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Christmas on a Shoestring Budget

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Today we leave to stay at my grandmother’s in Georgia for a month.  I cannot wait! I get to sleep in a bed, have heat day and night and have indoor plumbing (have to go over to the trailer to use the bathroom where we are at now.)  It is going to be joyous.  These are things I will never take for granted again!

I have less income now than I’ve had all year with the cut in the twins’ adoption assistance and being informed yesterday that there would be no work hours until Dec. 14th and I didn’t have any the last two weeks either.  Needless to say, Christmas is going to be almost non-existent.  Almost…

Princess and I learned to knit in the last month.  This is something I have wanted to do for YEARS!  A new store opened up here locally and offered $10 beginning classes along with 10% off the supplies.  We’ve taken off like gang-busters.  She has become a whiz at making hats, teaching herself after learning the two basic stitches, and I’m quite adept at knitting straight lines now.  We’ve both been working on making presents for anyone we could think of who would enjoy them.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

The little ones dad sent them both $50 at the end of September for the state fair, and both of them managed to save some of it.  Gymnast cleaned my car for another $10 this week, so I took him shopping last night.  He managed to buy thoughtful, practical gifts that I think everyone will enjoy staying within his budget.  (He shopped at $5 and Below and got some really great presents if I do say so myself.)  He has also gotten creative with reusing some canvases he had previously painted.  Painting over them and creating new masterpieces to give as gifts.

Original paintings that have now been repurposed to Christmas presents.

Original paintings that have now been re-purposed to Christmas presents.

I have not had quite as much luck in figuring out what to do for gifts for the kids, but at this point am planning to try and fill their stockings with goodies and that will be it. I’ve been collecting free samples of soaps (not hotel kinds, but more homemade stuff,) notebooks and anything else I can find. This is the first year that we will not be in our own space for Christmas. No Christmas decorations, no menu planning, no traditions from the past. I did dig out the stockings and will be taking them with us (the kids don’t know.) I think it will be nice to have something from our old life with this new Christmas. I have been thinking that I could create a certificate for a “mom and child” date so when I do have some money I could take each child out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Thought that might be kind of special and something to look forward to.

I’m not going to pretend and say it’s been easy to be so broke especially with the holidays here, but we have more than enough and in the end, it truly is being together that counts the most, not the material things. We are blessed that we don’t have needs, just wants. There are many who truly need.

Updated to add Amazon Wishlist…http://a.co/el2mc7W

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Someone thinks I’m Smart

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I think one of my most controversial ongoing decisions on this blog is my commitment to homeschooling.  Now I will admit this summer has been a doozy for me emotionally, and the thought of just sending all the kids off on buses for 8 or so hours a day has been appealing at times.  Of course, then I think about all the calls from teachers I would get because of certain behaviors or disorganization or…and the hours of homework each night and so on.  So it’s been pretty easy to squash that thought even in my most miserable times.

And then today I saw this article posted online and I was so grateful for the logical and statistical reasoning for homeschooling…Homeschooling is the smartest way to teach kids in the 21st century

My way is the smartest way!  For  once! And maybe not to all.  But right now, I’ll take that win.

We are actually starting school this week.  I’m super excited about it.  We are not returning to our co op, and the classes I had planned to teach for money, well, that didn’t happen either.  So the money stress is off. I bought some new curriculum in June at our state’s homeschool convention, have dug through some of my older stuff.  If they were in public school, I would have a 6th, 7th, 11th and 12th grader, but in reality I have a 5th grader who is in high school science, a 8th grader in high school English and math, a 12th grader who just has to take a limited number of classes at a time, and a college level student who just needs to catch up in math.

I love that homeschooling lets me really cater their learning styles, bolstering their weaknesses and really let them fly in their strengths.  I know not every agrees with this choice and the limitations it has put on my job search at times, but I know it’s the right choice for my kids.

On the job front though, as I am truly looking and applying for most anything, I decided to eliminate my homeschool conditions for employment.  I know I can homeschool at night or weekends…or even longer lunches if that is an option.  And with the right money, I could afford to hire some help to at least keep the kids on track.

