Minimalist Home Screen for Your iPhone

I might be the only person in the world who would care to do this, but in case I'm not, here's how I create a bit of minimalism on my iPhone.  

What does that mean? It's simply stripping the screen of visual clutter, the same way minimalists do at home, by paring down to necessities to decrease noise that can distract us. I personally have a little extra sensitivity to visual stimulation, so this might not be as helpful to you as it might be to someone with these sensitivities. 

To accomplish this I did four things:

  1. hide all but the most important apps
  2. get to know spotlight and search
  3. use a blank wallpaper  
  4. utilize grayscale mode and triple-click

1. Put  away lesser used apps

First, move all of your "extra" apps into folders. By extra I mean any app you don't use repeatedly every day. If you're not sure, double click your home button to see the most recent apps you've had open. I have about a dozen apps I need to have immediate access to. All the rest are put away. 

My primary screen, only the most important apps

My primary screen, only the most important apps

So, extra apps in folders. Now push those folders off to the right, to another page. On your main page you should have just that one page with your most important apps.  

My secondary screen, just folders of lesser used apps

My secondary screen, just folders of lesser used apps

2. Get to know spotlight and search  

Spotlight is a program that runs on Apple devices that acts as a shortcut to a few more important things. On iPhone I reach it by swiping to the right from the home screen. 

Swipe right from the home screen to see spotlight

Swipe right from the home screen to see spotlight


First are my more recent contacts, most recently used apps, and then news below that. But from here I can quickly reach my husband or open one of the last few apps I used.  

Or, I can swipe down from the home screen to search. 

Swipe down to search for an app

Swipe down to search for an app

When I know the name of an app I never have to have it out on my home screen. I can keep it tucked away and access it more quickly from search. Once you get used to this, it will be really handy.  

3. Use a blank wallpaper

I've found most wallpaper designs to be terribly distracting. They can be beautiful framed on a wall, but behind all my apps, it's too much. 

Find a solid background or make your own. You may not realize a solid wallpaper background doesn't need to be a particular size. It will be stretched or cropped and being solid, you won't notice the change. 

I made a solid white background by cropping the white part of a screenshot.  To make a screenshot, press your home button AND the power button at the same time. An image of your screen is now saved to your camera roll as a photo. Go to PHOTOS and EDIT this photo. Choose the CROP tool and crop down to a white portion of the screen.

Cropping a screenshot for the whitespace.

Cropping a screenshot for the whitespace.

If you want black or gray, or purple, you can use this same technique. Just grab a screenshot or use any photo that has the color you want to use. Crop down to that portion of the photo and that will be your background image. 

Now click the share button on your image and choose SET AS WALLPAPER. Select HOME SCREEN only and your lock screen wallpaper will remain as it was. I still like a pretty photo for my lock screen, just not my home screen. 

4. Utilize grayscale & triple-clicking the home screen

Here's where this trick gets interesting and maybe too much for some. It's one thing to organize your phone but stripping color may be too far for you. That's okay! But I need it some days. And the good news is that this feature is totally optional and easy to switch on and off. 

First, turn on grayscale mode.  Go to SETTINGS > GENERAL > ACCESSIBILITY and flip the switch for grayscale. What this does is literally just remove color from everything. Even the camera will appear grayscale (your photos still come out in color). All the color is still there, you just don't see it. 



Now sometimes you'll want to turn this off. Instagram and Pinterest aren't the same in grayscale. Facebook is arguably more pleasant and web browsing with ads is far less obnoxious, but sometimes you'll want full color.  

So to save the trouble of changing settings all the time, you can set the home button with triple-click  to toggle this feature on and off. 

Under the ACCESSIBILITY menu scroll to the bottom to ACCESSIBILITY SHORTCUT. Check Grayscale. Now, click the home button three times in a row quickly and color will be restored. 



Once this is set up, you won't have to set it again.  If a thorough purging of apps isn't feasible maybe this will help. Hiding your unused apps and knowing they're still there when you need them but not in your way can be just as freeing. 

