Kaylin Booker: Blog https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog en-us (C) Kaylin Booker (Kaylin Booker) Wed, 31 Aug 2022 00:00:00 GMT Wed, 31 Aug 2022 00:00:00 GMT https://www.kaylinbooker.com/img/s/v-12/u1013944499-o593020934-50.jpg Kaylin Booker: Blog https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog 80 120 Local Museums https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/local-museums

It’s shaping up to be a *HOT* summer here in Montgomery County, so we’ve put together a list of our favorite local museums that are as cool  as they are cool ❄️

We’ve personally visited every last one of these and our enthusiasm for them abounds. 

I officially want to be a volunteer docent when I grow up ♀️. Please find one when you visit these museums and have them show you around. Their knowledge is invaluable. 

Heritage Museum of Montgomery County, Texas (in Conroe’s Candy Cane Park)
1506 Interstate 45 N, Conroe, TX 77301
Hours: Wed-Sat 9-4
Entry: FREE

Fernland Historical Park and Museum and Memory Garden (Historic Montgomery)
770 Clepper Dr, Montgomery, TX 77356
Hours: Tues-Sat 11-5, Sun 12-4
Entry: FREE 

National Museum of Funeral History (Spring area)
415 Barren Springs Dr, Houston, TX 77090
Hours: Mon-Fri 10-4, Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5
Entry: $7-$10

Texas Prison Museum (Huntsville)
491 TX-75 N, Huntsville, TX 77320
Hours: Mon-Sat 10-5, Sun 12-5
Entry: $4-$7

Sam Houston Memorial Museum (Huntsville)
1836 Sam Houston Ave, Huntsville, TX 77340
Hours: Tues-Sat 9-4:30, Sun 12-4:30
Entry: $3-$5

Sam Houston Statue Visitor Center (I45 Huntsville)
7600 TX-75, Huntsville, TX 77340
Hours: Mon-Fri 9-5, Sat 10-5, Sun 11-5
Entry: FREE 

Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site(out past Navasota but totally worth it)
23400 Park Rd 12, Washington, TX 77880
Hours: 9:30-5 daily
Entry: $5-$8

(Kaylin Booker) conroe county huntsville local magnolia montgomery museums texas the tx willis woodlands https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/local-museums Wed, 31 Aug 2022 00:00:17 GMT
Sweet Leaf Trail https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/sweet-leaf-trail

The Sweet Leaf Nature Trail in the Wg Jones State Forest is .92 miles of diverse scenery, rocky creeks, knotty roots, several little bridges, fallen trees to balance on, and a swing bridge at the halfway point. 

To access the parking area you need to pull inside the gate located here on the north side of 1488 https://goo.gl/maps/FtgmoKAdHDdycYXz7

The gate has a code which the forest service is happy to share with you if you give them a call at (936) 273-2261.

Once inside just drive straight until you see the wooden trail marker. The parking area is not paved.  

More on this trail can be found here:


(Kaylin Booker) conroe hike magnolia new the tx woodlands https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/sweet-leaf-trail Tue, 30 Aug 2022 23:56:04 GMT
Miami With Kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/miami-with-kids

We’re back! Miami was amazing and we had an incredible time. 

I’m just going to leave these recommendations here for anyone who may need them in the future, and then we will be back to business as usual here in Montgomery County! 


Holiday Inn Port of Miami-Downtown if you are a family a bit larger than is typically allowed in one hotel room. It’s not fancy, but it was very clean and our view was awesome. It’s located in a safe, clean, pedestrian friendly part of town near restaurants, a CVS, and directly across from the Bayside Marketplace. Also close is the Frost Science center and Bayfront Park. 

The Savoy - South Beach for beach chair and umbrella rentals on South Beach. They have a full bar and menu (delivered to your chair) and they give you access to their showers and restrooms at the hotel. Everything I needed as a solo parent with four kids for a day at the beach! Two chairs and an umbrella were $90ish and the cabana tent+ cushy chair/couch thing was $130. 

Gelato: Gelato-go South Beach was great!Mammamia Gelato Italiano - Miami in Bayside Marketplace was to die for. 

Miamiwatersports for parasailing. The tour guides were friendly and fun and we just had a really nice time with this company. 

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Scienceis a must with the kids. 

Gator Park Everglades National Park for a short airboat ride into the Everglades national park and a little educational alligator show. 

The Ferris Wheel Skyviews Miami in Bayside Marketplace was fun. We saw manitees in the ocean from the top!

Restaurants: CEVICHE 105 for excellent Peruvian, Manolo & Rene Grill is open 24hrs if your kids get up early (great cafe con lèche). 

CityCarts, LLC on South Beach are fun to rent for an hour. 

Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventures if you have kids a bit older that can handle the wind part of it.

(Kaylin Booker) do in kids miami things to what with https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/miami-with-kids Tue, 30 Aug 2022 23:53:18 GMT
The Woodlands Trolley https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/the-woodlands-trolley

If you have kids visiting for the holidays and need a fun FREE way to entertain them for an afternoon, our littlest MinM contributors give a ride around The Woodlands Waterway on the trolley 4 BIG thumbs up 

I honestly had no idea they would have this much fun just wandering around the woodlands! After a stroll through Market Street with some kids' hot chocolates and a run around the big Christmas tree, we hopped on the trolley here https://goo.gl/maps/5oQVvgF9QmnGoLsG7

As soon as we saw the water we disembarked to look for fishes and wonder at the bridges, then popped back on to ride until the kids saw the fountains at Waterway Square. I gave them free range and just followed along doing my favorite thing, snapping photos for you guys!  

Tack this on to a couple hours at the ice rink (just across from the trolley stop I linked above), dinner at Grotto, and a peek at Market Street all lit up for Christmas at night, and you have yourselves what my kids (who've been all over the world) called "the best day ever."


(Kaylin Booker) do free in kids mom the things to tx what with woodlands https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/the-woodlands-trolley Tue, 30 Aug 2022 23:49:46 GMT
Lake Loop Trail https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/lake-loop-trail

We love this part of the Sam Houston National Forest, even if it is just a teensy bit outside of Montgomery County. The photos below are from the Lake Loop Trail, but it shares a parking area with the Sandy Trail, Fern Trail and Zebra Trail heads. So you can follow the link below for several different hikes! 

Google map link: https://goo.gl/maps/d4XHQnWhog2WQdmc6

Trail map link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/.../FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd493927.pdf

(Kaylin Booker) conroe get hiking huntsville kids montgomery outdoor outside tx willis https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/lake-loop-trail Tue, 30 Aug 2022 23:46:22 GMT
Agape Farms https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/agape-farms

AgapeFarms is located in the far North West corner of Montgomery County near Richards, TX. 

Tickets are $10/person over the age of 2. You have the option to “self-guide” and just hang out on the farm for two hours, but we recommend asking for a guided tour. I’m not sure us city folks would have known what to do all by ourselves out there! 

We were surprised to find our tour guide for the day was the 10-year-old son of the farm owners, but he and his side kick little sister truly did an excellent job showing us around. 

We were able to hold chickens, feed emus, hang out with cows, donkeys, goats, and a miniature horse. Our little tour guide entertained us with his attempt to rope some of the livestock, and the kids had a ball playing on the hay bail.

We did meet the farm owner towards the end of our two hours and he shared some of their ideas for future events out there. It was a simple, fun way to spend a gorgeous afternoon.  

Follow their page for more info and future event news.

Please excuse the iPhone photos. Sometimes we just need to leave the heavy camera at home and focus on the fun!

(Kaylin Booker) conroe county farm montgomery texas the tour tx woodlands https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/agape-farms Tue, 30 Aug 2022 23:44:44 GMT
Lake Creek Preserve https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/lake-creek-preserve

Lake Creek Nature Preserve is currently our favorite hike in Montgomery county. Located down a dirt road just south of the Woodforest Parkway South Entrance, this trail is just the right length for little legs (1-1.5 miles). 

Boardwalks, stepping stones, lookout decks, palmetto groves, marshes, pine forests, and wiggly squiggly suess-esque trees are all things you'll find as you meander the trails of this 530+ acre nature preserve. 

We recommend taking the orange trail in and the blue trail out to avoid confusion at the orange loop turn off which adds .2 miles to the trek. The signage is a bit tricky coming the other way.  

This is a Bayou Land Conservancy managed preserve.

Google Maps Link to entrance:


(Kaylin Booker) conroe get hike montgomery outside the tx woodforest woodlands https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/lake-creek-preserve Tue, 30 Aug 2022 23:43:23 GMT
One Acre Farm https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/one-acre-farm

Goats and Chickens and Bunnies, oh my! 

One Acre Farm TX in Porter has something fun and educational for every child in an adorable farm setting.  

We attended the vegetable gardening class with Catherine who was a wealth of knowledge. The adults listening in kept ooing and awing over the new things we were learning! 

