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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Journey to Debt Free College


Our oldest is a senior and plans to attend college with no debt.  Here is what we have learned, thus far, in our journey to higher education.  As we get closer, I’ll have to report on our progress. 

1)  Be VERY clear with your student at an early age as to what, if any, help he/she can expect from you and your spouse.  Whether you plan to give them $2000 (or $200) upon graduation from high school, let them know well ahead of time.  If you expect them to foot the entire cost of a higher education, this is fine, as long as they know it well in advance.  It saves on unmet expectations or hurt feelings if you are very open from the beginning.  

 2)  Our community college will be a GREAT help in cutting costs for the first two years.  He has easily saved enough to fund this through a part-time summer job.  Additionally, he'll save money during the first two years of his college experience by living at home and continuing to work that part-time job.   Every penny counts toward the ultimate goal of transferring to a 4 year university.  

3)  Fill out FAFSA in January.  Even if you need to estimate your income, fill out your initial papers on-line as close to January 1st as you can.  This “holds” your place in line and puts your “file date” as the date you initiated the file for that year.  So, if you begin the paperwork on January 1st, and you amend your income amount on March 1st, your “file date” is still January 1st.  Since some funds are given out on a “first come, first served basis”, you have obtained and maintained your “early file” place in line.  (NOTE - You can now fill out FAFSA as early at October 1st.  It will use your taxes of the previous year for calculation.  If your financial status has changed greatly, finish filling out FAFSA and then call the financial aid office at the colleges which your student is interested in attending.) 

 4)  Research EARLY!  Go to college fairs with your student as early at their freshman or sophomore year.  Reps love to see eager faces.  Find out EXACTLY what those colleges want to see on your student's transcript.  Most 2 year colleges sponsor a bi-annual “college fair” night.  If your child is interested in a Christian college, check http://myblueprintstory.com/ to find a free Christian college fair near you. 

 5)  Ask questions!!  Answers are free!  We discovered that a 4 year college, which is about 30 minutes from our home, has a GREAT working relationship with our community 2 year college.  There is a rep. dedicated to helping community college students transition to their university.  Additionally, most colleges spell out very specifically what financial incentives they will give transfer students with high GPAs. 

6)  Watch those ACT/SAT scores.  If your child is truly interested in attending a 4 year university as a freshman, it is TRUE that they will be offered a LOT more financial aid as at incoming freshman, than they will be as a transfer student.  So, talk to reps early and often.  Ask specific questions about their scholarship levels.  Sometimes the monetary difference between an ACT score of 25 and 27 can amount to several thousand dollars in honors scholarship money at that particular university.  If your student needs an ACT increase of 1-2 points, then have them take the test again.  They can take the ACT up to 12 times, although statistically scores don’t increase significantly after the third try.

7)  Visit universities.  We are just beginning this part.  This is the fun part.  They like you.  They want you.  They serve you a free lunch.  Seriously, don’t go over the summer.  Go when class is in session.  This way you can visit with students and ask about their experience.  You can see if traffic is crazy or if the class sizes seem abnormally large.  If your student is seriously interested, plan to visit more than once.  Any college should be open to hosting your student overnight and letting them audit classes the next day, which are associated with their chosen field of study.   Finally, bear in mind that this more money than buying a house folks!  Don’t be afraid to ask all of your questions, and have them answered adequately, before you make a commitment.  Be sure you understand ALL the costs before you "sign on the dotted line."  People who have never had to live on a limited income forget to add those "$50" parking passes, and "$100 one-time enrollment fees".  But, if you count nickels and dimes (like we do) then you want to know ALL the costs.  

8)  Apply for scholarships EARLY!  There are a lot of scholarship opportunities available for younger students.  Most involve writing essays.  So, be certain your student gets a GOOD background in what constitutes "good writing."  Even if your student does not win, an honorable mention in a nationwide contest looks REALLY good on their transcript. http://www.fastweb.com/ is the best place we have found to scout out REAL scholarships.  Yep, there are a lot of places on-line which will charge you money for research that you can do yourself.  You need to sign up for an account.  But, really, we have not received a lot of nuisance e-mails or phone calls from signing up with Fastweb’s free service.  Tu guard against this possibility, we DID set up a separate e-mail account dedicated to all college research. So, all the colleges have that one, special e-mail address.  You don't clutter up your own in-box then.  

9)  We put our son in charge of our family finances for six months when he was 15.  This was a HUGE help in him understanding money - how to save, spend, and manage it. 

What about you?  Are you on this journey?  Any additional tips you can share?  I’d love to hear from you.

(Update: June 2017.  So far, so good.  Our oldest took as many classes as he could at our local two-year college, paying just a couple of thousand dollars out of pocket after scholarships.  He was offered a full-tuition scholarship at a 4 year Christian college to finish his undergraduate degree.  He is working full-time for 1 semester to earn money for room and board before transferring.  Our 2nd son graduated from high school and was offered a full-time job with benefits.  He took the job and will go to a 2 year college part-time, paying cash as he goes.)  




