Brene Brown – Wholehearted Living – Storyteller Researcher – A special BOOK LOOK!

Brene Brown’s work has made all the difference in my P.L.A.Y. days and my entire life. Period.

See CAPKINs + See U Soon!

I encourage you to watch, read, and listen to her free offerings listed below to continue your journey towards wholehearted living. This is a perfect opportunity to explore, embrace, be vulnerable, AND to be 100% authentically you. Discover your true P.L.A.Y. nature today!

Sending Hugs and Smiles to help light the way ~ Karen

WATCH! -Brene’s TED Talks

These two talks can make all the difference in how you connect or disconnect to your every day life and loved ones. They are stepping stones on your way to many P.L.A.Y. adventures filled with curiosity, communication, and a loving wholehearted experience with your children and family. Embrace the possibilities and be the change you’d like to see! Plant the seed, nurture and tend to it, and watch it grow into something amazing called your wholehearted journey!

Brene Brown’s TED talks are known around the world and her first talk is one of the most viewed ever.

The Power of Vulnerability (20 minutes)

Listening to Shame (20 minutes)

Brene Brown on Empathy (3 minutes – an RSA short – Royal Society for Arts)

READ! -Brene’s Books

Wholehearted Living – The research and storytelling by Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability and her sharing of it in her multiple books has made all the difference in how I am as a parent, partner, daughter, friend, and in all of my relationships and has rippled out to my family, community, and beyond. If you only have the chance to read one of her books I’d say her latest, 

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts 

has all the best basics for how to create trusting and vulnerable relationships while holding healthy boundaries and communicating your needs which results in wholehearted living.

I intend to create a more in depth series of BOOK LOOK posts in the future to cover more of her amazing and necessary work in her other titles. For now here are links to her website for overviews of each of her books and I highly recommend them all!

The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

LISTEN! -Brene’s Podcasts

Listening to the audio version of Brene’s books has been a tremendous gift over the years. Now you can hear her more often on her two engaging podcasts where she covers real time topics with a practical wholehearted lens.

Unlocking Us with Brene Brown “are conversations that unlock the deeply human part of who we are, so that we can live, love, parent, and lead with More courage and heart.”

Dare to Lead with Brene Brown “are conversations with change-catalysts, culture-shifters, and more than a few troublemakers who are innovating, creating, and daring to lead.”

VISIT! -Brene’s Website + Free Resources

Explore to discover more about this journey of Wholehearted Living for you and your family.

Explore these free resources for you, your loved ones, and to pass them forward!

Enjoy the wholehearted living journey and be sure to take time for you and yours to P.L.A.Y. every day!

Every Day is Mother’s Day

Sharing a note I wrote this morning in response to receiving a “Happy Mother’s Day” wish from a family friend.

Good Morning Dear Oma,

Your “Happy Mother’s Day” wish has found me in a contemplative moment as I sit here at the computer keyboard checking emails this morning.

For the past 7 years I have found Mother’s Day to be so very bittersweet. 💜
I stand in that space between what has passed and what is present. 

I think of my mom and her passing on May 13, 2014 and the great loss I have felt ever since. I think of all the Mother’s Day celebrations she hosted for her own mother and sisters for so many years and reflect on how everything has changed so much since she has been gone. I miss her so very much.

I think of my own journey from “mothering” all of those young cherubs I babysat in my teens, and then the oodles of hours spent in my 5th grade classroom from year-to-year nurturing all those kiddos, and then moving on to birthing my own two children and raising them amongst the many homeschooling families we met all along the way (including my much loved sister-friend in motherhood your dear Lisa & E & A & T).

“Mother’s Day is an odd notion to me, for truly every day is mother’s day – tending to our loved ones and letting them know how very much they are seen, heard, valued, and understood. This is the way of mothering daily. This is what I do and what I know best. It is how I am in the world – every hour, minute, year – always.

What actually makes me happy in this present moment, Oma, is to say how much I love being connected to you, your family, and to let you know how very glad I am you became a mother so very long ago. It has made all the difference in my life.

Sending love and a smile to help light the way,

Karen ;0)💜☺🐦☀🌷
PS –The sun is now up and the flowers are stretching towards the light. I think that is how I will spend my day and I hope you do too. Outside soaking up nature’s beauty. Time to P.L.A.Y.

A Simple Gift: Challenges + P.L.A.Y. As a Path Forward

Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂

There are times in our lives when our learning may not be directly chosen by us, rather it arrives at our doorstep in the form of a challenge. A challenge we’d rather skip altogether and detour around it as we can see that it may involve pain and sadness.

However, it is up to us to see it as an opportunity. To accept the challenge as difficult as it may be and approach it with curiosity, compassion, and yes even at times to approach with the essence of play to keep up our spirits and provide momentum through the darker moments.

Hidden Hearts: Love infused spring Landscape

When we are able to proceed from this place of curiosity, compassion, and play we are embracing the essence of wholeheartedness. From this place the work of this journey unfolds into a path forward and typically we are all the wiser for it.

I have had the good fortune to engage and put into practice P.L.A.Y. -Passionate Learning All Year with the intentional farming community my family lives in for the past 8+ years. We have had our share of challenges navigating tricky waters determining our path forward and coming to an understanding of what that truly means for each individual as well as for the community as a whole. And while we may not have all the answers and solutions we continue to make connections and strive to work together throughout the journey.

