I know it’s July and with this beautiful summer weather Christmas seems eons away. In reality though Christmas isn’t all that far away and before you know it the local radio stations will be playing our favorite Christmas songs around the clock. While Christmas is a time for joy for many people it can bring a great deal of sadness and frustration especially when it comes to finances. Even the most frugal of families can feel the pinch when it comes to Christmas which can suck the joy right out of the holidays.
This year I want to make Christmas as stress free and as joyful as possible. I want to spend time with friends and family without the stress of finances hanging over my head like a cloud. I have decided that this year I am going to start planning for Christmas in July. With 24 weeks left until Christmas this gives me the opportunity to save $1000 by simply putting away $42 a week. My goal is to save a $1000 by Christmas to help pay for Christmas presents, host my annual Christmas party and so I can give a little extra to those in need. I have recently kicked an expensive coffee habit so I know that I can work the $42 into my budget.
If you are reading this and thinking it sounds like a good idea but $42 a week isn’t in the budget think about putting aside $20 instead. In 24 weeks you will have accumulated $480 and that can go along way towards easing the burden that holidays often put on our finances.
Let me know in the comments below if you already have your Christmas fund started. When do you start planning for the holidays?
Over the years I have encountered a strange phenomenon among men and women my age and that is an unnatural fear of leftovers. I happen to be really good at saving money on my food budget and when people ask me the secret to my success they are usually appalled that I make my family eat leftovers. The funny thing is that these same individuals love to fill their shopping carts with expensive frozen dinners because I guess that is their idea of “fresh food”.
Recently, I had a conversation with a woman about leftovers and she told me that she would never feed her family leftovers because they are gross, flavorless and unhealthy. She had no issue with cooking a homemade meal for her family but instead of packaging away the leftovers for another meal later in the week or storing them in the freezer she just throws them out. When I think of the amount of food this family waste as well as the wasted money it makes my brain hurt. I attempted to explain that leftovers are nothing to be afraid of and in fact are a great way to serve healthy food on a budget. In fact, having leftovers on hand saves time and dishes later in the week when schedules get hectic.
I don’t think I was very successful explaining the benefits of leftovers but it has compelled me to sit down and make a case for them in writing. If you are afraid of leftovers and stumble upon this post I hope you will reconsider the idea of cooking with leftovers.
Leftovers do not have to be gross, flavorless or unhealthy. When you make a casserole and you have leftovers refrigerate or freeze within two hours of serving. This will maintain the quality of the food and prevent bacteria from growing. I agree that bacteria riddled food is gross but proper storage prevents this from happening. I will link a great article below from the FDA that provides some guidelines for food storage.
When it comes to flavor most food will taste better the next day because it has had time to meld flavors. For instance, chicken noodle soup is great day one but it is way better day two because it has sat in the fridge with the veggies and spices melding flavors. When you throw out leftovers you are missing out on a wonderful culinary experience.
Eating leftovers is not unhealthy unless the food was unhealthy to start off with. A leftover chocolate pie isn’t going to gain nutritional value overnight just as a lasagna isn’t going to lose nutritional value overnight. Making food from scratch gives you the opportunity to create recipes that are healthy and nutrient rich. A homemade lasagna is going to be lower in sugar and salt when you compare it to a pre-packaged frozen lasagna. We know that excessive salt and sugar consumption can lead to a whole lot of health problems and unfortunately the convenient pre-packaged meals are saturated with sugar and salt.
Leftovers are nothing to be afraid of as long as you educate yourself on proper food handling and storage you can safely reuse leftovers. I love using leftovers because it gives me a break later in the week when I need to make a fast meal. Not only does this save me time it also saves me on kitchen cleanup because I am just reheating not creating the meal from scratch. Using leftovers can be fun as well it’s an opportunity to get creative. Over the years I have learned how to take leftover chicken noodle soup and turn it into chicken pot pie, creamy chicken and noodles, and chicken spaghetti. Leftover pulled pork is not only great on sandwiches but you can stuff baked potatoes and top with cheddar cheese for a whole new meal.
As you can see leftovers are not that scary and can be a great tool if used correctly to save you time, energy and money. If you are still on the fence consider this if you are feeding your family a steady diet of pre-packaged freezer meals then you are already eating leftovers. These meals are pre-cooked and frozen only to sit a month or two in your local grocery store before being purchased. They are full of sugar, salt, MSG, and other preservatives that give me chills. Skip these chemical laden leftovers and start reheating your home cooked meals. It really is the best thing you can do for your family and your budget!
