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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Debt-Free Living part 1 - Our story - "The Early Years"

I've decided to start a blogging series on living debt free.  So many people believe that surviving without debt is a fairy tale.  Well, I've lived it for many years and, I will assure you that like most fairy tales, there is a happy ending.

I promise you, my reader, a couple of things as I begin.  I'll not lie to you.  It has been tough.  It has not all been fun.  It has at times been a chore.  But, it has been rewarding.  I have learned much of God's grace and provision.  I have a LOT of stories to tell.  I'll be including tips and techniques that will, hopefully, help you on your journey. 

Let's start with some numbers:

29:  The number of years that Larry and I have been married - since 1988.  
24:  The number of years we lived UNDER the national median household income
20:  The number of years we have survived and thrived on 1 income
19:  The number of years we have been completely debt free INCLUDING our home
  4:  The number of sons we have taken along with us on our journey.

 In June of 1988, at the age of 23, I was a blushing bride.  I worked in Christian radio and Larry worked as a security guard.  We were young, in love, and flat broke.  We had no budget, no goals, and spent every cent of our wedding bounty in the first 3 months of our marriage.  We weren't going crazy.  We weren't out buying boats and BMWs.  We were just living like everyone else.  We went out to eat a couple of times a week, took a weekend trip or two, and bought cool new stuff for our apartment.  We didn't track out expenses.  We just assumed it would all work out.  But, by September, when I looked at our bank balance, I realized that it was NOT working out! 

Then God sent an amazing man into our lives.  I want to thank Larry Burkett and shake his hand when I get heaven.  About four months after we got married, the local Christian radio station I worked for began airing Money Matters, a program all about financial freedom. On this program Larry Burkett extolled the virtues of saving, spending, planning, and handling money God's way.  I came home and excitedly told my husband, “We’re going to live on a budget and pay cash for our next car.” He thought I was crazy! We both made $5 an hour!

 I got myself a cheap pad of paper and a pen and went to work.  I figured out how much money we made each week and where the money was going.  The first thing I told Larry was that we needed to move.  He stared at me incredulously, "What?  Where are we gong to find a place cheaper than this?"

I replied, "Well, I don't know.  All I know is that our lease us up in 2 months and we can no longer afford to live here."

I then asked him what he wanted in our next apartment.  He explained that what he really wanted was a HOME, not an apartment.  He no longer wanted to share some of his walls (and floor) with other folks.  So I set to praying for a small home for less rent than we were currently paying.  A few weeks later, while on a walk we spotted the cutest little (and I mean 550 total square feet little) white house situated on a triple wide lot just two blocks from our apartment.



A white haired, spry gentleman walked by the house and saw us staring.  "You kids interested in renting the house?" he inquired.

"Well, that depends, how much do the owners want?"

"Two hundred dollars a month!" he declared.

Now the man was past 70 and a little hard of hearing.  So we assumed he was also a little addled.  They could not possibly want $90 LESS than our current rent!  We called the number listed on the tiny slip of paper on the home's front door.  It turns out that he wasn't quite as confused as we had thought.  They DID want only $200 a month!

It turns out that the home had been in the family since the 1920's.  The matron of the family very much wanted to keep the home and instructed her children that she would pay to have it completely renovated.  New paneling, new ceilings, new bathroom fixtures, new kitchen cabinets, new flooring, stripped woodwork, new vinyl siding, new roof.  After they got done, they could not find a renter.  I kid you not!  They tried $300 a month.  No takers.  They dropped it to $200 a month.  No takers. The owners were flabbergasted.  What was wrong with their house? 

 Nothing.  It was waiting for us. God sent us on a walk down that road on that night to find a little old man named Roy who encouraged us by saying, "You kids take the house.  You'll like it."  For those of you who wonder about these sorts of things (I always do),  No, Roy was not an angel.  He was a real person and his dear wife, Buella, and he became our good friends.

We lived in the little white house for the next four years and made many happy memories.  The owners never raised the rent.

So, what do we learn from this story?

1)  First, God always has a plan!  Never, never, never doubt that God is on your team and if you seek Him, you will find solutions.  We submitted our desires to Him and God came through in an amazing way! 

2)  Second, live on a written budget every single month.  That's how you figure out where your "black holes" are - those vortexes that suck in your money and you never see it come out again.  Eating out was a black hole for us.  We cut it in 1/4th and to this day we rarely go out to eat.  No more weekend trips either for a while.  Instead, we took long walks, held hands, and picnicked regularly.

3)  When you have believed God for provision, be prepared to believe Him some more!  When we found our dream rental house, our praying was not over.  The house did not come with a stove and refrigerator.  So, we set to prayin'.  We had exactly $150 for appliances.  Once again, God sent Larry to a garage sale for a 1960's stove and a 1950's refrigerator.  We left the stove with the house and the fridge was eventually given to some church folks.  That fridge was built like a tank and is probably still purring away in their garage!

4)  Practice contentment.  Nothing is perfect.  That house met our provisions.  The appliances worked.  The second hand drapes covered the windows.  On the other hand, I battled bugs in the summer.  In the winter you could see the lined curtains move when the wind blew.   The water line to the kitchen perpetually froze solid in the winter.  Larry crawled under house on a regular basis and thawed it with a blow dryer!  My point is:  I could have fussed and fumed about what I didn't like in my house, my furnishings, my possessions.  However, choosing to be grateful fills your heart with joy! 

