemic. If you are struggling, check in with your child’s teacher first (even before asking on Facebook). This year is a new way of school for educators as well, so there may be times when an assignment or activity seemed to make sense to him/her but is as clear as mud for families at home! Teachers want to be the best help for all students and families and I promise they will be thankful you ask for help instead of stressing! DO give teachers grace this year.

DO have some school supplies specifically for home. We know schools desperately want to have in-person classes but safety is the number one priority and this may mean that some remote learning will happen at some point. For younger learners, consider having crayons, sharpened pencils, scissors, glue, blank paper and/or construction paper, a folder for keeping activities together, and markers (but save these for a special day to make them fun!). Older students may need several of the same supplies, but also consider notebook paper, a composition notebook, and dry erase markers. If there is the potential that more than one child may be learning virtually at the same time, I would also highly recommend headphones! Keep these supplies together and in a safe place so you won’t be scrambling later. If it’s possible, let your students help pick these supplies out (even if it’s online shopping!) so they can feel that back-to-school excitement for potential learning at home, too!

DON’T worry about your child falling behind. Remember that kids across our country are in a similar learning environment. Teachers are experts in education, and as we work through this uncertain year and beyond, teachers will be there to fill in the gaps and help prepare your child for a bright future. DO make sure your child is working through the assignments and activities as best as he/she can though – every little bit will help!

DO save your venting for your spouse/partner/best friend when the kids are not around. This will no doubt be a challenging school year, but little ears are listening to you and learning from your example. If you break down and threaten to quit, it’s going to be really hard for your child to do differently. You have every right to have your down moments, but try to make sure you stay strong and positive in front of your kids.

I’m not saying this year is going to be easy, but I do know you’re strong, mama.  You’ve got this!

30 Free Field Trips & Educational Activities for Homeschooling Families in Wichita

Families have a variety of motives for homeschooling, and contrary to what some might think, being a “cheap” option is typically not one of them. Homeschool education can be a rather pricy endeavor, and I’m sure we all have a story to share about that time we got “creative” finding inexpensive alternatives.

It wasn’t until our fourth year of homeschooling that we finally discovered that savvy resourcing, (not an elaborate budget), is all it takes to achieve a quality homeschool experience.

And we have some pretty amazing {free or really inexpensive} resources right here in Wichita.

Our family tries to view education by encouraging our children’s natural pattern to engage in an exploration process, rather than a series of rote memorization. We have found they retain information better and even have more acute reasoning skills in real world situations. These results just scratch the surface of why we have become insanely passionate about creating an environment of self-learning inspired by our children’s personal interests.

This list is a culmination of our family’s “unschooling” journey right here in Sedgwick County.

Art

Ulrich Museum of Art: A monthly inspection of their upcoming events calendar will reveal a whole world of free art activities; including my personal favorite “Empty Bowls”.

Wichita Art Museum: Hosts Art Start for children ages 3 to 5 to engage with art, imagine, and learn together. Of course, admission is always free on Saturdays.

Ballet in the Park: During the summer there are a variety of outdoor plays presented at local Wichita parks; performed by the Wichita Ballet. Their Facebook page is good about announcing performances.

Biblical Studies

AWANA: “A global, nonprofit ministry committed to the belief that the greatest impact for Christ starts with kids who know, love and serve Him.” Find a group near you, today!

Vacation Bible School: Summertime brings lots of VBS options in Wichita!

Community/Culture

Businesses: Behind the Scenes: I’ve approached a number of businesses that I am personally interested in to host a behind-the-scenes tour. I’m still working on coordinating these hands-on events, but receptive establishments have comprised of a sausage making class at The Chop Shop, donut decorating at The Donut Whole. I think because this is a new school of thought (pun intended) in the area, many business have bAviation Museumeen receptive to this unique exposure through community outreach.

Urban Farm Tours: Home Grown Kansas is a vibrant, active, urban farm that has been very open to tours; but there are quite a few in the country to approach and visit.

Small Town Museums: The Derby Historical Museum is just one example of a small town museum available for schools to coordinate free history lessons. Check to see the closest one in your area.

Airport Tour: I’m still waiting to hear back for an upcoming tour, but I have participated in airport tours with other groups. They usually include history of the airport as well as information that teach kids how an airport operates. We have even gotten some pretty sweet swag in the past. It never hurts to ask.