Recently I was handed the responsibility of hosting a gender reveal party for my brother and sister in law. They wanted something simple but unique and after a great deal of thinking I finally hit upon an idea. I came up with a game where mom and dad had to hunt through the group looking for their baby.
I created 20 index cards featuring pictures of animals and a silly sentence explaining why that wasn’t their baby. For instance, on the index card featuring a baby lion I wrote “That’s not my baby it’s claws are too sharp”. One person in the group had an index card attached to the ultrasound picture with the words ” That’s my baby SHE is so perfect”. Each index card was placed in a brown envelope and closed with pink and blue ribbons. I attached the ribbons so that when they were pulled it was easy to open the envelope and uncover the index card. This worked out really well and even the little kids participating in the game were able to easily open their envelopes.
Since the day was nice and warm we chose to play this game outside and we had the entire family line up and we passed out the sealed envelopes. My brother and sister in law had to start picking family members one at a time to reveal what was in their envelope. There were a lot of laughs as people uncovered baby skunks, turtles and hippos. Finally, after going through most of envelopes they called on my sister in laws Grandmother to open her envelope. Grandma opened her envelope and immediately started to cry once she realized that she had the ultrasound picture. With a shaky voice she read out “That’s my baby SHE is so perfect!”. Everyone started laughing and crying with excitement and it really ended up being a lot of fun and super special.
Now prior to the party I had marked one of the envelopes with a heart on the bottom because I wanted to make sure Grandma was the one who got to make the announcement. How many Grandma’s get to tell their granddaughters whether they are going to have a boy or a girl? I am glad that this worked out so well and wanted to share this idea in case anyone else would like to use this for their gender reveal party.
For the record this idea was inspired by one of my kids favorite children’s books produced by the Usborne Publishing company. Usborne has a whole line of That’s Not My…. books for young readers. I think one of the first baby gifts that I will be giving baby girl once she arrives will be one of these books for her library.
Blank Index Cards 1 for each guest
Two colors of ribbon
Small paper sacks or gift bags 1 for each guest
Images of baby animals ( I found a ton of these online through Pinterest)
Print off pictures of baby animals or you could even hand draw the animals on each index card.
Write out silly sentences for each animal picture starting each sentence off with “That’s not my baby it’s __________________”. Glue animal picture to the card.
Attach ultrasound picture with a paper clip to an index card with a sentence that says “That’s my baby (insert he/she) is so _____________” (If you are selecting a certain individual to receive this make sure to mark the bottom of the bag with a tiny symbol).
Cut strips of ribbon for the bags I did 6 inches of pink and blue for each bag.
Place index cards inside paper sacks or gift bags and punch a hole in the top.
Fasten 2 strands of ribbon to each bag and tie two knots to keep bags sealed.
Once you have everyone arranged either into groups or in a line have the expectant parents take turns selecting an individual to reveal what is in their bag. Individual selected has to pull there ribbon to open bag and than read off their card and show the picture they received.
Keep going until the ultrasound picture has been chosen.
If there are cards left you can have people read them off after the gender has been revealed.
As a special memento you can retrieve the cards and put them into a little book bound with ribbon.
This was super affordable I spent under $10 for all of the supplies and I purchased everything at my local Walmart!
Let me know what you think of this idea?
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I wanted to see what questions Google was being asked about homeschool so I turned to the Google search engine and typed in how to homeschool and the first thing that popped up for me was how to homeschool for free. When I first began my homeschool journey years ago the financial burden was something that had concerned me because we had very limited finances. I wanted to provide the very best in education and was worried that our budget would restrict the quality of our resources. After a great deal of research I learned that it was possible to homeschool for free without affecting the quality of the education we provided.
If you are thinking of homeschooling and wondering how to do this either with little money or no money I recommend reading Homeschool Your Child For Free by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski. This is a great book that breaks down how to homeschool various age groups and subjects for free and where to find free resources. I found this book in my local library and loved it so much that I hunted down a used version online. Over the years I have read and reread this book countless times and have always found great advice and inspiration.
