Homeschool Q&A: Meet the Neff Family

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Dad:   Christian (38)

Mom: Erica
 
3 Girls:
 
Libby, 11
Sophia, 9
Sydney, 7
Where is your family from?
We are originally from Springfield, MO area and are currently in St. George, UT.
How long have you been homeschooling for?
We are in the midst of starting our homeschool/roadschool journey.
What lead you to making the decision to homeschool your girls?
Last summer, we decided to travel as a family for the summer, and we really loved it! We decided as a family to homeschool for many reasons. In no particular order, and hopefully not offending anyone.
1) My wife really hated leaving the family dynamic for a few days while she worked her shifts. Generally, she would work 2-3 hours driving distance from home. So she would be gone usually 2-3 days top, but occasionally there were longer stretches of up to 2 weeks. It would be emotionally difficult at times. (Imagine 3 little girls and mommy crying) So, going together, now alleviates that issue for us.
2) The changing face of education also motivated us. The shift to excessive testing, etc. As I’ve taught the last 12 years, my perceived changes in students, as far as independent thinking, motivation, general knowledge, etc.
3) Culturally, we wanted to expose our children to the beautiful world that is out there. Our corner of the world in southwest Missouri, has some wonderful people in it. But, to our view, there is a strong undercurrent of anti-intellectualism, racism, sexism, homophobia,etc. that isn’t part of our worldview.
So, this April, we crunched the numbers, resolved some other family issues, and decided to take the plunge! I resigned my position, and we decided to hit the road full-time!
Are you full time roadschoolers?
Yes, traveling full time.
 
How do you finance homeschooling on the road?
 My wife is a travel nurse, and has been doing that for the last three years. Yeah, she is still a traveling nurse for labor and delivery. Luckily, she is making enough that I can focus on educating the kids. Maybe as the kids get older, I’ll supplement, if we need it.
 
What does a typical day/week look like in your family? Since you are also travelers, how long do you stay in a particular location and how do you decide where to go next? is it dictated by your wife’s job or interest?
 
A typical travel nurse works contracts that are 13 weeks in length, they can be extended if both parties want to.  Usually, about 4 weeks or so before the contract ends, you start the process of finding your next assignment or staying there.  Last summer, we decided to go to St. George, Utah. It has so many amazing things within in a 5 hour radius. National Parks, Las Vegas, Ocean, Grand Canyon are very close. We loved it! So, we decided to come back this summer since we didn’t do everything here, and we wanted something the kids were familiar with, instead of starting everything in a brand-new area.  No camper for us, so far, we stay in condos using vrbo.com.
 
What has been your biggest struggle with homeschooling and/or the transition to homeschooling. What has been the hardest part of moving from traditional schooling to home/roadschooling?
 
It’s been pretty smooth so far! We are still in summer mode! The older two are excited about the fact about not being constrained to a schedule. The youngest, who hasn’t been a fan of school at any point, is still coming to the realization that she needs to be educated lol. Mainly, the biggest challenges have come from family members concerned about socialization and oddly enough, athletic extra curriculars. (My perspective) The kids go through times where they are worried about their friends, so I am hoping to find good homeschool groups as we go along.
 
What methods does your family or will your family use for homeschooling? A curriculum? Unschooling? Something else?
 
Right now, the tentative plan is to use discoveryk12.com as a base for the curriculum and supplement as I see fit. As far as unschooling goes, I will allow them as much independent time as we can tolerate, and I’ll tailor their lessons and readings to topics that interest them. I want them to be prepared for any path they want to take in life. College-prep will be the focus, but as our economy and society change, I want them to have skills that will work in many areas. The kids said that they think the best part will be having me as their teacher (aren’t they sweet), and they are looking for the art and music parts. (Ukulele instruments)
What, so far, has been the best part about homeschooling? 
 
The kids said that they think the best part will be having me as their teacher (aren’t they sweet), and they are looking forward to the art and music parts. (Ukulele instruments)
How did your friends and/or family respond to your decision to go against the mainstream and homeschool?
My co-workers were very supportive! In fact, a few said they wished they could do what we are doing. Most of the family has been pretty supportive to our faces, but are mainly sad since we are going to be far away from Missouri most of the time. I try to have decent answers to their questions, but what we are doing is pretty non-traditional/radical to a lot of people. I’ve been pretty low-key about it on Facebook,  so not to hurt people’s feelings and also to avoid arguments.
 
Awesome! It sounds like a perfect balance. Is there anything you or the kids would like to add. Anything you think parents or kids thinking about or beginning homeschooling should know?
 