For more techie tips LIKE my Facebook page AtNatalie.  

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Keep the chic, give me the shabby

The youngest twin’s favorite show right now is Fixer Upper. She’s a spunky eight-year-old with lots to say, so it’s fun to watch her excitement as the show progresses from shabby to chic in a magical 45 minutes. It’s also humbling.

“Wow, that’s a great house! I’d LOOOOOVE to live in that house. I mean, just look at that, that’s awesome!”

That would be the before house she’s getting excited about. You see, we have a very modest 800-or-so square foot house that’s always under construction. Dad is a brick mason who brings his work and his dreams home with him.

Not our house, but it's nice; it probably has two bathrooms.

Not our house, but it's nice; it probably has two bathrooms.

There’s always a bit of trim not put up yet, a window that needs replacing, primer on the wall that needs paint, or a doorway cut out but not dry-walled yet. He works 10–12 hour days and spends a long weekend once every few months working to make our tiny house a little more comfortable for our family of five.

“Aw, cool, it looks just like our house!”

Now she’s talking about demo day. I used to be bothered by the mess, and I still get a little frustrated sometimes when I have to shuffle tile and tools to the side to make a sandwich when the kitchen is his current project. And sometimes I day dream about having the money to pay an extra hand to come in a knock it all out in a day or two, but when I look at this little girl flipping out because “oh my gosh, Mom, they have TWO bathrooms” I know there’s something bigger happening in her world.

This kid is learning to be happy with small things and she doesn’t even know it. Without any serious training on our part, she’ll grow up feeling like a home with two bathrooms is a luxury. Paint on every wall with crown molding, consistent flooring from one room to the next, and a counter top that doesn’t scoot when you lean on it, that’s a real prize.

“Woah, I can’t believe that’s the same house! It’s so fancy.”

She’s the same way with toys and books too. Brand new is nice, but there’s something about the dusty stuff. When it’s a little older, it’s usually better quality, built stronger, easier to use, and to love.

I hope she’ll grow up to treat people this way too, not preferring the pretty and the perfect, but appreciating those who need a bit of remodeling just like us. I imagine her someday, getting married and buying her first home, and she’ll choose the fixer-upper, because it feels like home.

Finding My Mother

Being adopted

When I was four years old, I stood in a courtroom gazing up at a man in a black robe, in wonder. He asked me if I wanted to be adopted, and if I wanted these people to be my parents. I don't remember what I said, but I remember feeling like there was nothing I wanted more in the world.

Adoption day! I was so happy. 

Adoption day! I was so happy. 

I could have broken out in song--I felt like Annie, although I figured out later that the movie didn't come out until the following year. Funny how the memory works. And all of this is the way I remember it. A few external details may be off but my experience of these events is very real and stays with me today.

I had a good life, good parents, a good town, and good friends. Knowing about my adoption was a good thing. I read stories about other kids who found out about their adoption later in life and it was devastating. So I was thankful I had a very good reason I was so different from everyone around me.

People asked me now and then if I had any interest in finding my birth mother. I always said, no, not right now, but maybe. Someday. I'll know when it's time. Always the same, I'm not really interested right now, but I'll just know when it's time.

At some point in my teens I got a look at my parent's files. It wasn't exactly hidden from me, but I didn't feel comfortable asking my mom about these things. It felt sort of like I was cheating on her. But one day after school I peeked in the file cabinet and found out my birth mother's name was Gloria.

When my parents' attorney retired and sent my dad his files from the adoption, I discovered she had been married a few times, had used the names Tetreau, Cameron, and Forrest, and that she still lived in the town listed on my birth certificate: Willows, CA. It's in northern California, about an hour north of Sacramento just off Interstate 5. It's one of those places you'd stop for gas and a quick bite before traveling on, never making note of the name of the place you'd just passed through. In fact, from the interstate, the only things visible for miles were a gas station and a diner, and then just open farm land.

