When you first meet someone, you never really know what is going on in their mind and what kind of life they have lived. Everyone has a story and everyone’s story is so unique. I’m excited for you to meet this week’s living with kids mom, Elisha Kemp.
Elisha spent part of her child in the foster care system, met her husband originally as a young teen in a homeschool program, and now is the mother of two who homeschools her kids. Her house is sweet and charming. Welcome, Elisha!
Welcome to our sweet little home in Raleigh! My husband and I met when I was 12 and he was 16 in speech class for homeschoolers. I had a major crush on him but always thought he was too old for me, he always liked me but never thought I would go out with him. The love story begins there. We reconnected again when I was 17 and he was our farrier for our horses. He finally asked me out, well actually he asked my mom (he was too chicken) and our first date was a comedy show — which is one of my favorite things about our story. Laughter is such good medicine to the soul and it’s been something we’ve kept in our relationship, laughing every day together.
A few weeks after we began dating, my adoptive mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and so our first year of dating was quite a ride, with turmoil in my family’s life as my mom passed away a year after she was diagnosed.
I also had a little battle with thyroid cancer halfway through our first year too. I had a thyroidectomy and Josh was so sweet; he stayed at the hospital the entire time and even went to visit and sit with my mom during her treatments when I was at work. It really brought us closer together. It also shaped us so much and I feel when hard things come our way we always work together and not against each other, something I believe is so special about our relationship.
We’ve grown up together and also within our relationship. It will be 10 years this May that we have been married and I wouldn’t change one thing. I’m grateful for every experience we’ve been through together. Our two little men have brought so much joy into our lives as well.
Benjamin is eight years old and he is planning to be an inventor like Benjamin Franklin when he grows up. He is our extroverted, adventurous and compassionate one. He is always holding doors open for others without being asked and loves to create gifts to give others. Ian is six years old and he is our little artist, and currently has big plans to perform on stage. He loves to draw and dance. He also is our little comedian and loves to make us laugh.
We had a home birth with our oldest son, and our youngest was born in a natural birth center. We never planned to be “natural birth people” but after our first pregnancy ended with a miscarriage at 12 weeks along, it naturally happened. Since then our family has slowly taken baby steps to a more natural and chemical free lifestyle. I currently school our boys at home and also work from home helping to equip others in their wellness journey. Josh was a farrier for the first 5 years of our marriage and then he taught himself to code and is currently an automation engineer in downtown Raleigh.
Our home is about 20 minutes from downtown Raleigh and is situated between farm land. Our backyard actually backs up to an 80+ acre farm! So it’s such a beautiful view in the morning when we sit at the breakfast table or back porch. It’s so convenient too with a local mall, bookstore and Target about twelve minutes away!
We moved to Raleigh 3 years ago this summer and it will be 2 years that we have lived in our home this August. It was our first home we purchased. House hunting was no joke. This was our 9th house we had put an offer on and we bought it for $205,000. When searching for a house we did not have a big list of what we really would like. When we stumbled upon this house we put an offer on it immediately and Josh did not even get to see the inside until afterwards! It truly has everything we had on our list though and we truly feel this little place was set apart for us.
It has 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a screened in porch which we use constantly and an open space family room to entertain. It also has a kitchen island which we both were giddy about having and wanted. During the inspection we fell in love with the screened in porch furniture and asked the previous owners for it instead of fixing minor little things that had come up in the inspection. They said yes and it really has been one of our favorite spaces.
The day this house became ours, we grabbed some pizza and sat in the back porch enjoying the view of the farm and quietness of the neighborhood.
If you are looking to buy in Raleigh, best advice I can give is be to be quick on your feet! It is really a hot market right now and such a beautiful place too! We love hiking so the local nature preserves are some of our favorites. We also love fishing and there is an abundance of lakes and ponds near us. We even have one in our neighborhood! We love walking to our local little pond and fishing or searching for little critters on the weekend.
When we first moved into our home, the family room was a dark brown and the school room was a bright red. It really is amazing how a few coats of paint can open up a room and transform it! We changed the normal dining room area into a school room and it’s been one of our favorite home projects! It’s been so fun making this place our home.
Our neighbors are quiet and mainly keep to themselves but are friendly. The boys say hi every day to our next door neighbor when she walks her poodle. We love taking walks while the boys ride their bikes on the sidewalk. We are planting our first garden this year in the back and also have plans of building a fort facing the farm too, for the boys to enjoy.
So as I mentioned, Josh and I were both homeschooled and when we began dating we talked about kids and school and it was mutual that we both wanted to homeschool. One of the many things we had in common! Homeschooling is really just another extension of our parenting and home. We’ve found our rhythm and groove with schooling at home and it looks way different than how you would normally think of educating, but our kids have learned in leaps and bounds, way more than ever before.
Unschooling and a little Charlotte Mason is the method for educating at home that we do. Our mornings usually start with our daily math lesson, then a morning collective which is an array of books we read aloud that cover history, science, nature and more. We do notebooking a few times a week which is where they will draw, narrate and write about what they are learning — one of our favorite things to do for school! This is where they learn how to form sentences, spell, punctuation and more.
Recently I also started Homeschool Pen Pals to help bring back the lost art of penmanship. It’s been so exciting to watch a wonderful group form and we currently have about 400 homeschoolers in the US + International participating! I also run a local homeschool group that is a part of Wild + Free, a homeschooling community. We do monthly nature hikes together, field trips, and they offer mom nights too.
