Archive | October, 2010

Use Watcha Got Challenge

7 Oct

Let’s see: how can I start off a post with the most annoying and redundant phrase of our era?  Oh! I know!  With this phrase:


Don’t you hear it everywhere?  In this economy, it really pays to shop (i.e., spend all your money at) Wal-Mart  In this economy, peanut butter has become a staple for frugal moms due to its surprisingly high protein content and ability to shut the kids’ whining up.  In this economy, pants are a luxury that some are dispensing with.  In this economy, _____.  C’mon, you try it.  It’s fun!  It’s almost like those Wacky Mad Libs we used to play when we were kids, only now we get to thumb our nose at the global financial crisis that threatens to destroy us all!  Yay!

Seriously, though, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that exact phrase over the last three years, my personal economy would be making out quite handily.  And yet, as grating on the ears as the phrase might be, unfortunately there’s legitimate cause to use it a lot these days.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the proper use of money and resources.  For example, when I look back at the way I spent money in college, buying $200+ of clothes many months and yet many times not keeping up with my car insurance, I’m appalled at myself.  I’ve grown a lot more responsible since then, and yet somehow, I’m still, on a much lesser scale, guilty of mishandling funds from time to time.  It’s hard when there’s so much to want.

But this is exactly where my new idea comes in.  It’s my little way of motivating myself to live on a budget–and like it!  I’m calling it the “Use Watcha Got Challenge”.  It’s not really complicated.  You just use the things you already have in order to feed and dress your family, take care of your home, entertain yourself, and do all the things you’d ordinarily have to shell out to do.  I know, in short, it’s just being frugal, but the emphasis is on being frugal by not buying rather than frugal with what you do buy.  My hope is that this will be a way to re-acquaint myself with all the nice things I already have in my possession, things which frequently go ignored, some of which have never really even been used, as I run after the next shiny, new thing.  This is my way of, instead of feeling the pinch, feeling contentment and thankfulness for all the things that are right under my nose and which I so easily forget.

Do you have any ideas for how you can “Use Watcha Got” at your house?  Please do leave a comment.  I’d love to hear!  For my next post, I’ll talk about one of my ideas–and you may even get the see the dark underbelly of my closet or pantry!


7 Ways to Homeschool Flexibly

6 Oct

There is this tab at the top of this blog called “Scheduling”, and if you click on it, it will say “Coming Soon!”.  It has said that since I put it there in July.  Really, I did make out a schedule.  And attempted to follow it for, what, a whole day.  No, to be fair, I have tried more than that to order our days in the same way every day.  After all, if you read any of the homeschooling experts, among the first things they will tell you is that your life will fall apart without a schedule.  But so far, all schedule has done is sit there in my binder and look pretty.  For that, I feel guilty.

But only a tiny bit.  Because in the meantime, somehow–not at consistent times or days, necessarily, but definitely, nonetheless, progress has been made.  Actual things have been learned.  Chapters have been covered.  Novels read.  Poems memorized.  How did this happen?

I don’t know (other than God), but I’m going with it.  The schedule says that from 8:00 a.m. to noon every weekday, we should be in the school room, and that the afternoons are reserved for my work.  It says that by 8:00 a.m., I will have been up for two hours, have exercised, made breakfast, sent my husband off to work, having kissed him with pointed little toes in my pointy high heels, and have my darling daughter scrubbed, polished, curled and beaming with anticipation of the grammar definitions we have slated to learn for the day.  Well, it doesn’t say all that, but something close.  The reality has involved a lot more post-noon pajama parties spent snuggled up together reading, a lot fewer of the subjects I planned being covered (French, Latin, and art, for example).  It has involved some marathon sessions, where we get into what we’re doing and are better off sticking with it for a while.  It has also included some realizations that we don’t need to cover material we already know.  (For example, Mustard Seed already got it that any number plus zero equals that same number, so we could move on to her learning math facts that weren’t intuitive to her.  Or, I personally found it unnecessary to have her repeat, for the umpteenth day in a row, as she sighed and her eyes rolled way back into the back of her head, that the definition of a noun is a person, place, thing or idea.)  So things have had a way of evening out.

