Monday, May 25, 2015

Inspiration for the Week: Out-of-the-Box International Adventuring

For many families, international travel seems out of reach. Young kids, pregnancy, finances can all make that dream seem like "a world away. "

But in the spirit of thinking outside of the box when it comes to embracing adventurous learning, I wanted to share 2 ideas that may bring the international experience to your family a lot faster than you might have thought possible! AND you don't even need to leave the comfort of your own home!

If you love these ideas, or the idea of traveling to different countries to enhance the learning of your family, please stop by the Go! International page of (It is permanently linked to at the top of the Go! Vacations page.)
There you will find tips, destinations, and renewed encouragement to make the family voyage of your dreams a reality!

Bringing the International Experience into the Comfort of Your Own Home
by Steffanie Casperson

Ten years ago my oldest was two. And I was longing to get him out into the whole wide world to share with him all the loveliness to be found there. But we didn't have the money, time, or confidence for international travel with 2 year olds. 

As I hunted around for options that would work, I found Rebecca. She works for a company, OvECS, which places students with American families as they come to the USA to study.  Called "homestay," this experience helps the students learn English more rapidly, and (perhaps more importantly) helps them learn and navigate American culture.

From our perspective, hosting brought the world to us and our children. Over the next 3 years and the addition of another baby, we hosted a total of 23 international students in our home and LOVED the experience.  We hosted students from countries we already knew and loved from our missions in Taiwan and Korea. (We still cook the food I was taught by the Korean mother who lived with us.) And we hosted students from countries as foreign and new to us as Saudi Arabia.

Thinking that other Goschoolers might appreciate LOCAL international experience my family did, I recently contacted Rebecca again and asked for an interview. Enjoy!

How many students have you placed? Wow your first question is hard!! I've done this job since 1997 and I can't even imagine how many students I've placed. So I just counted from last June to this May (1 year) - I've placed 270 students. So maybe I've placed close to 5000 students!!

What are some of the countries they are from? By far the biggest group is Japanese but also Saudi Arabia, Korea, Taiwan, China, Mexico, Columbia, Thailand, Kuwait, Qatar, Peru, Brazil... 

What do families enjoy most about hosting? Learning about different ways of life, different cultures, different foods, and for some host families, they host for the company. I have quite a few single older women who like to have someone in the home.

What aspects of American culture seem to be most challenging for the students? The food is very different for some students. But I would say that our big family gatherings are hard for students. They aren't used to big families or having big gatherings weekly. The conversations are hard to follow when it's not one on one. 

In your experience, what makes for the richest cultural exchange? Just being yourself and involving your student in your everyday family life. 

What are some of the benefits to both students and host families when they host? The students are able to practice their conversational skills with native speakers. They also have the opportunity to experience American culture first hand - to be part of a family and do things with a family. This experience cannot be had in a classroom. Although the family conversations are hard to follow, over time it can really improve their speaking and listening skills. Also, many times the students get very close to their host families and remain in contact for years and even return to visit their host family. On the host family side I've had some families that have even gone to visit their student in their country! The families also make close bonds with the students and the students become part of the family. The families also gain understanding of another culture, and of course for some families the monetary compensation is helpful. 

What should families know if they are considering hosting for OvECS?  I have all different hosting opportunities available. I have short term groups (2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks) and long term students that come from March-December. They are usually between 19-23 years old. Families can say if they want a male or female. Students must have their own room, a bed, a desk and wifi. Being near public transportation is also necessary. The compensation is $500 for four weeks and families provide breakfast and dinner. I have a group of 78 fourteen year old Japanese boys coming in September for 10 days and I need families!! It's two per family and the compensation is $425 for that group.

Why do families STOP hosting? What is the longest a family has hosted for? I have some families that have hosted for me for all 18 years! Some families only do one short term group each year. Families stop for a few reasons: (some have the nerve to move to Cache Valley!!) some stop because their kids have grown up and left home, some because they move to an area where there isn't public transportation, sometimes there are family members who move back in and the room isn't available. I had one family who hosted a Saudi national for 5 years!! He did his whole degree at the U and stayed with the family. The host mother said he was like a son to them. 