After feeding the animals, the children sat down in the outdoor classroom to learn all about plant anatomy and pollination. They dissected vegetables to find the seeds, and experienced planting their own brussel sprouts.  

Just one experience out of many, One Acre Farm also offers classes geared towards art, math, sensory, music, and special programs for children with Autism. 

Visit their web site for a complete schedule of events and classes. http://oneacrefarmtx.com/index.html

(Kaylin Booker) https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/one-acre-farm Tue, 30 Aug 2022 23:41:45 GMT
Spring Creek Nature Preserve https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/spring-creek-nature-preserve

Love Autumn but missing those beach days of summer? Why not have it all with a hike to the white sandy beaches of Spring Creek through the Spring Creek Nature Trail.

The employees and many volunteers of the Bayou Land Conservancy have done an incredible job of maintaining these fabulous trails with clear paths and educational signs throughout, despite several floods over the past few years.

Pro Tip: Your phone service may not work out in the woods, but your gps will. The main trails are mapped as dotted lines so if you find you've wandered too far off a path, just pull out your favorite map app and find the nearest dotted line. 

Parent Tip: Leave with plenty of time to allow your kids to play in the sand, and don't forget water and sunscreen!  

You can begin this hike at the Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center mapped at the link below.  


(Kaylin Booker) https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2022/8/spring-creek-nature-preserve Tue, 30 Aug 2022 23:39:37 GMT
A Minimalist Guide to Toy Buying https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/a-minimalist-guide-to-toy-buying I have four children.  My oldest is now 9-years-old and my baby is 3 *ugly cry face*.  I don't have a lot of regrets of my parenting years so far but the minimalist in me knows that if I could do it again there is one thing I would have done differently. 


So I bring to you today, A Minimalist Guide to Toy Buying

These are all the toys we own on purpose.  We do have other random toys given to us by well meaning people, but they never make it long in our house.  It's not that we aren't grateful.  It's just that the best toys are the ones that allow kids to explore the endless pathways of their imaginations.  These are the toys that last year after year in our home. 

I'm not an incredibly frugal person, but as I get older I am more conscious of the waste we create when we buy things we keep only a short while.  Baby toys for three babies?  Total waste.  Babies don't care what they chew on.  And the latest greatest toy isn't going to make them smarter.  Think of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and all those other people that actually discovered all those smart things.  They didn't have fat brain toys from Target.  You know what they had?  Andirons. Probably.  I don't really know. 

This monkey toy is now decaying in a landfill somewhere.  He barely even played with it.  

More often than not, my kids wanted to play with every day things mommy used around the house.  Like my oldest pictured here in our laundry basket.  Baby toys are useless.  Except for bouncers.  Love bouncers.  Mamma has to put the baby down sometimes, y'all. 

After I had my third child I went to a home of a family with 6 kids and the mom told me something amazing.  Kids love DUPLO blocks!  They love them, she said.  Her oldest to her youngest.  They would play with them for hours.  She had just bins and bins of them and our kids all played with them for the entirety of the play date. 

I started collecting our own stash and I can honestly say that has been the number one toy in our house ever since.  When I was trying to take the photo at the top of this post, my 9-year-old was in the middle of building a huge space ship or something and kept snatching blocks out of the bucket between clicks.  

They've played with them on four different continents.  

The fun never ends.  Seriously.  

All my other toy recommendations pale in comparison to duplo blocks, but they are all still things my kids use frequently in their play.  Matchbox cars?  Timeless.  Do you realize how many ways you can incorporate matchbox cars into creative play?  Trains and tracks?  Endless fun.  I actually wish we had more.  The thing that threw me off at first was the whole train table thing.  We had tracks and they fit on that table and you had to put it all together a specific way to make them fit on that table.  So, of course that was a job for mommy dearest and dear old dad.  

No thanks.  Then one day we went to a friend's house and her kids were playing with their tracks on the floor.  What madness is this, I asked.  Train tracks NOT on a table?  BRILLIANT. 

My kids will build train tracks all day long.  Often under duplo creations and around duplo car garages where the matchbox cars are parked. 

That baby just wanted to play with her brothers.  She didn't need a flashing ball with easy grip bars and teether rings.  

Granted you have to be careful, I know, I know.  And y'all know that too.  Matchbox cars probably aren't best for the baby babies or the trains with the little wheels.  Don't let your kid choke on these things. Give them a clean sock to play with until they're old enough for these things.  Or andirons, like baby Ben.  Probably.  I really don't know. 

(Kaylin Booker) homeschool mom homeschoolers minimalist mom minimalist toys https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/a-minimalist-guide-to-toy-buying Sat, 15 Feb 2020 07:47:42 GMT
Peaceful Bay Caravan Park and Elephant Rocks With Kids! https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/peaceful-bay-caravan-park-and-elephant-rocks-with-kids Peaceful Bay is a beautiful little bay with a nice swimming beach and beautiful views from the rocks.  It is close to Denmark, which we did not have much time to explore, and the Greens Pool/Elephant Rocks which we did manage to visit.  There is a caravan park close to the beach with nice facilities, a general store for necessities, a coffee shop, and a fish and chips restaurant!  Pretty nice set up! 

The Peaceful Bay Caravan Park is located a quick walk from the beach entrance, but you must exit through the front to leave the caravan park (even on foot).  Thus, if you are located far from the entrance (and it is quite a large park), then you may end up walking quite a way to get to the beach.  This may not matter to you if you don't have little kids in tow who will want to be carried.  In this case, you might enjoy being in the back where there would be less caravan park traffic.  The roads are red dirt and do kick up a lot of dust. 

Our first night at the park we got a spot in the back, and as we DO have young children who can't walk too far while remaining blissfully happy, it was not all we'd dreamed the experience would be.  The second day I popped into the office after our trip to Elephant Rocks and asked the lovely receptionist if there was a spot closer to the entrance we could move to for the night.  They put us right up near the front, the nicer bathrooms, the kitchen, and I even managed to get a little wifi access from the office here!  

We were in heaven! 

The camp kitchen only has two grills, which is not near enough for such a high capacity park.  If you want to cook, be sure and get to the grill early! 

Elephant Rocks was so amazing.  I think it was our favorite beach day the whole trip.  We didn't actually play in the sand.  Instead we all climbed over the rocks and boulders to see what we could see.  It felt like an adventurous thing to do with four kids including a 3 and 5 year old.  The views were incredible. 

We stopped at the Denmark Good Food Factory on the way out of town and enjoyed the burgers, the salads, the shop, the cider, and the playground!  There was ice cream too, but we'd already had some incredibly yummy and cool honey ice cream at Bartholomew's Meadery (cutting loose there with dessert before lunch!)

We didn't get a chance to try the fish and chips at Peaceful Bay Caravan Park during this visit, but I know it's very popular!  Make sure you order early before they sell out! 

See Also...
An Overview of Our Trip to SW WA With Kids
A Review of Pemberton Discovery Tours in Pemberton 
An Honest Review of RVing With Kids
A Family Friendly New Years Eve in Perth

While you're here, it'd be neat if you'd pop over to have a peek at my photography portfolio and fine art store

(Kaylin Booker) Elephant Rocks Margaret River Peaceful Bay peaceful bay caravan park Perth southwest Western Australia Western Australia https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/peaceful-bay-caravan-park-and-elephant-rocks-with-kids Tue, 11 Feb 2020 04:38:59 GMT
Where Do I Start? - My Homeschool Curriculum Recs and Reads https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/where-do-i-start---my-homeschool-curriculum-recs-and-reads Great Reads for Deciding to Homeschool and Choosing a Method

The first time I brought up homeschooling to my husband his answer was a hard no.  Homeschoolers are weird.  Only teachers are qualified to teach our kids what they need to know.  And of course, we need to socialize our kids.  

We put our oldest who was four at the time in a preschool of sorts in Australia because that was the socially recognized age to start school in our state.  After two months I was done.  I had to pry him away from his brother every morning to go to school, and in the afternoon they just fought because he was too tired to play anymore.  The kids at school made fun of the seaweed in his lunches, and he asked why he couldn't have sandwiches like the other kids.  There was an active shooter drill one day and I just couldn't take it anymore. 

I had been reading more and more about homeschooling during this time so I handed my husband Susan Wise Bauer's tome on classical education opened to chapter 1, and said, "read this."  He rolled his eyes but stood there in the kitchen and read it.  Then he put it down, looked at me, and said, "Ok let's do it."

You can read most (maybe all) of chapter 1 of The Well Trained Mind here

I LOVE Susan Wise Bauer.  I love her thoughts and experience with classical education (raised homeschooled and homeschooled her 3 now grown kids).  I love her simple, straightforward curriculum that I can embellish as needed with my own creative ideas.  