Remember, do all to the glory of God,

Hope

Sunday, August 31, 2014

When School Falls Apart


“The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Are Apt to Go Awry”


            Veteran homeschoolers  know, and new homeschoolers will soon learn, that sometimes “life” interferes with “school”.  It’s two weeks into the new school year.  You’ve been cruising along on schedule.  Suddenly, the baby gets a cold, you have scheduled your bi-yearly dental appointments and found five cavities, you agreed to serve on the church's Sunday School Planning Committee, your husband is working major overtime, and everyone (beginning with you) has developed a crazy, bad, stressed-out attitude. 

            This situation, or a very similar one, has presented itself to me many times in the past thirteen years of homeschooling.  So, let's develop a plan of action!

1)       Take a deep breath, grab a cup of tea, and sit down.  Really!!  As your fractured nerves settle you’ll realize that “life happens”.  Some upheaval is inevitable.  I remember vividly being a newly married young woman and telling my mother-in-law, “Mom, we JUST got a little money saved and then something happened and we had to spend it.  I feel like we go two steps forward and take one step back.”  She smiled and calmly replied, “Honey, that’s life.”  You may not LIKE your current situation, but freaking out, being short with the kids, or curling into a ball will NOT make it better or different.  So, BREATHE and prepare to sort out fact from fiction. 

2)    Solomon 2:15 says it is, “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards,”  When we are stressed, our PERCEPTION of the situation can become blown out proportion to the actual facts.  It is, generally, not one BIG thing bothering us, but several LITTLE things.  So, grab a piece of paper to go along with that cup of tea.  Make two columns.  List of your current commitments and what is bothering you on the left hand side. Maybe you’ve explained long division to your third grader three times and he/she is still having trouble grasping the concept or your toddler is happy for the first fifteen minutes of the school day and is very unhappy or demanding for the next two hours.   Perhaps you have overscheduled your free time for the next couple of weeks.  

3)    Look at your list.  Determine which things you have control over and which you cannot control. Use the right hand side of the paper to brainstorm possible solutions to each dilemna. If a sick child is causing part of the stress, you don’t have a lot of control over that.  But, you CAN change your homeschool routine to accommodate that child’s needs.  You can rock a child, who needs extra “Mom time” while reading a great book aloud to the rest of the kids.  You can ask older siblings to help the younger ones stay on task.  The fifth grader can tutor the first grader in math or English.   Dad can help in the evenings after supper.  Always recognize that family comes FIRST.  If the toddler is unhappy, maybe he/she needs some more interesting “school only” toys or educational activities to work on.  When my youngest sons watched the “big boys” do school, what they wanted most was to feel included.  They wanted to “do school” too.  Give them something to do and then give them lots of praise for a job well done. 

4)      Next, prioritize. You may see that the calendar is over-booked.  You can call the head of that church committee and says, “I’m so sorry.  But, my schedule this week will not allow me to attend that meeting.  But, I would love to have an e-mail containing notes from the meeting sent to me later this week.”   Don’t’ be afraid to prune that commitment list!  Do what you must, to have time as a family.  Note:  reading to them during school time rarely counts as quality reading time.  I have had more than one child say, “Mom can you read me a book?”  I reply, “I read to you during school time.”  “Mom, that’s NOT reading time.  That’s school time.”  You are still a mom, not just their primary educator. 

5)     I tell new Homeschooling moms to decide what is necessary, what is optimal, and what is extra.  “Necessary” things MUST be done.  We need to eat three times a day (seven or eight times a day if you are raising teenage boys).  We don’t need to eat a five course gourmet meal.  Decide what you can do to lighten your load with meal preparation.  Make frequent use of children to prep food, set the table, clear the table, and do dishes.  “Optimal” things are still important.  In a perfect day, we would get them done.  But, some days optimal things may go by the wayside.  And that’s okay!  “Extral” things are just that – the extras.  This is a prime area for pruning when you are overwrought with “life”. 

6)    Finally, “this, too, shall pass”.  Crazy times rarely last forever and they seem to pass more quickly when we change our attitude, reorganize our schedule, and prioritize our time.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Living Under the Median


Several years ago I saw a series entitled “Living Under the Median” on the Today Show.  It featured the stories of familes living on under $50,000 per year in America.  Many folks not only live, but also thrive, while doing just that.  Our family is one example!

After being married just four months (in late 1988) we made a very important decision:  We would live within our income and save for future expenses.  Our goal was, and is, to remain totally debt free.  Since that time we have (after taking just one car loan in 1989 and paying it off in six months) paid cash for automobiles.  We bought our first home in 1992 and paid the mortgage off in five years.  Then, after living there an additional 13 years, bought our current home four years ago with no mortgage. It has been hard work, but it has been worth it! 