Where do families need to live to be considered to host with your program? And if they live there, how might they get in contact with you about hosting? (I'll let you answer specific questions with any who might contact you.) Host families need to be within the Salt Lake Valley and near public transportation. The website is, my email is and my phone number is 801-453-9847

"Eat Your Way Around the World"
Book Review by Amanda, Road Trip Guru

Wish you could travel the whole world with your kids? Want your children to get an international education? Are your kids curious about other cultures and peoples? 

Your answer (short of a money tree in your backyard) is here! When I asked my kids what they wanted to learn about my oldest son said he wanted to eat food from different countries. My oldest daughter’s response was that she wanted to learn about people from around the world. As I went to the almighty google to find a easy way to meet these requests, in the back of my mind I remembered someone mentioning “Eat Your Way Around the World” by Jamie Aramini. 

I quickly found the book, reviewed it and decided it looked perfect! The author gathered recipes that represent each of over 30 countries. The recipes were chosen for their representative value and the ease of finding ingredients. We started having a ‘country dinner’ once a week. We have ‘visited’ 6 countries in Africa followed by 5 Asian countries. Next week we will visit our first European country: France! 

The book includes quick facts about the country and culture. It describes how they dine, such as with their hands or chopsticks. One country was without plates! Another we ate with our hands! All of my kids have really enjoyed the experiences (and at least some of the foods). 

To complement our dining experiences I bought “Around the World’ coloring book by Winky Adam, which has some facts about the country, the map and flag to color. 

Before eating, I read all the facts to the kids, and they color the flag appropriately. I often look (online) for some traditional music from the country to listen to while we cook and eat. I show the kids where on the globe the country is, and then have each child find it (or look for it). 

Enjoy your "travels"!
Note: “Eat Your Way Around the World” and “Around the World” coloring books are not affiliated, and do not exactly correspond. However, most of the countries so far have been in the coloring book.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Inspiration of the Week: Meet Amanda!

We all have our excuses and hesitations when it comes to getting up and out. Whether it seems too hard because of the ages of our kids, or how many we have, or how difficult the processes can feel, the interview below will inspire you that you CAN do it!

I don't remember the first time I met Amanda. Whenever it was, I'm sure I thought something like, "That mom has A LOT of kids." To be exact, Amanda has 8 children, ages 8 and down. No twins. So that's an impressive feat on it's own. But I became all the more impressed when I kept seeing Amanda WITH all her children. At swimming lessons, at ballet classes, at fun activities, at the library. She wasn't with one or two, but was managing all eight children at places that have been a challenge for my meager 4 - two of whom are 8 or older!

When she and I chatted about how passionate she felt about Goschooling - the process of learning by being up and doing - I KNEW she was someone everyone should know better. So I interviewed her. I hope you'll enjoy and benefit from the wisdom she shares below as much as I have! Thanks Amanda!

Q:  If there was ever a great reason to hunker down and be a home-body, many would think having 8 children ages 8 and down would be it. Why do you chose to be up and going with your children?
A: Regardless of how many children I have, or their ages, I want them to have a rich learning environment. I want them to see new places, learn new things, and truly experience as much of this wonderful world as they can. If I can’t do things with my children and enjoy them, then what is the point? I’m also one who likes a challenge, and I have a can-do attitude.

Q: Do you have any tips for getting 8 little ones all heading in one direction?
A: Teach and expect independence. Expect obedience. Kids try to live up (or down) to your expectations. So I have high expectations, but try to have safeties in place for when they can’t meet them. I tend to think of myself as a chaos manager :)  I have found over the years, that my parenting expectations have changed. I've also realized that many of them are influenced greatly by our family dynamics. I have a very good friend who has two children. She can let them go where they want, and still keep track of them. I can’t. Whenever we go somewhere, all the kids know they have to stay with me. They ask to go the bathroom (I send them with a buddy or take everyone). They learn very early they can’t run off. Running off is one of those rules that I HAVE to be strict on. If I tell them to stand by the van, I HAVE to know that that is where they are and not wandering off. When a child doesn’t want to obey or when they forget and don’t do what is expected, then they lose the opportunity to be free. They get in a stroller, or have to hold my hand. (Yes, holding my hand is a punishment.)  