I’m no expert, but it seems like the biggest things that I’ve gathered from my research are to stay relaxed, have the end goal in mind, stick with it even though the first year will be tough, and not to worry about what others think too much. It seems like many homeschoolers feel the need to prove they made the right decision, and sometimes in that quest can really damage the kids, or the relationships with others.

Building a Bluebird Nestbox

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I was a little concerned about the distance when I registered my kids for this activity, but it seemed like such a great place, the activity seemed like a lot of fun and it was FREE! I was not disappointed. The kids showed immediate interest from the moment we stepped onto the walkway heading up to the main building of Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary in Wales, MA.

My oldest daughter (middle child) Abigail was the first to notice the walkway was imprinted with the footprints of different animals and we explored our way up talking about what animals they could be from. 11 year old Caleb decided, for some reason only known to him, that it was necessary to also use his sense of smell to explore and got 2 year old Emily down on the ground so they could smell their way to the door.
It felt good to not have to wander around lost. We were greeted by a nice woman as soon as we walked in the door who asked if we were there for the birdhouse class. She then told us to enjoy exploring the wonderful displays while we waited for the others to arrive.  

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Caleb checking out the display of birds
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Abigail loves to discover the weather from day to day.
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We even discovered what some of those prints in the concrete were!
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Abigail loves space and the sky. She was quickly drawn in my this poster.
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Ok, there’s nothing this child doesn’t love to learn about. Here she is looking at the turtle shells.

Right on time the group was lead down to a room where all the tools and materials were set up. Before we got started though they had everybody sit down in chairs (set up away from the distraction of the tools) for a quick discussion about how everything was going to happen. Then they got to go to work. They set everything up in stages and had at least 1 helper from the sanctuary to help at each table. A blessing to those of us with more than 1 child or, as in my case, a rambunctious 2 year old. I was able to easily help Abigail when she needed it. Caleb, at 11, didn’t really need any help but I did hold his birdhouse once so he could hammer in a nail. I’m proud to say I still have all my fingers. Neither one of them hit my fingers once, though Abigail and I might have had a close call or 2!

 

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Caleb and Abigail liked the night time display.
Emma wants to play too!
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Caleb hard at work
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It was easier for some of the shorter kids to hammer their project on the floor
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Mama was too nervous about the 2 year old with the hammer so someone gave us a puzzle to do. She did get a chance to hammer a nail towards the end. Another mom with a younger child let Emma try. She only hit herself in the head once!
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Putting on the door to keep the bluebirds safe from predators and other birds who might try to steal their nests.

A quote from Abigail: “My favorite part was building the birdhouses. I learned that bluebirds need lots of help because of predators like raccoons and other birds like Starlings that like to steal the bluebird nests and build their own on top, it can sometimes kill the bluebird babies already in the nest”.

A quote from Caleb: “My favorite part was building the bird box and I learned that most types of blue birds are endangered”.
What mom learned: “I learned to give my kids space, they are far more capable than I give them credit for and I am so proud of how their bird boxes came out. About the bluebirds, I learned that thet are a member of the thrush family and related to the robin. Starlings are a natural enemy of bluebirds because they often take over bluebird nests and kill the baby bluebirds inside. This can be prevented by making sure the entrance hole in the box is no more than 1-1/4″D so that a bluebird but not a Starling will be able to get through. I also learned that raccoons can be prevented from climbing the poles that house the boxes by applying machine grease to the base of the pole and adding an additional square of wood around the opening to the box (Our boxes do not have these). Many farmers use bluebird boxes around their fences to help bluebirds nest and to keep unwanted insects from infesting their crops”.

Icky! Wear Gloves!

hiiiiiiiiiiii I’m Caleb and me and my friend dissected a cows eye. It was disgusting. My mom wanted to eat it (not really).0_o My friends mom cut all the fat off the eyeball and there’s this really cool I can’t remember its like a rock heres a picture it’s the tanslusent thing on the black thing

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see it’s icky its the lens the rock thing I was talking about in the beginning here are some pictures of me and my friend dissecting the eyeball.
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this is a picture of the eye before we took it out of the bag
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thats a picture of the lens

 

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thats me cutting the u.e.v.a. out

 

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thats still me cutting the u.e.v.a.
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still cutting it
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thats a better view of the lens

Meet the Animals

 

We can’t forget about our furry and feathered friends!