I have also always been intrigued by the idea of self-led learning, or as some call it "unschooling."  Which is crazy because it's basically the other end of the spectrum from classical education.  We've definitely picked and pulled from all the different methods of teaching children to find just what works best for our kids as leaners and my husband and me as their teachers.  

When it comes to deciding how to homeschool our kids, or choosing a "method", these are the books that resonated with me.  An admittedly unusual combination!  

Curriculum We Love

Right now we are focusing on teaching our children to love to read, to have beautiful handwriting, and to master everyday math.  I think these are the cornerstones for learning and so I push for these things with my kids.  Outside of that we have released them into the world of self-led learning.  

We teach reading using phonics (not sight words/whole language learning).  I can't say enough good things about Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  I've also used it in the past to create word groups for spelling lessons.  Like I said before, Susan Wise Bauer's curriculum is seen as dry to some, but I love having the basics laid out for me and being able to come up with games/activities as needed for each child.  

For Math we love Singapore Math by Primary Mathematics.  It's a base 10 model of math.  You may have seen it referred to on social media as the "new math" driving parents crazy nationwide.  Learning it alongside my children has made me think of numbers and math in a new and totally comprehensible way.  I love love love it.  

We use Handwriting Without Tears- but just the workbooks.  It's perfectly adequate.  

We sometimes read/listen to Story of the World which is a 'living book" take on the entire history of the world.  It's totally cool.  

That's it for now!  Lots of travel, educational programming, museums, play time, creating with a plethora of random office supplies, and reading reading reading (check out my post about reading with Libby!)

See Also...
Why We Homeschool 
Who Are You to Homeschool Your Kids?

While you're here, it'd be neat if you'd pop over to have a peek at my photography portfolio and fine art store

(Kaylin Booker) handwriting without tears homeschool homeschool curriculum homeschool mom homeschooling ordinary parents guide to teaching reading primary mathematics singapore math story of the world susan wise bauer teach reading unschooling well trained mind https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/where-do-i-start---my-homeschool-curriculum-recs-and-reads Tue, 11 Feb 2020 01:38:35 GMT
Who Are You To Teach Your Kids? - My Homeschooling Qualifications https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/who-are-you-to-teach-your-kids---my-homeschooling-qualifications The number one question I get when I tell people we homeschool is, 

"Do you have a teaching degree?"

The short answer to that question is, "no."

No I do not have a degree from an accredited university or a license to teach 20-30 school children in a classroom for 8 hours a day.  Thankfully, I also do not have that grueling job.  

Let's take a moment to praise God for all the men and women out there who are teaching the next generation day in and day out!  I firmly believe teachers are society's greatest asset. 

In fact my mother and my mother-in-law were both public school teachers. 

My mom taught me to read before I went to kindergarten.  

I am, however, a college graduate.  

As is my husband.  In our homeschool he is just as important a part of their education as I am. 

But really, not even that is important for homeschooling.  Anyone, I repeat, ANYONE can homeschool their children.  There are plenty of resources out there to help parents educate their children.

So, instead I'd like to share a little bit about who we are to give you a glimpse of an average American homeschool family. 

I was born and raised in East TX until the age of 15 when my dad, who was in the oil business, was transferred to West Texas.  I was a pretty good kid but not perfect.  

Stephen was raised in Southeast TX. He was an Eagle Scout and preached/led singing regularly in his church growing up.  I think he is pretty perfect. 

After high school I went to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX for a year before joining the Adventures in Missions program through Sunset International Bible Institute which is also in Lubbock.  This is where I met the love of my life.  After studying the Bible as a group of about 60 college aged students for 9 months, we were divided into teams and were sent around the world to work with missionaries.  Stephen went to Mexico City and I was in Strasbourg, France. 

After finishing this program, we quickly married and finished college at Texas Tech.  I finished two years before him and tried out a few jobs while he completed his degree.  Stephen graduated top of his class with honors and went to work straight away for a mega international corporation. 

He's very successful and I think he's super hot when he teaches.  With his job we have lived in five countries outside of the US since our first child was 4 months old.  

Our unique situation gives our children the opportunity to learn about history and geography in a very hands on way.  We could never put them in a classroom for 8 hours a day and make them miss out on all this life happening around them.  

Besides, who would mop my floors for me if they were in school? 


See Also...
Why We Homeschool-Five Big Reasons
Where Do I Start?- My Homeschool Curriculum Recs and Reads

While you're here, it'd be neat if you'd pop over to have a peek at my photography portfolio and fine art store


(Kaylin Booker) homeschool homeschool dad homeschool mom homeschool teacher unschooled unschoolers https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/who-are-you-to-teach-your-kids---my-homeschooling-qualifications Mon, 10 Feb 2020 03:35:14 GMT
Why We Homeschool- Five Big Reasons https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/why-we-homeschool--five-big-reasons When we decided to homeschool, we wrote down our motivations for us to revisit during the challenging days.  Five years later I still have challenging days, but I never need to review this list.  The reasons are now engraved on my heart in the memories we share as a family.  They are the light in my kids' eyes when they learn something new.  They are the sweet sounds of childhood laughter in the middle of the day. 

So now I share these reasons with you all who have no clue why anyone would do this, or those of you who are considering starting your own homeschool journey.

Why We Homeschool- Five Big Reasons

  1. Family Bond

The primary reason we Homeschool is to foster close relationships among our children. Our expat lifestyle magnifies the importance of their friendships with one another.  Each time we shed goodbye tears and leave people we've grown to love, I hope they will find comfort in making those transitions with their best friends always right beside them.

  1. Shelter, Guide and Protect

Especially in these very early years, I want to shelter, guide, and protect my children from the multitude of conflicting ideas that would inevitably be presented to them through friends at school.  Yes I WANT to shelter my 7-year-old from the lyrics of the latest pop song and the viewpoints of teenagers projected through the mouths of their 1st grade siblings.  I want to give them the gift of childhood for a little while longer.  When tough topics do arise, I want to be there to guide them gently and thoughtfully through the process of understanding and personal decision making. 

  1. Socialization

The socialization of my homeschoolers is more broad and complete than the socialization students receive in a classroom with 20 other children of the same age. I can say that with complete confidence. My kids interact with children, babies, adults, teachers, coaches, and elderly persons throughout the week. 

  1. Tailored Education

I can tailor my children's education specifically for them. I can find a teaching model I'm passionate about and teach to each child's individual mind. We move at the child's pace. We have the freedom to dive deeper into any topic that interests them, and slow down when they need more time to grasp an idea.  We can also skip ahead when they pick up something easily rather than making them sit bored waiting for others to catch up. 

  1. Flexibility

Homeschooling provides the flexibility we need as a family that moves and travels. If we have to pack up and move to the other side of the world, our schooling goes with us. We can take some time off, or we can keep on working as we go. Homeschooling can happen anywhere, even on an airplane or in a car.


See Also...
Who Are You to Teach Your Kids?- My Homeschooling Qualifications
Where Do I Start?- My Homeschool Curriculum Recs and Reads

While you're here, it'd be neat if you'd pop over to have a peek at my photography portfolio and fine art store


(Kaylin Booker) expat homeschool homeschool homeschool 101 homeschool kids homeschool manifesto homeschool mantra reasons to homeschool unschool what is homeschool why we homeschool https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/why-we-homeschool--five-big-reasons Mon, 10 Feb 2020 02:23:29 GMT
Libby is for Lovers - The Best App for Helping Your Kids Fall In Love With Books https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/libby-is-for-lovers---the-best-app-for-helping-your-kids-fall-in-love-with-books I have had the Overdrive app for a few years now.  I read constantly on my phone and Overdrive allows me to check out books from our library in Texas (no matter where we live) and send them to my kindle app.  If you have a TX driver license, you can get a Houston Public Library card for free online right here

Ok, so last week I decided I was fed up with buying books for my son only to have him reject them.  

How frustrating! 

In Singapore most of the books are wrapped in plastic in the store.  So it's not like we can go browse the bookstore for the perfect book.  I also have not been impressed with our local library.  

So I pulled out our ancient iPad mini and decided I would set my kid up with his own kindle app and let him check out books from the library to try out.  

But when I opened the Overdrive app on the iPad there was a message.  "Have you tried, Libby?" 

Why no, I had not!

Y'all!  Libby is LEGIT.  They should call her Legit Libby.  Libby is for Lovers.  Libby SAVES LIVES- or at least pocketbooks.  

Libby is an excellent app for browsing books in your library, downloading them, AND reading or listening to them directly in the app. 

Do you know what that means?  That means I can open Libby on the iPad, turn on Guided Access, and confidently walk away knowing he can't do anything else on that iPad.  If you don't already know, guided access comes on all apple devices. Here's how to find it.

Hallelujah!  This is an incredible comfort for mamas in a day and age when children can access all kinds of scary things with screens.  

The best part is that since my son with dyslexia is still reading graphic novels, he can read them in Libby IN FULL COLOR!!! 