Fairs and Festivals: Some of these occur outside Sedgwick County but it’s a rather extensive list that can be filtered by date/location. Feeling adventurous?

Hiking Trails: Consult the Trail Link to discover hidden trails all throughout the county. Sorted by length, this list even includes a short description of the area and possible nearby parks to stop and have a picnic. A great way to mix things up and even get some schoolwork outdoors; don’t forget your books!

YMCA: As a member, you have access to free/cheap Homeschool classes, including P.E.

Kids Bowl Free: All Summer Long! (Shoe rentals usually cost around $2 each)

History/Government

Host a Geography Fair:  A Geography Fair provides an interactive approach to learning Geography. The concept is simple, each student researches a country and presents their findings using displays, posters, reports and of course…FOOD! 

The Wichita Historical Museum: Their mission is to “educate the community and its visitors about the local history by collecting, preserving and interpreting materials that reflect Sedgwick County.” Be sure to inquire about their FREE guided school tours.

City Hall Tour: There is a formal request form that can easily be obtained by contacting them on Facebook, including choices to tour the Mayor and City Council Chambers, Studio 7, Municipal Court or The City Mangers Office. 

Old Cowtown Museum: Admission is free on Sundays April through October!

Mid-American Indian Center: Most lectures and community nights are free

Wichita WATER Center: Take a tour of the WATER Center! Learn about the history of the Gilbert-Mosley groundwater remediation project, reuse of the treated water, native Kansas fish, aquatic wildlife, pollution prevention and much more. 

Life Skills/Occupational

Police/Fire Department Tour: For Fire Safety Week, our group has secured our tour of Station 81 in Derby. This is a service they also offer the public schools and they are very receptive to having homeschoolers visit as well.

High School Internships: Every summer a variety of local businesses offer internships to students preparing to enter college. If there is not a company on this list, I suggest approaching one to inquire.

Young Entrepreneurs: This nonprofit organization teaches business and entrepreneurial skills to high school students across the state. They believe” teaching entrepreneurship better prepares students for success in business and other future career and education endeavors.” Get plugged into the Wichita branch.

MakeICT Makers Space: “A maker space is a location where people with common interests can meet, socialize and/or collaborate. Makers space can be viewed as open community labs incorporating elements of machine shops, workshops and/or studios where makers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things. Their long term goal includes a location close to downtown Wichita that would include elements of a wood shop, machine shop, electronics lab, science lab, and art studio. But for now, come and collaborate. “

Lowes/Home Depot: Build and Grow with their free workshops, once a month.

Literature

Your Local Library: As a homeschooler, the library is not doubt one of your most valuable resources. But, we keep tabs of their afterschool activities as well, which normally include a hands on activity. We live close enough for our kids to walk, so they participate every week.

Host a Literature Circle: A literature circle is an age appropriate book club that teaches a variety of skills that are sometimes lacking in the life of a homeschooler, including group collaboration and public speaking. We are in the midst of one now and will begin the next cycle in January.

Math/Science

Wichita State University’s SEED program: SEEDS is a program for K-12 students offered through the College of Engineering at Wichita State University. “The objective of SEEDS is to promote science, technology, engineering, and math skills so that young people will be familiar with the career options that exist in engineering.”

Great Plains Nature Center: Keep an eye on their ongoing nature activities. There is always something very interactive to get involved in.

Chaplin Nature Center (Wichita Audubahn Society) Offering seasonal nature walks, butterfly tagging and of course plenty of outdoor exploration.

Kansas Starbase: This summer STEM academy is available to students who have completed 4th, 5th, or 6th grade. It is held yearly on McConnell Air Base; Limited space available.

Upward Bound Math and Science: Hosted by Wichita State University, it “provides an academic-year program and a summer program for high school freshmen through seniors who are interested in math, science, engineering, or health professions and encourages them to pursue these subjects as post-secondary majors.”

Math League: As a registered and recognized “school” did you know you can create your own? You can!

Riverside Park Kansas Wildlife Exhibit: The Kansas Wildlife Exhibit features over 25 species in 8 naturalistic cages. Animals include beavers, red fox, porcupine, mink, hawks, owls and more.

Click here to view our
Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling in Wichita!


Sarah BioBalancing life and clients one adventure at a time. As a passionate military spouse, homeschool mom and social media marketer, I’m always creativly looking to innovate everything I get my hands on. Who’s with me?
 