Hidden Hearts: Love revealed on the spring Landscape

To approach challenges with equally as much passion and effort as we can muster to see us through is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones.

During these challenging times, when the world seems upside down, what I know to be true is that if we lean into connecting with nature, getting outdoors for fresh air and a boost of vitamin D, and include moments of P.L.A.Y. on our “to do” lists (or better yet our “to be” list) we will get through whatever comes our way and we will discover insights into our own true nature in the process and be all the wiser as we discover “What is this here to teach me?”

Sending a smile and wishing you and yours much peace and wellness,

Karen ;0) 🙂

*For more support and inspiration visit Simple Gifts & Smiles articles HERE

BOOK LOOK – Free Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon – Chapter 16 Volunteerism, Ethics, Spirituality

~~~ BOOK LOOK ~~~

Review & Reflections

Free Range Learning:

How Homeschooling Changes Everything

by Laura Grace Weldon


If you were to only have one homeschool, unschooling, life learning book on your shelf this would be my top pick. It is absolutely worth having this volume on your shelf to revisit again and again.

This book encompasses so many of my core beliefs on life learning and how to raise children (and yourself!) in a mindful and wholehearted way that I just had to write a series of reviews covering the chapters in this book and encouraging other folks to try out this lifestyle.

Revisit reviews of previous chapters by clicking on the Category – Homeschooling + Unschooling search tab on the right side of this page or linked HERE.

In Chapter 16 – Volunteerism, Ethics & Spirituality Laura highlights these areas showing that homeschoolers have many opportunities to engage and explore individually, and with their families & friends, in a variety of community settings to round out their life learning journey.

Be sure to check out the activities and resources Laura offers and see my reflections below on our own families lived experiences and the resources we used on this journey.


 Voice and a Choice + Time to Listen + Time to Volunteer

Our work as life learners is to engage with topics of interest, explore curiosities, express ourselves creatively and authentically, and quite simply build a life of purpose and meaning through our daily adventures. I have found Laura’s book to be a wonderful guide through the life learning experience and hopefully, although this review series has come to an end with this final chapter, the practice of P.L.A.Y. and the many positive takeaways from this volume continue on for you and your family.

These past twenty plus years as a homeschooling and unschooling mom have provided me with an endless supply of lessons learned on my parenting journey. It has been the greatest gift to have the time to simply listen to my kiddos struggles and triumphs over the years. Providing a safe space while they questioned all that was before them and truly listening as they also reflected back on what they had learned as they moved along on their journey.

Throughout this parenting season in my life I’ve been given the opportunity to honor “a voice and a choice” again and again as we each participated on equal footing in our household discussions. Everyone truly mattered and had something valuable to contribute if they wished to bring it forward.

There have been many lessons learned and so often the teaching was done by the kiddos shining a light on what was really most important for the parents to understand. We are all the better for it and now have trusting adult relationships with each other because we’ve done this work, the hard homework, together.

Practicing this way of learning and being for multiple decades now means it runs deep in my veins and is connected to the very core of who I am. This year I launched P.L.A.Y.Passionate Learning All Year to share my experiences of this practice with you, pass forward what I have learned, and encourage as many folks and families as possible to engage daily with nature and P.L.A.Y. so that you too may experience the joy and connection it can create for you and your loved ones.

This practice of P.L.A.Y is meant to be shared and it is providing me with the opportunity to “volunteer”, show up and be seen, engage my mind + body + spirit, and give back to the future generations of young folks and families just beginning their life learning adventures.

And so you can see this journey, with much gratitude, continues for me even though the label of homeschool mom is beginning to fade and instead now when I am asked “What do you do?” I reply “My work is P.L.A.Y“!

❤ ❤ ❤

Sending many thanks to Laura Grace Weldon, to whom I’ve never met, for writing her book and being a wonderful guide all along the way.

Now that this series is through I hope you and your family will keep coming back and join me for many more daily P.L.A.Y. moments!

Here’s how:

  1. P.L.A.Y. daily by making sure you’ve signed up your email address to receive my posts (see home page).
  2. Bonus – Homeschool Visionista at your service! If you live in Western Massachusetts and you’d like to consider being a part of a small gathering of women for a Mom’s Visioning Retreat that will dive deeper into the concepts presented in this series and for the opportunity to be mentored by Karen in this group please send your name and email to: . I will contact you to discuss the program details -place/time/level of commitment/etc. with the intention to begin in early 2020. And in the spirit of volunteering  please know that it will be a pay-what-you-can program as my way of giving back to the homeschool community and making sure everyone has equal access to this support.
  3. Go back through all of the original posts in this Free Range Learning series and begin reading the suggested books listed as resources and the corresponding reviews I’ve made on separate posts.

Compliment your reading of Free Range Learning with the authors and resources listed below that our family have used on our life learning and parenting journey.

~ Recommended Authors + Resources ~

Dale McGowan –

Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief

Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion

Ryan Niemiec –

Mindfulness & Character Strengths: A Practical Guide to Flourishing

The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality

Marshall Rosenberg –

NonViolent Communication: A Language of Life

Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way

Myra & Jon Kabat-Zinn

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

Purchase Here –  P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books

and join the play-filled journey today!