These boys will read all day.  Note we only have one iPad so my youngest is reading on my old kindle device which is only in black and white.  Poor deprived child.

(Kaylin Booker) Dyslexia Homeschool Homeschool mom Learn to Read Libby Teaching Reading https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/libby-is-for-lovers---the-best-app-for-helping-your-kids-fall-in-love-with-books Sun, 09 Feb 2020 10:56:28 GMT
Coronavirus in Singapore- Thoughts From an Expat Mom https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/the-coronavirus-in-singapore--thoughts-from-an-expat-mom Sunday 12pm

As of yesterday there are 40 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the city state of Singapore where we've lived for the past 6 months.  We are the country with the highest number of cases outside mainland China excluding Japan, which has a quarantined cruise ship at a port full of people coming down with the virus.  Several countries have cases of the virus that were actually picked up by people who traveled to Singapore. 

Our number of locally transmitted cases is growing and the government is finding it more difficult to trace the sources of infections.  Why is our tiny island being hit so hard?  Three words

Chinese New Year

The week this whole debacle exploded was Chinese New Year which all of you have heard by now is the world's largest annual human migration.  Where do all those people go, you ask?  Why Singapore, of course!  Well, other places as well, but Singapore is a popular destination for Chinese mainlanders all year long.  During Chinese New Year the city is just slammed with tourists.  We experienced this first hand as we had grandparents in town and spent the entire week touring the city with all those Chinese tourists from Wuhan.  

Here we are rubbing elbows with thousands of tourists at Gardens by the Bay.

Riding in close quarters with fellow risk takers like us.  

Hobnobbing with tourists on the busy streets of China Town.  On this day a man walked past my family and spat directly on my son's foot.  I couldn't believe it.  That's illegal here. 

The aquarium on Sentosa island was so packed with tourists that when we got to the end I almost had a claustrophobic panic attack.  This was the day after the very first case of the virus was discovered by a man who spent his time in Singapore on this very island.

Hanging loose with our tourist pals outside the aquarium while we waited for our dinner cruise to board.  

Saying goodbye to gramma and grandpa at one of the most popular hotels in the city.  

Another fun fact is Chinese New Year has a special tradition in Singapore called YuSheng.  Everything in this massive bowl is meant to give you good luck in the new year.  After a preparation ceremony, everyone tosses the ingredients with enormous chop sticks.  The higher you toss, the more luck you get!  Then you all help yourselves to this seriously yummy food from the same bowl.  

The perfect way to share luck and the coronavirus during CNY.  

One case of local transmission came out a few days ago in which the man had shared a meal of YuSheng with 20 of his coworkers on the day he first noticed slight symptoms.  Recovering from Wuhan together will also be a memorable team building activity.  

Friday the government of Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System warning level from yellow to orange due to increased local transmission cases.  

As a result, residents suffering from heightened levels of kiasu ran to the stores and bought up all the supplies.  Most notably absent from grocery shelves that afternoon were rice, instant noodles, and toilet paper.  This meme made us giggle.  


The government and grocery store spokespersons quickly addressed the public begging them not to panic.  After all, we are an island 100% dependent on resources from other countries anyway.  Supply chains are intact and excellent.  We aren't going to run out of supplies.  The next morning everything was stocked again as normal, but that didn't stop the chaos. A friend shared she had to wait two hours for a few necessary items, and admittedly a few extra bags of chips.  

What's my take on all this?  

Well, we thought about going home.  Not because I'm afraid of dying from the coronavirus.  It's a fairly mild virus and we are all young and healthy.  I am, however, wary of living on a tiny island through the chaos of a pandemic.  After discussing our options, we've decided to stay for now.  We are going to hunker down at home, drop all our extra curricular activities except private swim lessons in a nearby pool, and visit only parks until this blows over.  We are a homeschool family so we are blessed to be able to avoid all crowds with our kids.  

Like I said, I'm not afraid of this virus, but I certainly don't want to exacerbate the problem by adding 6 more to the infection tally.  And frankly as one of two adults responsible for 4 little children in a country far away from our support system, I don't want to get this or any other virus.  

I am, however, very worried about the people in Wuhan China who are dealing with total and complete insanity as a result of this outbreak. I pray for their sweet hearts as they try to get through.  I hope if any of them read this blog they know they have not been forgotten.  

Stay well, everyone.  

(Kaylin Booker) Coronavirus Coronavirus Kids Coronavirus Singapore Expat Singapore Wuhan Wuhan Singapore Wuhan with kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/the-coronavirus-in-singapore--thoughts-from-an-expat-mom Sun, 09 Feb 2020 04:53:24 GMT
RV Trip With 4 Kids- An Honest Review https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/rv-trip-with-4-kids--an-honest-review If you're considering taking your family on a long RV trip, and you're wondering if even the thought means you're a little bit crazy, have no fear!  You're not alone! 

Notice I didn't say you're not crazy ;) 

Luckily for you I have just recovered from a 17 day RV trip with my husband and four young children (3,5,7 and 9) and I'm going to tell you everything I learned. 

Our trip was from Singapore, where we currently live, to Perth, Australia.  We rented a campervan and drove it down and around SW WA.  For a complete overview of our journey, please visit my previous post here.  

Quick Answers: Would I go back and do this trip again?  Yes absolutely.  Would I plan another trip just like this one in the future?  No I would not, and here's why.  

I loved our campervan explorations for 12 days.  On day 13 I got a little weary of jumping directly from sandy beaches into the room where we slept.  I was over packing up a bed, locking up all our loose items, and re-installing car seats in order to drive to whatever activity we had planned for the day.  I was still having fun, but the fun was no longer completely overshadowing all that work nor the yuck factor of sleeping in a perpetually sandy bed.  There were moments when I would have paid someone a lot of money to exchange the RV life for Airbnb and rental car life for the last 4 days.  

I'm fairly certain that one thing could have solved all my woes: a trailer RV thingy (I don't claim to be an expert, y'all).  Simply being able to detach a truck from our little house would have been excellent.  No packing up every day.  No searching for RV parking in small towns or parking lots. And there would have been at least one barrier between the beach and my bed.  I'd much rather leave all that sand on the floor of a car than on the floor of my bedroom.  

I guess I won't know until we try it again, likely with our own trailer since I'm not sure you can rent those, if that would have been the perfect vacation.  Part of me still thinks Airbnb hopping would have been more relaxing.  But, I will say that there's a certain novelty and closeness in the experience of living out of an RV.  We cooked a lot of meals in RV park camp kitchens surrounded by other very diverse and friendly campers.  We fell asleep every night at the same very early hour, and woke up every morning also at an early hour.  There's something to be said about stepping out into fresh morning air just minutes after you open your eyes for the day and hearing the birds chirping in the trees.  

The kids also really enjoyed watching my husband empty the "pee pee tank." 

In an RV, as opposed to a rental house, I couldn't escape my kids.  I was surprised to find that I never wanted to, whereas normally at home I need a few minutes of "mommy time" in a quiet room.  We really enjoyed our time together on this trip.  That could be because I had my husband along for the whole ride and normally it's just me managing our little monkeys all day long.  But It was also just sweet, and fun to be so close and relax into each other for a while.  

I think everyone who is interested in RVing with their family should give it a go at least once.  After that you can make adjustments for future travels.  Just remember to enjoy the time you have while you're making mental notes for how to do it better next time! 

Quick Tips:
-Pack or buy on arrival a good floor mat to wipe feet on when you get in the RV.  
-Make sure your toiletries/shower bag is made of wipeable fabric.  
-Bring plenty of clothes pins for drying your clothes! 
-Resign yourself to lots of sunscreening.  This is going to need to happen constantly.  Try not to let it get you down. 
-Pack Clorox wipes for the floors/bathroom/counters.  You're going to want to clean things up often! 
-Establish rules from the get go with your kids about taking shoes off before you get in the RV and wiping feet before climbing into beds. I'm telling y'all, the sand really got to me!
-Plan your stops ahead of time (don't listen to your husband if he says that's not necessary) 
-Have fun!


See Also...
An Overview of Our Trip to SW WA With Kids
A Review of Pemberton Discovery Tours in Pemberton 
Peaceful Bay and Elephant Rocks
A Family Friendly New Years Eve in Perth

While you're here, it'd be neat if you'd pop over to have a peek at my photography portfolio and fine art store


(Kaylin Booker) Britz campervan campervan campervan with kids expat kids expat mom full time travel life" pee pee tank Perth with kids rv family rv life rv travel RV with kids singapore kid vacations southwest Western Australia vacations from singapore vacations from singapore with kids Western Australia Western Australia with kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/rv-trip-with-4-kids--an-honest-review Sat, 08 Feb 2020 06:26:16 GMT
Perth New Years Eve With Kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/perth-new-years-eve-with-kids Visit this post for an overview of our Perth campervan vacation with kids from Singapore! 