Follow me professionally at SarahStahl.com or just for fun on Twitter @mrsdstahl

Sexual Intimacy During Stressful Times

Raise your hand if you feel stress right now…did everyone just raise their hand? Probably so! Lately we have read all about how our current stressors are affecting our kids, our eating habits, our workload, our workout schedules, and pretty much everything else, but have you stopped to consider how it’s affecting your romantic relationships? It is an intimate topic but it is so important to find trusted people to have open conversations with because I can assure you that if you’re experiencing any distress about this, you’re not alone. Keep reading to learn why stress affects our sex drive and some ideas for how to begin to work through these feelings. 

Why Stress Affects Your Sex Drive

The nervous system is a complex structure in the human body and one that affects every part of our being. When we consider the way our body reacts to stress and how that affects our libido, it’s important to understand the autonomic nervous system. This branch of our nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic nervous system activates the accelerator and the parasympathetic nervous system activates the brakes. When your stress response is ramped up, we often see a decrease in sexual desire, both spontaneous and responsive, because stress for most people hits the brakes (for some it increases their desire – we are ALL normal). Low levels of chronic stress release a hormone called cortisol. When your body needs increased amounts of sex hormones over an extended period of time it will cause decreased sexual desire.

Why it’s Normal to Turn to Sex During Stressful Times

  • Provides a sense of comfort.
    When intercourse is mutually satisfying  and consensual, it can certainly provide a deal of comfort and normalcy during uncertain times. While it might not be something you’ve ever considered, there’s a lesser known, maybe less sexy (depending on who you ask), but important type of sex called comfort sex. It is sex that you seek out with your partner (or at least someone you know and are comfortable with) because it provides both feels good endorphins and also the feeling of being safe, even if only for just a little bit. For women, I want to highlight the point that comfort sex is generally with someone you know and trust. Why? Because women typically do not orgasm right out of the gate with new partners. It takes some time to build trust. Comfort sex can be important during times of increased stress, grief, and uncertainty. And don’t worry about being super creative, the point of comfort sex is just that – comfort.
  • Releases tension and decreases stress.
    Whether physical or psychological, sex is undoubtedly an excellent way to release of tension and potentially decrease you stress, even if it’s only for a little bit. Let’s take a look at the physical perspective. Having an orgasm releases endorphins and oxytocin, which is also known as the “feel good” hormone. Think about it, have you ever had an orgasm and experienced stress immediately after? Probably not, but never say never because these are trying times.
  • Can make you feel a sense of security.
    Sometimes when the world feels particularly unsettling, a grounding tool can be intimacy with your partner. This type of sex can be defined as Synchrony Sex. As Dr. Sue Johnson says, “This is when emotional openness and responsiveness, tender touch and erotic exploration all come together. This is the sex that fulfills, satisfies and connects. The key prerequisite here is not wild sexual techniques but a safe emotional bond.” Synchrony sex helps us create a better relationship with not only our partners but also with ourselves by creating a sense of safety.

Why it’s Normal to Turn Away From Sex During Stressful Times

  • It feels like one more thing to do.
    When stress is high, it’s normal for people to turn away from sex. It can simply feel like one more thing to do especially if one partner is more interested than the other. Knowing your partner is interested when you are not can just feel like pressure, whether that pressure is perceived or real.
  • Increased hormones.
    An increase in stress causes a release of hormones, which include cortisone and epinephrine and when delivered in high doses can cause decreased sex drive.
  • Everyone go away!
    Similar to feelings many women report postpartum, maybe you just don’t want to be touched by one more person. After working. crisis schooling, making meals, changing diapers, breaking up fights, making crafts, there is a strong possibility that the last thing you have the energy or mental capacity for is sex. And you know what? You’re normal.

