Lit Mama Has Moved

Dear readers, if you’ve coming here looking for more advice and encouragement from the Lit Mama, you are now coming to the wrong place!  I am so thrilled to announce that I am now self-hosted and you can find all my old posts plus all my future posts at www.litmamahomeschool.com.  If you have been left behind in the move, simply follow the link to the new site and resubscribe to continue receiving post notifications in your inbox.  Please take the time to do so!  I don’t want to miss your smiling face for a moment. 🙂

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Teaching Kids Financial Responsiblity

It’s funny how the universe works sometimes, isn’t it?  Last evening, the Littles and I had a short conversation about allowance.  Now, we don’t give them allowance though they do have chores.  What?! You may ask, aghast.  But here’s the thing.  A household is a large and difficult responsibility to run, especially if you have a farm with animals and gardens and the like to care for.  I am not giving my children chores so they can earn money.  I am giving them chores because they are part of this household and I don’t want them growing up thinking the cleaning fairy is going to come to their dorm room/apartment/house and take care of everything magically while they are out having fun.  I don’t want to raise men who expect their wives to do all the housework or who can’t take care of themselves if they don’t have a wife.

Also, I want the Littles to learn, just as Big did, that a household is a team.  Teamwork is an important lesson to learn when you’re young, and ensuring that your littles get that they’re part of the family team means you are teaching them how to pass the ball when they need to and how to go for the goal when it’s their turn.  So they have chores.  It is part of their job as a team member.  I do not get paid for doing a load of laundry.  They do not get paid for folding it.

So I explained to them that I don’t really believe in allowance.  I believe if they want extra money they can come and offer to do a job equivalent to the amount they need and we will work something out.  But their daily chores are just part of life.  They get it.  They weren’t asking for allowance, anyway.  They aren’t spoiled, but Martin and I tend to go without luxuries so the Littles can have a good childhood, so they feel ‘paid’ enough.  They were really just trying to understand the concept.

Here’s where the weirdness of the universe comes in.  I am a big NPR nerd, and I listen to it whenever I am in the car, no matter what program is playing on our local station.  Today while I was running errands, the Diane Rehm show did a feature on teaching financial responsibility to young adults.  How–creepy–is it that I was just talking about financial responsibility to my kids and then heard a program about it?  In love with that.

Anyway, there were three experts on the panel, and one was a college professor who believed that financial responsibility should be added to public school curricula.  I remember learning to write checks and balance a checkbook in a high school class, but that was more years ago than I’d like to admit… Do they not teach it anymore?  A second expert said that he was loathe to add another burden to the already overburdened public school teacher.  At first, I was a bit miffed.  Isn’t teaching kids how to live in the real world part of their job?  I  mean, yeah, personally I feel that is the parents’ job, but if you’re sending your littles to public school to learn about the world, shouldn’t they be learning about the world?

Then I thought of all the teachers I knew when I was working in the public school system.  The harried, hurried steps to make yet another common core meeting.  The frustration of knowing they had to leave some students a little bit behind in order to keep their classes ‘average.’  And yeah, maybe that guy was right.  Maybe teachers don’t need another burden.  They’re having a hard enough time making sure all their students can read.  And that’s not their fault, believe me.  It’s the fault of the system.

So it comes to us as parents to teach our kids how to be responsible with money.  The experts on the radio show had a lot of really good ideas.  Put aside three money jars for each kid.  Label one ‘save,’ one ‘spend,’ and one ‘give.’  When your child gets money from allowance, birthday gifts, what have you, have them divide the money up into each can.  When they have enough in the spend jar to buy something they really want, let them buy it.  When they have enough to make a decent donation to a worthy cause, take them to donate it.  Make them save the money in their save jar until they are ready to move out on their own.  Not too shabby an idea.

One of the panelists suggested having your teen get a job and give a percentage to you out of every paycheck for rent, groceries, etc.  That way they won’t experience culture shock when it’s time to move out on their own.  I had never really thought of it that way, but it actually isn’t a bad idea.  I was lucky that when I was a teen my parents did not buy me a car but helped me find a job and then get a loan to buy my first car myself.  I can’t thank them enough for giving me that opportunity to learn about making payments on time before I had to make rent.  They taught me that buying a child a car does not necessarily help the child–it certainly doesn’t teach the child financial responsibility.  So when Big wanted a car, he got a job and a loan and got his own car.  And he paid it off early!  He paid his own insurance and gas money.  We didn’t take a percentage of his check for room and board, but he learned about making his payments and what it means to owe money before he moved out of our house.