Through a series of what we later came to realize were fortunate events, we found ourselves staying in a Perth hotel in the Northbridge area with our four kids on New Years Eve 2020.  Adina Hotel was clean and had plenty of room for all of us to be comfortable. I'm not sure all that space was necessary for one night, but I wanted a living room where we could escape from sleeping babies in case some of us decided to stay up until midnight.  

We did not stay up until midnight, though, because a short walk down the street we found Perth's really fun, small town feeling New Year's Eve program for families in Yagan Square.  Apparently this was the first year they had these activities and so possibly that's why there was a nice sized but manageable crowd there that evening.  Maybe Perth really is that small?  Either way, we really enjoyed ourselves!  There were entertainers, bubbles, magic tricks (for all to try!), balloon animals, a princess on stilts, and so much more!  

We LOVED the feel of this area of Perth.  Honestly, it's the only area we saw.  Still, it was lovely, fun, family friendly, and totally walkable.  Our dinner at Hunter and Barrel was seriously delicious.  Our oldest had kangaroo on a skewer and I absolutely loved my pumpkin salad.  I love Aussie salads so so much. 

The best part of the evening was the 9pm countdown for kids!  I thought it might feel lame, but it genuinely was just as exciting and fun as waiting until midnight.  I guess when you've lived all over the world time becomes a bit relative ;) 

See Also...
An Overview of Our Trip to SW WA With Kids
A Review of Pemberton Discovery Tours in Pemberton 
An Honest Review of RVing With Kids
Peaceful Bay and Elephant Rocks

While you're here, it'd be neat if you'd pop over to have a peek at my photography portfolio and fine art store


(Kaylin Booker) perth perth australia perth new years eve with kids wa nye western australia new years eve yagan square https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/2/perth-new-years-eve-with-kids Fri, 07 Feb 2020 11:15:20 GMT
Pemberton Discovery Tours https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/1/pemberton-discovery-tours We recently took a 17 day tour of Southwest Western Australia in a campervan with our four young children.  You can find an overview of our travels here.

We enjoyed a 5 night stay in Pemberton, a forested region of SW WA with natural pools, vineyard, breweries, sand dunes, beaches and famous climbing trees.  If we had to shorten our stay there are two things we would be absolutely sure not to miss.  Those two things are Windy Harbour by way of the Northcliffe art walk including a drive along the D'Entrecasteaux lookout points, and the incredibly awe inspiring Beach and Forest Eco Adventure with Pemberton Discovery Tours.

The first thing my husband said to me when I started planning this trip was, "I don't want to do any tours."  Unlike our Western Mediterranean cruise six months before where we arranged tours for all of our days on land, he wanted  this trip to be more about nature and discovery.  I totally agreed, but when I looked into things to do in Pemberton, I realized we would miss out on so much due to our lack of a 4WD.  So I booked the tour and boy am I glad we did this!

Pemberton Discovery Tours is run by a husband and wife who have been guiding these tours for over 20 years.  I think it's safe to say they know the area!  Graeme was an excellent guide.  He was very knowledgeable about the history and flora and fauna of the area.  I don't think there was one question he could not answer- and we asked a lot of questions!  Also, I'm normally nervous riding in cars on rough terrain, but he was an excellent and confident driver.  We felt completely safe the whole time. 

Our kids were absolutely amazed by the sand dunes.  They kept asking "what is a sand dune?"  "Is it on the beach?" "Is it big?" You know how kids are with their twenty (thousand) questions.  When Graeme drove up onto that first dune the kids were awestruck.  Their reactions were priceless! 

After a stroll through the Karri trees and romping around the sand dunes, Graeme took us out to see where a river meets the ocean.  Once again it was just beautiful, magical, all the things.  This tour fits its name so well because it really was about discovery. 

A few details for the parents: There are bathroom facilities along the way and a picnic lunch is provided on the way back.  Car seats were ready and waiting for my kids when we arrived and they even knew the correct way to install them!  

See Also...
An Overview of Our Trip to SW WA With Kids
An Honest Review of RVing With Kids
Peaceful Bay and Elephant Rocks
A Family Friendly New Years Eve in Perth

While you're here, it'd be neat if you'd pop over to have a peek at my photography portfolio and fine art store


(Kaylin Booker) D'Entrecasteaux National Park Family Travel Karri Tree Pemberton Pemberton Discovery Tours Sand Dunes Singapore Family Travel Singapore Travel Southwest Western Australia Travel Destinations from Singapore WA Western Australia Yeagarup https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/1/pemberton-discovery-tours Wed, 29 Jan 2020 12:00:03 GMT
Southwest Western Australia from Singapore with Kids! https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/1/southwest-western-australia-from-singapore-with-kids On the eve of the first day of 2020 we boarded an airplane in Singapore headed for Perth, Western Australia.  We spent the following 16 days exploring Southwest Western Australia in a "campervan" (RV). I am going to make a series of posts detailing the various things we did and saw on this truly amazing vacation, along with my thoughts on traveling in a campervan with four young children.  But first I would like to give you a broad overview/summary of our entire vacation. 

Day 1: Perth
      Mid day- Travel to Perth
      Hotel- Adina Apartment Hotel Perth Barrack Plaza (excellent location and overall accommodation!)
      Dinner- Hunter & Barrel Raine Square (super yummy and close to Yagan Square)
      Activity- New Year's Eve Northbridge family friendly stage and events (awesome)

Day 2: Rottnest Island
      Ferry Company- Rottnest Express from Barrack Street (river cruise and ferry service to Rottnest)
      Lunch- Rottnest Bakery (good for a quick bite)
      Beach- Just North of the Rottnest Island Ferry Jetty (just fine for one mom and four kids without a stroller)
      Ice Cream- Simmos of course! 
      Clean Up Before Ferry Back: Rottnest Public Toilet behind Dome Cafe
      RV Rental: Britz Campervan Rentals (pretty good)
      RV Park: Bunbury Riverside Cabins Caravan and Camping (very clean, new, neat and tidy facilities with pool and bounce pillow)

Day 3: Busselton
      Breakfast/Coffee: Bunbury Farmer's Market (so so so amazing)
      Activity: We spent this day with friends in their home a block from the gorgeous beach in Busselton

Day 4: Bunbury-Nannup
      Activity: Dolphin Discovery Centre Bunbury early morning live dolphin experience (magical)
      Lunch: Brewery along the way that I've forgotten the name of
      RV Park: Nannup Caravan Park (good facilities and great walking trail nearby)

Day 5: Nannup-Pemberton
      Breakfast/Coffee: Melo Velo next door to Nannup Caravan Park (very good)
      Activity: Nannup Lavender Farm (good for a little stop but not yet a must see)
      Activity: Beedelup Falls (cool walk with little suspension bridge)
      Lunch: Jarrah Jacks and their slippery hill! (a must do/see/eat in Pemberton)
      RV Park: Pemberton RV Park (walking distance to Pemberton Pool and average-good facilities)

Day 6: Manjimup Day Trip
      Breakfast/Coffee/Free Wifi: Crossings Bakery/Source Cafe
      Activity & Lunch: Manjimup Heritage Park (great playground, cafe, and 3 museums!)
      Activity: Fonty's Pool (good stop if you have nothing else to do) 

Day 7: Laundry Day in Pemberton
      Dinner: Pemberton Hotel (normal Aussie hotel restaurant)

Day 8: Yeagarup Dunes
      Activity: Pemberton Discovery Tours 4WD tour (an absolute must when in Pemberton!)

Day 9: Northcliffe
      Activity: Art Walk (surprisingly fun stop with the kids)
      Activity: Windy Harbour (nice little cove with a penguin sighting!)
      Activity: D'entrecasteaux National Park Lookout Points (such a great drive!) 

Day 10: Pemberton- Peaceful Bay
      Activity: Gloucester Tree (scary climb but worth it if you're brave!)
      RV Park: Peaceful Bay RV Park (good if you get a spot close to the entrance)
      Activity: Evening on the beach in Peaceful Bay (beautiful) 

Day 11: Elephant Rocks
      Activity: Elephant Rocks mostly with a glimpse of Greens Pool along the way (amazing amazing amazing)

Day 12: Peaceful Bay - Margaret River
      Activity: Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and Museum (a little out of the way but worth it)
      RV Park: RAC Margaret River Nature Park (Nice but very dusty)

Day 13:Amaze'n Park 
      Activity: Amaze'n Park (fun if you have a free day)
      Lunch: Colonial Brewing Company (great food and shaded playground!)

Day 14: Hamlin Bay & Jewel Cave
       Activity: Hamlin Bay (pristine beach with sting rays)
       Activity: Jewel Cave (perfect with little kids)
       Lunch: The Berry Farm (lovely little place with great playgrounds and lots of Blue Wrens!)