I really feel like spreading the learning out in little chunks over the day allows Mustard Seed not to feel like we have to cram.  We could take on an unanticipated Bible craft if we wanted to.  We could read an extra chapter of our book if we were really curious to see what was going to happen next.  If I have a babysitter/mother’s helper scheduled to show up at 1:00 every day so I can work in my office, as I had planned, it will be much harder to go at that leisurely enjoyable pace.  On the other hand, sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.  I have considered perhaps not having the babysitter and having Mustard Seed sit next to me while I work, doing any seat work she may have or listening to audio books, and then using our mornings to cover the topics that require a lot of instruction from me and do crafts.  The jury is still out on how I will juggle this.

In the meantime, I think it’s important to realize that it’s okay not to do schoolwork at certain very conventional and fixed hours (usually people think of the morning as the “right” time).  It’s possible to get the content covered.  Here are seven ways to make sure your family gets its school work done, even if your bell doesn’t ring at 8:00 a.m. every day.

  1. School at bedtime. If you’re given to reading for long periods of time at bedtime anyway, why not make history, science or literature selections a part of this routine?  Some students are even more receptive at this time of day than in the morning.
  2. School in the car. If you find yourself out of the house a lot because of activities and errands, don’t let that time go to waste.  Listen to Story of the World, a foreign language CD, or an audio book.  Keep a math workbook or maps to color in the back seat.
  3. Make a list of what has to be accomplished. When we don’t follow our schedule, we can feel daunted and give up.  It helps to make a list of everything we need to have accomplished for a given week to be up to speed.  You can even prioritize it, if you like.  That way, if Johnny is particularly excited about math one day and does two chapters at once, you know you can relax a little in that area the next day and use part of the time to work on other subjects.
  4. Sit the kids nearby you to do schoolwork while you do housework. A school room can be a blessing, but so can the kitchen table.  Some assignments don’t require your direct teaching as much as periodic guidance.  Have the kids do their copy work while you wash the dishes.  Have them sit right by your side to read aloud while you fold laundry.  What’s wrong with them coloring their maps while you prepare dinner?  This way, you are right there to still talk to them, correct any mistakes and answer questions, but you can also get some of the necessary jobs done around the house.
  5. Teach things through informal conversations rather than formal class sessions. One strategy that’s worked for me is to peruse Mustard Seed’s books a chapter or two ahead to get an overview of what her books teach.  Then, instead of teaching her out of a book in the school room, I’ll tell her a story of something that happened in ancient history while we’re in the car or say “Oh, I have a little poem for you!” while we’re wrestling and laughing on the bed.  When she earned part of her fundraiser money for American Heritage Girls the other night, I showed her in fractions (“pie pieces”) how far along she was toward her goal.  Many of these “conversations” hit home even more than school time “lessons” do.
  6. Don’t feel like reading marathons are wasted time. If you have a child that will sit and listen to you read for a long time, as long as you’re not reading Powder Puff Girl books the whole time, this is valuable learning time.  Sure, it’s “only” literature time.  Mingled with vocabulary.  And, if you have them read some parts, reading.  And, could be, geography or history.  Depending on the topic of your book, your child might learn the fauna of northwestern Canada, how maple sugar is made, what malaria is, how a railroad is built, or what kind of monks live in Peru.  Reading story books and novels is probably the single most important thing you can do for your child’s all-around education.  Next to reading the Bible.
  7. Choose activities that kill two birds with one stone. Have kids practice handwriting and Latin by copying Latin vocabulary or sentences.  Have them learn history and read literature by reading historical novels.  Have them learn math and life skills by measuring or doubling recipes in the kitchen.  If you’re studying Moses, do it through all the beautiful art that depicts his life (art appreciation and Sacred Studies).  Any time you can cover two or more subjects in one activity, you win and your kids win.

The world mostly tells us we’re “too hard on ourselves”.  Does it mean we beat ourselves up about things too much or that we expect too much from ourselves?  Personally, I don’t think I expect enough of myself, and it’s all too easy to find validation for this from the culture around us.  By all means, apply the highest work ethic to the job of teaching your kids, and if that demands making a schedule and sticking to it, then do it.  But if the scheduled approach hasn’t worked for you, look for equally conscientious and rigorous, but more flexible, ways to make learning happen that are more in tune with your family’s rhythms.