Here are some financial principles, which have served us well: 

  1. ALWAYS work from a written budget – and stick to it! Leave yourself “margin”.  Don’t spend every penny that you make. 
  2. Write down short, medium, and long-term goals and have a “game plan” for reaching them. Track those goals:  I have a monthly synopsis sheet which I show Larry at the end of each month so that we are both aware of “where are are” in terms of the budget and our goals. 
  3. Give generously – We tithe 10 percent of our income and do not count this money toward part of our spendable budget.  It encourages a grateful spirit in you, when you consider the needs of others.  Our faith plays a HUGE part in why we choose to live like we live!  We believe that our monthly income is a gift from God to meet our needs.  Therefore, we are responsible to spend it wisely and in a way, which brings Him honor and glory.   We have seen God meet our needs in amazing, and often unexpected, ways through the years. 
  4. If you are married, you are a TEAM!  Always remember that your spouse is not your opponent, he or she is your ally.  Together, you can accomplish so much more than if you are “at odds” about how, when, and where money should be spent.  If you’re not married, form a team around you who will support and encourage you in your goals. 
  5. Don’t let others define for you how you should spend your money.  (And don’t let them define you as a person, either, based on your income or how you choose to spend money.)  Don’t feel badly saying, “I’m sorry, we have spent our allotment of entertainment money for this month.  But, if you’ll ask us again in two weeks, then we’d be happy to go to dinner with you.”   Or:  “I’m sorry, dinner won’t work for us.  But, let’s meet for desert later in the evening.”  It’s okay to set parameters – It’s YOUR money.  You’d be surprised how many folks will admire your tenacity and actually tell you that they wish they had your self-discipline. 
  6. Practice delayed gratification. Practice delayed gratification.  Practice delayed gratification.  (Did I say that enough?)  Know who you are and where you’re headed.  It will help to keep the ultimate goals in mind when you are tempted with purchases which will side-line you.  When you are working within a limited budget, it really doesn’t take too many of those “little purchases” to add up to a big, fat “goal killer”! 
  7. Know when to “kill that fatted calf” and CELEBRATE!  If you’ve saved for your new living room furniture and found the perfect pieces (hopefully on sale or – even better – second hand) then joyfully spend that money!   Believe me, when we moved in to this house – owing no bank one dollar – we did a “happy dance”, whooped, and hollered.  Can’t imagine what the new neighbors thought.  J


Joyfully living under the median,

Hope 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Teaching Young Children Money Management


I recently shared on “Why We Let Our Teenager Manage Our Budget”.  Someone requested that I share tips for money and younger children.  We have four boys, ranging in age from 17 to 6.  My older boys joke that they have been guinea pigs for all of our theories.  I smile, thank them for their longsuffering patience, and assure them that we are, indeed, redefining our policies for the younger boys.  So, here are my tips – only the best ones.  J 

GIVING ALLOWANCES: 

AGE 5-10


Our policy on paying children has fluxuated over the years and has mirrored changes in our own financial fortunes.  When our children are in grammar school, we pay them an allowance. They understand that this money is for doing specific tasks, which are assigned weekly.  If they do not complete tasks in a timely, appropriate manner, then their “paycheck” will reflect their job performance.  They are expected to tithe ten percent, save fifty percent, and can spend forty percent.

Lists of age appropriate chore suggestions can be found here.  

We do not intervene in how they spend their money except in specific circumstances.  They are not allowed to purchase any item, which we consider to be inappropriate or immoral.  We council them about items which are cheaply made. We have a lot of conversations about “quality” versus “quantity”.  A few times they opted to purchase an inferior item, and were sadly disappointed when it broke within a short time.  This helped them consider the importance thinking before purchasing an item.

“PAY-DAY” LOANS


Prepare yourself!  Soon, you will be standing at a garage sale and they will see something that they “just can’t live without”.  Gasp!  They have spent all of their allowance.  The piggy bank is empty!  They will plead with you to advance them money for the item.  The first time this happens reply, “Mom and Dad don’t spend money we don’t have and we expect that you won’t either.  However, if you wish me to loan you $5.00 for that toy, you will need to pay be back $8.00 next week, not $5.00.”  Their face will fall, they will be aghast, they may even scream, “That’s not fair!”  Simply reply, “No, THAT’S  paying interest.”  I did it – once – with each of my older boys.  Never did they decide that the price of the loan was equal to the worth of the toy.  I once overheard the older boys warning one of the younger ones, “If you don’t have the money for that, you’d better put it back.  Never ask Mom to loan you money!” 


AGE 11-15


By the time our older boys reached middle school, we had more children, more expenses, and less money.  We also realized that their needs had changed.  Older children need to begin to see the importance of saving and planning for long-term goals.  So, we explained that they would no longer receive a weekly allowance.  That's right!  We cut them off.  But, not completely.  Instead, we told them we were willing to invest in their dreams and send them off to utilize some of the "striving-for-excellence" work skills we had striven to teach them.  They were to set their own goals and save for SPECIFIC items.  Then, they would need to find work (and receive pay) from someone besides us.  When they had saved up ONE HALF of the amount needed for the item, we would kick in the other half. 