Day 15: Injinup Spa
       Activity: Injinup Spa (an absolute must but time it to avoid crowds)
       Lunch/Ice Cream: Simmos (the original!) 
       RV Park: Busselton Jetty RV Park (we lucked out and got a spot and it was just the absolute best RV Park!)

Day 16: Busselton
       Activity: Busselton Jetty and Underwater Observatory (You can NOT go to WA and not see this)
       Lunch/Dinner: The Goose Beach Bar and Kitchen (best and maybe only restaurant on the beach
       Activity: Beach, Beach Playground all near the jetty

Day 17: Busselton-Perth
       Activity: Return Campervan and wait out the time until our flight at Lollipops Playland and Cafe (fine)


See Also...
A Review of Pemberton Discovery Tours in Pemberton 
An Honest Review of RVing With Kids
Peaceful Bay and Elephant Rocks
A Family Friendly New Years Eve in Perth

While you're here, it'd be neat if you'd pop over to have a peek at my photography portfolio and fine art store


(Kaylin Booker) Britz campervan campervan campervan with kids expat kids expat mom expat travel Perth Australia single parent travel southwest Western Australia travel with kids vacation from singapore Western Australia https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2020/1/southwest-western-australia-from-singapore-with-kids Wed, 29 Jan 2020 10:05:35 GMT
Paris in the Rain https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2019/7/paris-in-the-rain At the end of September 2018 the kids and I took a train to Paris.  We had the clothes we were wearing, a change of clothes, and a pair of pajamas each in the back pack on my stroller (gb pockit stroller-best EVER).  We had train and airbnb reservations for a week in Paris and a few days in Lille, France.  

I knew that being the sole adult responsible for four tiny humans was going to be a HUGE responsibility.  I didn't want a ton of luggage on top of that.  So, every night I would wash our quick dry clothes in the washing machine at our airbnb and hang them to dry.  Pajamas were not washed every night.  I bought the diapers I needed as we went.  This actually worked out really well for this longer trip.  Nine months later we went for just 4 nights to London and I packed clothes for each day since I knew I could carry it on all on my back in a bigger pack. 

This was our first trip after landing in Europe and getting adjusted to jet lag.  It was HARD.  Y'all, it was so hard.  I speak French and I lived in France for a year when I was 20.  I thought the trip would be a cake walk.  But what I didn't account for was the fact that my four young children had NEVER (really) been on public transportation, NEVER (really) been in a country that spoke a foreign language, and never traveled without two adults to cater to their every need.  In fact, even after the trip I found life in Europe difficult.  I will never forget lying in my bed feeling bewildered by how much I was yelling at my children.  I did not have trouble being a mom of four in Texas, but being a mom of four in Europe was killing me slowly.  

By the end of our time in Europe the kids and I had it figured out.  We'd all learned how to travel together.  We'd grown to be patient and more graceful with each other.  Most importantly, Baby J wasn't taking her clothes off in train stations anymore and that was a HUGE help.  

Another thing I learned from this trip was that it is WORTH it to pay $$$ for whatever you need to not-lose-your-ever-loving-mind. Thankfully I have an incredible husband who agrees!  After arriving in Paris and realizing that I actually am not superwoman and cannot carry two toddlers, a folded stroller (no matter how amazing), and a backpack up all the many broken escalators of the Paris metro, I found the first available cab company with car seats to take us to all our remaining sites for the rest of the week.  Thank goodness I speak French and could (mostly) communicate with this cab company because they didn't speak a lick of English.  At one point we had a miscommunication because I was saying "Wait, wait wait!" and they heard, "oui oui oui!" Y'all, lol.  It was a mess, but it could have been so much worse.  

It rained at the Eiffel Tower and the line was long and we couldn't see a thing.  But the kids still talk about the Eiffel Tower ALL. THE. TIME.  Who cares if I or even they had fun?  They remember it and their world view was EXPANDED.  Praise the Lord for the selective memories of children.  Can I get an AMEN?

I planned in "days of rest" for our trip.  Below are some photos from our "days of rest."  I'm using quotes because MY KIDS ARE CRAZY.  Keeping them from completely destroying our AIRBNB during these days was NOT restful at all! lol 

We visited the Chateau de Versailles.  I got a golf cart to drive around and that was great, but the kids' favorite part as the wheel chair ramp off in the corner of the gardens.  Because, kids are just like that. 

Also, my toddler threw a fit in one of the halls of the Chateau de Versailles and I plan to never. let. her. forget. it. 

Our best day was at the Jardins de Luxembourg.  It was seriously just the best way to spend a day with 4 young kids.  But even that day ended with a kid puking in the rented car seat of the luxury van we'd hired to drive us home.  No perfect days on this trip, people.  

I've probably skipped a few days here, but oh well.  We took the train to Lille at the end of our trip and stayed in this TINY apartment.  It was adorable.  There was no washing machine so I made the kids stomp on their clothes in the bathtub and we smelled not-so-adorable for the remainder of our trip.  

We don't have a TV and I rarely let the children watch shows on my computer.  We watched a LOT of TV on this trip.  The kids watched so many French cartoons.  One day they watched 8 hours.  It was their job that day.  Whatever.  I was tired.  


Lille was great.  We went to their little zoo and their little amusement park which had the best rides for kids their ages.  We had a great time.  But I changed our tickets to go home a day early and left our airbnb with a night paid for that we never used because I WAS SO DONE WITH THIS TRIP!  

I didn't exactly cry when Books picked us up at the train station, but I might have screamed with joy. 

(Kaylin Booker) https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2019/7/paris-in-the-rain Sun, 07 Jul 2019 15:58:49 GMT
Efteling- A Fairytale Adventure https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2019/7/efteling--a-fairytale-adventure Friday morning I realized we were about to leave the Netherlands and had not been to Efteling, which many had described to me as the Dutch Disneyland (it's much better!).  I considered going for the day as it's only a 50min drive from our house, but ended up booking us a night in their Holiday Village which included Friday and Saturday's entry into the park.  We threw some clothes in a bag and off went.  

The drive was super easy.  I've driven 50min in Houston traffic before so this was cake.  In no time we were pulling up in front of the pretty magical entrance to our Efteling holiday village- Bosrijk.  

My expectations for the accommodations were pretty low, so I was really impressed by what we found.  I paid an extra 25 euros to choose our location within the village and got a great spot close to the reception and restaurant as well as the parking lot and "train" stop which taxied guests to the park.

Calvin was still pretending to be sad about our trip at this point.  He'd wanted to go back to Plaswijk park in Rotterdam for the day but I vetoed that idea. As my children are super spoiled with adventures, he had the incredible privilege of sulking over our trip to the largest amusement park in the Netherlands.  Wait for it.  You'll see his smile pretty soon :) 

The little train saves you a 10 min walk to the park which isn't so bad.  It's a paved footpath that meanders through a little forest.  But I heard there would be a lot of walking inside the park, so we opted to hop on the train which came by our holiday house every 30 min.  

The entrance to Efteling is interesting. 

I took this photo on the last day as we were leaving in case you're curious about the outfit changes. 

Efteling is not trying to grab your money at every corner, but the first thing inside the park is a little store and I wanted the kids to get in the spirit of the park.  So of course I dressed my little dolls up.  Calvin's shirt has a little cape on the back and Oliver got a little wizard's necklace. 

I photoshopped this little map below of the park to point out to you two of my favorite rides; Symbolica and Droomvlucht.  Do you see the little pink circles and yellow highlighted names?  These rides are 100% family friendly and just completely magical.  They can both have very long waits, but we managed to get in to Symbolica first thing with only a 5 minute wait.  The next day we road Droomvlucht and the "20 min" line moved quick and no one complained.  It was totally worth it.  

It's too dark to take photos inside that really show you how magical it is, so you'll just have to trust me.  Don't miss these rides! 

Each little section of the park has rides for all ages, so whatever path you choose you will find something fun to do.  The Efteling app was super helpful for knowing where we were going and what we were going to find when we got there.  There is a lot of walking in this park so make sure you bring your stroller and carriers and all the things you'll need for that.  My 6 and 8 year old never complained.  The 4 year old needed a piggy back ride a couple of times, and the baby was in our stroller the whole time.  

The trash cans are even fun! 

There is a train that goes from the north west side of the park to the south east side.  They may put up a fuss about you taking your stroller on even folded up.  Luckily, we have the smallest profile stroller on the market (GB Pockit stroller- $150 on amazon) and no one said a word when I quietly tucked it under our seat on the train.  

One last thing I want to mention about the Bosrijk holiday village is that the menu had veggies and dip for kids' appetizers for dinner, and the buffet breakfast, while expensive, was seriously really good.  They even had little characters come visit us during meals.  Super fun for them. 

We had a fantastic time at Efteling and I really do recommend you guys take a day or two to see this park with your kids if you get the chance.  