Visiting Willows for the first time

Visiting Willows for the first time

While in college my freshman year at Sonoma State, barely 18, my roommate drove with me to Willows to look around. I didn't find my mother, but I did talk to a nurse at the hospital who was so kind. She photocopied a page from the phonebook for me that had what might have been Gloria's phone number. I sat on it for a few months before I finally worked up the nerve to call the number.

A woman answered, "Hello?"

I said, "Hi, is this Gloria?"

She said yes.

I said, "Oh, sorry, wrong number." CLICK.

I still wasn't ready.

The Dream

At 21 I was living back at home with my parents outside San Diego. One night in the summer I had a really unusual dream. It was one of those where you wake only to find you're still dreaming. I was at my grandma's house in Huntington Beach, CA, staying in the back bedroom at the end of the hall. I woke up to a woman sitting on the edge of the bed. I was startled, though not totally afraid. She was holding my hand, and her hand was similar to mine. She was about my age, and something about her felt familiar but I didn't know why.

As she gazed at me I suddenly grew nervous and started to sit up. As I moved to sit, she floated upward and I can still remember the feeling of her toes brushing across my abdomen. It was eerie. I woke up instantly and I knew it was time. This was the moment, and that woman, somehow, was my mother--or a vision of her. My family happened to have our annual trip to Lake Tahoe planned in a few days but as soon as I got back I was determined to try to find my mother.

At the Lake

Not long after we arrived at the lake, the next morning after we arrived in fact, my mom and I got in an argument. We argued a lot back then, and as I usually did, I got in my car and drove as far away as I could. My poor mom. I was truly insufferable.

The house my parents and extended family rented together, my car in the drive.

The house my parents and extended family rented together, my car in the drive.

I took off west from the lake, on highway 50. After about an hour of driving, I was feeling better but not quite ready to go home and apologize yet. Pride.


Not sure when I wanted to turn back, I suddenly realized I was on the way to Sacramento. The sign said it was only another hour or so and then maybe 40 minutes up the interstate was Willows. Woah.


So I prayed. I said, "God, I was planning to go looking for her once I got home next week, but here I am, so close to this small town where I was born and where my mother is most likely living. If this is part of your plan for me somehow, and I can't believe it would be, you'll have to let me know. LOUD AND CLEAR. GIVE. ME. A. SIGN!"

Seconds later, I looked up and saw a billboard that read, "Cameron Park Estates" and it was half covered with a picture of a willow tree... with a forest in the background. CAMERON. WILLOWS. FORREST.


I still didn't believe, not really. It was a real lesson in faith for me, that moment. Would I go on, based on a billboard (I didn't understand God at all), or go home and always wonder what might have happened? I kept going.

Exiting the interstate toward Willows. Super nervous now.

Exiting the interstate toward Willows. Super nervous now.

When I got to Willows I didn't expect anything really, maybe just a lead, something to help my search when I got back to San Diego. I drove around, knocked on a few doors to see if anyone happened to know a Gloria with any of the last names I had seen in my parents' papers. It was all very random, and pitiful.

No one knew anything but everyone cheered me on. A man washing his car outside a house with Cameron on the mailbox said he might have had a relative who married a Gloria but he couldn't be sure. So I drove around some more, perfectly aimlessly.

Taking a breather, getting ready to turn back.

Taking a breather, getting ready to turn back.

I was getting tired now. I hadn't eaten any lunch yet, so I pulled over next to a park in the shade to regroup. I prayed again and the word I kept hearing from God was... STAY. That's it. Nothing else, just STAY. So I stayed, right there in my little Ford Contour, until I finally decided it was getting late and I needed to get back to the lake. I'd already been gone several hours and my family had to be getting worried.

I took a breath, started the engine, and then immediately shut it off again. Then I laughed out loud. Across the street, on a sign above the porch of a tiny house, was a hanging wooden sign with the word FORREST.

"Are you kidding me?" I couldn't believe it would be that easy. But what if it was? What if all of this, the whole day, the trip here, even the quarrel with my mom, was supernaturally put into motion for this moment right now? I was terrified, but I walked up onto that porch and knocked. An old woman with curly white answered the door.