The boys have been ambitious, busy, and hard-working teens.  Because half of the money to be spent was theirs, they have carefully researched the best prices and values for each item.  They have been paid for installing a barbed wire fence, cleaning a condo, (Remember all those early lessons I gave them in how to properly clean?), pet sitting, and lawn maintenance.  They have purchased digital cameras, electronic book readers, camcorders, an iPod Touch, a 7 inch tablet, and laptop computers.  Our 15 year old is gaining quite a reputation for being hard-working and is paid quite well for helping folks on lawn mowing and maintenance.  

This plan has undoubtedly cost us more over the long-run than the weekly allowance did.  But, I believe it prepared them more effectively for life as they turn sixteen.   

AGE 16+


As you might imagine, at the age of 16 our boys are expected to get part-time jobs in the community.  They are expected to pay for their own clothing, gifts to others, extra-curricular activities, car insurance, gas, and any other items they wish to purchase (computer accessories, electronic gadgets,etc.)  Before you ask, "no", we do not supply them with a cell phone.  If they wish to have one, they must purchase the phone and pay for the monthly plan or minutes.  We do not.  This may seem harsh to some, but is it fair to send a young man out into the world with NO idea what "things" cost, having no understanding of how to comparison shop, and no concept of how to separate "wants" from "needs"?  These skills are sharpened as they invest their own time and money, instead of us handing them what they need.  We would rather they experience all of these REALITIES of life while residing under our roof, so we can help them navigate the tricky world of finances. And remember, I hand our boys "finances on a silver platter" when they are in high school and take over our family finances for six months.  If that doesn't give them a realistic view of money, I don't know what will.   Our boys tell us that they have appreciated us helping them set "reachable goals" and giving them the tools to do it.  


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Choosing a Homeschool Co-op (Part 2)


We began last week, in part 1,  by acknowledging that co-ops do not come in a “one-size-fits-all” package.  There are many reasons for homeschool families to seek a co-op experience.  We began by talking about the least structured of the four types of co-ops:  the social co-op and the enrichment co-op. This week we will look “replacement” and “drop off” co-ops. 

The replacement co-op is, by far, more rigorous and structured than either the social or enrichment co-op.  A replacement co-op will offer classes, for a fee, which replace what you do at home.  Typically, higher-level sciences, literature, and history are offered.  Science equipment, microscopes, and other classroom supplies are owned by the co-op and are included in class fees.  Students may often enroll in choir or orchestra, led by local professionals.  This type of co-op can be a great boon to parents of junior high or high school students.  Classes are offered a-la-carte.  Fees depend on how many students you have enrolled and which classes you choose. 

 In replacement co-ops, parental participation is still mandatory.  This is a larger group, in which your children will be assigned a grade-level class to attend all year long. So, most of the time, siblings will not be in the same classroom.  Classes meet 13 to 18 weeks per semester.  There is typically both an administrator and a bookkeeper.  Each family pays a “facility fee”, which is used to pay the facility where the co-op is held each week. Two to four parents share responsibility for teaching one class for the entire year.   The goal of each class is to do projects and activities, which cannot be easily duplicated in the home environment.  Putting on a play or doing science experiments are examples of projects which are well-suited to this type of co-op. In recent years, we have been involved in an academically rigorous co-op.  Believe me, when it comes to chemistry, I was grateful to pass the baton to one more highly qualified than I to do the teaching!  

The final type, the “drop off” co-op, is really a hybrid, a cross between a private school and a homeschool experience.  In the “drop off” co-op, parental participation is not mandatory.  Enrollment prices will reflect this policy.  Co-ops, offering a “drop off” policy, will be more costly than those requiring parental involvement.   Instructors have often taken classes in the pedagogy associated with the teaching material offered for each class.  Co-ops of this sort will utilize a specific teaching methodology. In a “drop off” co-op grades are given and instructors are paid.  The “pros” are that the instructional, professional, and academic standards are more rigorous than any other type of co-op. The downside is that fees can run in excess of $1000 per year for each student. 

I’ll end with some overall thoughts about what to expect when searching for a co-op.  You should be welcome to visit and observe at any of the four types of co-ops.  If they don’t allow perspective parents the opportunity to observe and ask questions, I would wonder why.  You will want to note the amount of supervision.  Even if the atmosphere is generally unstructured, you want to be certain any rough-housing is dealt with swiftly and that there are standards for appropriate behavior (among children and adults).  J  What is the student to instructor ratio?  Are the classroom numbers “capped” at a certain amount?  Do the students seem engaged and enthusiastic?  Ask what a typical class is like.  What is the amount of homework assigned?  Are grades given?  What are the policies for dealing with conflict between students or parents?  Does the co-op embrace and teach from a specific worldview or religious perspective?  Does the co-op utilize a specific teaching style?  What is the cost per class/per family?  Are there any additional costs – such as for textbooks, art supplies, field trips, or snacks? Does the educational environment meet your family’s wants or needs? 

