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Posts tagged with: homeschool

Our New Life in Full Affect

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The last month has been a blur.  Today is my one month anniversary on my new job.  It is going great, and I am LOVING what I do. The wait was worth it to find the perfect position and the perfect company. I am so grateful.

Let me fill you in on what has been happening:

  1. Worked 40 hours per week in the office at my new job.
  2. Continued to work 25 hours a week for one of my part time jobs.
  3. Continued to work approx. 10 hours a week for my other part time job.
  4. Continued to school the kids – we are meeting twice a week (Sundays and one night a week) with intermittent study times together at night when the kids get stuck. It is definitely not ideal.  I’m going to have to re-evaluate our curriculum for the fall. But we will finish the school year in the next month and move on to a lighter schedule for the summer.
  5. Gymnast is going to gym (1 hour away) twice a week and soccer less than a mile away, 3 days per week.  He needs the energy outlet.  He is gone for the week with cousins to FL — this is why I wanted to move near family.
  6. Princess is playing basketball and has gotten involved with the youth group (that’s a first for her.)
  7. Sea Cadet continues to work at the movie theater he transferred with from Virginia, and looks forward to returning to VA the first week of June where he will spend the summer working as the Senior Boys Counselor at the same camp he worked at last year.

If you have done the math…I’m putting in upwards of 70 hours a week at work.  Oh, and I forgot, I’m starting every day with an hour in the gym.  It’s been life changing.  It’s been a whirlwind!  But I do have some exciting news…

We have rented a house!!!!  And you will not believe my rent…it is only $650 per month!!!!  I can’t believe it.  It is exactly the reason I wanted to move here.  We have not moved in yet, because frankly we don’t have furniture. Sea Cadet is staying there now on some old furniture family gave us, but we don’t have any beds.  Our stuff will be delivered by Upack on Tuesday so we can start making it home.  I have decided to move all the way in (we haven’t unpacked our stuff in over 2 1/2 years) and make it home.  We are all excited.  But it’s going to be a while before Gymnast, Princess and I move in while I watch for good deals and save money to get beds.

Our new home is 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bath, small manageable yard with just enough space for the kids to play.  Really, the only two things I am going to miss right now are 1) a dishwasher and 2) being able to have pets.  But all in due time.

A monthly budget is on the horizon.  I’ve just gotten my first full paycheck so I have a better idea of what my take home will be.  I did use every bit of my savings to get into the house.  I have to pay a $500 deposit, $650 first month’s rent, $250 to the city to turn on utilities and about $100 for a few odds and ends to get us started (toilet paper, broom, mop, cleaning supplies and a shelving unit to create a pantry in the laundry room.)

Princess and I return to Virginia this weekend for her to get her braces off.  It will be a quick turn, and it is the last trip we have planned. My new job has already agreed to let me work remotely while I travel, which thrills me to no end!


A Blessing in Disguise

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One of my biggest dreads this past fall was living in the camper for the winter.  Going outside and up and down slippery stairs to go to the bathroom, inadequate heat and just being cooped up in the tiny space, literally on top of each other.  If I let my mind go there, the darkness would overwhelm me.

We were all so excited to escape for the holidays to my grandmothers home and our short jaunt to Texas, as Christmas got closer and our return date got closer, I could feel my stomach tightening with dread.  Then I go the text. And we were homeless.

And as grateful as I was for the housing and the experiences we had…it was kind of a relief to know that we wouldn’t be spending the winter in the camper.

The housing we have been provided for these next weeks is beautiful! It’s newly remodeled and barely lived in (empty nesters.)  It’s like living in a dream.  I even got to soak in a bathtub for the first time in I don’t know how many years.  After the last two years so scrimping by, tiny living and shared space, this has been such a blessing.  And we’ve only been here a week.

We are not being charged any rent or utilities, but I am buying all the food and cooking and cleaning.  I imagine this is what most people live like every day…but for us, this is totally new.  Each of us has our own bedroom, our own bathroom (Princess and I have a jack and jill set up,) there is a pool table, washer and dryer, and we even have a dedicated school room.  I admit it, we feel a bit spoiled.

But I am so grateful, overwhelmed, by thankfulness in fact.  All I can say is that God heard my cries and he answered me, in a big, giant way.

It’s just temporary, but the respite from the daily struggle and stress has already worked wonders on my soul.  And I know, that whatever comes next will be okay.

Continuing the job hunt, preparing to pack and move everything to GA and make it our homebase until work allows us to settle somewhere, and completely open to whatever comes next.  And this weekend, we go to the Naval Academy in Annapolis where Gymnast will compete in the Navy Challenge.  Wish us luck as we will be fighting the inauguration traffic both ways…ugh!