(Kaylin Booker) Bosrijk village droomvlucht Dutch Disneyland Efteling Efteling English Efteling tips Efteling with four kids Efteling with kids Efteling with older kids Efteling with preschoolers Efteling with toddlers gb Pockit stroller must see Netherlands Netherlands with kids single parent travel stay Efteling Symbolica travel with kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2019/7/efteling--a-fairytale-adventure Sun, 07 Jul 2019 07:19:10 GMT
A Western Mediterranean Cruise With Kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2019/6/a-western-mediterranean-cruise-with-kids As a child I went on a couple of cruises that I enjoyed, but as an adult cruising has not appealed to me at all.  If it ever crossed my mind, I always just dismissed it as not the way I liked to travel.  

But in April we found ourselves faced with a first world dilemma.  Our time in the Netherlands as expats was quickly coming to a close and all we’d really seen was, well, a heckuva lot of the Netherlands.  We wanted to see more of Europe with our kids while we had the opportunity to do so free of jet lag.  

Cruising was so not an option in my mind that when it dawned on me it would be the easiest way to see several countries in one go without a ton of packing and repacking for six people, it was as if I had single handedly discovered cruising as a method of travel.  It was an “ah-ha” moment of epic proportions.  I texted all my friends, called all our parents, told everyone I saw- have you ever considered a CRUISE?!!  

A month later we boarded our first ever cruise as a family, and we had the.  best.  time.  We saw Barcelona, Pompeii, Naples, Rome, Pisa, Cannes, and Palma Mallorca sleeping every night in the same rooms aboard the Norwegian Epic   

I knew how stressful traveling with four young kids could be, so I researched and meticulously planned every day to ensure we had the fewest possible hiccups on our vacation.

Day 1
Fly Amsterdam-Barcelona

Despite my careful planning, our trip immediately began with a few “hiccups.”  Firstly, our chauffeur didn’t show to take us to the airport.  Our van here is small and doesn’t normally fit all of us an our luggage.  But, in a stroke of luck, we’d randomly decided to pack in these large, soft duffle bags.  When we realized the cab wasn’t coming, we were able to just barely squeeze all of us and our two huge bags into our van and drive ourselves to the airport in Amsterdam- a 40 minute drive.  

At check in, Books asked if I’d remembered to grab the booster seats.  I had not.  As we were going through security and finding our gate, I quickly contacted all our tour guide and pre-booked cabs and asked them to bring the necessary car seats.  

Once we were inside the terminal sipping on some much needed coffee, I realized I’d left my printed pack of tickets and itineraries at home!  I had a moment of panic before Stephen pointed out that we live in the digital age and nothing actually needed to be printed.  

At this point I felt all kind of flustered.  I’d planned this trip to a T!  How could everything have fallen apart so quickly?!

We did the only thing we could do.  We kept our chins up and pressed on.  We ended up having more fun than I ever dared hope we could have.  

Once in Barcelona we checked google maps for a well rated restaurant called near our hotel called La Porca and ended up having some of the most incredible Spanish/Mexican/Mediterranean fusion tapas for dinner.  I remember it as being the most to-die-for food I’d ever tasted.  Books said it was good, but I probably enjoyed it more because it was my first real big meal after six weeks of dieting.  He may have had a point! 

Day 2
Hike to a Castle and Embark the Norwegian Epic

When embarking on a cruise, you generally have two options.  Be there early and wait a bit so that you’re the first ones on the cruise, or show up after the crowds have come through so you can walk right on the boat.  Seeing as how we were traveling with eight very impatient little feet, we went with option 2.  

This left us with approximately 8 hours to kill from the time our children woke up until our cab was scheduled to pick us up and drive us to the boat.  So, what did we decide to do?  We hiked up a mountain of course!  

Admittedly, I had no idea our walk to this playground in Jardins de Joan Brossa would actually involve scaling the side of a mountain.  If I had known this, I probably wouldn’t have brought the stroller.

While difficult, it was a nice way to burn off the tapas calories from the night before, the early morning weather was cool and sunny, and the views from the mountainside trail were quite spectacular.  

  We played for a while at this playground until it was time to get in line for the cable car, Teleferic de Montjuic, that ascended the remainder of the mountain to an old castle/fortress.  We waited about 15 min in line for it to open up and got right into a cable car.  The views up the mountain were so incredible!  

At the top we walked around the Montjuic Castle, had a snack break at a little cafe inside, and learned a lot about this history of Catalonia from the little museum rooms inside.  From the rooftop we saw our ship docked in the bay and got very excited about heading back down the mountain to get on our cruise! 

We opted to walk back down instead of taking the cable car.  We followed a beautiful little winding path through a park.  The foliage was beautiful and there were little play areas along the way.  At one point we stopped at a hillside slide and Oliver took a couple of rides down.  It was too fast for the other kids.  

By noon it was hot and we were very glad we’d climbed up the mountain early that morning when it was still cool.  We had another meal of tapas before grabbing our bags at the hotel and hopping into the cab for the short drive to the cruise port.  
When we turned into the cruise port and saw our ship, J yelled out in her precious adorable baby voice, “I so cited!!!”

After a quick security check and registration, we walked right on to the boat without ever waiting in a line.  The rooms were already open so we carried our bags straight up and unpacked our things before the emergency drill and dinner.  

We spent our first evening trying to convince baby J that we were already on the boat.  She couldn’t believe we’d actually boarded a ship unless she was on our balcony! 

Day 3
At Sea

Our first day on board was our only day spent entirely at sea.  It was perfect because the kids really wanted to explore the ship!  The Norwegian Epic has excellent amenities for kids.  There was a rock wall, arcades, pools, the longest water slid at sea, a kids club, and more.  We generally do not let our children have screens to play on.  We don't have a television in our home.  So when we told the boys we'd purchased them each an arcade pass, they thought they'd died and gone to heaven! 

Day 4
Pompeii & Naples

We homeschool our children and so the week before the cruise we spent a lot of time watching documentaries on youtube about the places we planned to visit on our cruise.  It was raining heavily the morning our chauffeured van picked us up and drove us out to Pompeii.  

The crowds were very thick inside and at times we were just drenched with rain.  But our private kid-friendly tour guide was AMAZING.  We told her at the beginning to speak mostly to our 8-year-old as he was the one who would interact and remember the most.  He dazzled her with his knowledge of what happened at Pompeii and learned even more listening to her engaging discussions.  It was completely worth being soaked to the skin and surrounded by dozens of tour groups to see and learn more about this fascinating historical site.  

After the tour, our driver picked us up and took us to a pizza restaurant he recommended on the mountain of Vesuvius (the mountain that erupted and buried Pompeii).  Naples is where pizza is said to have been invented, and we devoured every bite of ours!  

The tour was then supposed to go on to a short hike to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, but the weather was so bad on the mountain that there was zero visibility and it was not worth the walk.  So, our drive improvised and took us on a short driving tour of Naples which was by this point enjoying beautiful sunny weather.  He then dropped us off at a little castle on the sea and we took a little look around before heading back to the cruise ship. 

Day 5

The highlight of our trip was, of course, Rome!  This trip aligned perfectly with our place in the book Story of the World Volume 1 as we had just finished studying Rome!  Incidentally, everywhere we went on this vacation was once part of the Roman Empire!  The van picked us up at the port and drove us 1.5 hours to the city where we had a quick snack before our golf cart tour picked us up! 

This tour was SO so fun.  It was a fantastic way to see the inner city of Rome and I only wish I had booked it for longer than 3 hours.  Our tour guide parked the cart a block away from the Pantheon and walked us to see it.  On our way we walked passed a building that sounded like it held a gym where kids were playing basketball.  He pointed at the building and said, "That's my high school."  My jaw hit the cobblestone street.  Talk about a local tour guide!  He was way cool and we just love love loved this tour!  

Actual real life archeologists in action!

All of our kid-friendly guides had these awesome books for each location that show a photo of the historical sites as they look today, and then had a transparent page that you could lay over the photo that showed how the site looked in earlier times.  

This little church near the Pantheon is the Santa Maria Maddalena church which has these super innovative ceiling paintings.  They create optical illusions that make the ceiling look more domed than it actually is.  Such a cool quick stop and worth popping into if you're near the Pantheon.  And these paintings were done, like, a really long time ago.  How's that for accurate info?  

The next part of our golf cart tour was the absolute best.  Gelato recommended by a true local guide.  It was so creamy.  So amazing.  So EVERYTHING.  We would totally go back to Rome again just to have this gelato.  I am ruined for life to all other "gelatos."  Giolitti 

Here are a few photos from the rest of our tour.

The Trevi Fountain was so crowded!! 

The golf cart dropped us off at a restaurant near the Colosseum called La Taverna dei Quaranta
which I found through a foodie blog.  Our guide confirmed it was a good local place and complimented our kids for a good tip before driving away. 

We liked it a little bit (ok maybe a lot). Roman pizza is actually said to be a bit different from Naples pizza.  I think it was thinner? 