I asked her cautiously, "Hi, do you happen to know anyone named Gloria?"

Her eyes grew wide, then her eyebrows furrowed, as she leaned in and said, "Who are you?"

"Natalie", I croaked.

A look of recognition came over her face, and then something else. "She's my daughter. She died two weeks ago."


She invited me in and I quickly sat in a recliner to catch my breath. She excitedly handed me photo albums and talked to me about my mother, though I don't remember anything she said because I was staring a photo of a young woman. She was the woman from the dream. My grandmother told me this was my mother at her high school graduation.

An aunt, who lived nearby ran the two or three blocks over to the house and burst into the door, desperate to know, did I know Jesus? Still a baby Christian at this time, only coming to the Lord a few weeks before, I hesitated. Did I "know" Jesus? What did that mean? For just a couple of seconds I didn't want to say yes, but the Holy Spirit took hold of me and blurted, "YES!" And after what had been happening to me all morning, the path I was on, I couldn't disagree.

I found out I had 3 brothers and a sister. My oldest brother lived in the Bay Area and though he talked to me on the phone briefly, he's the only one I didn't get to meet in person. I met two other brothers who lived nearby, and my sister arranged to meet with me later.

Me and my Hot Wheels. Yeah, dude. And socks with sandals, because eighties.

Me and my Hot Wheels. Yeah, dude. And socks with sandals, because eighties.

My aunt took me to meet her husband, my mother's brother, and his extensive Hot Wheels collection. I remember carrying a little case around with me to foster homes. It was shaped like a tire and held all my cars. I smiled at the walls of the garage covered in blue packaging filled with thousands of tiny little automobiles of every kind.

Next we visited one of the foster homes I had lived in. I even got to meet the woman who took care of me there.

The foster home

The foster home

I learned that my mother was very sick when I was born. They called it schizoaffective and bipolar disorder, describing an incident in which the police were called to the house during an episode that involved my mother screaming at the neighbors in the middle of the night.

The little house my mother lived in when I was born.

The little house my mother lived in when I was born.

Someone asked about "the baby" and no one knew. After an extensive search, I was found underneath the couch cushions. I was told she put me there because I was crying so much and the sound was too much for her. Oddly, I get that. I'm bothered by noise too. But she didn't have the right coping strategy, so it was decided that I would be better cared for somewhere else.

It was several years still before an official adoption. There was very limited visitation. Though I have no memory of being with my birth family during this time, I now have photos to prove I was.

Family photos from my missing years - so thankful for these!

Family photos from my missing years - so thankful for these!

I heard speculation about who my birth father might have been. No one knew for sure except that he was probably a Mexican farm worker in the area for the season and they think he had a wife and kids. So I may have family in Mexico too. There's my love of a good taco.

Going Home

On the way back to Lake Tahoe the next day, I met my sister on the north side, near where she lived with her family. She brought her twin daughters and younger son with her. I remember thinking how cool it would be to have twins. ;)

Over lunch I learned that my mother had a brain tumor and had been ill for a long time. She said our mother asked for me before she died, that she had pestered a nurse about someone named Natalie until she called family to find how who this woman was and how they could get her down here to the hospital. She even had a hope chest Gloria had bought for me and filled with crocheted blankets she had made for me, all on the off chance that I might happen to come back to town one day.

An advertisement clipping she had of the hope chest she bought, along with her handwritten note of the important dates - the year I was born, then adopted, and the year I turned 18. 

An advertisement clipping she had of the hope chest she bought, along with her handwritten note of the important dates - the year I was born, then adopted, and the year I turned 18. 

My sister also gave me a bible that had been Mom's before she died, complete with her highlights and notes. There were even several pages stained with what can only be tears, on pages where scripture seemed to match her circumstances.

I made it back to the house at the lake late that day. It was dinner time and I had been gone for 36 hours. I was suddenly ashamed, and terrified to face my mom. At the same time, I was just then beginning to process the fact that I had finally--and miraculously--found my birth mother, and I had missed her by just TWO WEEKS!