There are just a few of the pros, cons, in’s and out’s of each of the four types of co-ops.  I trust that these have been helpful to you and would welcome any comments or questions you might have. 

Remember, do all to the Glory of God,

Hope 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Choosing a Homeschool Co-op (Part 1)


What to Look for in a Homeschool Co-op
Part 1
This week we will look at “social” and “enrichment” co-ops. 
I will expound on each type of co-op experience.  Next week, we’ll wrap up this series by taking an in-depth look at “replacement” and “drop off” co-ops. 


            There are many reasons for joining a homeschool co-op. 

Co-ops can:
  1. Help our children find and spend time with friends.
  2. Allow our students to experience concrete deadlines, assignments, and academic expectations. 
  3. Let other adults evaluate our students’ work.
  4. Give us, as parents, the chance to have a more experienced or more qualified adult teach our children difficult subjects.
  5. Allow other adults to invest in our children’s lives and encourage their God-given strengths. 
  6. Give our children a taste of a more structured classroom environment. 

Co-ops may be highly organized or loosely structured.  However, for the purposes of this article, they will be divided into four basic types: 
1.     Social
2.     Enrichment
3.     Replacement
4.     Drop off

For most of our thirteen years of Homeschooling we have been involved in various co-ops.  As my children have gotten older, what we desire in a co-op has evolved and changed.  We have enjoyed all kinds of co-ops and still have friends we have met in each. 

A decade ago, as a mother of two early elementary students, we attended social co-ops.  They are, just as the name implies, groups focusing on socialization and having fun.  Most of these co-ops allow for a “drop in” policy and offer little in the way of structure.  Meetings may be weekly, but more often are scheduled less frequently.  Cost is minimal.  If there is a cost, you might be just asked to donate to a “thank you” fund for the local church brave enough to let a multitude of varying age school children invade their gymnasium once or twice a month.  

I was once involved in a group called “Relaxed Homeschoolers”.  They met once a month at a local church with a gymnasium and, basically, the moms drank coffee and chatted while the youngsters blew off excess energy in the gym for a couple of hours.  This was particularly nice for winter months, when active play was harder to attain.  For families already heavily involved in extra-curricular activities with older students, the social co-op gives younger siblings a special day when they can meet with friends and just have fun. 

The second type of co-op covers a wider-range than the first.  Enrichment co-ops meet on a regular schedule and offer classes to augment or supplement your homeschool schedule.  Classes may be offered on small engine repair, cooking, sewing, painting, or photography.  Typically parents are the instructors, although, it is not uncommon for community groups to be invited to teach a single class.  As a group, you may learn life saving skills from the American Red Cross, visit the local fire station, or take ice skating lessons for six weeks. 

Topics to be studied are determined by all of the parents involved in the co-op.  Schedules are designed in “blocks” of time, allowing several weeks for each topic.  Parental involvement is mandatory and each parent is given one topic to teach or may serve as a “class helper”. Other than planning for the weeks in which you are teaching, your involvement will be fairly limited in scope.  Students are typically grouped together in a wide range of ages so that older students can mentor younger ones.  If the topic or situation merits, girls and boys may be taught separately.  Costs are generally in the low to medium range, depending on which activities the group decides to explore.  However, if you choose not to attend certain segments because of added cost, this is generally considered acceptable.  If you have a large age-range of students and want your students to stay together in the same classroom, the enrichment co-op is a good choice for you.

Hang in there with me and next week we’ll conclude this series with an in-depth look at the last two types of co-ops:  replacement and drop off.  

Remember, do all to the Glory of God, 

Hope

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why We Let Our Teenager Manage Our Budget