After lunch we met our kid friendly tour guide for the Colosseum and Roman forum 

Claudia was excellent!  We really enjoyed our time visiting these sites. Baby J and Sister A began to get a bit tired during this part of our day, but they hung in there well with a little help from Books.  

I forgot to mention that our golf cart tour guide gave us some time in a little toy shop where we bought the kids each a little toy to encourage them to keep going on our busy day.  Later that night Big Brother used his Pinocchio puppet for some parental abuse! 

Day 5

After two very full days of site seeing, we planned just a half day excursion to Pisa.  We slept in (sort of) and spent the morning relaxing.  I even got in on some of the arcade action.  It was nice.  

Our driver was born and raised IN Pisa and was super sweet.  We got the obligatory pictures and visited a bit of the river area and downtown before hitting up a playground near some ancient ruins of some sort.  Tuscany is so beautiful.  

Day 6

I planned nothing for Cannes because the ship anchors out at sea and you take little boat thingies to shore right in the middle of the main boardwalk area.  We did some swimming, ate at a fancy restaurant and walked back to the boat to get ready for a special evening on the boat. 

We spent a little bit of time relaxing from our beach day in the sun. 

At 6:30 we went to the dinner theatre room on board for dinner and a circus show.  It was INCREDIBLE!  Honestly, it was completely worth setting aside a night to stay up a little late for this.  We were all amazed! 


Day 7
Afternoon in Palma Mallorca

Our final day of the cruise was a half day spent in Palma Mallorca. I originally planned to let the kids stay on board the ship as I knew nothing about this Spanish island and didn't know that it would be worth it to get off.  But we were having such a great time on all of our excursions, that I booked a private boat charter last minute.  Our boat guide turned out to be Australian, which was fun for us as we lived in Australia once upon a time.  I think this was the day most enjoyed by everyone in our family as it was beautiful and relaxing.  I highly recommend booking directly through Lee for a tour of the island if you ever find yourself in Palma 

. This was the perfect way to spend our final day on our cruise.  Our kids returned to the ship that evening so happy and full of energy.  It is such a beautiful memory. 

Day 8 & 9
Disembark Norwegian Epic, Casa Batllo, Mosaiccos, and Fly Home 

I'm almost out of space for this blog post!  So I'm going to combine days 8 and 9.  We spent 2 nights in Barcelona following our cruise.  The highlight of our time in Barcelona was our early access pass into the Gaudi designed and built Casa Batllo followed by a 1 hour mosaics class for the kids at Mosaiccos  

We had a spectacular trip!  Thanks for reading! 

(Kaylin Booker) Barcelona with kids Cannes with kids casa batllo with kids colosseum with kids cruise with kids epic Europe with kids France with kids Italy with kids Livorno Naples with kids Norwegian cruise lines Norwegian epic Palma Mallorca with kids pisa with kids Pompeii with kids roman forum with kids rome rome golf cart tour rome with kids south of France Spain with kids travel mama travel with kids vacation with kids Viator western Mediterranean cruise with kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2019/6/a-western-mediterranean-cruise-with-kids Sat, 22 Jun 2019 15:39:31 GMT
London With Kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2019/6/london-with-kids This week I took the children to London for three full days.  We stayed in a somewhat suspect airbnb near Waterloo Station as we'd just come off a cruise and couldn't really splurge on anything too nice.  It was actually a convenient area to stay, even if the front door had only a flimsy lock and the neighborhood seemed a little sketch (shhh don't tell my mom). 

Day 1-Monday Afternoon
Train from Rotterdam-London
Any truly decent International vacation as the only adult responsible for four young children should, of course, begin with an abundance of sugar and shoe shopping at the train station. Because what is a 4 hour train trip including a changeover in Brussels without sugar highs, sugar crashes, and extra, unnecessary baggage?

Two little girls already tired on the way to the train station.

Cookies n Cream Brownies because mommy isn't allowed to buy coffee without getting the kids a snack. 

We had an hour before our train left so the girls ended up with new shoes- Well played Rotterdam Centraal Station.  Well played. 
Hour 1- So fresh.  So full of patience.
During our train change in Brussels I stopped to get us these crazy expensive (and delicious) vegetarian Thai wraps for dinner.  Turns out doing so almost made us miss our train.  We were herded through security (I didn't know there would be security...) by a few scornful train station personnel only to arrive in our fancy seats and discover that our tickets included a hot meal.  This poor, delicious, $12 Thai wrap ended up in the trash can when my kids opted for train food.  

The scenery was gorgeous!  

We arrived in London at 6:30pm.  An hour later, with prayers that the front door lock would hold up against a boogie man sneezing down the hallway, we snuggled up in our beds and fell fast asleep, eventually. 

Day 2- Tuesday 
Changing of the Guards, Tower of London & a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Themed High Tea

Sam, our tour guide with British Tours, picked us up at our Airbnb (with a little bit of dismay at our chosen location) and took us to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace.  Like any good, true, London tour guide, he did not take us to the palace to wait with the crowds.  No, he took us to the warm up locations of both regiments and had us RUN ALONGSIDE them as they marched towards the palace for the ceremony.  

Now you may think that running with a toddler the size of a preschooler on your shoulders next to a man you just met holding your other little girl on his shoulders while your two little boys trail along behind you doesn't exactly give you the happy, relaxing vacation vibes.  To you I say where's your spirit?!  Where's your adventure?!  I dare you not to smile and enjoy yourself when standing three feet from a regiment of uniform clad Brits donning bearskin hats and playing French horns.  Just you try it. 

The kids got a chance to play on the playground in St. James Park by the palace before we took off for the Tower of London with our lovely, surprisingly swift and agile guide, Sam the man.  

The Tower of London has a lot of interesting history that I'm not going to share here.  It also houses the Crown Jewels which we did go see.  Watch a documentary if you want to know more about it.  But here are our photos which is really all that matters for this blog. 

After the Tower of London, I Am Sam raved about my kids so I'd give him a good tip then dropped us off at 1 Aldwych for the kids' favorite part of our day- a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed High Tea! 


Day 3- Wednesday
Double Decker Bus Ride, Sky Garden, London Eye, a cool playground, Rainforest Cafe, and Matilda the Musical 

The children welcomed Wednesday's cloudy dawn with cries of "I'm hungry!" and "give me the remote!"  So, I quickly hustled them out the door to begin our rainy day in London.  I shelled out a couple bucks for a double decker bus ticket and we all piled in for the ride of our lives.  The boys each grabbed a sister hand and popped right up to the top front seats.  They enjoyed their view loudly and happily while groggy, work-bound bus passengers stared in a mixture of amusement and annoyance.  

Once they tired of that, we hopped off the bus and discovered we weren't too far from the Sky Garden- a rooftop garden and cafe in one of the City of London's highest sky scrapers.  The entrance was free and the kids *forced* me to take pictures of them.  

I shuffled the kids over to the London Eye where we boarded one of the little pods straight away and took an electrifying 40 min journey around the largest ferris wheel in the world.  This was the first time I can ever remember hearing Jane say, "I'm not having any fun doing this." LOL The other kids enjoyed it though.  It was definitely a morning of great views! 

Big Ben all covered in scaffolding.

I paid a couple extra bucks a ticket for these little binoculars that they loved. 
The boys are looking at Buckingham palace in this photo.  You can see it there surrounded by trees. 
At the base of the London Eye was this great little playground.  We would have stayed longer but it was time for lunch!  We made our way toward a fish and chips restaurant I'd read about online, but along the way we passed a Rainforest Cafe.  I decided the kids would really enjoy that experience, so we ducked in out of the rain for a lunch with elephants and gorillas and jaguars that the kids thought was absolutely magical.  

Finally we sat down inside the Cambridge Theatre to watch the kids first live musical performance!  Matilda was such a great show for their ages.  The girls even made it a little into the second act before we had to go out and play in the lobby. I'm really glad we got to do this! 

Day 4 - Thursday
Kensington Palace and the Diana Memorial Playground

After a quick viewing of Kensington Palace and its Sunken Garden, we were the first kids in the Diana Memorial Playground when it opened at 10am.  We didn't leave until 5pm. I only got one photo of the kids, but I did run around to take a few more of the grounds before we left so I could share with y'all how great it was.  There were so many more little pockets of play areas that I didn't take photos of.  They played happily all day long.  After 7 hours I had to drag Jane away kicking and screaming.  

Day 5 - Friday
Train DIRECT!!! London to Rotterdam

We woke up at 5am to catch the train home.  We were all tired and grumpy.  

The End! 

(Kaylin Booker) big family travel Diana Memorial Playground Eurostar four kids travel Kensington Palace with kids London London Eye London Playgrounds London with kids single parent travel travel with kids https://www.kaylinbooker.com/blog/2019/6/london-with-kids Fri, 21 Jun 2019 14:12:50 GMT