In my mind I had lost one mother and was about to lose the other over this stupid, selfish thing I had done.

But she was so gentle and humble. She asked me to tell her all about my mother. She let me show her the photos, and she never scolded me for running off for a day and a half, 500 miles from home. In that moment, she was my mom, my only mom, and the very mom I needed.

Moving On

Before Tahoe, I had filled out some forms requesting some personal things my birth mother had on file with the state. It was said to contain more detailed information about who she was and everything that led to the adoption. I put it out of my mind after visiting Willows though, because it was unnecessary. I knew the story now.

But a few years later, just a few days after my oldest daughter was born, a thick white envelope arrived on my Indiana porch, from the California Department of Social Services.

My mom happened to be visiting me that week, helping take care of me while I had her first grandchild. I gasped when I realized what this packet was and I told her about it. She encouraged me me to look at it while the baby was napping and she continued cleaning my house while I rested with my gift from the state of California.

She vacuumed under my feet while I reclined on a chair and read letters and cards from my birth mother. As it turned out, my mother had consistently sent correspondence to me on behalf of the state for years.

Letters and cards, even a cross stitch my mother sent to CDSS.

Letters and cards, even a cross stitch my mother sent to CDSS.

There were personal drawings, magazine clippings of people she thought might look like me, several long letters, and even a list of names and addresses of other family, though all personal details were redacted, "per California law" they said.

As I sifted through all this paper closure, I watched my mom selflessly put away dishes and fold laundry, and I smiled, knowing the gift God gave me was not this woman I'll never know, but the one I'll never lose, no matter how terrible I've been to her. While my newborn baby slept in the other room, I put the packet away and hugged my mom.

A Note About the Signs

Although this story appears to be about me, and my birth family, it is actually God's story. This series of events in my life happened in such a way that no amount of coincidence will ever be able to explain it away, not to me.

However, the mention of signs and visions makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I don't necessarily believe God routinely provides us literal signs like He did for me that day. I believe the events that played out for me, from the dream, to the billboard, to the porch sign, were simply what I needed at that time in my life. 

My faith in Christ had come to me only a very short time before all of this. I was still very new to the Bible and any solid understanding of who God is and how He works. As I was coming to a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, I believe He met me where I was. He knew how to reach me, and the fact that He did, made Him all the more real to me.

Today I am a little wiser in my faith, though I still have so far to go. I believe these signs and wonders are more direct now. God speaks to my heart now because I've learned to allow Him in. I don't need anything to grab my attention the way I did in the early days.

So this is all a bit of a disclaimer, so that any new or non-believer reading this won't be led astray, and so that fellow believers won't discount this story as merely mystical. The God of the Bible is real and powerful, and yet cares deeply for each one of us right where we are, whatever our circumstances.

I encourage you to seek Him out on your own, and then find a good church with good people who will help you find Him more personally. Just don't expect billboards to talk to you, that's really not a thing. 


New App: Work Hard Anywhere

For iPhone only yet... it's a little bit like Foursquare but for creatives and freelancers who work remotely on a regular basis. Work Hard Anywhere let's you find and share your favorite places to get a bite, a little WIFI and maybe meet another creative while you're out. I'd imagine it would be even better for travel, to help you find a place near you when you're away from your regular places.


Vintage School

Lately on Instagram I've been posting with the hashtag #vintageschool. Here's why:

My three girls have been in and out of school, but they still prefer it at home. My oldest is 13 and the twins are 8. I'm not inherently against public school in any way, but it's a lot like eating packaged foods. It's food, sustenance, it's all decent, just not the best. Homemade is better. Almost always. Public school is just pre-packaged education. It does the job, and it's better than no school at all, but it's not the best, healthiest situation. Not for us. 

We also don't use a set curriculum.  

We never have. I'm really flexible about everything because I want so much for learning to be interesting and fun. That doesn't mean I let them do whatever whenever, and there are days it's a bit of a fight, but I know what each of them can handle and what they need to know at a given age (not grade), and I help them get there. 