Say Hello to Bay:

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Bay is our crazy and loving 3 year old lab/hound mix. We adopted her (or rather she adopted us) from the Sterling Animal Shelter in December of 2012 when she was just 10 weeks old. She came up with her litter mates from a high kill shelter in Tennessee. I was a volunteer there at the time and I instantly fell in love with the whole litter. They were all so calm, not scared or shy, but they didn’t jump at the fences like many of the dogs you see in shelters. I walked into their cages after they had been taken in and bathed, sat down on the floor and they all instantly all found a spot on the floor around me and snuggled up. The next day, we took Bay home. She is our love and I call her my true 3rd born. She loves people and other dogs. She only barks when daddy comes home or when she thinks daddy is home, sometimes she gets it wrong.
Gypsy the Queen of the Neighborhood

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Gypsy runs the neighborhood. She loves to visit the neighbors and collect food. One neighbor in particular is quite fond of her despite the fact that she lets him know her displeasure if he dares feed or pet another cat before her! Even the dog know’s she’s the boss. The only ones that outrank her are the chickens. They taught her the first summer not to mess with them, after all, there’s more of them than her.. But don’t let the spats between her and Bay fool you, they like to snuggle when they think no one is looking..
Meet the Chickens
We currently have 11 hens in our flock. This summer a predator broke into our coop and took 3 of them (Our most snuggly black Cochin, Gretchen, another Silkie from my aunt, Mr’s Kravitz and . This fall a raccoon got in before we shut the coop for the night and got our beloved white Cochin, Potato. We also lost our only new chicken from last year when it was discovered she was in fact a he and needed to be rehomed as we are not allowed roosters in our city. 
 

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My name is Watermelon. I am a 5 year old Ameraucana. I love to peck the ground and snuggle in the soft dirt under the rabbit hutch.

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This is Thunder one of (2) 5 year old Anconas. You can tell her from her sister because she has less white on her.

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Here is Thunder with her sister Lightning. Lightning likes to roost in high places. If you sit still long enough, she will find a nice spot on your head.

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Meet Sparkles. She is a 3 year old red Sexlink. She is very outgoing and is always the first to eat mealworms right out of your hand.

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This is Eagle. Our other 5 year old Americauna. She also eats easily out of your hand, especially if you have mealworms!

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This is our Silkie, Tabitha. We’re not quite sure how old she is. She came from a family member with 4 other hens. She is the only one left from that flock. We’ve had her about 4 or 5 years.  She is also our smallest hen and she lays small white eggs.

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Meet Princess. She is one of 3 black Jersey Giants we started with 5 years ago. Our local pizza guy wanted some chickens to start with so we agreed to sell him one of them with a warning that she would be unhappy all alone. Before the week was up, he took one of her sisters too so she would have company. THis is not the best photo of her, she was molting at the time so was a bit naked before the cooler weather hit.

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I couldn’t resist showing you a photo of our handsome rooster, Popcorn. We had no idea until he started crowing. Looking back he was very protective of the girls. Never aggressive, but he would always roost up high and watch over the girls when I came in the coop to give them a treat. We found him a good home with other animals the very next town over and we hope he is happy there.

Say Hello to Our 3 Bunnies
 
At 1 point we had as many as 35. That was not intentional nor due to any fault of our own. The bunnies started as my older 2,Caleb and Abigail’s 4-H project. We had decided to breed a littler of American Fuzzy Lops. Not long after we bred, we received a call from someone desperate to rehome her 4 bunnies as it turned out her daughter was highly allergic. She told me that they had been sharing a cage but had been separated for over a month for fighting. Well, She brought over 3 of them: 2 does and a buck and We put them in our spacious hutches. About a week later we had to bring the does in as they were pulling fur and nesting… Within a few days of each other our American Fuzzy Lop and the 2 foster does gave birth to litters of 7, 5 & 5.. Add that to all of our Holland Lops, Mini lops, French Lops and American Fuzzy Lops (we like floppy ears) and 1 Netherland Dwarf, we had a lot of bunnies.
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Meet Buster. He is a handsome Ruby Eyed White (REW) Netherland Dwarf buck.
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Snowball is the bunny that started it all! He is our 5 year old frosted pearl Holland Lop Buck. He loves attention and hopping around in the yard in his protective fence. He was a special gift from Santa for Abigail when she was 3.
Marshmallow is our beautiful Blue Eyed White (BEW) Mini Lop doe. A big, snuggly puddle of fur. Marshmallow lives up to her name.