Just ending with “Homeschooling is the ‘Smartest Way'”…sometimes it’s just nice to hear that.


House Hunting….kinda

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Hi from sunny (and HOT) Madison, Wisconsin!!!

I’m here for my work conference and, unfortunately, brought the Tucson heat with me! Just last week the average temperatures were in the mid-80s. I arrived on Tuesday of this week and since I’ve been here it’s been in the high-90s/flirting with 100 degrees F plus muggy. Boo!!! Get it together, Madison! (I kid, I kid – it’s actually quite gorgeous aside from the heat + humidity).

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The REAL point of this post is about HOUSE HUNTING!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!! The time has finally arrived. It’s FINALLY arrived!!!!

Hubs and I had originally planned to start house hunting in early summer but had to push back the start of house-hunting a bit to finish adding to our house down payment fund. As a reminder, we’re planning to put down 20% so we can avoid any mortgage insurance. To do so, we wanted to save up $10,000 during the first half of this year (one of our 2016 goals, now done – yay!!!); we’ll add to that all the money from my money market account (roughly another $10,000…a little more at this point); and, finally, my mom is gifting us a sum of money that I haven’t disclosed.

We decided to start by shopping mortgage lenders. We’ve hired a realtor and got her recommendation, plus called around to all the local credit unions to ask about mortgage current rates (though none of them keep the loans in-house, they can still offer better deals than most big banks). Note, we haven’t actually hired a lender yet or processed any paperwork. At this point, we’ve just begun the process of shopping different lenders. We’re not letting anyone run our credit, etc., until we’ve decided on a lender, so we’re just comparing generalities (by giving our credit, an estimated loan amount, etc.)

I’m pretty sure we’ve found who we’re going to go with, but I’m still waiting to get my contract for the 2016-2017 academic year so we won’t actually start the paperwork process until I have that in hand to prove my continued income, etc.

Once that occurs, the hunt is ON!!! We’ve already been zeroing in on a couple of neighborhoods/areas that we like and I’m dying to actually get in some houses and look around. Can’t wait!!!

In other news – remember how I mentioned having a friend who lives in Madison (it was one of the reasons I was excited about coming here for my conference)? Well, I totally called it because she had her baby literally in the early morning hours on the day I arrived in town. I’m glad many of you advised me to really make the trip more about WORK than about socialization. I’ve been here 2 full days and have yet to see her. I was going to swing by her house this evening after the conference, but she had just gotten home from the hospital, is nursing a 3rd degree tear (in addition to her infant, har har), and just didn’t feel very well. No hurt feelings – I 100% understand. I should be able to go by tomorrow after the conference. Even if it’s just dropping off dinner and a baby gift, I’ll at least be able to say hi and meet the new baby for a couple minutes. I’m sure other parents can relate to the overwhelming craze that surrounds the first couple of days home from the hospital with one’s first child!!! Just sucks that the timing of the conference worked out like it did because I would’ve loved to spend more time together and take advantage of my kids-free nights! ; )

That being said, I’ve been ultra productive while I’ve been here. In between conference sessions I’ve done tons of grading. In the evenings I’ve been making lessons for my Fall classes, updating syllabi and course calendars, and getting final grades up from my summer classes (ahem, and writing this blog post). I still feel way behind (I think that’s my new normal, which is uncomfortable for someone who is always totally on top of their work), but I’m still treading water and doing better than I have most of the summer so it’s all good.

And, why don’t I just continue (since this post is total stream-of-consciousness at this point anyway. Let’s just go on with it, lol)…. my girls’ first day of preschool was today!!!! It still breaks my heart a little that I wasn’t there, but it’s helped that hubs sent lots of fun pictures of the girls all ready to go and full of smiles in their new classroom. I’m not going to lie though, it hurt when I FaceTimed with them this evening and they asked, “Why didn’t you get us from school, Mom?!” (tear). I’ll be home Friday afternoon in time to pick them up, so that will have to suffice. The GREAT news about the girls starting back to school is that it means I can go back to working full-time (thank god, given that I have both a full-time AND a part-time job. Whew! How have I done it all summer with only part-time care?!). When I return I have exactly 1 week before the Fall semester starts and it is literally jam-packed just about every minute of every day with meetings, To Do’s, workshops, etc. It’s insanity! I’m so very thankful to get some solid dedicated work-time in both this week (at least in the evenings after the conference) and next week (while the kids are in school – YAY!)