There are a number of good programs out there for homeschooling families, but we have yet to find a one-size-fits-all method that works for us. Some are too vague, others are too restrictive. So we're kind of winging it (and that's okay).  

Although I keep a peripheral eye on state standards just to be safe, it's not my guiding force. We're typically led based on whatever vintage book the girls are interested in at the moment, or what comes across my searches at the flea markets and antique stores. Oddly unconventional, for sure, but it works. 

Why so old school?

Personally, I hated school. Even when I was good at it, I felt like it was just something to do, another childhood chore. I was doing it for the A, not for the knowledge itself. I suspect that's just human nature, but in case it's not, I want to try things another way. I want to try to make learning a natural, inherent part of life.

I want it to feel like breathing, not like a task, a thing to be checked off a list. "We did an hour of history, two hours of reading, and an hour of math," ought to read "We learned about the history of the American Revolution and the relationship between Britain and the new country just developing. We read a Sherlock Holmes' mystery and learned how to find the cubic mass of a box."

After several years browsing bookstores, teaching stores, libraries, even yard sales and online sources, I keep coming back to these old books. There are so many advantages, but the biggest is the simplicity. 

No superfluous graphics

How many cartoons and bright colors do kids need? Is it really helpful? We're finding it's not. The kids are markedly overwhelmed when they pick up a modern workbook and they fight me most with these. But when I give them a composition notebook and an activity from the 1945 spelling book, they're right down to business. 


Clear Text

The print is often more readable for kids in older books. When looking through books, I find a gradual shift from the early 1900s to mid-century, and today, with more and more illustrations and fewer words. Instructions and key points are often more difficult to find, and there is generally less "meat" in newer books. Writers of these books seem more intent on keeping kids entertained, but for us, it all just gets in the way. 

The simple use of bold and italics is usually enough to get a point across. It also teaches them how to read real life text, like news and magazine articles, books, and all the things as adults they'll need to be able to read. There won't always be imagery to keep them interested. 

Physical size

Vintage school books are usually smaller, which makes them easy for little hands to carry and to use. They're lighter too, so when we take school on the go, there's no heavy book bag to lug around. The kids are also less intimidated by smaller books. They tend to think a bigger book means harder or more work.

Shorter lessons

Because of the smaller size, fewer illustrations, and generally less entertainment, lessons can be covered often in one or two pages instead of a dozen, split between text, photos, charts, and what-not. I get almost gleeful when I see a lesson wrap up and see that everything was covered but it was quick enough we have plenty of time to talk about it. The kids process it themselves more easily not having things repeated to them several different ways. 

Appreciation for history

This one is more personal for me, but I've seen my kids growing up with a strong use of the word antique and vintage. They love the smell of an old book and they'd swear my brownies taste better when I use the vintage Ovenex pan to bake them in. 

As we learn, there are times the context of the year the book was printed in temporarily puts a pause in the lesson. For example, the word "wireless" was recently a vocabulary word. We stopped to talk about what wireless would have meant in 1940 and how it means something very different today. We talk about what a 1940 student would think to hear about what wireless means to us. It's history right in the middle of a spelling lesson. You can do that in homeschool!

Vocabulary differences

There are a lot of differences in the way we use words today. Learning today's vocabulary is great, but when you pick up a book printed almost 100 years ago, it adds another dimension to the kids' language skills. Our favorites are Princess Polly (ca. 1910), Little Women (ca. 1890), and Black Beauty (1954). 

Some language is more difficult to read and there is a lot of explaining words as we go, but we still have fun with it. The girls are always interested in peeking into the world of kids their age who are experiencing things they can only imagine. 

Newer versions of these older stories are often abridged or the language has been updated, which can make them pretty different, not always improved. 