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.


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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Floundering a Bit on a Plan – Too Much Going On

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I am typically pretty decisive on my plan, but I’m really floundering this time around.  We just have alot going on at the same time.  And I’m struggling with my priority list.  So here I am asking for some feedback from you.  In a nutshell, here are the  things going on in my head that I’m trying to balance along with my debt payoff (these are listed in no particular order other than how they came to mind:)

  • Kids Co Op Costs – As I mentioned last spring I am going to be teaching two classes this fall as our homeschool co op to off set the cost of the kids’ classes.  I had hoped that those two classes would fill and I wouldn’t have to worry about any tuition costs; however, it does look like there is going to be a difference.  Typically, the little’s dad would be helping with this and this would not be an issue.
  • Moving/Housing Costs – When our lease is up next April we are LEAVING.  So I will definitely have some moving expenses or at least storage costs.  Since I HOPE to be buying, I need to seriously consider upping the ante on my savings beyond the EF fund that I add to a little at a time.
  • Travel – One of the places I am definitely going to loosen my financial belt a bit this coming year is on travel. We have two trips planned this fall, both to see family, so not much expense except gas and a bit of food…and we’ve just been presented with the opportunity to spend a weekend in DC and work a marathon which would be fun, but it is volunteer and I would have to cover our costs.  (I’m not thinking beyond April with this, just short weekend trips to see family.)
  • Educational Camps – One thing we really cut back this year was some of the educational camps/experiences we have done in the past.  And with the twins beginning their junior year, I’d really like to get a few more in before they are in the “real” world.  Not to mention, some of them count as a semester worth of credit for classes so they truly are “school” related.
  • Music – We cut music out of our curriculum in the Spring of 2014.  It was one of the first “big” cuts I made.  At the time I knew it would be a temporary move, but I didn’t realize it would be so long.  Princess has been asking when those lessons can resume.  So I would like to consider adding them back in for at least her and any of the boys are would be inclined to really commit to it, ie practice.

So you will see I have a lot swirling around in my head thus making my “debt” payoff plan a bit more challenging.  I really like my new budget…but I have to consider these others things and really make some decisions again.  So let’s talk numbers, here are my estimated costs for the items listed above at least through April based on sketchy ‘ideal’ plans of which nothing has been decided or committed to.  In fact, none of this has even been discussed with anyone other than you now…the sucky thing about being a single mom is having no one to bounce these things off of!

  • Homeschool Co op Classes – Currently the kids are registered for several classes each over 2 days.  The cost per semester will be right at  $2,170, I can get a 10% discount off that if paid in full up front.  Currently, it looks like I will be able to bring in right at $1,600 for the two classes I am teaching.  I do still have openings in them both so if filled, it would cover everything, but I have to plan accordingly for now.
  • Moving/Storage – I have no idea how this will go.  I would anticipate at least $200 for a storage unit to hold everything if we were to hit the road.  And probably a solid $10,000 would be a good place to be if we were to find the right place to buy.  These numbers are just coming off the top of my head.
  • Travel – Right now I am budgeting $250 per ‘family’ visit trip.  This would cover gas, some extra food and that’s about it.  Since we’ve been doing this particular trip forever, I know this is slightly higher than needed, but want to give myself a bit of wiggle room.  Two times this fall and maybe one time in the Spring before April, so a total of $750 for family visits.  And the possibility of DC, I don’t know?  (Little Gymnast’s meets are a whole other story and I will cross that bridge when I get to it and have a meet schedule.)
  • Educational Camps – There is really one in particular that I would like to send both the twins to for a week early next year and Princess to for a day.  The total for this would be right at $1,000.  (Oh, I can predict what I’m going to hear about this one…but I’m telling you, this is a solid educational program that they will NEVER forget and it does require about a month long preparation on their part to be ready for it homework-wise that is.)  Oh, and if I register them in September, we would get a little over $100 off.
  • Music – This one I really struggle with for two reasons.  One I know how important music is both educational and emotionally.  But on the other side, music lessons are expensive and with our currently living situation…practice would be hard.

Ugh, so if you are still reading and have gotten this far, thank you.  I know this is not the most organized post.  But this is where I am at as I try to discern the best path for paying off debt which I TRULY am still laser focused on AND maybe add a bit more life back in and plan for upcoming things.


Homeschool – Planning for Next Year

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I was so grateful that Walnut gave me some writing prompts this past week.  Since we have CHOSEN to live on a really tight budget for the next few months AND we have CHOSEN to save our spending money for a mini vacation next month, there isn’t a lot of financial activity going on.  We are saving everything towards the goal of 1) living on last month’s income beginning in May and 2) paying off all consumer debt by July.