Sorry it’s been a hot minute since my last post! I’ll try to be better about it but, you know, life.

What’s one good thing happening in your world right now? When do kids go back to school in your area? Any must-do thing in Madison before I leave? I don’t have much time but could maybe squeeze in a restaurant or something???


Summer Childcare Update

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Hi guys! I hope your Monday is off to a good start!

Remember when I talked about our summer childcare plans? We ended up opting to hire a babysitter whose been coming to our house to watch the kids 3 days per week. I wanted to give a little update on how it’s gone.

First, in case you hadn’t noticed from our recent budget update, our childcare costs have been way down compared to the academic year! Part of this is because we’ve been out of town a bit and we only pay our babysitter when we need her, so we haven’t had to pay for chunks of time when we’ve been gone. The other reason, of course, is because we’ve only been using part-time care instead of full-time care. Overall, we’re paying more per hour, but less overall (since fewer hours, etc.)

I did have some concerns about the route we decided to go. First, I didn’t love that the kids were going to be stuck at home all day every day. Second, our babysitter doesn’t drive (she’s old enough, but just doesn’t have a license) and she lives a solid 45 minutes away, so arranging pick-ups and drop-offs has been really exhausting. Generally we meet her parents somewhere in the middle, but on the rare occasion we have to take her all the way home, we’re talking a solid 1.5 hours in the car for the round-trip. Far from ideal. And, finally, the time has been another big issue. Remember, I work a full-time job + a part-time job. So getting all my work done in 3 days/week (and nights while the kids are sleeping) was a big concern of mine.

Status Update…

I don’t regret our decision with the babysitter for this summer, but I don’t think we’ll do it again next year (or, if we do, we’ll probably do a mix of camps and babysitter). Most of the summer has been fine, but now that we’re nearing the start of the semester (5 weeks left!) I’ve been struggling with tension/stress headaches just about every day over the stress and anxiety of all that I’ve got to get done in such a short period of time. The struggle stress is real.

Also, I miss working at home badly! During the academic year I try to reserve one day per week to work at home. I tried to work from home with the babysitter exactly once and it was just not working. The kids are loud and make concentration difficult. Plus, when I’m home (even if I’m locked in my bedroom), they keep trying to come in and see what I’m doing, bang on the door, yell for me, etc. I also found myself coming out and helping a lot when I heard screaming/crying/fighting. Basically, I was not able to get much done. But we live a good 30-40 minutes from campus so when I physically go IN to work it’s a solid hour round-trip out of the day just for driving. Its a fast drive and doesn’t bother me during the academic year, but paying more per hour makes me realize the cost of that drive on a daily basis. And I’m just able to be more efficient when I’m home! I can start a load of laundry and meal-prep for dinner in-between emails and work stuff. It’s much harder to cram all that stuff into the nighttime hours (or on the babysitter’s off days while the kiddos are home with me).

Hubs has been stepping up, too. He’s stayed home a few days when I’ve had a meeting or something else that I’ve had to get to. But even so, I find that I’m rushing home to try to relieve him or whatever and I’m just not being as productive as I need to be.

This week, only, their school has a week-long camp. I signed them up but it’s only Mon-Fri from 8:30-12:00pm. The plan is to work from home this week (to eliminate the long drive to campus). When I pick them up, we’ll come home and eat lunch, then I lay them down for naps and (fingers crossed) get another couple hours of work done in the afternoon.

I was SO THRILLED to be taking them to camp this week! Like, I CANNOT WAIT for their school to open back up in Fall! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved having more time with them over the past couple months. But I’m sure other parents can relate to the feeling of being OVER summer (especially when its 10 million degrees, options for activities are limited, and I need to freaking WORK!). Here’s a picture I took (while at a stoplight – not moving!) of me taking the girls to camp this morning. To say I was excited is the understatement of the century, lol

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Oh, oh, oh!!!!