That’s something every child should learn in some way before they leave home for good.  We may think we’re doing them a favor by providing for them and not letting them worry about such things until they have to.  We’re not.  It is such a struggle (remember?) to suddenly be responsible for All the bills and All the cleaning and All the… everything.  It takes most people up to a year to get the hang of it once they get out on their own.  They go into debt because they don’t realize that credit cards aren’t free money.  They end up with bad credit because they don’t understand the minimum payment thing.  They sometimes even lose their first apartment because they just don’t understand why they can’t pay their rent a little a lot late.

Another fantastic suggestion was to have your littles sit down with you while you make out your monthly budget and pay your bills.  Let them see how much you have coming in, how much you have going out, and where it’s going.  I know some parents want to hide such details from their kids, but really, what good does that do them in the long run?  If they think your food, electricity, internet, and water come magically, or that your debit card is a magic money tree, they will not understand when they get out on their own why they should budget.  It might give them a worry-free childhood, but it sets them up for disappointment as adults.  Besides, if they get a grasp of where your money is going and how much of it is actually spent on them, they might start asking less for extravagances.  Win-win.

Teaching your kids while they’re young what it means to make on-time payments, how to save and be patient, how to recognize when they have a little extra to give to someone who is in need… These things will help the transition from ‘mom’s house’ to ‘my house.’  Maybe they won’t make the same mistakes we did.  Maybe they’ll have a better grasp of reality.

As for my Littles, at least they will know how to take care of themselves.  The shock of actually being the person who has to sweep and vacuum won’t be so hard on them.  And if I play my cards right, they will have a firm grasp on what it means to be financially responsible.  I have to do some more thinking on this room-and-board thing… What if you told them it was room-and-board and secretly put it into a savings account for them?  That’d be a nice surprise when they have to come up with first & last month’s rent plus deposit. 🙂

Do you have any ideas for teaching littles how to be responsible with money?  Share, share, share; I’m sure we could all use that advice.

Love wins,

KT

Sweet Summer Time

Our summer science class this year isn’t very outdoorsy.  The whole reason I initiated summer science four years ago was that I wanted the Littles to be able to get some Hands-On, Outside, Science Stuff Experience.  It has served us well over the years, making summer school seem less like school.  And even though it seems just as un-school-like as ever this year, that’s because they’re talking about and playing video games.  Screen-time science.  Important, I know, if they want to be able to function in today’s world.  But how am I to get them outside for some screen-less lessons when we’re studying code?

Well, the perfect solution is a backyard camping trip.  We did this last year, and it was so much fun we are still talking about it.  We took a Saturday and I set it up like a summer camp, with crafts and activities and a tent set up on the trampoline (because Mama’s back wasn’t up to the cold, hard ground).  This year we have a camper we can sleep in for our summer camp because the trampoline may actually have been worse than the ground!

Last year’s itinerary was so fun I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

First of all, the summer solstice was on the weekend last year, so we picked that date for our camp day.  We set up a temporary awning in which to do crafts and the like because even though we are surrounded by woods, the backyard doesn’t have a whole lot of shade in the heat of the day. It turned out that we really, really needed it, so I’m glad I thought of it beforehand.  So the date was set, the yard was prepared, and we were ready to go!  Here’s what we did:

Food:

We had prepared “Sun Bread” the day before as a sweet breakfast treat.  It ended up lasting through the day, so we just munched on it whenever a sweet tooth moment hit.  I made it from monkey bread recipe, but rolled the dough to look like sun rays and, of course, made a ball on top for the sun’s nose.  Then I poked the eyes and mouth into the dough with a kabob stick before popping it into the oven.  I’m in love with the way it turned out.

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Any ol’ monkey bread recipe will work for this.  I made up my own biscuit dough, but you could probably do it with canned biscuits.  Just maybe buy a couple of cans to make sure you have enough.  Also on the foods list were, of course, hot dogs (shudder) for lunch and s’mores for the campfire.  It was not a day to worry about healthy eating.  It was a day for fun!