My advice for anyone who is considering homeschooling: keep it simple. Don’t be overwhelmed by the countless homeschool curriculums and methods out there. Find what works for your family and just do that and don’t feel pressured to fit into a box or even a method. I also highly recommend Jodi Mockabee’s getting started manual. It is what changed our perspective on educating at home and has helped us grow so much over the past year. I also highly recommend joining Wild + Free and reading through their monthly content bundles for encouragement and support. And of course join a support group — if you are in Raleigh, reach out to me!
It is so tough to pick a favorite spot in our home. I would have to say our coffee table in the family room. You can find us just about every evening crowded around it playing a game together or reading a book or drawing in the afternoon on it. It’s become the main hub of our home and it is well loved. We actually found it on a yard sale page for $70 and it was our first piece of furniture we bought for our home! We moved it in the day we bought the house.
Home to me is being surrounded by my kids and my husband every day. Whether it is all of us cooking and laughing together in the kitchen, playing a game together on the floor at the coffee table or enjoying the peaceful evening noises in the backyard. Enjoying the little things and soaking up each moment is what I love about this space. It has never been one certain item or piece of art we have but those moments and memories made around them that have shaped our home.
As a little girl, from five years old until I was 10, I grew up in the foster care system. I was placed in foster care along with my older brother because I was being physically abused and neglected by a family friend. It was something that truly has shaped me into who I am today and what I value. I value moments. I value time spent together. As a little girl I never had that and even though social workers and foster parents tried to keep it comfortable and let me be a child, I grew up quickly and I had to be mature at a young age.
My favorite memories from that time are going to my Grandma’s home every few weekends. We would scan the newspaper for weekend events or movies every Saturday morning. It is one of the best things I can remember since I was able to spend time with my brothers during this time as well. Foster Care also had many difficult moments. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep and had nightmares that lasted for years. I had traumatic incidents that happened in my first foster home and they really impacted me for many years.
I have a strong nurturing tendency and since I was very young always knew I wanted to be a mother and provide a true childhood for my children. It’s been such a beautiful experience being a mother and almost re-living certain ages as my boys grow older. Motherhood has honestly been such a redemptive journey for me, and how I grew up definitely plays a part in how I parent.
If I had to pick my mom superpower, I would say it is nurturing spaces and homemaking. I love creating spaces that impact all your senses. I like bringing in fresh flowers, diffusing essential oils, adding quotes and scripture on the walls to see, and bringing in pillows that are fluffy and blankets with a texture. I think it brings together a room and makes it feel cozy. The space feels nurtured and in turn, you feel nurtured too when you walk in.
Since my mom passed away before I was married and had children, it’s been another significant impact on how I parent. I truly try to embrace all those tiny moments I might just brush off, I keep a book of all the cute sayings my children say and I am constantly trying to find and speak gratitude out loud. My perspective on gratitude is when you write it down and speak it out loud, it dissolves disappointment and anxiety, and it fills your soul.
I wish someone had told me that if you never try, you’ll never know. I have always had a passion for wellness and a more simple, natural lifestyle. Two years ago I jumped in with a community that is all about empowering and equipping others to realize their health is worth the investment, and wellness is such a gift.
Benjamin, my oldest son, when he was five years old would write notes to us saying he was not worth it, he wasn’t a good person and his anxiety was pretty high. Josh and I would be in tears, feeling helpless and unsure of how to help him. Then we found effective health tools with essential oils and how we eat. We made him his own roller to use every day and soon the notes he would write and journal writings we used to find disappeared.
Then we began to look at the food we ate because he had constant stomach pains, and after a few weeks of eliminating gluten and dairy, they were gone. This is what has worked for our family and I am so passionate about equipping other moms to help their kiddos.
If I had to pick one thing that our sons remember from our home, it would be that this was a place they felt comfortable to stretch their wings and dream out loud. I hope they remember seeing their parents live out their passions and being grateful for it all.
The things I hope they don’t remember would be when I have raised my voice or got upset. Although from those I hope they remember the power of an apology and forgiveness.
Today I have chairs, pillows and blankets all in a jumble in our family room since my youngest, Ian, has been building a fort all morning. He is curled up inside his fort currently with a book and this is probably my absolute favorite thing about living with my children. The messes made in moments that are marked down as memories. I hope they remember fort making in the family room, watching a movie from the fort and munching on a snack as I read a book aloud to them from the floor.
Thank you, Elisha! You’ve experienced so much— an abusive childhood, years in the foster system, losing your adoptive mother at a young age, thyroid cancer. You strike me as very resilient, and you seem so aware of how your experiences have impacted you and led you to make certain choices.
Elisha said something really lovely about her home being the place where her kids can “dream out loud.” I love that phrase. Creating a spot where our kids feel free to be, and express themselves in any way they see fit is something I am really passionate about. I love that as parents we have the power to create those spaces. Our kids will be better for it.
What kind of things do you do to help your kids “dream out loud?” How do you make your home a safe space for creativity and expression? What have you changed from your own upbringing to help your kids thrive?
Arrow Wall Decals
Forever Young Signboard
Deuteronomy 6 Print
You can follow Elisha on Instagram here. Living With Kids is edited by Josh Bingham — you can follow him on Instagram. Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.