Also, we officially got my Dad’s Utah house on the market! It went live in the MLS on Thursday night. It’s had 7 showings since then and we got our first offer late last night. It was an over-list-price offer, but it’s not great because the couple is still “shopping lenders.” We don’t want to accept and tie the house up by going under-contract until we know for sure that the people’s financing will go through.

Our realtor is reaching out to the realtors of the other people who’ve looked at the house to get feedback and let them know there’s an offer on the table (in case others were on the verge and decide to put in an offer, too). We have until tomorrow afternoon to respond to the first offer so hopefully we can drum up a bidding war (though, being cautious of the fact that we don’t want to go too far above list price, as the appraisal might come in lower and ruin financing for anyone offering over-list). We’ll see what happens. Lots of moving parts. None of us siblings have sold real estate before (my bro & sis both own, but they’ve only bought once and have never sold), so it’s all new to us. Luckily, my mom is a real estate broker and although she and my father are divorced, she’s very sensitive to his health issues and has been more than willing to help navigate and guide us (the kids) through the process to make sure we’re taken care of and doing things properly. Our realtor has also been a dream to work with, so I feel lucky in that regard.

Anyway, gotta run and get some work done in the short time I have before I go back to pick up the girls from camp!

Have a great week! I’ll be back soon!


Ashley’s June Budget + 2016 Goals Update

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As a reminder, we have 3 concrete financial goals that we’re working on in 2016:

  • Save $10,000 for a down payment
  • Save $5,000 for an emergency fund
  • Put $30,000 toward debt.

Even amidst some obstacles that have caused us to have to withdraw money from our EF (for expenses related to the death of our beloved dog and a plane ticket home for my Nana’s funeral), we’ve still managed to make some progress for each of our savings goals.

In total we have now saved up: $6,000 for a house down payment, and $2,100 in our emergency fund.  In May we weren’t able to contribute to any savings at all, but in June we were able to save a good chunk and July should be good in this regard (and for debt payments), too.

Originally, we were hoping to start house-hunting in mid-summer but we decided to push our timeframe back just a tad so we can save up more money. We’re now hoping to have both of these savings goals met by August or September, and plan to start the house-hunting process in early September. I’m itching hard on this!

What about the $30,000 debt goal?

After last month’s $3500 debt payment, we’re almost exactly half-way to our overall 2016 goal of paying $30,000 toward debt! In full transparency, it’s going to be tough to hit our goal since we’re still working on stocking our savings accounts, too (we’d hoped to be done with the savings goals by mid-year). Even so, we’re currently on track and making good progress. For reference, here’s the table I made of goal debt-payments compared to actual payments for 2016:

Month 2016 GOALS 2016
January Goal: $3500 $4013
February Goal: $1000 $1261
March Goal:  $1000 $2134
April Goal:  $2000 $1521
May Goal: $2000 $1325
June Goal:  $4000 $3500
July Goal: $4000
August Goal: $2500
September Goal: $2500
October Goal: $2500
November Goal: $2500
December Goal: $2500
Total Goal: $30,000 Actual: $15770.00

 

Currently, we’ve paid $15,770 toward debt out of the total $30,000 we have planned (though it’d be great to beat our goal, too!) Right on track!

And here’s how our household budget looked for June 2016:

 

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2000
Electricity 128
Water 65
Natural gas 36
Cell Phones (2 lines) 105
Cable/Internet 100
Trash 35
Preschool (babysitting) 880
Gift-Giving 9
Restaurants 334
Kids Activities 136
Groceries 505
Gasoline 159
Household Goods 41
Clothing 74
Work Expenses 105
Rainy Day Savings 2023 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 500
Debt Payments 3500

 

Comments:

Electricity: Our electric bill from June was moderate, but I already received the July bill and it’s shooting sky-high. This is to be expected given that the temperatures are in the one-teens (as in 115 degrees!!!) and the girls have a babysitter at home all summer so we need to keep the A/C running since kids are at the house all day.

Restaurants + Groceries: I feel like you can’t consider one without knowledge of the other. Our overall food spending this month wasn’t too terrible when you consider that these figures include some of the food for the girls’ birthday party, along with the food we had to buy on our multiple trips this month (remember, I went to Austin for a funeral the first week of June + the whole family went to Utah the third week of June. Particularly during the Utah trip, we had to eat out basically the entire time since we were clearing out my Dad’s house and didn’t have the ability to cook).

