Homeschooling Is Not For Wimps

This year, I embarked on one of my biggest adventures.  My husband and I decided to try our hand at homeschooling.  So, with no experience whatsoever, I signed up to not just home-school my son, but also my daughter.

I didn’t share this information with a lot of people.  Of course, our family knew, as did a few friends.  Why did I keep it under wraps?  I suppose I didn’t want to make a big deal.  I didn’t mention it a lot in this blog.  Maybe I was afraid of failure.  The fewer people who knew, the better.

We had a lot of reasons to try it out.  Surprisingly to me, my main reasons did not include opposition to Common Core, or the curriculum being taught in the schools.  I could see my son struggling to understand certain subjects.  I saw how the teacher would spend a little time on it (realizing it was not her fault…she was following the schedule the school put on her), and then move on to the next lesson, whether he understood or not.  We spent hours working on homework.  I could see the frustration…I felt frustrated too.

We also decided we wanted our son to stay a kid for a little bit longer.  Kids in school are exposed to so many things, at an earlier age than my husband and I were.  We also dealt a lot with bullying when my son was in school.  We wanted to protect him for as long as possible.

Homeschooling my daughter was almost an afterthought.  Her birthday falls just barely before the cutoff date & I wasn’t planning on sending her to school this year anyway.  I went in teaching her with very low expectations…not to be mean, but she was very young in the beginning (she was 4 for almost 6 weeks into school).

I remember that first day of school like it was yesterday.  I got up that morning, ate breakfast and started surfing Facebook.   I saw the pictures.  Kids standing on their front porches…holding chalkboards with their name and age…maybe what they want to be when they grow up.  I remember having what I can only describe as a small panic attack.  “What did I just do???  Was it too late to run up to the school and change my mind??”  After all, I hadn’t told many people what we were doing.

That initial panic wore off.  I started to appreciate the small things.  Sleeping until 7:30.  Doing math in our pajamas.  Taking a week off when my parents and my in-laws came to visit…even though the schools were still going.

Homeschooling is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I was with my kids pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  All day long.  Every day.  I would get frustrated when my kids didn’t grasp something and I had no idea how to explain a concept.  I would get tired of hearing the whining…oh the whining!!!

Homeschooling is one of the best things I’ve ever done.  I was with my kids pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  All day long.  Every day.  I would get elated when I saw that light bulb click and they understood a concept.  I loved watching them learn.  After my daughter was done today, I found her in her room, reading.  She looked at me and said “I love reading Mom!”  It’s days like this that make it all worth it.

I can’t say I did this all by myself.  My husband was a great support to me.  He was the “principal”.  When I felt like I was failing, he would gently encourage me.  He nicknamed me “school marm”. A name I have grown to…appreciate…

We went through the program.  Not only did they provide all the curriculum (for free, I might add) and planned out all the lessons, we had access to a great team of teachers.  My son was in virtual classrooms 4 days of the week.  They were there if we needed help or clarification.  They organized field trips, science fairs and so much more.  If you have ever thought about homeschooling, but the idea of coming up with a curriculum and lesson plans scare you & the thought of doing this by yourself is more than you can handle, let me highly recommend the K12 program.  The curriculum is well done and I feel like my kids have had a well rounded education this year.  And, I had a great built in support system.

Today, as we wrapped up the last of my son’s math lessons, I had a feeling, similar to the one I had at the beginning of the school year.  Only this time, it was “Check out what we just did!  We made it through the year!!!”

We still have a few courses to complete, but we are definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Would I do this again?  Absolutely!!!  Would it terrify me?  Probably…but not as much…maybe.

So, now that we’re staring summer break in the face, am I looking forward to it?  You betcha!!!!  I can’t wait!  Will I miss the day to day routine?  Sure.  There’s something comfortable in routine.  But, I’m sure we’ll fill our days with lots of little projects.  Water gun fights with the neighbors, s’more making around the firepit at nights.  Catching lightening bugs because we don’t have to be in bed at a certain time because it’s “a school night”.