So all I am doing aside from working and schooling the kids is thinking and planning for the future…and one of the big things for us is school expenses.  This year was the first year that all four of my kids participated in our homschool co op all year.  History Buff did almost all his school work via the classes available, while Sea Cadet just took electives.  The Princess took some heavy classes which weren’t supposed to be her entire curriculum but really ended up consuming her time.  And Little Gymnast just took some electives that I don’t teach.  The cost of this was HIGH money wise, and I knew as of last semester that we would not do this again.

So…what are we going to do next year.  Well, a couple of things are going to be changing.

  1. History Buff and Sea Cadet will be dual enrolled in our local community college for one class.  This will cost a bit more, but allow them to get their feet wet with college level courses and layouts while I am here to hold their hands.  (Yes, I realize that I sometimes come across as mother bear, but in this case…yes, they will definitely need some hand holding.)  We are going to start with one and if that works ok, will consider additional ones for the following semesters.
  2. I am going to be teaching at our co op!  I am uniquely qualified with my Masters degree and corporate experience to teach high school level computer programming, Ap computer science and advanced computer application, and am thrilled that what I can offer is something they need.  Currently, I will be teaching all three courses but that could change this summer once enrollment settles down.  I won’t do more than three but would ideally like to drop to two.  The entire goal in teaching is to pay for the kids’ homeschool co op.  This will be a huge coup as far as the kids tuition costs being covered and I’m super excited about it.  I will know in May which of my classes make it and have the summer to plan the curriculum.   The lectures will be once a week and back to back, that was my one condition in taking this on.  All other interaction will be online which works well since I am always at my computer for work and an avid multi-tasker.
  3. After 6 years of homeschooling, I know my teaching/planning style. And I know my kids’ learning styles.  That makes a HUGE difference in being successful.  For the first time, I will be selling off curriculum that I have accumulated over the years at a curriculum sale in May.  And then based on the kids co op schedule, my teaching schedule and the monies I earn from selling some of my stuff, I am going to pick up some new items at our statewide homeschool convention.  If you have ever been interested in homeschooling, I suggest you check out a convention, they are AWESOME!

So the financial summation of these changes….

  1. I will be paying for 1 college course for each of the twins.  Estimated cost $800 for both.  This is ballpark, I won’t have the real cost until we register this summer.
  2. I will NOT be paying for any of our homeschool co op classes and may in fact make a little extra money from teaching depending on the number of students who enroll in my class(es.)  Something else that will firm up in May.
  3. I will be selling some of my used curriculum for the first time this year and am hoping to make enough money to buy a few new things at the homeschool convention.  At this time, I have no other monies budgeted toward homeschool supplies, so am really hoping that my curriculum will sell!  Another update on this in May when the dust settles.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I make enough from teaching that not only can I cover our homeschool co op classes, but also the twins college class!?  Only time will tell, but that is the plan right now.


The Cost of Education

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As we enter the final months of this school year, which always makes me antsy for the freedom of summer, I am starting to evaluate our school methods, curriculums, plans, goals and more importantly now, costs.  In April, all four kids will go through evaluation testing as a means of “proof of progress” which is what our state requires from homeschoolers.  The cost for this testing for all four will be right around $100 and give me a pretty clear picture of where they stand on all state mandated (requirements for graduation) courses, but of course, does not evaluate all the extras we do…gymnastics, dance, Navy Sea Cadets, Teen Pact, music, etc.

Next to my rent, our education costs are my next biggest chunk (since we have no car payment – yeah!)  I am completely confident that my children are getting a very well rounded education, focusing on things they enjoy and are good up and shoring up their challenge areas.  And this year for the first time, I let them all choose their subjects completely independently.  (Of course, I had some strong suggestions.)  But I have to say, the cost of our homeschool co op stands out to me, especially since I just had to pay it this week.

During the Fall semester, the complete courseload for all four kids was right around $2000.  Remember, I was able to barter for about of quarter of that.  This amount included a full load (all the classes he needed for the semester) for History Buff, a good portion of them for Sea Cadet, a well balanced load of LOVEs and must haves but enjoys for Princess, and 3 supplementary classes for Gymnast.

For this Spring semester, my cost is slightly less because I chose not to pay for classes that my children decided to slack off in…natural consequences! (The children will then have to pick up additional courses here at home or move on to another course.  It doesn’t mean they are not doing school, just that I’m not paying for someone else to teach them and them not fully participating…not wasting my money or the teacher’s time.)  Total I had to pay was about $1300 (still have bartered classes going on.)

