Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Can You Afford to Homeschool Part 2

Today I would like to share some ways I have learned to stretch our money and live within our means.

If you haven't read the above magazine, I would like to recommend it.  It is loaded with great tips for saving money and making items from scratch.  You can find it at: http://econobusters.com/molly_green_magazine_molly_makes_merry/  It costs a mere $3.85 a month to read online, or you can purchase single issues for $4.95 each.

First, I shop at a discount grocery store and the local Dollar Tree store.  These two stores are where I buy most of our groceries and household and toiletry items, including vitamins and some over-the-counter medicines.  I only go to a regular, full price grocery store for meats and the few things I may not be able to find at the other two stores.

I mentioned that we make a lot of food items from scratch.  I also make some of our household products myself out of common ingredients.  In future posts, I will share some recipes.

Almost two years ago I purchased a sewing machine and I make my own skirts.  I have made my own curtains.  I made the boys and my husband lounge pants.  I enjoy sewing and learning to make new clothing and craft items on my sewing machine.

When we need clothes that I cannot make, we go to the local consignment shops, used clothing stores, Good Will stores, or Salvation Army store. (I buy under items new at K-Mart).

I make homemade items for Christmas gifts.  (We do buy 1 or 2 items for the boys and we purchase stocking stuffers).

Also, to conserve things like gasoline, we don't go out unless we have to and we try to do as many things in the area we are travelling in as we possibly can instead of making multiple trips to the same area in a week's time.

In the spring, we plant a garden to help cut grocery costs.  It is a blessing and joy to be able to plant, grow and harvest our own food.

These are things we do to live frugally, and you can too.  You may just want to start small and try one or two steps at a time.  We didn't do all of this at once either, but it has become natural for us to do these things.  They have simply become a natural part of our lifestyle.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How Can You Afford to Homeschool?

Homeschooling requires personal sacrifice, but it is temporary and so worthwhile.  We only have our children for a while before they are grown and off living their own lives and creating their own families.  Sure, they'll come home for visits, but they won't need so much of our time and attention.

My husband and I chose through God's leading, eleven years ago, to homeschool the two boys we had at that time.  The oldest was in 2nd grade in a private Christian school and the younger in preschool in the same private Christian school, when God called us to homeschool.  I really hadn't worked outside of the home more than part-time work for a brief time, after adopting our first son, but I was working part-time when God called us to homeschool.  So, I quit my part-time job and contacted the only woman I knew that homeschooled to seek some advice and tips because I didn't know anything about it.

Our homeschool journey hasn't been easy for several reasons:  1) My husband is a general labor worker and         every job he's ever had has included times of lay-off; 2) our second son fought me tooth and nail about EVERYTHING, but most especially over doing school work of any kind.  It didn't matter if it was educational games, books I would read to him or worksheets I wanted him to do -- no matter what approach I took, he wasn't interested. So, I thought, like many moms do, maybe I'm not the right teacher for him; maybe he needs something I can't give him; maybe he would do better in a school setting.  (Now, I want to note here that he had problems in preschool in the private Christian school before this, but somehow I had forgotten that.)  So, we enrolled him in the local public school.  That lasted three months.  He didn't do any better there, and I got tired of the public school teacher complaining to me and blaming me for the time I had homeschooled him because "he hadn't had any structure before".  What did she know about our homeschool?  She had never asked me about it.  So, we brought him back home.

Then, one day as I was reading our local homeschool newsletter, I saw an advertisement that grabbed my attention.  It asked me questions about struggles I was having with my son, and said that if the answer to any of the questions was "yes", my child probably needed vision therapy.  I called and made an appointment and our son began vision therapy.  However, it wasn't long and my husband's job hit one of those lay-off times and I couldn't afford the vision therapy sessions anymore, and the therapist was not willing to work with us in any way.  So, we had to stop.  I was disheartened because I had begun to see some improvement during the time our son was getting that therapy.

Then I was talking with someone and found out that they had a child who was getting vision therapy, but not where we had been going.  This place was an hour's drive from our home in one direction!  Well, I called and we went, and what a blessing!  These people cared more about the patient than the money.  They worked with us, they gave my son more of a variety of activities for therapy and made them fun as much as possible.  And, the therapist spoke with me each and every visit and explained what they were doing, and the vision therapy doctor/evaluator allowed me in the room to watch the evaluation and he spoke to me throughout and told me things about my son's behavior that were right on the mark, and I said, "how do you know that?"  He told me that the issues of my son's eyes not working together properly are part of the cause of his behaviors.  I was astounded, but as my son progressed through the therapy, his behaviors improved dramatically.  By the time he completed the therapy, he seemed like a different child.  We didn't constantly butt heads anymore.