Meet Emily

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While Emily is incredibly smart for her age, I thought asking her at 2 years old, to write her own post might be pushing it a bit.
Emily is our youngest child. She is super smart and a little ball of energy.
Unlike her older brother and sister, Emily was born at home in a pool of warm water. An amazing experience. 3 wonderful midwives and my husband, cousin as my amazing doula, and yes, the dog by my side. Caleb and Abigail were able to meet her just minutes after her arrival into this world. We made this decision after 2 stressful and negative hospital experiences with our first 2 and were so happy we did.
 At 16 months old Emily was diagnosed with lead poisoning and a severe peanut allergy. With 1 phone call our already shaky world was turned completely upside down.
We are still in the discovery stages of the effects the lead has had on her as well as any effects the recent discovery of mold toxicity. She is the only one in our family with food allergies and has developed viral induced asthma. All of which can be an effect of these toxins.
Emily loves to help with feeding all of our animals. She loves to give the dog and cat their food each morning, help her sister feed the rabbits (her favorite part is scooping the food into the bowl) and watching the chickens peck at their favorite treat, mealworms. She loves to sing songs, build towers out of blocks and “cook”in her play kitchen.
Emily has tons of energy and keeps us all on our toes. She is also incredibly sweet and loving and badly wants to be one of the big kids.
  Emily’s favorite shows are Super Why, Daniel Tiger and Handy Manny which she has no problem finding on her tablet on Netflix all by herself. Mostly she likes to be out and about anywhere she can run free!

 

Meet Abigail

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My name is Abigail I’m 8 years old and in third grade. when i grow up i want to be a dancer also I want to be a vet. What I’m looking forward to being home schooled is having to spend more time with my family when I’m done with my work. Also being able to travel to different places with my family like Arizona, Mexico and Florida. I also I have 11 chickens, 3 bunny’s, 1 dog, and 1cat. I’m very silly,funny. Also I have a baby sister a big brother and a mom a dad.  what I want to learn when I ‘m home schooled is to learn about the solar system, dwarf planets and the ocean.

 

Meet Caleb #imawsome

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Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii my name is Caleb and i love to draw, dance play video games and play with legos. My favorite  animal is a jellyfish and if the jellyfish was eating a potato even better! Oh, hang on, with a septic eye sam on his head that would be awesome!

I have 2 little sisters, 11 chickens, 1 dog, 3 bunnies and 1 cat. My favorite you Tubers are jacksepticeye, Markiplier, mathias and team edge they are awesome I even have a septic eyes am plushy from jacksepticyes merchandise (0_o)

When I grow up I want to be I don’t know and I want to visit Yankee Stadium, Disney World, Ireland, Warner Bros. Studios and Universal Studios.

I am also exited for home schooling. I’m not nervous for home schooling.  I wanted to do it because its hard to sit there all day and I don’t like homework its ewwwwww.. PS I’m 11.

 

 

Meet The Mom

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I thought it would be a good exercise to give everybody a chance to introduce themselves to you all. The kids are excited to share with you!   

As you can see, there are not many photos that exist of only me. I love to explore new things. Until my oldest, Caleb, was born I worked as an EMT in Massachusetts. Later on I pursued a degree in Deaf Studies from Quinsigamond Community College. I don’t get much opportunity to use my ASL skills and as a consequence my skills are very rusty. I have a certificate in Photography from Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts and also spend some time at the New England Institute of Art. In the last few years I have also learned how to can food safely, sew, crochet and knit (but I dropped knitting as soon as I got the hang of crochet) and beading. I also make many of our household cleaners and shower products.

I love being a stay-at-home mom and exploring the world with my family. We’ve been through a lot in the last few years learning how to deal with food allergies, lead poisoning, Lyme Disease, mold toxicity and the physical, mental and emotional effects all of these things, especially when occurring in such a short amount of time, have on people.

I’m also love animals and nature. We currently have a cat and a dog as well as 3 bunnies (at 1 point we had 35!) and chickens.

I want to teach my kids by living life. I, myself, am a hands on learner. I learn by doing and experiencing. I want to teach them what they need to know to be successful adults in whatever dreams they want to pursue. Not only academically but with real life skills. I feel like there are too many adults and soon to be adults entering the world not having basic life skills necessary to function in day to day life. I feel like the decision to homeschool my children will make this possible and as a family we can achieve amazing things.

My dream is to spend a year or 2 (or more?) traveling the country (I’d love to say the world but flying terrifies me!) I’ll have to work on that one) and learning on the road. I want my kids to not just read about amazing places in books and see them on TV, I want them to experience these wonders and really appreciate them.