Babysitting: The only perk about our travels is that we had less childcare. During the regular preschool year we have to pay a set price regardless of whether we travel or not (for instance, we still had to pay the full week of childcare when we were on cruise 2016). But with a babysitter, we don’t have to pay if we aren’t utilizing her services. So our childcare costs were pretty low in June.

Kids’ Activities ($136): I had cancelled swim lessons for about a month while we were busy traveling, but I started back up again in late June. I think I’ll carry it through the duration of summer and in early September I’ll probably cancel again and start them in a new activity. For new readers, swim lessons is the only paid activity we’ve ever done with the girls. But now that they’re 4 years old, I really want to let them start trying some new activities. We have lots in our area to choose from:  dance, soccer, martial arts, gymnastics, music lessons, etc. etc. etc. I’m committed to only having them in a single activity at a time (at least for the time being). They’ve made great progress in swim lessons so far and I’m really proud of how far they’ve come. But I also can’t wait to get to watch them in little tutus or soccer cleats or whatever the “uniform” is for the next activity we decide to do!

Clothing: This includes a mix of clothes for all 4 of us. I got a new cardigan for work, hubs got some new basketball shorts, and I got some darling outfits for the girls from my favorite app, Wish (side note: I’m still loving how cheap and easy it is to order through Wish, but I’ve seriously reduced the frequency of use. I can see how people could get addicted and overspend on crap).

Work Expenses:  This month I had several work-related expenses:  a new ink cartridge for our home printer, reordering checks and address labels, and $30 worth of gift cards for people who helped participate in a huge project I’m working on (that amounts to 3- $10 gift cards). Even though I had to pay for it personally (the department said “no”), I feel like it was warranted because these people have invested a HUGE amount of time into a project I’m spearheading.

Rainy Day Savings: I’d deposited $2023 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000. The goal is to get to $5,000 and we currently have $2100 (note, this is down from my last budget update because we had to use emergency funds to cover my $$$ last-minute flight to Texas for my Nana’s funeral; we also had to withdraw some money for end-of-life expenses for our dog, who died last month. We withdrew money for an ultrasound, lab tests, and his final cremation and disposal. http://www.bloggingawaydebt.com/2015/12/2016-tentative-financial-goals/
  • Car Repairs: $50. I also withdrew $10 to wash it. Our overall account balance is at $113, but I know we need to add more because my breaks have been squeaky and there are a couple routine maintenance issues we need to get done soon. Why are car repairs always so $$$???
  • Birthdays: $523. I also withdrew the full $523 for kid birthday expenses. I lumped some expenses here that would otherwise have gone into different budget categories, but I included them here due to their nature. For instance, both of our moms came to town for the birthday, but we only have one guest bed. So this number includes money for a new air mattress. It also includes all of the food costs associated with the party AND a dinner out when we treated our moms to Italian food while they were in town. In addition to that, this covers the bounce house, a pop-up tent we got to shade the yard, and all kinds of party odds-and-ends (decorations, goody bag treats, piñata & candy, etc.). I’d guesstimated our party costs to be about $600, so I wasn’t too terribly far off.
  • Travel/Christmas: $100. The full account balance for this category is at $150. It always helps when Christmas time rolls around to have some of our travel and gift expenses subsidized a bit!
  • Health/Dental/Vision: $0. Generally, this gets auto-deducted from my paychecks so we can pay for healthcare out of pre-tax money (it sits in a flexible spending account earmarked for health-care related expenses.) However, I pre-pay healthcare expenses in the spring semester to cover the summer (this is normal at my university), so I didn’t add anything to the account this month since its summer time. Instead, I get a higher paycheck since this money isn’t withdrawn. : ) I did have to make a deduction this month, though. I deducted $25 from our FSA to pay for a prescription. Current account balance sits right at $2300.
  • Annual Fees: $300. Deducted $68 for vehicle registration. The total current balance is $482. I like to have it around $500ish, so we’re almost fully funded here.
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50. We save $25/each (x 2 girls) for college that’s automatically transferred monthly to designated 529 accounts.

