Random Monday

In CategoryHome Schooling, Random Monday
ByDeb

Random-Monday-Main-Final

• Last Wednesday, a discussion about what we should have for dinner turned into an intense debate during which Big said, “I’m SORRY, I just don’t see the POINT of soup.”

• Also last week during math, Big said, “are these subtraction problems correct? I’m trying to develop a trick.”

NO. NO TRICKS. STOP TRYING TO RE-INVENT MATH AND JUST WRITE THE ANSWERS BEFORE YOU KILL ME DEAD.

That is probably not the kind of encouragement that will turn him into the next Bill Gates, but just ONE day of doing schoolwork without arguing over how to make a nine, or drawing arrows and bubbles and lines all over his paper, or refusing to put a Y or N for yes/no questions and instead coming up with an elaborate system with a grid for checkmarks and Xes, just one day free from all that would be a VACATION.

What? No, I mean HOMESCHOOLING IS AWESOME.

• This article won’t excite people whose kids are close to college age, but it’s awesome for those of us with young kids – The End of the University. Technology changes everything – even a Harvard education. (hat tip Lori Pickert). MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) are the future!

• I woke up with a very sore back the other day. I couldn’t figure out what I did. Finally, it dawned on me that I had literally injured myself while sleeping. This is how you know you are old.

• The other night I stayed up late to watch The Real Housewives (as is my wont), and one of the women in Beverly Hills stated that owning a horse was really expensive because you have to pay for boarding and vitamins and chiropractors and masseuses (masseusi?).

A masseuse. For your horse. I don’t know how to process that. I just…I don’t know. Horse Masseuse. Like, that’s a thing. Apparently.

Happy Monday, y’all! Link up with your own Randomness below!



So, You’re Thinking of Homeschooling…

In CategoryHome Schooling
ByDeb

Thinking-of-Homeschooling

I have recently come across a couple of people who are considering homeschooling.

I think homeschooling is awesome and am always looking for converts, so let’s talk about a few of the things that might be holding someone back from taking the leap.

It might get preachy up in here, so brace yourselves.

Fear #1) You are not smart enough or educated enough to successfully teach your child.

The most important quality you need to educate your child is determination. That’s it.

Studies show the average homeschooled child outperforms the average traditionally schooled child, regardless of the level of formal education attained by the parent. So yes – you CAN facilitate your child’s education, even if you have not finished college, gone to college, or even finished high school. Facilitate being the operative word here. You don’t have to do it all, all alone, with no help. Homeschooling doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are tutors and websites and homeschool co-ops and chat sites and other homeschoolers and in general more resources than you can shake a stick at. You can do it.

Fear #2) Homeschooling will be the nightmare of incomprehensible homework and tear-filled evenings, except it will last all day, too.

This is a biggie. This is The One.

What will you do if homeschooling is one, big, all-day-long fight? Homework sucks the joy out of your evenings and takes over family time, can you really risk it ruining your whole relationship with your kids?

Homeschooling is not the same as doing homework. I repeat: homeschooling is not the same as doing homework.

For one thing, you can work with your kids during the day, when they are fresh and rested, instead of after dinner when any sane human is tired and wants to relax, not write a 3 page paper or review flashcards for an hour, for Pete’s sake. You can take breaks and have recess whenever you want. You work at your child’s pace, not at the speed dictated by the latest standardized test requirements.

Secondly, you are in charge. That’s right. No longer will you have to plod through busy work you know is pointless. No longer will you have to try to decipher some new math curriculum that you didn’t choose and think is stupid and confusing. No longer will you have to pay Sylvan or Kumon because the teacher could only spend 2 weeks on long division and that wasn’t enough for your child. YOU can choose what to learn, when to learn, and how to learn. You can listen to your kids and observe your kids and tailor their education specifically to them. Sure, it’s daunting, especially at first. But you can do it.

No more meetings at school with teachers who just don’t seem to understand that 4 hours of homework a night isn’t working for you.

You get your evenings back. Evenings can be for family or friends or sports or playing or reading or cuddling with Daddy or having a job or listening to music or helping with dinner or (gasp!) doing nothing…

You get your mornings back too, for that matter. No more screeching at people to hurry up because they are late; no more scrambling for lunch money or science reports or permission slips at 7 am. No more driving to school in your bathrobe and wondering if anyone will see you. No more throwing a pop-tart at your kids as they slam out of the house and run to the bus. No more forty-pound backpacks. Mornings can be calmer, with  kids who get enough sleep and eat a leisurely breakfast.