In order to homeschool your children successfully you need to provide access to books, activities and lively discussion. The first step is providing access to books and even if you don’t have an extensive home library you can accomplish this by taking advantage of your local library. Here you can find books and resources to really teach any subject or topic. The next key to success is to engage your children in activities outside of the home where they can experience new things and learn while having fun. Check with your local metro, state and national parks in your area because many times they provide free activities and events. We have done bird watches, butterfly walks, fishing, hiking and a number of other activities all for free through our park system. With a little online research you can find museums, zoos and field trip opportunities that are free for residents on certain days of the week. Finally, you can utilize lively discussion to educate your children. I love having conversations with my children discussing what we have learned and there thoughts and feelings on the situation. Recently, when discussing the American Revolution I had my kids split into Loyalist and Patriots and argue their stance from that perspective. This was a great way for them to practice what they had learned in a fun way while really gaining an understanding of the issues the colonist were dealing with during that time period.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to break the bank and you can provide a quality education at home for free. Of course you will still need to provide things like pencils, paper, glue and other craft supplies but you don’t need an expensive boxed curriculum to homeschool. Make sure you do a lot of research and read as many books as you can on how to homeschool. This will help you develop a plan for your school year which will basically be the map you need to navigate your journey as a home educator. Anyone can homeschool if they have the desire, the initiative and the willingness to provide an environment that encourages and promotes learning.
Below you will find links to some great information about homeschooling for free. If you have a specific question about homeschooling for free or in general let me know in the comments below.
It was recently made public that a number of parents including two very well known actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman used their position and power to manipulate the college admission process. Now I believe that parents should invest in their children’s education but this is going to extremes. What bothers me most about this entire situation is that these individuals have the wealth to purchase educational materials, tutors and other resources to help their children excel. They should have been investing their time and resources into making sure that their children received a quality education from day one. Instead, it appears that they waited until the last minute and decided it was best to pay people off to make it appear that their children had received a proper education.
A parents job is to love, nurture, and educate their children while preparing them for a future where they can be productive and independent. When parents choose to make life easier for their children they make life harder for them when they become adults. I have a great deal of compassion for the children involved in this situation and while they might have been complicit they were simply following the path their parents laid out for them. They will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the fallout from this situation while dealing with the pressures of living a publicized life. It’s ironic that these parents invested so much money in creating a facade of academic success when in the long wrong they were destroying their children’s chances to be successful.
As a homeschooling parent, I work very hard to make sure that my kids have educational resources and opportunities available to them. When they struggle I provide love and support and help them figure things out. I do not “do” things for my children I teach my children “how” to do things. We may not have a lot of money but my children are receiving an education that will allow them to become life long learners who value education. They are learning how to be accountable, respectable, and compassionate individuals. They are learning to walk alongside people instead of walking over people.
I would love to see one of my kids make it into an ivy league school but only if it is truly what they want and they do the work to get there. It honestly doesn’t matter to me whether any one of my children goes to college. All I want for my children is to be happy, balanced individuals with the confidence and drive to go after their dreams. I have faith that they will be successful because we are helping them build strong work ethics with good character. Parents all over the world are doing the same thing with their children and it doesn’t take a monetary investment just love and time.
I hope that Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and the other parents involved in this situation learn a powerful lesson. I pray that their children will also learn a lesson and that this situation will propel them forward to do good with their lives. I pray that those who had their college spots stolen will get another shot at admissions and find forgiveness in their hearts. This is a teachable moment for us all and we should share this with our children so they can understand that while their path won’t be made easy in the end the bumps along the way will help shape them into the people God wants them to be and the people that we can be proud of.
“In all the toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
I know we are a ways off from the start of the new school year but this is the time of year that I begin to plan. I gather my curriculum catalogs together along with my trusty notebook so that I can plan out what materials I need for next year and where our journey will take us. I love this process because it allows me to recharge, gain motivation and let’s face it I get to buy books so of course it is my favorite time of year.
Before I begin the process of planning I like to sit down with each of my kids and go over where they are and how they are feeling about their progress. I think it is important to have these conversations with my kids because it’s the best way to keep them on track and involved in their education. During these conversations I like to find out if there is anything in particular they are interested in learning or adding to their curriculum. For instance, my oldest this year has told me that he is really interested in aviation and would like to learn all about flying. When I am planning next year’s curriculum I will be looking for aviation themed books and resources for him to explore this interest. During these conversations I like to take notes that I can refer back to during the planning phase.
Once I have had a conversation with each of my kids I then like to review what we have done over the past year. This is a great time to get rid of what doesn’t work and find replacements. Starting this far in advance with my planning allows me to research and read reviews so that I can make an educated decision on what to try next. Of course things that are working well will be continued into the next year. This past year we have had great success with CTC Math so we will continue this program next year. Again I record these notes in my notebook so that I can reference back to them.