On the other hand, as long as their clothes are clean, I don’t care what they wear. I don't have time or energy to spend on fighting those battles. I give them directed freedom. For example, we attend swim lessons regularly. The kids get out of the van and go to the grass area in from of it (I make sure to park by the grass). They know to wait in front of the van, where they can see me. When I have the babies out, then I tell them they can go. They run in the grass to the edge of the curb and wait. When everyone is there, I tell them ‘go’. They run across the parking lot to the next grass or side walk I designated. We repeat until we are at the door to the building. I try to have very short clear directions. With this arrangement, they all (even my 2 year old) know to stop before going into the parking lot, and all I have to do is supervise to make sure no one gets distracted or left behind. Directed chaos ;)

Q: With so many little ones, do you have a rule of thumb you follow when deciding what activities and opportunities to participate in and which ones to pass on?
A: I recently bought a quad stroller (goes through doors) which helps significantly. I almost always require the stroller, so I look for wheelchair accessible trails and such. I also ask myself (and sometimes the venue) questions, such as:
1) How harmful is it when they make noise?
2) How much money do we lose if we find it's not suitable?
3) How much is there that the kids might find interesting?  (Sometimes I make mistakes….like the Magna Carta Exhibit that was almost entirely written with few interesting pictures.)
4) Can we go at our pace?
5) Are there opportunities to stop and play (low stress activities) or to take a break and come back?
Some examples: 
Movies - almost never. Museums that are part of the ASTC group, so we get free or discounted admission - great! Guided tours - no. Self-guided tours - great! Children's museums - great. Museums that we can leave and come back to - great. Scheduled anything - probably not.

Q: Do you have a support system (or systems) you rely on?

A: Yes! I have a wonderfully supportive family on both sides. I have a friend who watches the kids once a week. I have other friends who are willing to help out. I am truly blessed with friends that love me and my crazy family! My husband also is incredibly supportive. He often comes home to find he gets to make dinner, and rarely complains. He puts the kids to bed, so I can veg during that time. He lets me sleep as much as he can. He also is blessed with a flexible job which enables him to come home if I really need help. That's the hardest part of these road trips: being "on " 24/7 the whole time we are gone, and not having him for backup. But he’s so sweet he lets me come home and crash! (That's right, Amanda field trips AND road trips without her hubby!) 

Q: On the Goschoolers team, you are called the Road Trip Guru. What tips do you have for road-tripping with little ones?
A: Accept and understand the kids needs to be kids. Give you and them time to go slow. Make sure everyone tries to go to the bathroom any time any one child does (significantly reduces potty stops). Help them work to lengthen the time between bathroom breaks. Bring a toddler potty, just in case you have to stop on the side of the road. Don’t be afraid of pull-ups - use them if it makes every one's life less stressful. Books on tape are good for the 5+ crowd, young adult books move quickly enough for the kids but are interesting for you. Limit drinking in the car. Bring snacks. For our larger family, we need to plan and even make reservations for any eating out that's not fast food. Have a plan, but be flexible. I plan an activity for the day, and have a list of other activities we could do if we have extra time. Plan time for decompressing, like running around at a campground or park. Bring a comfort item from home. Do what you need to keep yourself calm and happy. If you’re not having fun, no one will. Relax and enjoy your kids!

Q: What other insights do you have on Goschooling, little kids, and large families?
A: Our kids can do so much more than we usually give them credit for. Don’t underestimate the power of persuasion. I can talk my kids into almost anything - its all how you present it. I mean, which sounds more fun: 1) Lets go look at some bones from millions of years ago? or 2) Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome to see some real bones of dinosaurs?! (be enthusiastic!) Think they will have a T-rex? How big do you think they are?

When something is overwhelming, take a step back and ask why. Why am I doing this? Why is it important? Is it really that important? What are we getting out of it? 

One of the most influential comments I received was an older lady with grown children who told me that whether she folded the clothes or not, the clothes ended up the same way: half folded in the drawers. The lesson I learned: Do I really need to fold the clothes? For us, it's not that important. By the time the kids have worn them for 10 minutes, they are wrinkly anyway. It also led to us cutting down the amount of clothes we have out, so that there is one basket for each person, and that's all the clothes they have access to. Now I don’t fold clothes, or carry them up to the bedrooms. I sort them into each kid's basket and they dig in their basket for their clothes. It saves me lots of time and effort that I can now spend with my kids! 