Savings Goals ($500): This is all money that was saved for our 2016 Roth IRA. As a reminder, I have 10% of my paycheck auto-deposited into pre-tax retirement accounts, but I also like to put a little bit of post-tax money into a Roth each year. It’s never a big priority (especially since I’m already saving 10% of my income), but every little bit helps.

 

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

 

Overall, June was a good month! Here’s hoping July is just as fruitful!

 


4th Birthday Extravaganza!!!

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This weekend we celebrated the girls’ 4th birthday! This was the first “real” birthday party we’ve ever had for them. In the past, we’ve only ever done small at-home things with our family. It’s been very small (as in, me, hubs, and the girls with a 4-pack of grocery store cupcakes; no decorations and minimal gifts). But this past year changed things. They started attending other kids’ birthdays at all these fancy places (gymnastics world, indoor trampoline place, etc.) and now that they totally “get” the concept of a birthday party, they really wanted one of their own.

We started off wanting to go low key – a simple backyard birthday party. But things kept getting bigger and bigger. As they do. It’s hard to keep things in check!

Things can be tricky with a twin birthday, too. The party is basically “shared”, but I wanted a couple little touches that made them feel special as an individual, too. So, for example, we got 2 cakes:  one for each girl. One was chocolate and one was vanilla, so it was kind of nice to have those different flavor options, too. We ended up ordering the cakes from a local bakery so it was a bit more costly than our typical go-to (a homemade cake or a Costco half sheet cake), but still under $80, tasted incredible, and with gorgeous decorations so not too bad.

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Because of the terrible Tucson heat, we knew we needed to incorporate WATER into the party. Our theme was actually an “Under the Sea” theme (side-note: it worked out really well that Finding Dory just came out in theaters because decorations were super easy to find in mainstream stores like Target and Walmart without having to order more $$$ Etsy options). I bought this inflatable pool from Amazon for $30 and it was a HUGE hit! It was much larger than you’d think and had 2 little water features (not pictured below because it was just being filled up at the time). Plus, it was still shallow enough that I wasn’t nervous about kiddos drowning.

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But probably the star of the party was our backyard inflatable. It ended up taking up WAY more space than we’d thought. So much so, that we ended up having to push the seating area (we borrowed some folding tables and chairs from a friend) to the side of the house. Kind of unconventional, but it was literally the only space! The kids freaked out (in a good way) over the bounce house! It also had water attached to it – it was designed to drip down the slide, so it became a water slide.  We did have one child slide down too fast and hit her nose, causing a nose bleed (no good party is immune to drama, right?), but it wasn’t bad and she recovered quickly.

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Overall, we (obviously) spent more than any other birthday, being that we’ve never done a party before. But it wasn’t too bad, either. I still did a lot of homemade things to try to cut costs where I could.

I made a “seashell” pasta salad and a homemade fruit salad instead of buying a more costly fruit tray; I purchased a 5′ party sub for party guests, but I also home-made a ton of PB&J sandwiches for the kids that I used a cookie-cutter to cut into fish shapes (the homemade sign said “peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches”).

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In that empty space I put out little jello cups I’d made for the kids. It was super cute – blue jello, one gummy Swedish fish (sunk in the “water”), and a gummy lifesaver ring (on top of the “water”). I can’t steal the credit – it was a Pinterest idea.

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I also stole a few other ideas from Pinterest for super cheap homemade decorations made from crepe paper and blue scrapbook paper.

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I haven’t calculated final costs of everything, but there were really only two “big” costs:

  • Bounce house rental, $150
  • Cakes, $75

Everything else was pretty inexpensive (at least on a per-item cost basis). However, we sure did have water running for a solid 2 hours, so it will be interesting to get our next water bill.

Once I reconcile the budget I’ll update on overall costs (in my next budget update post). I’d guesstimate that everything together was in the $600ish range, but I know those last minute grocery trips all add up, so we’ll see.

What do you usually do for kids’ birthday parties? How do you keep costs down for kids’ parties?