So based on those numbers, I am paying approximately $600 a month for 6 months, while our homeschool co op operates.  Almost a car payment for those 6 months.  There are lots of positives to this arrangement:

  • I get three hours a week when all the kids are at class at the same time.  It’s my only kid free time EVER.
  • The teachers are these classes are dedicated, they are not doing this for money and most of them teach in their area of expertise.  We have actual working scientist teaching sciences, military personnel teaching unmanned aerial vehicles courses, certified Montessori teachers teaching younger children, recent college graduates teaching music and drama, fabulous artists teaching art…ok, you get the point.  These are QUALITY classes.  AP certified classes are offered, high school classes can be taken as regular or honors, there are labs.
  • There are just somethings I don’t want to, know how to, couldn’t tolerate to teach here at home…ie high school sciences.  Now granted I could buy a stand alone curriculum ($$) and let them self teach with my guidance, but I am sure how you can see that this might now be as effective.
  • The classes are kept pretty small, same 12 kids.  Last year, the twins Algebra I class had them and one other boy in there.  It’s like private tutoring all year without the expense.
  • Friends…probably one of their favorite parts of co op is the chance to hang with friends between classes or be in classes with friends…kind of like a traditional school setting except the free time is not formally monitored.

Then there are negatives:

  • It does cost quite a bit more than me just teaching them at home. In addition to the the tuition, there are nominal supply fees per class per semester (normally about $10 per class,) books (widely varies but for high school classes books typically run $40ish,) and other supplies (Biology dissection kit and 4 specimens just cost $70.)   So it does add up.
  • While the co op does have enforceable rules and in our now 6 years of attending there haven’t been any major incidents, there are isolated incidents that can leave you as a parent frustrated (ie unsupervised younger children being mean or inappropriate, parents who have a hard time accepting their child just might have done something wrong, etc.)
  • It does tie us down on the co op days.  One of the great things about homeschooling is the flexibility of schedule.  Being regulated pretty much all day 2 days a week, goes against the grain.

So with all that being said, I am now starting to review what I did this year and what I will change for next year, especially in light of my singular desire to be out of debt…and the freedom to pursue other goals.

There are very obvious conclusions in some cases to me:

  1. There are some required HS classes that I just won’t teach, either for cost or competence, and the money for a experienced, dedicated teacher for those subjects is money well spent.
  2. I truly NEED the break I get from having all my kids in classes at the same time for at least a couple of hours a week.  It makes a HUGE difference to my mental health.  So paying for an extra class here or there to get that time frame is worth is to me, but if push came to shove, I could sacrifice it especially with a specific financial goal achievable within a semester or two, rather a temporary sacrifice.
  3. For those subjects which a particular child find challenging, I think getting it kind of as a double serving can be a positive thing.  Sometimes, they just need to hear it from a different perspective or different format for it to click.  This was exemplified to me with Gymnast.  I tried every method, every curriculum, every suggestion to teach him to read, but it was only after finding a tutor that really worked with him that he got it.  What I tried for 4 years, she achieved with him in 6 months and now he’s about at grade level (and this was just last spring.)  I know they say when they get it, they get it, but it is certainly scary for a mom to watch her son struggle and feel like a failure in helping him.

And then some not obvious ones:

  1. My kids LOVE drama, just love it.  The drama teacher is a young, college graduate who’s taught at the co op for the last several years and my little ones first experience with her was in a music theory class (where they were the only two students.)  I, on the other hand, well, I have a hard time stomaching paying for drama, especially since it is one of the more expensive classes.
  2. I held out for years in paying for art classes.  We always did art, crafty stuff at home, so the $100 per class tuition was hard for me to swallow.  But it to is one of their favorite classes and I do have to say, the projects they come home with are PHENOMENAL, like truly display worthy.  Luckily, this year, I was able to barter for all the art classes (elementary art, high school art, yearbook and drawing) so not a big deal this year, but next year?
  3. Like this year…classes that you just don’t see your class performing well in or that you see they are getting much out of.  This year I was fed up with it enough, compounded with my financial goals, that I hard lined it and just made them drop them completely.  But I’m not sure this is the best solution typically.

So I’ve definitely got a lot more thinking to do.  But I wanted you to know what was on my mind right now as far as more cost cutting on a long term basis.  But I also wanted to ask a question to those of you with older/grown children…at what age would you say your child really settled into their strengths.  Everything I read says “shore up” the weaknesses and focus on the strengths, but frankly, I’m not sure when those are solid.  And I think my twins are an exception to the tradition because they missed out on so much in their early years, they are still experiencing lots of firsts so I hate to pin hole them into what I think are/will be their strengths/weaknesses when they haven’t really even gotten to try things.  Make sense?