Sarah Carter Studio » artist | photographer | writer | advocate

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Days later and I’m still reeling from Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. I’m sure we all are. I find myself reading the stories and bios of the people who lost their lives that night. Charleston Hartfield was many things: a Las Vegas police officer, an accomplished Nevada Army National Guard sergeant first class and a youth football coach. Heather Alvarado, 35, was a mother of three and married to Albert Alvarado, a firefighter in Cedar City, Utah. The couple loved traveling with their three children. Candice Bowers was a single mother of three. Her family described her as a superhero who loved country music. There are 55 more stories to know and to grieve. One was a nurse who died protecting his wife. Another devoted her life to teaching children with special needs. They were people from different walks of life who had gathered Sunday night to enjoy a country music festival in the glimmering heart of the Las Vegas Strip. Then the gunman struck, shooting at the outdoor crowd from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel. He killed 58 people and injured at least 500, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

And now I’m grappling with this question: what the hell do I tell my kids? How is this okay? Of course it isn’t, and when the lid blows we are all brought to our knees, leveled to our basic common humanity. But – the pot has been boiling for a long time. This is just the result of years upon years of deep-rooted negligence, corruption, selfish ambition, and bad politics. The gun rights organization spent $54.4 million in the 2016 election cycle, almost all of it in “independent expenditures,” meaning spending for or against a candidate but not a direct contribution to a campaign. The NRA also gave $27 million in direct and indirect support to 50 senators who voted against a bill to require universal background checks for firearms purchases. *

I am not here to force any political ideologies or parties on anyone. I’m only stating facts. What is more interesting to me are the mental health numbers in our country. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. *

And yet – even still, mental health doesn’t seem to be a substantial part of the gun control conversation. And yes, background checks matter but no, when it comes to assessing mental health, they aren’t enough.

Within his first two months as president, Donald Trump repealed a gun regulation that prevented certain individuals with mental health conditions from buying firearms. *

Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective purchasers and to maintain records of the sales. But unlicensed private sellers—on the internet and at gun shows, for example—are not required to observe the same policies.

Let that sink in.

I’m not talking about taking away your guns. But I am talking about amping up the way we enable people to get them. I do agree that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And I’d add, sick people kill people. So what are we doing to regulate (access to firearms) AND treat the mentally ill? That is the conversation worth having.

For now, I’ll be exercising my rights by writing to my local and federal representatives, and I encourage you to do the same. The simplest way to do it is to test RESIST to 50409. The Resistbot will provide a list of your assigned reps, you type your message, and it sends directly. Simple. Fast.

Here is a sample of what I sent.

Dear ( name of recipient ),

I am writing to you as a parent of small children growing up in an unprecedented era of gun violence in our country. I urge you to vote to close the deadly loopholes in our laws that make it too easy for dangerous people to get guns. I’m begging you to resolve our gun laws immediately by expanding background checks to all online and gun show purchases.

* Background checks work. They are effective and have blocked more than 2 million gun purchases, keeping guns away from convicted felons, domestic abusers, criminals and other dangerous people.

* The current law covers only about 60 percent of gun sales, leaving the door open for prohibited and dangerous people to still buy a gun. For example, domestic abusers with restraining orders can still go online and buy guns without going through a background check in most states.

* 9 in 10 Americans support expanding background checks to online and gun shows sales, including over 80% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members.

* Now we must tell Congress to Finish the Job and expand background checks to all online and gun show purchases.

Background checks are a commonsense tool for keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill. It’s time to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country. Thank you for doing what is right for the people of ( your state ) and the United States.

Thank you,

( your name )

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It’s finally fall! Yes, technically it’s been fall for a while now, but man that last week was HOT. But today, today is sunshine and breezes and crisp leaves on sidewalks. I love this time of year so much. I’ve started making apple sauce and baking bread and putting away the summer things, making room for cozy sweaters and thicker blankets. This playlist is probably the last one I’ll be listening to from now until its time to bring out the Christmas tunes. I also bought all of the spice tea and coffee from Trader Joes that there is, because it is AMAZING (as is their pumpkin bread mix if you didn’t already know!)