The Twins

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History Buff (L) and Sea Cadet (R)

History Buff (L) and Sea Cadet (R)

On my last post, several people asked about the twins and their plans.  Since we have been discussing that ad nauseum around here, it’s an easy post to write. The twins just completed their junior year of high school.  (For those that haven’t followed our story, just a little background.  The twins were placed with me when they were 12 years old as foster kids.  When it was determined that they couldn’t go home, I adopted them at the age of 15th.  They will be 18 this fall.  Sea Cadet is older by 20 minutes and he chose to be homeschooled beginning his freshman year of high school.  History Buff was pulled from public schools at the end of the first semester of his freshman year after not making the grades (he and I had an agreement based on grade expectations.)  History Buff’s first day at our homeschool co op – “my best school day ever!”)

History Buff is on track to graduate next year, and is college bound but he is very unsure of what he wants to do or study or even where he wants to go.  So for his senior year of high school, he will be dual enrolled at a local community college.  This will allow him to finish his high school credits and get some college credits simultaneously.  He has applied and must complete the English and Math Virginia Placement Test before he can enroll in classes.  Other than that, all school decisions are up in the air.  He would really like to move to Austin, TX where most of my family lives for college, but I have put my foot down on out of state tuition costs, so we are considering a gap year for him to move there, get acclimated, a job, etc. and then enroll at a local college.  But truly, all up in the air.  We will visit some VA schools this summer, and possibly do a second year at the community college.

This summer he is working two jobs.  He continues to work at the local movie theater, mostly because he loves the benefits

Sea Cadet, History Buff and Princess

Sea Cadet, History Buff and Princess

it gives his social life with free movies and discounted snacks.  He also works at a sub shop which was a job he was given by a family friend and he loves it.  He’s enjoying some free time from school, dating and hanging with his friends while he swims an hour a day for swim team and is working out three times a week with a personal trainer.

We’ve just modified his money plan.  Since the twins began working, they have been required to save 50% of each paycheck for college, 25% is used for bills (car insurance, gas, cell phone and clothes/hygiene) and 25% spending money.  He has done great, and learned some hard lessons.  I am so proud of him.  In the last month, we changed his plan to this: 25% college savings, 25% personal savings, 50% bills and spending.  We did this to give him a bit more control over his “free” money and let him save some money for car repairs or a newer car whichever comes first as we have had a few scares with his car.

Sea Cadet will graduate in two years.  We knew going into high school that he had some challenges with education and at the end of the first semester decided to slow down a bit to give him a chance for a much more successful high school career.  In homeschool, it’s called a super senior year.  (Before this becomes a discussion, he has what is called an ISP through the public schools which is evaluated every year, even though we homeschool.  And when he was in public school he had services in the classroom.  Slowing down was just what he has needed and he has been very successful.  When the twins were placed with me in 7th grade, Sea Cadet tested at a 3rd/4th grade level, again a public school administered test.)  He will receive a general diploma when he graduates and will have met all VA state requirements to do so.

Back to Sea Cadet’s plans, he has two more years of high school to complete.  He will also be dual enrolling this fall, but since he has a very strong interest in the medical field, he will be going into a two year EMS program at the local

Sea Cadet at lakehouse

Sea Cadet at lakehouse

community college.  He has already passed the English portion of the VPT, and will take the math portion this week.  We are doing this for two reasons: 1) it will give him a chance to try out college with home support and 2) if he completes the program and can pass the certifications he will have a career option available immediately just in case he decides college is not for him.  His dream is to be a flight nurse in the military, so we think this is a good way to see if that is a good career path for him.

He is also working two jobs this summer.  He continues to work at the movie theater with his twin brother, but he will also be away for 5 weeks this summer, working as a junior camp counselor at the Christian summer camp they have attended the last 4 summers.   He has completed his drivers ed course, but does not seem to be in a rush to get his drivers license especially when he considers the cost of insurance.  Sea Cadet continues to save 50% of every check for college and has done great with that as well.

I could not be more proud of the twins.  They are great young men, responsible, polite and really working hard to make good life choices.  I am so proud to call each of them my son.

Twins and friends at homeschool graduation event

Twins and friends at homeschool graduation event

 

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