My husband and I have been using (and sticking to) a written budget for our entire married life (26 years!) We have experienced the peace that comes from living debt-free — including our home — for many years.
In 2012 we decided it was time to make finances and budgeting “real” for our oldest son.  He was 16 at the time.  We put him in charge of our family finances for six months! That’s right. He took it over “lock, stock, and barrel and I think it was an experience that he will never forget.
If you’d like to get your teens more involved and aware of real-life finances, here are a few tips that helped us.
Give Them Credit
I admit, this has a dual meaning. We homeschool. So, it was natural for us to offer our son high school credit for his foray into the world of finances. But, I also mean, that I think we need to give our children credit for being mature enough to learn real world, life-long lessons by taking an in-depth look at our family’s money.
I did feel a bit sad that, somehow, I had taken away some of my son’s innocence by letting him know just how hard it can be to “make it” on one income. I wanted to be sure that he retained his feeling of security. We don’t want our children to worry that “Mom and Dad won’t have enough money”.
However, to my surprise, the opposite occurred. He saw, even more than before, the depth of our praise at seeing God meet our needs in amazing ways.
Give Them Tools
We began this process by enrolling our son in a six-week money management course, which we attended with him. This gave him a lot of Biblically-based knowledge about money principles in a logical and sequential manner.  
We then set out to show him practical examples of how to make your money work for you.  On the Crown.org website, I showed our son that if he began with $saving $450 a month, at 5% interest, he could purchase a $120,000 home for cash at the end of 15 years.   Here's the tool we used to calculate this monetary magic.  http://www.crown.org/FindHelp/Personal/Calculators/savingsgoal.aspx.  Then, we used the tools to see what a $120,000 mortgage would COST at 5 percent interest for 15 years.  The interest on a 15-year mortgage at 5 percent is about $50,000.  It is nearly $112,000 with a 30-year mortgage at that same 5 percent interest.  I LOVE on-line calculators to show kids real examples about money.  Let them put in their own savings goals and amounts.  They’ll begin to understand the importance of delayed gratification and long-term goals. 
Give Them the Reins
Let them do it! After the money management class, I opened up our finance books to our son. He couldn’t sign the checks, but when a bill came in, he told me how to fill in the check (or make the transaction on-line) and entered the amount in the proper part of our household ledger.
He entered all of our expenses into the ledger, kept track of each category, made a spread sheet at the end of each month showing what we spent in each category and what we averaged thus far for the year. He also made recommendations on what changes we needed to make in each category – if any.    
Give Them a Goal
Our son’s final goal was to look at this year’s totals in each category and set up the family budget for the following year. So we set January 1st as an end date for his “course in family and personal economics”.
A sense of completion is important and the end of the year always seems like a time to take a deep breath and say “thank you” to God for helping us and blessing us. So, January 1st, he received his 1/2 a credit in “Consumer Economics”.
For his final exam, he produced our “end-of-the-year log”.  This document details our net worth, savings for the year, what percentage of our income went to each category, a list of our current short, medium, and long-term goals, and the 2013 Ware Family budget!  Whew! 
When we began this project, I knew I wanted our son to take the finance course for at least six months so he could see seasonal fluctuations.  I also was fairly confident that something unexpected would happen within that time frame — so he would get to see the emergency fund at work.
It did! He accidentally hit the garage door while I was teaching him to park in the driveway.  J  This would be why my husband has taught the lad to drive and not me. 
He is now so aware of how much money it takes to make it from one month to the next – and he is very proactive in helping us stay on target. He is also genuinely grateful any time we are able to give him something extra — not a needed item — but just something to bless him because he is our son and we love him.
He now knows first-hand where that money came from and how hard it is to stretch. Money has become a reality to him!

Adendum:  January 2017:  This post was originally written in 2014.  Our son is now a sophomore in college, has won several scholarships, has nearly a 4.0 GPA, and is paying his own way through college.  He was just awarded a full-ride tuition scholarship to a fantastic Christian University!  Oh, and he is a major money saver, lives on a budget, and plans for future goals.  Looks like he learned his lessons well.  
     Our second son has also now had his chance to manage the family budget.  He attended a nine week Financial Peace University class with my husband and me.  I was delighted to find that even after decades of following a budget I gleaned a lot of helpful information.  My son was heard quoting concepts from the videos for weeks afterwards.    Go to http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/home/ictid/classpage/ for a list of classes near you. For Biblically-based money advice, check out http://www.crown.org/  or http://www.daveramsey.com/home/.   You’ll find a lot of wonderful budgeting advice there along with charts, articles, and interactive tools.  As an added bonus, when my second son was in charge of the budget this tech-loving, wonderboy computerized the entire system for me!  I love it!  He had a blast investigating all the on-line budgeting programs and picking the best of the best.  We now use https://www.everydollar.com/, a FREE monthly budgeting program from Dave Ramsey. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Children and Chores


CHILDREN AND CHORES


The school year has nearly ended!  (Yeah!)  Summer will arrive on the heels of spring.  In the all-too-short summer months I do quite a bit of organizing and planning for the next school year. One area which always seems to come to the forefront is housekeeping.  My house, which is fairly clean and orderly during summer, suddenly becomes a path of mass destruction during the school year.  In an effort to keep this from happening again, here are my tips for getting your children involved in helping keep the house tidy.  