Over the next few weeks I will peruse through my catalogs (my favorite is the Rainbow Resource Catalog) and conduct online research. I usually do this after the kids have gone to bed so I can relax with a cup of coffee while I read uninterrupted. When I find books that interest me or materials I want to try I will write down the information in my notebook. By the time I am done my notebook will be pretty filled in but it will become a valuable tool when I finally write out my scope and sequence for next year.
When the research part is done this is when the real fun begins I like to take myself out for a parent teacher conference. I go to a cafe where I can sit down with my books and my laptop so I can work for a few hours uninterrupted and I can keep the coffee coming along with a delicious lunch. I will use my notebook to fill in what we will be learning next year in Bible, English, Math, Science and History and a list of materials for each subject. I will also determine what extra curricular subjects or activities will be covered. Each of my kids will have an outline created and I will create my short term goals for the year and re-address our long term goals to ensure we are on track. I will then create a homeschool budget and create a game plan to stay within that budget.
Once I have everything figured out on paper and typed up I print up a materials list. Since I plan in advance this allows me several months to purchase materials and gives me the opporutnity to get the best price. I love ordering books through sites like abebooks because I often find gently used books for a few dollars a piece. I keep this materials list on me whenever I am out because I have found resources at used bookstores, thrift shops and even garage sales.
Over the years I have found that this approach to homeschool planning works best for me but what works for me may not work for others. However you plan your homeschool curriculum make sure you make it fun, use it as a way to invigorate your homeschool and find out what your children think about their education and what they might be interested in learning.
My oldest is almost 13 years old and he is a crazy, funny, unique individual but recently the terrible teen disease has begun to plague him. If you have a child between the ages of 11-13 who is exhibiting the following symptoms your child might also have this obnoxious disease.
Suddenly knows everything under the sun
Strange odors emitting from body
Refuses to change clothing
In all honesty the terrible teen stage is not that different from the terrible twos with the exception of temper tantrums. So far I haven’t seen any signs that my 12 year will fling himself to the floor in fits of emotion but I will keep you updated on that situation. I survived the terrible twos so I am pretty confident that I can handle the terrible teen stage too but only time will tell.
This is such an awkward time for kids because they are in between childhood and adulthood and everything in life seems dire. It’s equally painful for us parents because we have to come to grips with the fact that our children are no longer little caterpillars. In fact they are going through the final metamorphosis to become full-fledged butterfly’s ready to make their way in the world. It’s a beautiful, awkward, and painful transition for both parties.
Toddlers afflicted with the terrible twos act out because they are learning how to communicate and understand the world around them. Pre-teens and teenagers are attempting to do the same thing they are learning how to communicate, understand and participate in a world of adults all while dealing with the physical and hormonal changes brought on by puberty. I remember living through this stage of life and I wouldn’t go back if you paid me a million bucks.
Whenever the eye rolling or moodiness gets to me I do my best to remind myself of my own teen years. I draw on empathy, patience and my abundance of love for him to help me through the trying times. If your child is also going through the terrible teen stage remember to…
pick your battles
follow through on punishment
keep open lines of communication
help them set short term and long term goals
keep life simple when they are feeling overwhelmed
remember to tell them you love them often
keep an arsenal of room freshner on hand and a window cracked for fresh air
The terrible teen stage doesn’t last forever and with faith, love and family on our side we can get through any challenge life might throw our way.
It’s never too early to start home education, in fact, the best thing you can do for your little ones is to begin their education early. Even if you intend to enroll your children in a traditional brick and mortar institution you should still start them off with old fashioned home education. Many parents engage in home education without realizing that this is what they are doing but recently I have come across a large number of moms and dads who are passively raising their children. Instead of interacting with their children and teaching them ABCs, 123s, colors, shapes and other basic skills they are plopping their children in front of televisions and electronic devices. I know that this is the electronic age and I appreciate what technology provides us but I am disheartened that so many people are using technology to raise their children. Young children are the most receptive to learning new skills and this includes social skills. Sure you can download an App that will sing the alphabet to your child but this doesn’t provide the same level of education and it’s missing the social element. Children flourish only when they are being nurtured. Electronic devices can’t nurture and they do not provide the love and support that young children need and desire.
Passively parenting your children not only hurts children but it hurts the parents as well. It prevents parents from making the deep connections with their children and as their children grow they will find it difficult to bond and to parent. We want our children to grow up in happy, healthy families where they feel love and are connected to their parents. This is the best way to secure a future of young people who are able to be compassionate, empathetic, and productive.