Crafts:

Make a sun with colored pasta

Since we were celebrating the solstice, I thought it appropriate to do a sun craft.  Easy peasy, since I always have colored middle sun craftpasta on hand.  Just pick any type of pasta you want to use, put about a cup in a bowl or sealable bag, mix together 1/4 cup Littlest sun craftrubbng alcohol and 10 drops food coloring (or more if you want more vibrant colors).  Stir or shake, then leave in the bowl or bag for a few hours, stirring or shaking occasionally.  Lay the pasta out on wax paper or foil-lined cookie sheets and allow to dry overnight. Whammo!  Colored pasta.  I always make extra and keep them in their own jar in the classroom.

For the sun craft, I simply got out the colored pasta and Elmer’s glue, gave each boy a paper plate, and told them to make me a sun.

Make amulets from found things

082For this craft we simply walked through our woods gathering moss, seeds, grass, a snakeskin (great find!), flowers, etc.  I have a tub of wood shapes in the classroom, but any flat surface will do for an amulet.  We used stars because we didn’t have any suns, and the solstice includes the shortest night of the year, so why not celebrate that, too?!  We added the bells to attract fairies. 🙂  Simple and fun, making an amulet from nature requires only a short walk, a flat surface, some glue, and a string or ribbon.  I still have mine in a little box in my room.  Can you guess which one it is?

Make a birdhouse

086For this idea, I grabbed some of the empty breadcrumb cans I had saved for a rainy sunny day.  They’re shorter and squatter than Pringles cans, but Pringles cans would definitely work.  Other supplies included yellow, white, and black construction paper, pipe cleaners, Kabob sticks or dowel rods, and google eyes.  Oh, and scissors and glue, of course. We cut the construction paper into 1-inch strips and glued it around the body of the can.  Then we took the lid off and cut one bird-sized hole in the plastic and one hole for the kabob stick. We put the lid back on before we glued on the googly eyes and pipe-cleaner antenna.  Then cut some ovals out of the white construction paper for wings and glue them on.  Add a string to the top for hanging, and you’ve provided a new home for the birds.  Just make sure you hang it somewhere where it is protected from the weather.  The cans Are made of cardboard, after all.

Make a castle from outdoor things

085Seems pretty self-explanatory.  Have some fun with it.  Bring the Legos out if you must.  Let the littles use their imaginations.  Even if, at the end, you can’t really tell what they’ve made.

Make glow lights.

For this project, I simply picked up some cheap glow sticks at the dollar store and fished out some old jars.  Some sea salt or rock salt is the only other supply you need.  When dusk started to settle, we filled our jars about halfway with the salt, curled up the glow sticks in a circle and pushed them down into the salt.  The salt diffuses the light, making the whole jar look aglow.  We slept with them in the tent.  It was pretty neat.  You can also fill your jars with water and just drop the glow sticks in and cap them–it has a similar effect.  For some reason I didn’t take pictures of this awesome craft, but while searching for one online to show you, I found a braver type of glow light at The Gold Jelly Bean that involves actually cutting the sticks to get the liquid out.  It looks pretty amazing, too.

Activities

Scavenger hunt

Kickball

Croquet

Ring toss

Bean bag bowl toss

Going on a bear hunt

Blow bubbles

Flash tag

Tell scary stories

look at constellations

swim

catch lightning bugs

soak thyme in olive oil and lightly anoint eyelids to see fairies

Nearly all of these activities can be done on the cheap.  For the bean bag toss I filled colorful buckets full of water and let them get splashed as they played.  I actually had them use the things they found in their scavenger hunt to make their amulets.  We waited till dusk–after we made the glow lights–to anoint our eyelids to see the fairies, then we made s’mores.  While Daddy took care of the fire so we could sleep safely, we lay on the trampoline outside the tent and picked out constellations until we were tired.  Then we took our glow lights in and went to bed.

Summer camp 2014 was truly one of the best experiences of my life.  I’ll never forget how great it was to spend a whole day just having fun with my littles, no pressure, no outside worries.  For it to work, we all had to stay completely unplugged.  I think this year we’ll do summer camp closer to autumn when we can make scarecrows and have pumpkin treats.  Or maybe we’ll do it this weekend.  Because, you know, the backyard is always there.

Love wins,

KT

Back to (Summer) School

Practicing Cursive

Practicing Cursive

Hooray!  We started summer science today and it went even better than I hoped.  I had kicked around a couple of different ideas for this year’s summer school, including an in-depth study of Da Vinci (one of my heroes) and going through our Curiosity Files from The Old Schoolhouse and just doing one or two a week.  I really wanted something that didn’t require a whole lot of planning on my part because planning for autumn is taking up so much of my time.  What I landed on is nothing short of Awesome!