Oh!  And for those who are wondering about how we did on paying cash for vehicles, we took a $1000 loan on the next car, paid it off in 6 months, and we have paid cash for every car since then.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on Debt-free living.  If you have questions, I'd love answer them.

Remember, do all to the glory of God,

Hope



Monday, March 20, 2017

Hey! There's an App for That!


 

I am a bibliophile.  There!  I admitted it publicly. I am passionate about reading books for facts, information, and fun. However, throughout 15 years of homeschooling I have found that sometimes a game or interactive device can be used to help kids understand subjects.  It was hard for me to admit.  But, once I decided that I did not need to be the “fountain of all wisdom” for my children, I actually became sort of excited about exploring the possibilities and wisdom of using computers.  I set out to  find the best apps on the internet. 
So, today I’d like to introduce you to my very favorite internet site for educational games, apps, and research in nearly every subject area: www.mrnussbaum.com.  Mr. Nussbaum is a genius at making educational concepts fun for students from Pre-k through middle school. But, this site is SO much more than just a “games portal”.  Mr. Nussbaum has worksheets, art projects, printables, research, and much more! It is subdivided in an easy-to-navigate and intuitive fashion.  The website is divided by both subject matter (math, language arts, social studies, geography, and science) as well as grade level. 
You’ll find links to 167 educational games. I am very particular about the content of games.  I don’t like “twaddle” or time-wasters.  Mr. Nussbaum’s games are both fun AND educational.  Not only that, you can use the games in what I call a “ladder” fashion.  For instance, your kindergartner can learn the foundation of the alphabet, then add some phonics, then blending sounds, some reading of simple words and finally, stories.  You can do it all with games on Mr. Nussbaum’s website.  It’s so easy (and inspiring) to envision adding these games to your curriculum to insure that your students are sequentially grasping important concepts. 

Here is the description on games from the website.  “MrNussbaum.com features 167 original, challenging, and exciting educational games for kids ages 4 – 14 that allow students to learn and practice topics through role-play, problem solving, critical thinking, calculation, and trial and error.” 

Tablets are ubiquitous in today’s society.  Most 4 year olds understand them better than I do.  So, if you have a tablet, the website has a special link that lists all 110 FREE games for your tablet.  “110 html5 FREE, Original Educational Games that can be Played Directly from Your iPad or Android Tablet Browser. No Need to Download! Each Game Comes with an Instructional Video.”  Here’s a link in case you want to go directly to the list: www.mrnussbaum.com/html5.  If you want an ad-free games with no in-app purchases for your students, then Mr. Nussbaum makes it easy for you to download his 44 game super app at the Apple store or Google Play: www.mrnussbaum.com/mr-nussbaums-super-app.  The super app is a super buy at just  $3.99! 

I have just one caution with the website.  It’s heavy on ads.  There IS a subscription rate for an ad free experience, but they are not taking any further subscriptions until 2018, when they are rolling out new, updated, and expanded options for Mr. Nussbaum’s no ads option.  As a result of the ads, which look an awful lot like buttons for more games, I truly would not recommend allowing younger students to use the site without supervision.  I always show my kids how to work the game and say, “Don’t click on any other buttons!”  However, I still feel very comfortable giving Mr. Nussbaum a hearty and well-deserved “two thumbs up!” 



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Graduating Keyboard Geeks


Why You Should Use Computers in Homeschooling:
How This Computer Illiterate Mom Graduated Keyboard Geeks

1.     Teach your children to view technology as a tool, not a toy.   When my boys were younger, we had a “no game” policy.  Instead, we bought two older model Apple computers, set up two small desks in the basement, and allowed them to use their free time to learn to use computer programs.  Subsequently, they became proficient in the use of programs like, Word, Photoshop, and Power Point by middle school. 

2.     Employers are looking for students who can skillfully use computer programs.   Every job application that my boys have filled out has asked questions about their knowledge and use of computer programs.  Excel, PowerPoint, and Word were most frequently listed.  My son, John, has spent countless hours researching apps, programs, and tech products.  This passion spawned his desire to become an IT Specialist. 

3.    Computer programs can encourage your children to think outside-of-the-box.  My boys figured out how to combine their interest in photography and action figures to create stop-action “movies” using iMovie by 6th grade.  

4.     You can use their interest in computers to create high school level classes.  During his junior year my son, James, created a graphic novel of Pilgrim’s Progress with action figures and small-scale props.  He edited the final product on his Apple computer and added speech bubbles.  We had the book comb bound and gave him credit for graphic arts. 

5.     Computers are the perfect fit for tactile learners!  The interaction between the keyboard and monitor can create the perfect combination to keep the interest of your “active” child, give them a feeling of satisfaction, and increase their understanding and comprehension. 

6.    Science and History can come alive through interactive websites!   I personally recommend: kids.nationalgeographic.com and www.history.com. Google can be your friend when your student needs help understanding anything from long division to rocket science!  An adult should do the searching unless you have an internet filter installed. 


7.     Computer literacy should be an integral part of your homeschool planning.  Computers are used DAILY in college.  Instructors communicate with students solely through digital means.  Assignments are given and submitted though the college website.  Research and writing are conducted using the internet.   Every student should also have a good understanding of how to effectively use search engines and databases.