Now, back to the financial end of it.  During the times my husband was laid off from work, times were tough, but God always provided and we made it through, without even having to cut out co-op classes.  Somehow, God always provided.  No, we didn't have the money to buy everything we wanted or go all the places we wanted to go or do all of the things we wanted to do, but our needs were always met.  A couple of Christmases were tight as well, but we would make homemade gifts to give, which kept costs down.  We still do this.

I also learned to make more things from scratch to save money, like baking my own bread, baking cookies and cakes and muffins from scratch.  It's cheaper to keep ingredients on hand and make my own than to buy premade or ready mix.  I learned how to make my own granola cereal.  We ate oatmeal.  We made homemade pizza by making homemade dough.  I even learned how to make my own handsoap and laundry detergent, dishwasher rinse aid and other household items.  It really wasn't that difficult, but it took a little more time.  But the foods tasted better and are healthier because they don't have all those preservatives and stuff.

Right now, my husband is in a lay off period again.  He's been off work since the beginning of August and he hasn't been able to find another job.  But, this time, before his lay off, in the month of May, I found something interesting and appealing to me in the email inbox.  You see, I used to subscribe to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and also received their e-newsletters, and out of the blue, I received an email informing me that they were looking to hire some advertising sales representatives.  It gave me a bit of information about the position, and I was intrigued.  I spoke to my husband and showed him the email, and we decided that I would check it out.  I responded to the email, had a telephone interview, responded to another email and then received an email welcoming me to the TOS team -- I had gotten the job!  And, it was the kind of job I had wanted years before -- a job that I could work from home and set my own work schedule!  And, the best part of the whole thing was that I hadn't even been looking for anything.  I was living content in the life God had given me.  I believe that God had a hand in that email.  I now work as an advertising sales representative for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  I love my job and the people I work with and for, even though I have never met any of them face-to-face.  I'm not making much money, as this is a commission-based job, but I will get there.  It's the kind of job that requires time, patience and relationship building in order to begin to earn money, and I made my first sale in August and it was the only sale I made in August.  Then I made one sale in September, but I made four sales in October, and I've already made one in November, so I can see it building, and I am enjoying it so much, AND earning some money is better than earning no money.  It is a blessing, and I believe it was a gift from God and that he will continue to bless it.

So, yes, homeschooling is a self-sacrifice.  I don't get to go shopping or out with the girls, or even out with my husband very often, but our children are precious to us and we want what is best for them.  We believe that our teaching them at home where we can teach them our Christian beliefs and heritage, is what is best for them.  Our oldest graduated from high school last year, and we can already see how God is blessing the fruits of our labors because we were (and are) obedient to Him, as He is the one who called us to homeschool and we are doing our best to be faithful to Him who is faithful.  I don't believe we will regret our choice to homeschool, and we will have time and probably more money to spend upon ourselves when our children are grown, but I don't feel angry, frustrated or neglected because of the choice we have made.  I feel content and blessed, and I can see God's blessings in our lives even in the tough times.

So, my question is can you afford NOT to homeschool?

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Do You Homeschool with Toddlers?

I would like to begin this post by letting you know that it is not my writing that you will be reading.  I have never had to homeschool any children while having toddlers in the house, but I have lots of friends who have, and I know that this is a challenge for new homeschool moms.  Therefore, I will be sharing a short article on the subject written by my friend, Mrs. Lefever.  She wrote this for our local homeschool newsletter, The Scrawls:

     Every year I get asked that question (the title of this article).  It's been many years since I held not
only one of my own toddlers but my grandson, who's now eight years old, on my knee while I was explaining a math problem.  (She has graduated four of her children already).
     Homeschooling with toddlers can be a challenge but it can be done successfully.
     First, be flexible.  Not every homeschool day is going to look the same.  Some days you'll get more accomplished than others and that's okay.  (This applies to ALL homeschoolers).
     Second, be creative.  I used to keep a few boxes filled with toys that could only be played with during school time.  I would keep all the boxes but one in the attic and then switch the box every few weeks, so the toys were always "new" to the child.
     Keep your eyes open for real life lessons.  While driving the van, I noticed one small cloud in the blue otherwise cloudless sky.  I told the children about the story of Elijah (I Kings) praying for rain.  Then we talked about different types of clouds and the weather forecast for the day.  Science and Bible lessons done without a text book or a study guide, while driving to the doctor's office.
     Third, you're a homeschool family.  Have an older sibling read out loud to the younger ones.  Have coloring books, play dough or special snacks on hand.  "Washing dishes" in the kitchen sink was a favorite activity.  Everything got wet but it was only water and 9 times out of 10 my kitchen floor needed washed anyway.
     You will be surprised how much the younger children learn by just listening to you teach the older children.  Remember...this time is only for a season, treasure it.