Ways to Manage Stress In and Out of the Bedroom

  • Communication with your partner is absolutely key! To maintain a healthy relationship both in and out of the bedroom, remember that communication is the backbone of a healthy relationship. Your partner is not a mind reader, tell them what you need.
  • Practice mindfulness. Research is proving that mindfulness – which is simply being fully present and aware in the moment. AKA, not “in your head” while you’re trying to be intimate with your partner. Not only can you practice mindfulness throughout the day, but you can also practice it while you’re in bed with your partner. Throughout the day practice taking 5 minutes to stop and notice all your senses. Name 5 things you can see. Name 4 things you can touch. Name 3 things you can hear. Name 2 things you can smell. Name 1 thing you can taste.
  • Connect with your breath.This is a great strategy to force out intrusive thoughts that happen throughout the day and especially in the bedroom. Take a deep inhale, then exhale and focus on what your body is sensing in the moment. Mindfulness practices throughout the day will allow.
  • Engage in movement you enjoy. Whether you prefer to go for walks, lift weights, practice yoga, or simply get outside and play with your children, it’s important for our minds and body to move every single day. Your health depends on it.
  • Journal. It doesn’t have to be every day and it doesn’t have to be for longer than 5 minutes, but it can be extremely helpful to jot down your emotions as a way to name them, put them in perspective and ultimately deal with them.
  • Meditation. This is defined as a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being (https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm).
  • Connect with other people going through the same experience. There are SO many ways to connect with people these days whether it is in-person or online, please don’t forget that community and sharing your experience is one of the most therapeutic activities you can engage in.

When To Seek Out Professional Help

Everyone will go through periods of low sexual desire – there is absolutely nothing concerning this fact. However, if you experience low sexual desire over a prolonged period of time, if it bothers you, and/or if it is starting to affect your relationship, this is a good time to seek out a therapist that can help you. 

The Layers of Black Motherhood

Full disclosure: I struggled to write this piece. I struggled so hard that I almost backed out. When first approached I was so fired up to amplify black voices, the voices of black women, black mothers in this city, and I thought writing this would be effortless. But as I was bombarded with countless new stories of black men and women dying, in the midst of a world pandemic. As I looked at social media, I saw the responses to the protests, the hate, the micro- and macro- aggressions. The noise and pain of the world was so unbearable that I struggled to write. The last thing that I want to do, as I tell my story of being a black mother in this country, is to put myself on a cross and bleed in order to humanize my family. 

People who know me will often hear me say, “My story is my sword and not my crutch.”  I am empowered by my experiences. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not celebrate the pain. I don’t celebrate hate. But I do celebrate pushing through it. So, it is of utmost importance to me that you as a reader understand that God served my babies with humanity the moment they took their first breath. This not an effort for you to see the humanity in my race. Black mothers have been telling their stories for centuries for people to see the humanity in their children and it has fallen on deaf ears. I will not give anyone that type of power. I’m using this moment as a tool, to release some of this pain & heaviness that is on my spirit and giving other women/mothers the space to do the same. 

Being a black mother has many layers. 

The first layer for me, was love. I have never felt a love like the love I have for my children.  My babies gave me purpose. They amplified my will to succeed and drove my passions and commitment to community and doing my part to make the world a better place for them. I knew as a mother I wanted to empower them with all of the tools to be successful.  I also became ferociously protective of my babies. Every mother wants to protect their children from the monsters of the world. As a black mother, those monsters are amplified and sometimes they come clothed as teachers, leaders, neighbors, peers and yes, at times, police officers. 

Being a black mother is knowing as soon as your baby steps outside the protection of your home, that they will be subjected to being criminalized, aged and hyper-sexualized as early as pre-school. We have to prepare our children for this world that will begin to judge them and profile them.

You can look to the story of Kaia Rolle, age 6, from Orlando, FL who was arrested by a police officer for having a temper tantrum at school. As mothers, how many of us have had to deal with our babies throwing tantrums? How many of you would want your child handcuffed, put in a police car and taken to a juvenile detention center for acting like a normal child? It was later discovered that Kaia was suffering from sleep apnea which was disrupting her sleeping patterns. The video of this incident is heart-wrenching.  Being a black mother is understanding how incidents like these connect our children to the school-to-prison pipelines and that adultification of youth of color makes common childlike behaviors in black kids criminalized.

We know the disparities compared to white counterparts:

Being a black mother is acknowledging that our babies are born with multi-generational trauma, and at birth we hand them the extra trauma of telling them they have to act 10x better, and study 10x harder to get the same opportunities.

Being a black mother, is having to second-guess ourselves when giving our babies cultural names, as little black girl and black boy names could be denied opportunity, because even our names are profiled. It is mothers putting harmful chemicals on their little girls’ hair to assimilate them in to European standards of beauty. It is 2020 and there are actual laws created to protect BlPOC natural hair, because that is also policed.