Oh, and also? Bossing your kid around in Math is no different than bossing him around in any other way. So don’t worry about that whole “how can I be both parent and teacher?” thing either.

Fear #3) Your kid will grow up to be a backwards weirdo with no social skills and no friends.

The weird, unsocialized homeschooler stereotype has been thoroughly debunked, over and over and over again; but if you’re worried about it, see this or this or this or this or any of the other millions of articles that come up if you google a combination of homeschool and socialization.

If you’re worried they won’t have a social life, well, that’s something you can prioritize as you see fit. There are people out there to socialize with, you just have to find them. Sure, it’s more work than sending them off to a building stuffed full of potential friends; but parenting is pretty much a series of things that are a lot of work, so that’s nothing new.

Fear #4) Homeschooling is for rich people.

HAH, I say. Hah-HAH, even.

I am not a particularly frugal homeschooler, nor am I a rich person. I take cost into consideration, but it’s not THE deciding factor when I am researching curriculum. Sure, it’s nice the grammar program I chose is only $16 a year, but that’s not why I bought it. If Sonlight worked best for my kids, I’d use it, even though it is many hundreds of dollars a year.

However. Even in my non-coupon-clipping homeschool ways, I don’t spend that much on school. Way less than $500 a year on the essentials, probably, and most of it I can use again with Little, so homeschooling her costs practically nothing. I do spend a lot at Amazon, but you don’t have to. You can homeschool for free, if you put your mind to it.

You know what I don’t buy? I don’t buy school clothes. I don’t buy gym clothes. I don’t buy gym shoes. I don’t chase all over town every August spending hundreds of dollars on the exact right kind of crayon and notebook and kleenex and fancy-label jeans because otherwise my kids will be looked at pityingly on the first day of school. I don’t buy backpacks or lunchboxes. I don’t buy Teacher Christmas gifts or Teacher Appreciation gifts or End of School Teacher gifts. I don’t buy school lunches or fund-raising tins of popcorn or donate money so the band can go to the Rose Bowl. Every year I read back-to-school blog posts about all the stuff parents have to buy to get ready and am surprised at how much a free education costs.

Fear #5: I can’t take my kids out of school because they want or need to access public school for sports or special needs programs.

From what I’ve observed of my friends with sporty kids, school sports are only a small portion of the sports programs they participate in. Practically every town in the country has city-sponsored youth sports. And if your child is into golf or ice skating or gymnastics or hockey or swimming or whatever else you can think of, you can probably find non-school versions to participate in.

However, twenty-two states require public schools to allow homeschoolers access to classes or sports. See here for specifics.

Similarly, many states allow children with special needs to access those programs, regardless of where they are schooled. HSLDA has more information on this subject, as does Homeschool Legal Advantage (here are some FAQs). The homeschooling organizations in your specific state will have a lot more information about both of these issues.

So. Feel better? What else would hold you back from taking the plunge?

Budgeting. Dang it.

In CategoryAdventure
ByDeb

Following the popular “re-evaluate your life” thing that everyone does at the new year, I have decided to develop a budget.

Blech.

I’ve never really had a budget before. My general method of dealing with our money has been Pay the Bills, Don’t Spend Too Much at the Grocery Store, and Put All Extra Money Toward Debt & Maybe a Little In Savings. But I’ve never planned out where EVERY dollar should go. Frankly, it seemed kind of pointless. I mean, aren’t all budgets pretty much about spending as little as possible while saving as much as possible? Plus also I’m not trying to enter every dollar I spend into an excel spreadsheet. I’m busy. Those Tivo’d Real Housewives episodes aren’t just going to watch themselves, you know.

However.

We are now at a new point in our life. At this exact moment, we have only three bills. Of course, we’re also technically homeless, so there’s that. We are going to be making a lot of decisions in a few weeks, and are going to have a ton of control over future expenditures. The Adventure was stupid expensive, so Priority Number One is getting the credit cards paid off and the savings built up so in a year or so when we figure out exactly where we want to live and find the energy to house-hunt, we’ll be ready to go.

I was talking about this with my friend Tressa, and she told me about this concept where instead of randomly assigning dollar amounts to the categories in your budget, you assign percentages. And then I was like, okay, where do you get the percentages from? Because I am five years old, apparently. Turns out, if you google “budgeting with percentages” you’ll get plenty of results to choose from.