Will we home-school again next year?  Possibly.  We decided to make this a year by year decision.  I need some time to sit down and process everything and talk it over with my hubby, but at this moment, we’re really leaning towards going through this crazy adventure again.

One big adventure in the books.  Who knows how many more await us!


The Grocery Game

Well, this is a bit embarrassing…it’s been almost exactly 6 months since my last entry.  I don’t really have a good excuse other than life happened.  We have been homeschooling this year through and I’ve had quite the learning curve this year.  It’s been crazy busy & stressful at times, but I can now say, after a year of homeschooling a 4th grader, I can do pretty well in Trivia Crack…bonus!!

Our town just opened an Aldi’s.  Until about 3 months ago, I had never heard of an Aldi’s & was very intrigued, because everyone was really getting excited about the store.  I did a little research & saw that there were whole blog articles dedicated to how to shop at Aldi’s.  Well, I was impressed!  I mean, there are some serious Aldi’s followers out there.

After doing extensive R&D when our very own Aldi’s opened (I did not go in on Opening Day…the line around the store kind of kept me home), I have come to the conclusion that there are some great deals to be had there, but I can see where some can get sucked into the idea that EVERYTHING in the store is a bargain and I should buy everything there.  What I found to be true is exactly what I read about in blogs…some things are a great bargain…and somethings are…well…not.

This got me thinking about saving money on groceries in general.  We have a local organization that helps women who are pregnant and have babies learn the basics…from diapering to finances to (you guessed it) saving money at the grocery store.  I taught a class several times…mainly on couponing.  But, I have a lot of tips now, that don’t deal only with coupons and I thought I’d pass them on to you.

Now, these are just guidelines or suggestions.  Some of this may not be rocket science, but these are things I have found helpful while saving money at the store.

1.  Go with a plan.  I think if I didn’t plan my meals for the week BEFORE I went to the store, I would have a meltdown panic attack.  This may seem a bit dramatic, but seriously…truth.  I sit down on Sunday afternoons and plan out dinners for the week ahead.  I take into account what our schedule is, what we had the week before & favorites of my family.  When the kids ask what’s for supper, instead of panicking, I can (somewhat) calmly tell them what’s on the menu.  I don’t plan breakfasts or lunches.  For lunch, we have our “easy” meal.  Sandwiches, mac & cheese, hot dogs…you know, kid food.  Breakfast is basically every man for himself (which means cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, etc).  On a rare occasion, my hubby and I will get up & make breakfast together, which is a lot of fun.  The other 364 days of the year, we fend for ourselves.

2.  Go with a budget.  A strict one.  If you don’t, you’ll spend a whole lot more and buy a whole lot of junk you don’t need.  I take cash.  Once my money is gone, my shopping trip is over. You can thank Dave Ramsey for that one!

3.  To go along with #2, you need to keep track somehow of what your spending, as you go.  Otherwise, it could get a little awkward with the cashier when you’re $50 over budget.  I love the grocery store I frequent.  They have a little scanner that you can use while shopping.  Not only does it keep track of how much your bill is, once you scan it, you bag it right there in your cart!  It is absolutely my most favorite way to shop.  But, what do you do if that’s not available in your store, or their *gasp* system goes out??  Well, my cell phone has a handy dandy calculator on it.  Seriously.  I have been known to key the price in as I go.  Does this take longer?  Maybe 5 or 10 extra minutes tacked onto my trip, but how long will it take you to eliminate foods at the register if you’re over budget?  If you go shopping with your kiddos, maybe let one of them keep track of the prices (maybe the older one).  It’s a good lesson for them as well!