TRAIN THEM WELL:  


As soon as possible, teach them how to do a job and do it well.  We have a mantra in our home when it comes to chores:  If you can toddle, you can tote.  It’s not original to me, but I love it!  As soon as my children could walk, they were given jobs to do. You can find lists of age appropriate chore suggestions at: http://thehappyhousewife.com/home-management/age-appropriate-chores-for-kids/

ORGANIZING CHORES: 

We’ve tried a weekly printed chore chart.  But, we have found that it works best for us to list daily chores on my dry erase board in the kitchen.  I let them pick the ones they would most like to do. If one of the younger boys selects a task, which he is being trained to do by an older sibling, then that older brother will automatically get to go with that little brother to complete that chore.  At other times, I add a name beside the specific chores.  It depends a bit on how much time I have for training that day.  Given the option, the younger boys will pick some of the harder and more “exotic” items on the list. And that means T-I-M-E to show them how it’s done.  However you do it, try to be sure you that “hit all the bases” and that each room of the house is eventually rotated through by each child. 


OVER THE YEARS WE HAVE LEARNED OUR BOYS PREFER:

1)    To KNOW what was expected of them,
2)    Have consistency from us,
3)    Be given a variety of tasks.
4)    Rewards!!

 If they cleaned the bathroom, they wanted to know that (just because we were having company) a job, which was rated as “acceptable” last week, was “just not good enough” this week.   They have told me that they want to know the “right” way to do it the first time and they will strive to have it in that condition each and every time.

You must be sure that you are not asking them to do something that you have not trained them to do or have given them something to do that is beyond their frame of reference.  I have struggled with getting frustrated with a child when they fail to complete a task, only to have them say, “But, Mom, you never showed me how to do it.”  

To insure this consistency, you must TRAIN them.  The first time a new task is introduced, I have them just watch me do it – along with my snappy and interesting running commentary on each step I am making.   The next time, I have them do it while I am watching them.  I have them repeat each step back to me while I watch.  The third time, they complete the task alone – with freedom to ask me if they need help or forget a step.  By the fourth time, they do it all and then I inspect their work when it is completed.

It is said that “variety is the spice of life” and so, too, it is with chores.  Our boys have certain areas of cleaning which they PREFER.  For instance, my middle son LOVES to clean the bathroom.  I’m NOT kidding!  So, for many months, he cleaned the bathroom every week.  His brothers began to expect that “John will take the bathroom cleaning on the chore list.”  One day, while gesturing with the toilet brush, he explained to me, “Mom, I do like the bathroom.  But, that doesn’t mean I want to be the ONLY one who does the bathroom!”  I got his message.  I now make sure that we “share the love” when it comes to the bathroom.  Although he still cleans it more often than the other boys.

Finally, after about 90 minutes of hard work, we ALL take a well-deserved snack break.  All “happy helpers” get to enjoy a special treat together.  We sit, grin at each other, and say, “Wow!  That was hard work!”  We really deserve this treat.  Boy are these cookies good!” 

LIST YOUR OBJECTIVES:


One last thing I would urge you to do is make a running list of objectives.  We titled ours:  “Before our children leave our home, they will know how to effectively …”  Then, list objectives by types.  For instance:  home maintenance, automotive, cleaning, etc.  Then, add a column to check off for each child.  In this manner you will ensure that you are cross-training each member of the family and that you don’t have to tie up any unexpected loose ends right before you send them off to college.  

And remember...

Do all to the Glory of God, 

Hope

Monday, April 28, 2014

Choosing Curriculum


I’m not terribly dogmatic on which curriculum is “best”.  The best curriculum is the one which functions best for your family and situation.  I have utilized every learning style during my 13 years of Homeschooling and every method of teaching.  In the early years I was very Charlotte Mason minded.  You saw a LOT of art prints, nature identification guides, and living books in my home (You still do.)   This is probably, hands down, my favorite method of educating my children.  My older boys tell me that they felt they had a “first rate” education in their early years and learned to LOVE learning.  However, when I was deathly sick and nearly bedridden with my third pregnancy, I bought Rod and Staff for the following year and the boys adapted and did quite well with a more traditional approach.   In recent years, we are very eclectic.  I use many different publishers and sometimes create studied based on my children’s interests.  My older boys are both in high school.  We purchase curriculum based on their individual God-given paths.  The high school years are among the most expensive.

With that rather long-winded introduction, here are my thoughts on selecting curriculum. Although these suggestion were written with new homeschool families in mind, those who are veterans will, perhaps, also find them helpful

1.  "Look, look, look, and listen."  If you are "of a certain age" (as I am) you'll remember Mr. Rogers singing this song. Do a lot more looking and listening than buying. DON’T purchase right away!! Gather materials, ideas, and samples. You can often download samples from the internet or ask your friends to see samples of their children’s work with that specific curriculum. There are also product reviews on-line. 

            2.  Create a curriculum file.  Place clippings of interesting curriculum from on-line resources, homeschooling catalogs or magazines in a manila folder.  Consider subjects you think your children would enjoy both now and in the future.  Basically, if it intrigues you, put it in the folder.  You can utilize this folder when planning school for subsequent school years



3. Get with other homeschoolers and ask questions: Why do you like it? How much instructor preparation time is required? Have you used it for all of your students? If you have several students that span a number of ages, you may want material that you can use with several of them, rather than purchase individual curriculum for every student. How much does it cost? What additional costs are required for additional materials to use this curriculum?