Being a black mother is watching 12-year-old Tamir Rice get gunned down for having a toy gun, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin being murdered defending his life from a stalker, and Elijah McClain just trying to get back home and being murdered; hearing George Floyd scream out for his mother as he took his last breath…and watching the world try to rationalize their deaths and make victims out of their murderers. Then having to release your children into to this type of world.   

Being a black mother is knowing, at some point, your child will experience racism and that the pain of being judged by the color of their skin, will impact them so deeply that it will dictate how they move throughout the rest their lives. I have never understood how you can birth a life into this world – a clean slate that is filled with natural light and love – and teach that being hate. I have never been able to rationalize giving your child the trauma of having to project such an unnatural emotion, how you instill that into a child. That is a facet of motherhood that I never want to relate to.  Humans are not born racist; they are taught.  In 2020 we are literally carrying the views and distorted values of generations past. I look at hateful interactions online from adults, and wonder to myself, do they ever stop to think that our children are watching? 

Being a black mother, is understanding that there will be people who skip over this piece. Who may be offended by this piece, or even dismissive. The one take-away that I hope resonates with mothers is that if you cannot find the means to do better for my children, then do better by yours. Our young people are born into this world of social media; they are comfortable in it and live out loud in it. People raised with hate have to find ways to amplify it. They are the ones losing their scholarships, jobs and opportunities because they are carrying hate that has no real energy behind it, hate that was inherited. They are the ones who are being put on blast on social media which pales in comparison to black children losing their lives. Just as my babies deserve better, so do yours.  

Even with all of that, being a black mother is joy. Though we carry the pains of generational trauma, we also carry the strength, resiliency and courage of our ancestors and the ability to continue the fight against systemic racism and inequity.  Even in the heaviness of the world, we still thrive.


Marquetta Atkins is a community educator who brings her passion for working with youth and her creative energy to the table as a facilitator. For years she has dedicated herself to ensuring that young people are equipped with the tools for a better future. She was born and raised in Wichita, KS and graduated with a degree in Communications from Wichita State University. Her persistence in reaching her educational goals equipped her to be a mentor for high school youth in Wichita, including her own children Devon who attended WSU and Aimani a junior at Prairie View A & M University, in Texas. 

Marquetta’s passion for youth development is rooted in her conviction that youth are the change-makers we need for the transformation of our communities, both today and in the future.

In 2015, she founded Camp Destination Innovation to expose young people to a variety of career options; encouraging them to create their own future. The camp also helps youth explore strategies for entrepreneurship and civic engagement, grounding their professional development in a larger vision for whole and healthy communities. 

Striving to eliminate the barriers facing young people and women as entrepreneurs, Marquetta created Women Entrepreneurs of Kansas (WeKan!), an initiative to support the growth and power of women entrepreneurs. Marquetta’s talented facilitation challenges people to question their own assumptions and dig deeper into critical awareness. 

Marquetta is also the Director of Programming & Youth Development at the non-profit The Seed House, where she developed the youth group Progeny. Who are youth either touched by or passionate about the juvenile justice system. Teaching them leadership, organizing, advocacy and how to change policy and how it impacts youth. They currently launched their Invest Don’t Arrest Kansas Campaign.

Marquetta is committed to community and sits on various boards and committees throughout the city of Wichita. Her awards include winning Best in Innovation by the Wichita Business Journal, Ron Walters Leadership Award by the Wichita branch NAACP and Civic Engagement Award from Wichita Urban Professionals.

5 Podcasts That Will Keep You Laughing

When my husband and I go on long road trips we love a good playlist as much as the next person, but often the music becomes too lulling and my husband will ask me to tell him a story. I am no Shonda Rhimes, I cannot spin a tale that holds his attention for long. In times like these our go to storytellers are comedy podcasts. A comedy podcast can range from straight fiction to entertaining interviews and these are some go to funny podcasts.  

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

The landscape of late night television would not be the same without Conan O’Brien. With Conan Needs a Friend, O’Brien is able to take his interviews and antics to a whole new level.  The conversations he has with his celebrity guests are more in depth and the relationship he has with his assistant and producer keep you laughing from start to finish.  

