Documenting Life: Homeschooling Away From Home

We tried something new,

something simple, but something powerful enough

to make me feel so much better about life and especially about school.

Maybe you would like to try it, too.

Last week we were stuck in the winter doldrums–especially with homeschooling. Before climbing into bed last night I planned for us to take our school work to a coffee shop this morning.

Hodge Podge Coffee is super child friendly since they have a corner designated for toys and their space is big enough that children’s play won’t as easily disturb other customers.  It seemed nice to have a space where Ian and Paxton could play with new toys and where Zachary could work with the promise of fun new toys and books as motivation for quickly getting through his lessons.

For me it also sounded really nice to to focus only on teaching and not seeing counters heaped with piles of dishes and papers, dirty floors, and two baskets of laundry that need to be folded.

In the morning I collected books + books + books + pencil crayons + glue + scissors + pencils + erasers.  Between collecting, and wrestling boys into jackets and settling squabbles and looking for the keys and taking someone potty and hoisting the bag that weighed a kajillion pounds over my shoulder the plan seemed like it was taking a lot of effort to pull off.

However, from the time we left the house things felt better.  A great big dose of sunshine, a few deep breaths of fresh air, smiling faces, a new environment, the happy buzz of people connecting, and coffee–definitely coffee made homeschooling seem a whole lot more manageable. We settled in around a children’s table.  Another preschooler came over to join our party for awhile, and we gave him an activity book, too. I chatted with his mom a little and realized again how great it is to have a little adult conversation during the day.

It was a little hard for Zachary to concentrate, but I had promised him hot chocolate if he finished his work before we left the coffee shop which motivated him to work hard. The little boys built, read and rode, explored and discovered. Ian had the choice of playing or working in his books, too; of course, being in kindergarten, he wanted to do his lessons as usual.

From Thursday night to Friday noon we shifted from blah to motivated. We had such a great time together, focused on studies in a fresh way, and had a fun outing.  Homeschooling away from home  is going to become a little tradition of ours–hopefully one that happens at least monthly.

While driving home we thought of several more places to to try homeschooling. All of them would have a space quiet enough for study, a play area, would be free or inexpensive. This is the list  we came up with:

  • The library
  •  Barnes and Noble
  • Steve’s office
  • A Chick Fil A with a playground, preferably at a less busy location
  • IKEA
  • A park
  • Coffee shop

What places would you add to our list?

[Zachary enjoying his well deserved hot chocolate and playtime.]


Lifestyle: Darris + Karla and Family



This family is a favorite of mine. I photographed them several times while living in South Carolina,

and was so honored that they drove to Atlanta to have their pictures made. We found great locations at Piedmont Park

as usual. The children had fun climbing trees, running down hills, and watching the ducks.

Their family is full of energy, happiness, and lots of love.




Child-Friendly Coffee Shop


Today I’d like to introduce you to a charming coffeeshop and a friend of mine.  Kirby and I met through a Meetup group Atlanta Bible Studies.
We started chatting after a Bible study once and discovered we both enjoy creative work. She is a graphic designer and has designed for several magazines
as well as sells from her Etsy shop Sugardime Studio. We talked about how we enjoy our work, but find it difficult to manage all the aspects of a business.

This summer we started getting together ever other week to work on our business plans and talk about our inspirations.
Sometimes we spend more time talking than working which is fun, too. Whether we’re quietly working side by side
or bouncing ideas back and forth these regularly scheduled times to work on business together have become so helpful and motivating.

Atlanta’s many locally owned coffee shops have rich character and delicious coffee.  These meetings have given us a chance
to branch out from the Starbucks on every corner and really taste Atlanta. Often we meet for a few hours on Steve’s day off of work, so that I can be child free.
One day I needed to take Paxton with me, so I looked around for a child-friendly coffee shop.   

Hodgepodge Coffeehouse was a great spot for us.  It is very mom friendly with a corner dedicated for a play area with a fun selection of toys.
The Monday morning we visited Hodgepodge there was an art class in process as well. The coffee shop is big enough that if someone
wanted a quiet corner for reading or a deep conversation, they could easily find a space distant from the children’s corner to find quiet as well.

When I walked into the next room to use the restroom, I found a bookcase full of books that made me wish
to come back again with Steve and curl up on couches with a cup of coffee and a good book.

For the Love of Pushing Boundaries


The boys were spellbound as they watched a documentary on SHARKS this afternoon.

Sharks and whales have been Zachary’s favorite animals for the past six months. He’s been devouring

books about sea creatures and we’ve been learning even more interesting facts about them this year in science.

As they were soaking up information, I was swooning over the sweet moment

of the boys’ complete absorption and their cozy togetherness.

Photo Details

Our house does not have very much natural light which bums me a lot since I am largely inspired by light.  

I’ve had to use my flash so much more than I like to because sometimes there simply is not enough light.

I’ve been challenged recently to use only available light, and have been pushing

the boundaries on what are considered acceptable settings.

Camera Settings

:: ISO 3200  ::  59mm  ::  f/2.8  ::  1/50  ::

You can see I was stretching it, but I do love pushing boundaries.  Normally I wouldn’t try a shutter speed of 1/50 for children, but the boys were so tired

and so absorbed that they were sitting still.  I felt as though what I was getting was good, but because it was so dark and just to be sure I added a little fill flash

with my external flash. It did brighten the image, but I still prefer the first shot which uses only window light.  Using natural light only

gave the photo more dimension because there is more play between shadow and light. The flash, even though bounced at an angle, gave a flat feel

to the photo. Notice the difference below with natural light only on the left and natural light + fill flash on the right.

Which look do you prefer?

If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy reading about how I chose photo settings for an outdoor portrait made during winter play.


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