Our currently active books

SPELLING: Using Words, by Lillian E. Billington (1945)

This series first found me in a little antique store in New Harmony, Indiana. This little book was so crisp and the lessons concise. It read "Seventh Year" on the cover, which at the time I wasn't sure was for a seven-year-old or for a seventh grader. It seemed a bit too advanced for seven, so I figured I'd save it for middle school. I've since picked up the Third, Fourth, and Eighth Years. They're that good. 

VOCABULARY: Thorndike Century Junior Dictionary (1935)

This one came from a barn sale one summer. At the time I didn't intend to homeschool, but since we've begun it has been the primary source for clear easy-to-understand, easy-to-find definitions.  

READING: Peter and Peggy, Gates and Huber (1930)

My older twin is not the least bit interested in reading. She just doesn't want to try, but she is slowly coming around, with the help of some of these older books. She doesn't feel overwhelmed with these.

This book in particular ends each chapter with a small set of questions about what was just read, in very simple language. She can practice reading comprehension and feel like she's accomplished something. Conversely, she won't touch the reading comprehension workbook, which essentially does the same thing (read, then answer questions) but it is so busy visually, she just doesn't want anything to do with it. 

SOCIAL STUDIES: Mr. Mailman, Jene Barr (1954)

Lots of little books tell stories about how towns and cities are run. There are stories about children in other countries, and stories about everything from farming to the iditarod, all in clear simple text with minimal distraction. And again, because of the time difference there is a continual conversation about history and how things were, compared to how they are

HISTORY: The First Book of Presidents, Harold Coy (1952)


I always get a kick out of books like these, particularly when the time in which they were published is so obviously different than ours. This book of presidents, for example, ends with their current president, Harry Truman. So as we study the presidents, we will always talk about the "new" presidents who came along after the '50s. 

Sources for vintage books


My typical go-to for searching specific books or types of books is eBay or Etsy. Very often, vintage books are undervalued and unknown to the people selling them. It's easy to find good deals here, but keep an eye out for the shipping. Books can ship via USPS Media Mail for only $2-3 so sellers charging more than that either don't know about the cheaper option or in rare instances they may be simply overcharging. You might try to negotiate, but I just keep looking.

Public Library

The library is a good source for no-cost reading, but a lot of older books aren't kept in circulation anymore. It's still worth a look, but don't expect to find a lot, and expect to really dig to find the good stuff. 

Yard Sales & Thrift Stores

Goodwill sees me once a week, browsing the book bin. I also check out the local flea markets and other small thrift stores in case people have discarded these books, not knowing the treasure they had. 

Antique Stores

Often the best books are going to be found in the good antique shops. You'll need to pay more for them, but there will be a better selection and they're usually in better condition as well. One of the spelling books I found had only been issued to one student in its lifetime (possibly sitting comfortably on a shelf ever since). 

Beyond Vintage

DIGITAL: Internet, Apps, & Osmo

Not all of our schooling is "old school"--it's generally a 50/50 split. We also use the internet, like Khan Academy for math, and to sprinkle fun facts into the mix. We also use various games and apps to reinforce skills and add new ones. Osmo is another tool we use for interactive learning. 

TV: Smithsonian, Amazon Video, & Roku

We don't shy away from the TV either, although we do limit viewing time. We use a Roku device to stream educational content from a number of sources, including the Smithsonian channel and PBS. Amazon Video also has a new subscription service that allows us unlimited access to specific offerings so we don't have to pay for each episode of a show. There is also Amazon Prime which allows us access to a good chunk of Amazon's collection of videos. 

If you're curious about Roku, it may be interesting to note that we've spent about $300 on devices over the past 5 years, and we've now saved about $3,000 on cable costs since we bought them (and canceled cable TV). 

What about socialization?

This is the most common (and most annoying) question. I'll just say it's really no different than the adult who decides to work from home. It takes a little more work to get out around other people, but there is no real suffering happening. In fact, there is a whole lot more freedom to mingle with a broader group of people and to find the people you really like, rather than the small group you're stuck with by default, usually people who have work in common with you.

Why should a kid be cooped up with 30 other kids her own age when there is a whole world of kids--and adults--to interact with?