This is just an example. There is nothing wrong if you like crisp folded clothes. The point is to look at our lives and see what is truly of value, and those we waste time on. The more that is on your plate (like 8 little kids) the more important it is to cut out the unfulfilling or unnecessary parts of our lives. 

Finally, get your kids involved. If you are excited about something, they will probably be interested in it too. Almost anything can be explained to the point a young child can start to understand it. Have fun!!

In the future, hopes to feature Amanda's road trip plans and itineraries and even host Goschoolers road trip caravans! Read a few of Amanda's reviews on the Go! Vacations tab.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Inspiration For the Week: Moving In the Direction of Your Dreams

A quote that keeps coming to mind, from Walden Pond, by Henry David Thoreau:

"...if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the licence of a higher order of beings."

Last month my family made that leap - the confident leap in the direction of our dreams. We are going to Taiwan this year for 3 months! WA-HOOOOOO! This dream has been years and years in coming. Though MOST of the details of our trip we DON'T know, there IS something so miraculously liberating about saying, "Enough with all the what-abouts. Maybe we'll never have ALL the right answers. But we won't be stopped from living the life we have imagined."

As we have taken this first step towards our dreams, we've found new energy and enthusiasm for everything. We've found new opportunities to learn and grow and serve, even right here and now. Other impossibilities now seem possible. And we're savoring the moment better, deeper, than we had before.

Though you're unlikely to join our adventure over-seas, please join in our adventurous spirit. Find a dream to chase, a new experience to live. In Walden, Thoreau wrote:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life... and see if I could not learn what [life] had to teach."

Wherever your adventures take you - to the woods, a foreign country, or a new cultural event in your own back yard - live them deeply and suck out all the learning and experience you can, "...and not, when [you] came to die, discover that [you] had not lived."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Goschoolers Reaches 100!!!

No, we're not 100 years old. But we now have OVER 100 Goschooling families! We passed the 100 family mark on April 18, less than 90 days after launching! Thanks for spreading the word! Keep it up! And look for a party in the coming month or two to celebrate!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Woot! Woot!

An article of mine about how to plan easy and inexpensive summer fun was published in Utah Family Magazine! Check it out! I'm quite proud - not just of getting published, but I think the contents of the article itself are GREAT! (Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.)

You can read my article and the rest of the magazine here!

If you have issues with the link, go to, click on the digital edition at the top of the page. The article is on page 50 of the current edition. Enjoy!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Inspiration For the Week: The Gift to TRY

The times I've wished I could just KNOW how something would turn out before I did it are too many to count. Before I take action, often I've found myself wishing that I could get even a sense of the results of that action. Like when I chose to marry my husband - why couldn't I get a vision of the 4 beautiful kids that would be ours? Or when I chose to homeschool - why couldn't I taste some of the joy of having my kids with me on the adventure we call life BEFORE I took on a task like home-education?

Those are the biggies. But smaller plans for the future, like field trips and family vacations, carry that same inner longing I have to KNOW, before I go, what is going to happen - if we will be happy, and the positive end results of our choices.

Recently I read in a book of scripture about sons who were asked to do the seemingly impossible. The more experienced brothers, having personally tasted of the challenges, hung back. The youngest brother held to his faith and hope, despite having also experienced personally the setbacks and dangers involved in their impossible mission. He said he acted, "Not knowing before hand the things [he] should do." His willingness to TRY not only brought success, but the experience of acting WITHOUT prior knowledge gave him added strength to face future challenges - a benefit his brothers couldn't receive because they hadn't acted to see the task through.

As I reflected on their experiences, I've realized the great gift of TRYING has been in my life. Though I have wished to know, I have grown so much as I've been willing to act without knowing. I've been challenged, stretched, faced failure, and met with unexpected success.

And STILL I find myself hesitant to commit without great, juicy details, or some one's assurance it will work out or be worth it. That's fine too. There is wisdom in the old adage, "Look before you leap." But this week, I'm celebrating the Gift to Try. Celebrate with me by trying something new, even if all your worries haven't been settled. And share how you've grown from doing so below!