        _20150615_091145                 _20150615_091126

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know Middle is obsessed with becoming a video game designer.  You also know I have been wondering how on earth I’m going to teach him to write code when I am about as code-knowledgeable as a stump.  I found the greatest deal for a program that teaches him coding, and I just have to share it with you.  The class is called Game: IT Junior from STEM Fuse, a site that offers several different IT classes for both home- and public schools.  This particular class is $1,499.00 on their website, but if you use the coupon code HOMESCHOOL, it’s only $50.

IMG_20150615_101726120

Fifty. Dollars.  We decided we would all take the class for summer science.

It is an 18-week course that begins teaching what a game is and proceeds through the engineering design cycle, the physics of games, game engines, programming basics… on to truly programming their own games with Construct 2, an easily installed construct from which games can be created.  You can download the whole class and print it or install it on your tablets or do a mixture of both, like we did.  My Middle is so excited, I thought he might burst during class this morning.  And Littlest enjoyed it just as much.  Especially since their first assignment was to play some of the games they’ll be working with.

The best part about doing it for summer science is that we don’t have a full school day so instead of doing one lesson per day we can do 2 or 3 as time and interest allow.  Today we did the first two lessons and school felt so easy and fun.  Stress-free for everybody.  I’m loving it!

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It’s not just about video games.  Obviously, learning to write code has tons more applications.  Some of the other things that can be learned from this class are computer programming and graphic design, collaboration, creative and critical thinking, engineering, physics, and math concepts, and using digital research tools.  The awesome thing is that while the Junior class is geared toward middle-schoolers, there is also an elementary class and 3 different levels for high school.  And an app class for learning how to create apps.  Um… Can you say cool?

And, really, saving $1,450.00?  How could I resist?! I’m so happy to be able to provide Middle with this awesome class Right Now while his interest is so strong.  I think it will help him decide if he wants to continue on this career track.  If he does, I will definitely be looking into the higher levels at STEM Fuse.

Today, what I love most about homeschooling:  Getting to provide my Littles with their dreams while they’re having them.

Love wins,

KT

Conquering Your Homeschool Fears

Our summer science begins next week, and it’s got me thinking about some people I know who are still trying to make the decision to homeschool.  It’s a hard decision and a scary one.  As parents, we believe we know what is best for our children.  We see the flaws in the public school system and hope a miracle occurs that will fix them.  We see the bureaucracy involved and know the miracle probably will not come.  At least not soon enough for our kids.  We do research and realize private schools and charter schools, while they may be trying, are really not much better.  We have to decide.  Send our kids to school?  Or take on that enormous responsibility for ourselves?

Native American Crafts for American History 2012

Native American Crafts for American History 2012

Knight and horse craft 2013

Knight and horse craft 2013

Homemade kites 2012

Homemade kites 2012

If you’ve never done it before, deciding to homeschool is downright terrifying.  I remember well how scared I was as my beautiful husband and I made the decision.  I remember going to my neighbor’s house.  She has nine kids (I’ve counted them!), and has now graduated 3 from homeschool.  She had been homeschooling for several years when I went to her for advice.  She said, as any experienced homeschooling mama generally says, “Absolutely! You should go for it.”  There was A Lot more to that conversation.  Mostly I needed someone to tell me I could do it.  That I wasn’t setting out to destroy my children and setting myself up for an Epic Fail.

Let me be the first to tell you, you can do it.

Middle concentrating 2011- our first year

Middle concentrating 2011- our first year

As amazing as professional teachers are, each year they have 20-35 kids to look after and educate.  You only have a few, or maybe even just one.  So what you can give your kids that a public school teacher can’t is one-on-one.  Even when you’re unsure of your methods, that one-on-one training opens up so many possibilities.  When I first started, my homeschool looked very like public school–I taught the Littles according to their grade levels, gave them separate subjects, worked on a schedule much like a middle or high school is set up: certain subjects at certain times every day.  As that year progressed I realized my boys were far beyond what was considered their ‘grade level,’ so I upped the stakes and they followed along winningly.