Anna Faris is Unqualified

Have you heard of the Dear Abby news column?  Unqualified is the modern day version. Listeners to Unqualified submit real life questions seeking the advice of Anna Faris and her celebrity guests. While their answers are entertaining they are also often spot on and actually helpful.  

How Did This Get Made?

Do you love movies? Even bad movies? Then this is the podcast for you. Each episode hosts Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Manqzoukas along with a celebrity guest or two hilariously watch and dissect terrible movies. Regular guest Adam Scott, of Parks and Rec fame, is a super fan of the Fast and Furious franchise and helps to review each furious installment.

Comedy Bang! Bang!

If you love improv and off the wall makes no sense comedy then you must check out Comedy Bang Bang.  Scott Aukerman hosts celebrity guests that are interviewed by fictional characters that there really are no words to describe.  Having been around for 11 years this podcast has proven to stand the test of time among other comedy podcasts. Be sure to also check out the TV series on Netflix if you find you can’t get enough Bang Bang.

Absolutely Not

If you are in need of a safe-space that no topic is off-limits then turn on and turn up comedian Heather McMahan’s hilarious Absolutely Not.  Taking calls on her “Absolutely Not-Line” and talking about all the things that we love and that drive us crazy about life this podcast will make you feel like you are talking with a girlfriend even if you are just listening.

We could always use a few more funny stories to listen to so spill the tea; what are your favorite comedy podcasts?

Let’s Celebrate Outer Space!

I am fascinated with the night time sky.  The planets, moons, stars and galaxies.  It intrigues me and is an interest that my children also share.  As a family, we enjoy late summer nights where we can watch the stars, find the constellations and dream of becoming an astronaut someday. 

Ever since the launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, our love for the starry sky has been fueled.  So much that my oldest son has big plans with his friends to visit the Kennedy Space Center when they all turn eighteen.  They are 6 years old.  So the fact that there is a week dedicated to space means we don’t take any shortcuts and we celebrate!

This year marks the 51st anniversary of the first Moon landing in 1969!  Want to celebrate with us this year? Try some of these fun activities.

Visit the Cosmosphere:

This space museum is located in Hutchinson, KS and offers a unique experience to understand the history of space exploration.  Although nothing compares to the in person tour, you can also check out the galleries online through their virtual tour.  Click here to be taken to the virtual tours.

Visit Exploration Place:

The Exploration Place has a wonderful Sun, Earth and Universe exhibit available.  You can build a model spacecraft for a mission into space and explore the universe.  Click here to check out this exhibit.  They also offer an Astronomical Adventure Camp-In, where you can stay the night, make a Mars Rover and explore space!

Check Out Virtual Space Tours:

  • NASA has a lot of information and activities available online for kids of all ages.  From Crew program tours (including the SpaceX Crew Dragon) to tours of the NASA facilities and even Space Station tours. This is one of our favorite websites to visit!  Click here to be taken to at home and augmented reality tours.
  • Check out Google Expedition! Take a virtual trip to the International Space Station and see inside the spacecraft modules or fly along with Juno on the way to Jupiter.  This app is often used by teachers and even offers virtual reality images to make you feel like you are really there!  Plus it includes questions and facts that appeal to the minds of children at all ages.

Build a Spacecraft at Home

Get Outside

  • Get a telescope, binoculars or even use the naked eye and spend a night out under the stars.
  • Even more fun, check out the time and date of when you can see the planets in the sky.  For Wichita dates and times, click here.  You can also check out the moon phases and when to see eclipses!
  • Every Friday, Sky & Telescope, publishes some sky maps and tips for observing the nighttime sky for the following week.  We use this website to help us prepare for upcoming celestial events!

Live & Eat Like an Astronaut:

  • MRE (Meals Ready to Eat): This is what Astronauts eat pretty much every day.  Things you can eat on Earth today that can be found on grocery store shelves fall under this category, things that can be re-hydrated with water or freeze dried foods.  These foods typically include protein, fruits and veggies.  Astronauts daily food intake consists of three meals and a snack.
  • NASA has some great information and videos to show your kids how to eat, spend free time and even brush your teeth in space!  For a day in the life of an astronaut information, click here.

More Fun Space Activities:

What are some fun activities you do with your children for Space Week?

Guides + Resources

Things to Do in Wichita | AUGUST 2020

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Things to Do in Wichita this Month August 2020 No matter the season, there are always fun things to in Wichita with kids (and without!). Welcome...