Homeschool is in full swing, and so far so good. Truth be told, both Emerson and I had colds this week so it was a little lax in the intellectual department. We got our reading, copywork, and math work done and spent the rest of the time snuggled on the couch with a cup of tea and a couple movies. I’m hoping to pick back up next week as we jump further into The Island of the Blue Dolphins (one of my favs!) I’m combining the history of California, geography of the islands and oceans, literature from the book, and study of ocean life into science. I really super love that we can take one great story and mold a complete school day around it.

There have been a few moments of internal freaking out on my part as I realize the enormous weight of his education I’m holding right now. I feel so unqualified, so afraid of not giving him enough, that it can feel paralyzing. But in those moments I’ve been able to zoom into focus the single moment before me – whether its drawing a map of San Nicolas island or working on our dolphin sketch for nature journals – one next right step at a time. We’re consuming this experience one bite at a time. And that changes everything.

And on another note, one more geared toward self-care and home-care, here are some of my recent favorite things for fall:

This one day bread recipe

This all-natural cleaning product

These shirts in both colors

These jeans in summer dune

These flowers, delivered monthly

These candles in salt & sage

I’ve added some new art prints which are all now available here!

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We’re two weeks into this homeschool experiment, which by no means makes us experts, but honestly, the day I start writing about being an expert at anything is the day somebody better knock me back down to reality. We’re all babies here, learning as we go, making messes of things and figuring out how to love better the next time around. Funnily enough, the kids and I were on a drive a few days ago and realized that the initials of our family perfectly spell MESS … coincidence? I think not.

So it is in that spirit of imperfection that I’ve embraced homeschool with our nine year old boy, Emerson. Because I am not keenly wired toward organization and things like schedules, this endeavor brought to the surface many insecurities for me. I sometimes look at other peoples tidy, efficient, well-manicured and beautiful lives with such awe and wonder. I stare, nose up to the glass, like I’m outside a shop window longing for the perfect lives they’re advertising. This whole dynamic is recipe for disaster, of course, as I have never and will never be like them. Because I am me. And because you are you. The thing that keeps being true is that there is only one way forward, and that is through. There is only one right way for you, and that is to do it as only you would.

The illusion of One Perfect Way came hard at me when we first looked seriously at homeschool. Because I have a 5 wing on the Enneagram, I dove deep into the world wide interwebs of information. Articles, blogs, Instagram accounts and curated magazines flickered across my screen, promising to show me the way. I admit, the more I looked into it, the more my insecurities mounted. It was like all the things I could never be were being paraded in front of me. I would never be the scheduled mom, the one who was always on time, the one who packed bento box lunches so perfectly they’d make the food pyramid fairy cry. I am more of a “winging it” kind of mom. I get to most places within what I like to think of as a loose ten minute window. I basically make the same meal every single day, sometimes twice a day (shout out to PB&J!) If my kids bathe three times a week, I consider it a win.

I was not so sure I could handle what it seemed was required for homeschool.

And so there were a few nights of tears, and lets be honest, that means all out freak outs followed by a glass (or two) of red and a couple (or all) episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Because, balance.

But then I pulled my head out of … the ground … and made myself face the fears. Because we all know fear is a liar, the little jerk, and when we stop running and believing it and start locking our knees and digging our heels in, everything changes. That scary lie suddenly seems like a small mean judgey suggestion from some rude bystander – the authority of the lie disappears when we remember to be brave.

Who knew a venture into homeschool would become an invitation into my own growth? Well actually, Jesus did, probably. My best friend is such a know-it-all.