4. Consider your time. In general, pricier curriculum will often need less teacher preparation time, and less pricy curriculum will require more of your time to prepare.

5. Consider your budget. If you really feel strongly about a certain curriculum, check used sites and you may find a bargain.
http://homeschoolclassifieds.com
http://market.hslda.org/auction/xcAuction.asp
eBay, Amazon
6. Consider your “season”. Are you moving, having a new baby, or nursing a sick relative? These will all have an impact on the curriculum you choose.   DON’T consider a curriculum choice as a mandate that you must purchase that curriculum year after year. Life changes, needs change, and your curriculum might too.
7.  Consider the 5 different Methods of teaching, learning, and schooling.              I have written a separate post on these teaching methods entitled:  Five Teaching Methods.  
8.  Consider how your student learns best: There are a number of websites, which will allow you to answer questions to determine your child’s learning style. A very basic division is:  
- Tactile (hands on – they learn by doing) These students love Legos, erector sets, gears, and science experiments
- Visual (They love pictures, graphs, pie charts, and well-organized text). These students love worksheets
- Auditory (They learn through listening.) These children love audio tapes and read-alouds. 
Note:  Although the primary curriculum that I choose for my student may be geared toward a specific learning style, I insist that my children do some tasks cross-directionally. So, eventually they WILL  learn to use skills that belong to the other two learning styles. For instance, ALL of my children are required to learn public speaking and good writing techniques, whether these are their preferred forms of communication or not.

Do all to the Glory of God, 

Hope

Five Teaching Styles

When choosing curriculum it is important to decide how you want to present the material to your children.  For our purposes, we will discuss five different teaching styles.


Charlotte Mason was a 19th century English Educator. She taught with “living books”, nature study, classical music, narration, and famous artist picture study. Example: http://www.amblesideonline.org/ 

 Classical – Teaches utilizing the Trivium - from the Latin “tri” (three) and “via” (road or way). The literal meaning is the “Three fold way or road”. 
Stage 1: Kindergarten through 3rd grade is the grammar stage.  This is the information and fact gathering stage.  Children are capable of memorizing large amounts of information.  Catchy tunes teach them everything from the Presidents to the Monarchs of the Middle Ages.  
 Stage 2: Middle school - 4th through 8th grade is the dialectic stage.  Children learn to reason and begin to utilize all the information they memorized in the Grammar Stage.  
Stage 3: High School is the rhetoric stage.  Now it's time for apologetics, reasoned expression and argumentation
Throughout Classical education Latin is emphasized, logic/debate skills are taught, classic literature is read, and a four year history rotation itilized. (Example: Veritas Press, Memoria Press)

  Unit Study – (cross curricular) – Topics are approached in depth and all areas of study are incorporated. You may choose multiple areas of study for the year and then study them in-depth for 1- 6 weeks at a time. Shorter periods of unit study are very useful, even when primarily using other methods of schooling. (Examples: Amanda Bennett, Konos)

 Traditional Workbook – Gee, this speaks for itself, doesn't it?  Personally, being a visual learner, I LOVED worksheets as a child!  My mother would purchase workbooks at the beginning of the summer break just to keep me busy and happy for those three months.  She bought me a set of 10.  I think I did them all in about a week.  They were supposed to last for all three months of the summer break.  Oops!!  (Examples: Rod and Staff, Abeka, Bob Jones)

Unschooling questions the appropriate nature of keeping students in a classroom all day long and “feeding” them all the same information. Unschooling sees the individuality of students as paramount and recommends letting students set the pace, content, and nature of their educational experience. It proposes that all children are curious by nature and will WANT to learn if allowed to pick their own topics. Example: there is no curriculum. Rather, a variety of enrichment materials like books, atlases, art supplies, carpentry and gardening tools will be standard fair in an unschooling home.

Whatever you choose, remember
 Do all to the Glory of God!

Hope

Thursday, April 24, 2014

APACHE 2014 Convention

Welcome to all who heard me speak at the APACHE 2014 Convention.  I'm writing this ahead of time, trusting that we all have an informative and fun weekend.  See?  I walk in faith!  LOL!  If you have any questions which you did not have time to ask over the weekend, feel free to send them to me.  See the contact information on the blog.

Do all to the Glory of God,

Hope

A New Frontier


For years my boys have been asking me to begin a blog.  I kept saying that I didn't have the time.  Well, they finally convinced me to "go forth boldy ... into a new frontier."  So, casting aside all doubts, we march forward.  I hope to post lots of thoughts which are helpful for new homeschoolers.  Also, no doubt my passion for living debt free, consuming whole foods, and passing on a legacy of faith to the next generation will come through as well.  So, join me on this journey.  Pass along any questions and I'll do my best to give you a well-thought-out response.  


Do all to the Glory of God!  

Hope