Castle craft 2013

Castle craft 2013

Mayan temple craft 2011

Mayan temple craft 2011

The only thing I have kept from that first year is adherence to a schedule.  In my house, we all work better with structure so we keep it structured.  However, now the only subject they’re on different levels in is math, and they both learn science, history, art, language, geography, and music together.  It helps that the Littles are only two years apart.  Once they both had the basic understanding of a subject down, they could move on together without anyone feeling held back or left behind.  I do expect more from Middle when it comes to research, writing, and the like, but he is technically 2 grades ahead of Littlest so it’s only fair.

My point is, there are so many ways to homeschool and if you pick one no one is saying you have to continue with it.  You can change it up.  I do.  Every. Single. Year.  The Littles love not being boxed in to a certain type of learning or even a set number of subjects.  They give me input on how we should do things, and decide on their own electives.  They even help me decide what order we’ll do our schedule in.  That way, they are learning to make their own decisions about their education, which I hope will stead them well when the time comes for college.

Littlest with his Robinson Crusoe journal 2014

Littlest with his Robinson Crusoe journal 2014

The myriad options for approaching homeschool should erase at least some of your fears.  There are others, of course.  Like the whole, “Wow, if I do this, I am committed to doing this for 12-13 years.”  Well, yeah.  But you’re going to be raising them anyway, and it is kind of your job.  The one thing to keep in mind, though, is that if it all gets overwhelming or you find that homeschooling isn’t working for your family, you can send them to school.  As long as you have kept them at their grade level in work they should assimilate pretty easily.  So take that fear off the list.  You can homeschool for a year or until they graduate.  The option for change is always there.

Then there’s the financial question.  I’m not going to lie–there are months when we struggle a bit and I start thinking, “We wouldn’t have to worry about this if I just went back to work.”  In my case, my beautiful husband is always there to remind me why we made this decision and of the cost of child care and professional clothing and daily lunches and gas money.  And we remember we’d be giving up this wonderful opportunity to raise our kids ourselves in order to make an extra–what?–$50 dollars a week?  A hundred?  After we factor in the costs of me going back to work, it suddenly seems like a Really Bad Idea.  So we make it through and things get right again, and I am always grateful I didn’t cave.  If you decide to give up half the family’s income in order to homeschool, it’s going to be hard.  You’ll have to give up some luxuries and some social activities in order to afford books or paper and pencils.  Or a rocking printer like the one I finally invested in.  But the rewards are so numerous.  I promise you, getting to be the one who teaches your kids their values and ideals, sees every nuance of their growth, and witnesses all their firsts makes it worth it.  And as a good friend of mine says about the people you owe money to, “They can’t eat you.  What are you stressing about?”  Also, I know several families in which the primary homeschooler has a part-time or even a full-time job.  The options are there and apparently doable.

Scarecrow-building day with our homeschool friends 2013

Scarecrow-building day with our homeschool friends 2013

You might also be really scared of what will happen to your kids socially.  In our society, the public school system is where kids learn to interact with others, right?  It’s where they make friends.  Now, I know there are people out there who have been lifelong friends with people they met at school.  I am not one of them.  My circle these days is made up of people I’ve worked with, family, people I’ve met through my husband, people from all sorts of places… none of them people I knew in high school.  In fact, barring a couple of exceptions, I have never had a desire to remain friends with the people I went to high school with.  I had a lot of friends in high school.  I wasn’t comfortable around most of them.  I didn’t agree with the way they thought, the things they did, or the way they viewed the future.  I always felt like an oddball.  Why would I still want to feel like that as an adult?  I mean, think about it–public school throws us in with a bunch of other people our age that we don’t get to pick and we have to at least find one or two we can tolerate for the next 12 years.  In high school, most of my friends went to other schools and I only saw them on the weekends.  So technically, public school didn’t do much for me socially except teach me to hide who I really was.

Do you want that for your kids?  The thing is, as long as you don’t hole your kids up in your house 24/7, they’re going to make friends.  It’s what kids do.  It’s what humans do.  I’ve talked about this extensively in another post, so I’m just going to say, wipe that fear off your list.

Equinox lesson at local forestry's nature center 2013

Equinox lesson at local forestry’s nature center 2013

Listen, fear begets courage.  It’s healthy to have a little fear, because it helps you think things through.  It can even help you throw on your big-girl boots and tackle a problem head on.  If you’re still wavering about homeschool because of fear, take a deep breath.  Remember who you’ll be doing this for.  Contact someone with experience and let them encourage you.  Look at how happy my Littles look in all these photos.  Then look at your own kids.  And go for it.

Love wins,

KT

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