So homeschool became less about following someone else’s agenda to a T and more about taking the wisdom from said someones and applying it to my own homespun curriculum. I literally took all my typed up, perfectly arranged, copied schedules and tossed them right out. I don’t work well on the computer when it comes to planning. I like it old school, I guess. I need to write with my hands, to see the words fill up the calendar pages. So I bought a planner. The first one I’ve owned since college, people. I set aside a day to plan the first six weeks of school, working day by day, leaving room for erasing, changing, moving as we went farther and learned more. Here’s a bit of what that looks like:

Hypothetical Tuesday:

Character: Gen. 1 and discussion about what it means to be made in God’s image. Four chapters of The Whipping Boy: read, reason, relate, record (in our literature notebook)

History and Geography: Read Columbus pages 30-40 and record comprehension questions in History notebook; copy the map of Columbus into your notebook.

— GoNoodle Break —

Math: Lesson 13 Long Addition

Reading and Copywork: book of choice for 20 minutes followed by copying five sentences into your literature notebook)

Science: Read chapter 3 of Pagoo and record discussion questions and life-stage drawing into Science notebook


Now we don’t do the same thing every day, there are variables that we rotate depending on what the lessons and day look like. But this is a rough rhythm that we’ve been following, and so far it is working really well. We’re using curriculum and books for Character and History/Geography from Beautiful Feet. Math curriculum comes from Teaching Textbooks. GoNoodle is an awesome online activity app. Science curriculum comes from Ambleside.

Over time I hope to add in more crafts, art emphasis, music and composer focus, and possibly even an online class. But that will come. There is wisdom in pacing ourselves, there is something gentle and good about taking it slow.

I’ll write more in my next post about what this process has been like for me, specifically as an introvert and a working artist, as well as what I’ve already observed in Emerson as we’ve started the experiment. I’ll also share about what the dynamic has been transferring between being mom and being teacher, and vice vera. It’s been a super interesting journey so far!



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we’re all in. to homeschool, that is. the last few years i’ve been on the fence, wavering from frustration at the public school system to fear at the thought of taking it on myself. emerson has ridden his own wave of emotions throughout the summer as well. sometimes he’s excited, other times he’s scared of missing out on cool class stuff. i get it. but – something clicked over these last few days and we’re all kinds of excited now.

i’m a four on the enneagram, with a tendency to lean into my five wing most of the time (if all of this sounds like another language, stop and click here to learn about all the amazingness that is the enneagram.. seriously, do it.) the point of my saying this is that i really have the odds stacked against me when it comes to things like organization and keeping a schedule. i wish you could see my desk right now, you would not even try to argue with me about this terrible anti-organized-itus that i have.

homeschool, as it so happens, does require a certain amount of planning. and scheduling. and intention. when i first set out to do this thing, i reached out to my beautiful instagram community for help. so many amazing people commented with tips and insights and encouragement. it was so lovely! i decided to go down the charlotte mason rabbit trail because i really connected with her living books concept and the general idea that our kids are wired to learn, we just need to provide opportunities and resources and let them engage with the world around them. just – so much yes and amen to that!

i thought i’d include some links to what i’ve learned, some resources that have been helpful, websites with handy supplies and planners and all that good stuff. i know i’ll be back with more, but right now i’m committed to holding it loosely and letting it unfold as it needs to. to all those who are considering homeschool or are curious about what we’ll be up to, i can’t promise to do it perfectly but will certainly try to be as honest and clear as possible as we dive in – so glad to have you along for the adventure!

what is charlotte mason? – a great introductory website for her philosophy

ambleside online – aka a gift from the heavens

math (side note: thank the good lord for teaching textbooks! it makes math… fun. really it does! i left the workbook out on the kitchen counter last week, just to see how he’d interact with it. he’s already on lesson 8 – he does it for fun. for fun, people! #allthepraisehands

learning without tears – penmanship and some fun journal workbooks

wild + free – an awesome community of diverse families who homeschool in all sorts of ways

this blog + book

this homeschool mama (her posts are lovely but not often updated – be sure to follow her on IG too!)

my tentative schedule for term 1 (we are breaking the school year into 3 terms: sept-nov, jan-march, april-june)

so that’s where we are for now! more soon, of course, like always. and probably some changes along the way. we’re still dreaming of a podcast, something easy and imperfect, an invitation to come along as we learn together. more soon.

*photo src

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