You should be educating your children from day one in the early days this means simply holding them, singing to them and reading them stories. Talk to your little ones and tell them what you are doing and what your plans for the day are. They may not be able to communicate verbally but they are learning how to communicate. As your children grow they will be able to participate for instance when reading a story help them find objects on the page. Another fun activity for little ones is to give them a ball and an empty laundry basket to shoot hoops. Get out the bubbles and finger paint and let them make a mess and then show them how to clean up the mess. A lot of parents are nervous about kids making a mess but kids should be allowed to get messy. I know that this sounds a lot like play but this is the best way to teach kids of any age. If you can make learning fun they will enjoy learning.
In regards to the electronics, I am not completely against their use but I feel like they should be used rarely especially with very young children. My kids enjoyed Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse when they were little but I wouldn’t just sit them in front of the television and walk away. Instead, I would sit down and watch the shows with them while singing the songs and doing the silly dances. These weren’t just moments to educate these were moments to bond and make memories.
My favorite people to hang out with are my children and I enjoy spending time with them and learning with them. If you are passively parenting you are missing out on so many opportunities to make memories and bond with your children. You are also missing out on an opportunity to start your children off on the right path towards education. Children grow so quickly so it is important to be as present as possible and to teach them the skills they need to be independent, productive and loving individuals.
Check out my Early Homeschool board on Pinterest for fun ideas for your little ones!
***Quick Safety Reminder***
When planning activities for young children make sure that they are age appropriate and keep choking hazards up and out of reach.
As a homeschooling family we do a ton of reading and I am always on the hunt for books that will not only inspire literacy but a love for reading as well. I don’t want my kids to just be able to read I want them to adore reading as much as I do. Recently, my daughter started reading the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish and I have had the opportunity to revisit these wonderful books. I have to say that they are still a favorite of mine and Amelia Bedelia will always hold a special place in my heart. It is so much fun watching my daughter devour these books and I love when she reads them to me because our reading sessions are filled with laughter. These reading sessions remind me of when I was a little girl reading these books with my own mom laughing at Amelia Bedelia’s silly antics. I hope one day Madeline will share these books with her children and remember the hours of enjoyment we shared.
If you have never heard of Amelia Bedelia I encourage you to hit up your local library or bookstore. There are so many different stories in the series and each and every book is truly wonderful. I was excited to see that a set of chapter books has now been added to the series. Herman Parish is the nephew of Peggy Parish and he has continued the legacy of Amelia Bedelia for future generations to enjoy. While my daughter has really taken to these books my sons have also enjoyed the stories so these are great books for both boys and girls. The reading levels vary from easy to challenging and with the stories being so funny and unique my kids have challenged themselves just to see what she will do next.
I would love to hear what stories from your childhood you have shared with your own children? Did they enjoy the stories as much as you did?
Puberty stinks literally and figuratively! It all started back around Christmas time my husband and I noticed that an odd odor was coming from our oldest child who had just turned twelve. We purchased him his own supply of deodorant and explained the importance of personal hygiene. We expected the odor to go away but it only got worse this is when my husband took our son down to the health and beauty aisle a Walmart to purchase additional tools to battle the stench. They came home armed with manly soap, a large scrubby brush and a loofah. During their outing my husband again went over the basics of hygiene and we crossed our fingers and pinched our noses hopeful that we had won the battle. Unfortunately, we were not victorious and the stench continued in fact it seemed to get worse.
I really didn’t know what to do and I could tell that it was really beginning to bother him as well. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about kids bullying him at school since he is homeschooled. Still this was a difficult situation for the entire family and it made simple things like car trips almost impossible. Finally, after months of battling this atrocious smell my father suggested that we try an antiperspirant instead of deodorant and he recommended a brand that he liked. I wasn’t super hopeful because at this point we had tried pretty much every product sold over the counter but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try one more product.
At first it didn’t seem to be working but now I can say with confidence that after several days of use my son now smells human. I can give him a hug without my nose and eyes watering and we can ride in the car without having to crack a window. This is why it takes a village to raise a child. It is so important to have people around you that you can trust to provide sound judgement especially in moments like these when your own judgement is being addled by a gruesome stench.
If you happen to have a pre-teen that is being followed by a similar odor I am here to tell you that it is normal and there is hope. Sometimes you just have to keep trying different soaps and deodorants/antiperspirants until you find the one that works best for your child’s personal chemistry. Just remember to keep air circulating at all times and never I repeat never turn on the heater in the car without cracking the window first!