Since we have a slightly different lifestyle than other people (we homeschool and my husband works from home), we don’t need much money for things like gasoline and school clothes, and we need more for groceries and toilet paper.

Here is what I’ve come up with, to start:

Housing – 33%
Utilities – 9%
Insurance – 2%
Debt – 10%
Long-Term Savings – 5%
Short-Term Savings – 5%
Groceries – 24%
Household – 2%
Entertainment/Recreation – 10%

Housing seems high to me, but that’s how much a house costs. Because of our weirdo lifestyle (see above), we need a lot of things from a house – an office for Jim, a place for school (a dining room table is fine, I just need to have a dedicated surface that won’t get splattered with milk or spaghetti sauce), and a kitchen decent enough for me to prepare three meals a day in. Long Term Savings is where we’ll work toward a reserve of living expenses, and Short Term Savings is where I will stick money for clothes, the life insurance bill, homeschooling supplies, car maintenance, and small unforeseen expenses like new tires or whatever.

The grocery budget is HIGH, I know. But have you SEEN how much cheese costs these days? And even at 24%, the actual dollar amount is going to pinch. I’ve been consistently working toward feeding everyone the best food I can, and I would rather do without other things than go backwards in that department.

Household is a category because HAI, I don’t own any towels. Entertainment is high because that’s where I will budget for the kids’ activities – swimming lessons, gymnastics lessons, piano lessons, etc. It will also cover Starbucks and haircuts and those miscellaneous things we spend cash on throughout the week. Theoretically it would also cover yarn, but I doubt there will be any money left over.

I have a lot of feelings about this budget. On one hand I feel like a dumbass for not doing this sooner. On the other hand, I feel a little sad that I won’t be able to make impulse yarn purchases or Amazon orders. But mostly I feel empowered.

In just the last few weeks since I’ve been thinking about this, my perspective has changed. That annoying 2% Social Security tax hike in our first paycheck really illustrated how much a whole percent IS. It’s a pretty small chunk of money, and we only get 100 of them to spend every month. Realizing that it only takes a couple of little impulse purchases to gobble up an entire percent of our income has opened my eyes to all the places we can cut back. It’s not the big expenses that have been our undoing, it’s all the little ones adding up.

I’m sure I will have to adjust things here and there, and it’s a huge incentive for trying to find a less expensive house, but I’m optimistic that with this plan Mr. Visa and Mr. Other Visa will eventually disappear and I can go back to buying yarn and using paper plates.

How about you guys? Do you budget? Have you always budgeted? Have you accomplished great things with a budget? Did you look at my budget and think something like “wow, she totally forgot about *insert giant line item*” ??

Moving

In CategoryAdventure
ByDeb

After I announced (announced! what am I, Beyoncé?) that we were going back to Colorado to settle down, Kristy asked –

Why Colorado? Just because that’s where your stuff is? And where you are familiar with? If I were you, I’d be taking this opportunity to move somewhere that I’ve always wanted to live…which would be someplace warm and near a beach.

Yeah, I know. I kind of thought we’d find someplace better. But we didn’t come across any place that really made us want to settle down.

Colorado IS familiar, and the people I am closest to in real life are there. I miss my best friend and my knitting friends SO MUCH. I guess I didn’t realize how deep our roots are in Colorado until we left. I understand the politics and the weather and the geography and the cost of living…. Somehow, after all this, familiar sounds pretty good. I don’t want to start over somewhere new.

We loved The Adventure. Now that we know we can travel while Jim works and we do schoolwork AND that we can do it less expensively than a traditional vacation, we are still planning on visiting new places – just with a home base to come back to when we are done.

I am a little nervous about renting a house, though. (Did I tell you that? We’ve decided to rent for a while, not the least reason being we can’t live in a hotel and look for a house to buy without going completely mad and also broke.)

We haven’t rented in years, and watching too many news stories has me paranoid. What if we get a house infested with fleas? Or bedbugs? Or meth-cooking fumes?

Or what if we rent a house that’s being foreclosed on the the sheriff shows up one day and throws all our stuff out on the lawn?

Or what if all the houses have hideous carpet and mountains of dog poo in the backyard?

Worrying: It’s my superpower.

Luckily, I have an IKEA catalog to distract me.