If When we are lucky enough to make this a reality there may come a time when we decide, you know what? We want to settle down. I feel like we’d have a better understand of the country and really know where a comfortable spot for us to live would be, because we’ll have been there.

We’d like to buy a nice plot of land ( I can see it in my mind) acres upon acres (maybe 20 acres?) With a view of the mountains and a pond where we can explore. We want to learn to live sustainably, grow our own food and raise animals (I’m having trouble with the meat thing, I love to eat meat, but I don’t know how I’d handle raising my dinner, I tend to get attached). We love the idea of off grid living in a small house and collecting memories, not things. I want to teach my kids that things are just that, things. People and experiences are more important than material possessions).

I dream of a rescue for livestock where they can be safe and happy. Living off the land, growing our own food (well, most of it anyway) and appreciating the little things in life.

Life is Ever Changing

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that life is ever changing. We learn new things, we discover new opportunities and sometimes they alter our dreams. In essence, we change our minds. We are human, it is what we do. I have been doing much research and exploring over the past year and every once in a while something catches my attention and I think, I just have to try this!

It all started as a way to get out of the toxic situation our home has placed us in. We ended up, against my will, throwing more money at our 1900 house that isn’t worth what we owe on it, to remove the lead. I have to say I have never felt healthier than when me and the kids were living out of state for the summer. Made me more convinced of what I had been thinking all along, maybe its something in the house making me sick…

After being diagnosed with Lyme Disease and Mycoplasma from a tick bite in September, I began treatment. Let me give you a pierce of advice right now, if you ever find yourself with Lyme Disease and your doctor says, “Here, take these antibiotics for 2 weeks and you’ll be magically all better”. don’t believe them. Luckily I had enough previous knowledge of Lyme Disease to know that what my Dr. was telling me didn’t sound right and I sought a second opinion.

Would you look at that EVIL NASTY thing?!?!? **Shudder**

We discovered that I have been it so hard by it in such a short time due to an underlying issue with mold toxicity. I know, fun right? All the pieces are finally starting to come together. We are no closer to being removed from the toxicity of the house, but now I’m beginning to understand all the unexplainable things that have happened to my family. My husband, previously even tempered, developing horrible mood swings and almost bi polar like behavior, often for no reason (no, he has never tried to physically hurt anybody but not knowing who is going to be from one minute to another takes its toll on an already stressed family). My kids with new allergies where just a few short years ago nobody in my family was allergic to anything, my youngest with developing asthma and other respiratory symptoms, none of these things run in my family and this, perhaps, is a cause. There are other things I can pick out as well, but I’ll stop there and is, perhaps, a topic for another post.

In the past month, though not for the first time, I have been considering homeschool for oldest, my 11 year old, 6th grade son, Caleb. He has been struggling in school since kindergarten and I have felt that maybe he was not in a setting that was best for him to really learn in. After beginning my research, my middle child, 8-1/2 year old Abigail, expressed a desire to also homeschool. A flurry of thoughts and emotions are now running through my mind. Oh my GOD! Can I really do this or am I going to totally screw my kids up? Is this the right thing for my family? and about a million other questions. Facebook is a fountain of information with pages and groups specifically dedicated to homeschool families and they are a fountain of information. They were kind and patient while I expressed my thoughts, desires and concerns.

SO…. As of June 2016 We will be a HOMESCHOOLING FAMILY!!!!!!

Oh MY God! I can’t believe I just said that!!!! I haven’t actually said that out loud before. I’ve said it in the privacy of homeschooling Facebook groups but this makes it REAL!

It is still our dream as a family to:

 #1 Get the heck out of here and some place safe and healthy.
#2 Live off the land on our own piece of land in a tiny house and raise our family and our animals but wait, there’s MORE…..
I’ve been doing a lot of research about how I want to teach my kids and give them the best experience of life. I want them to not just see it on TV or in a book, I want them to LIVE IT. SO….

#3 my goal to Road School. I want to make it possible for my family to live and travel the US (I’d say the world but I’d like to start realistically and I and PETRIFIED of flying). I want us, as a family to really experience life if only for a year or 2 before we really decide if/where we want to settle down. After all, how can you possibly know where the best place to live is if you really haven’t experienced it. I hope you’ll continue to join in our adventure because it’s about to get REALLY interesting!

I will also be updating my Photography blog more frequently so, please feel free to take a peek at that too by clicking! Shades of life

This is not our rig, don’t I WISH!!! But this is our goal!