4.  Know your prices.  This is very important, especially if you shop at Aldi’s or another discount store (i. e. Dollar General, Save-A-Lot) because sometimes the discount store price is not that great…or maybe even more.  Just yesterday, I was at Aldi’s, looking at their canned tomatoes and tomato sauces.  I’m making spaghetti this week & like to make my own sauce.  When I saw the price for the canned diced tomatoes ($1.49/can), I tried to remember how much it was at my “regular’ store.  In my mind, I felt like the price was about the same, if not less, so I opted to skip it at Aldi’s and get it at the other place.  Did it pay off???  Absolutely!!  Turns out, the same size can was $0.99!  So, if you know basically how much your staples cost at your grocery store, you can make wiser decisions at the discount stores.

5.  Going along with #4, don’t get caught up in the magic that is discount stores…not every deal is a good deal.  Also, don’t get too tied into a certain brand.  I buy a lot of store brand versions at the grocery store.  However, you want to check specials, because sometimes, the name brand things get put on sale and can actually be cheaper than store brand!!

6.  Coupons.  I’m no “Extreme Couponer”, but I do dabble in the art.  The only reason I buy a Sunday paper is for the coupons.  I have a few rules for me, when it comes to couponing.  Don’t clip a coupon that I won’t use.  Just because I can save $0.25 on mayo, doesn’t mean I should clip it (I hate mayo…sorry).  Also, double check the wording on those tricky little buggers.  I hate checking out & learning that my coupon only works if I buy 2 of the item (or has expired).  Also, don’t forget those electronic coupons.  My store sends me about 5 coupons/week I can load onto my store rewards card.  Some of those work only with their brand of items, but many are national brands and will stack (yay!) with those paper coupons.  There are also some Apps you can download to help save (or get reimbursed) from products you purchase.  The most popular is Ibotta.  I like Ibotta because it has a good mixture of name brands & generic brands.  I haven’t been using it very long (I only have about $8 in my account), but I can see where it’ll pay off in the long run.  I’m on the waiting list for Mobi Save (waiting list????  Seriously???), so I can’t comment much on that one.

7.  Chose your store wisely.  I don’t go to one store exclusively.  In a given week, I’ll probably hit up 3 or so grocery stores.  This might drive you crazy, but it saves me money.  I buy certain things at certain stores.  If I can help it, I avoid Wal-Mart.  I know they seem to have good bargains, but I honestly can find the same deal or a little better at my other main store (and I don’t have to deal with the long lines).  Find out if your store doubles coupons.  Some only double up to $0.50.  Some will double up to $0.50 & then make up the difference on anything over $0.50 (for example, if something is $0.75 off, my store will make it $1.00 off).  I get gas points when I shop at my store.  When gas was really cheap earlier this year, I got to fill up for under $1.00/gallon!  Does your store offer a money back guarantee, price match program, etc.  Knowing the ins & outs will help save you money over time.  At one point, my store offered free child care!  It was a very secure system & allowed me to do a little shopping in quiet while my son had fun (and usually, he was the only one there).  Unfortunately, they converted the childcare space into a bank…boo!

8.  Supplement.  We supplement our groceries with a garden.  For a good part of the year, we have fresh produce to eat off of.  What we can’t eat, we can or freeze to eat on throughout the year.  My husband also hunts, so many weeks, I don’t have to buy a lot of meat (if any).   These two ways have helped reduce our grocery bill a lot.  I know what you’re thinking…hunting costs a lot of money.  Gardening is a lot of work & also costs a lot.  Yes and no.  We’ve gardened for many years and only recently focused on preserving our foods.  Yes, hunting is expensive to start up, but once you have your supplies (guns, clothing, etc), the year to year cost is minimal.  It’s not only a way to provide food, it is my hubby’s hobby.  So, he would do both things, whether we ate from them or not.  Plus, have you priced organic, free range whatever recently???  Ummm…we’re definitely saving some green here.

So, there you have it…just a few ways I like to save money every week on our groceries.  I can positively say it works, because in about the past 10 years or so, we have kept the same budget on our groceries.  As you know, cost of food has increased dramatically.  I just get “creative” with meals and saving money.  It really is almost a game now.

Happy Shopping!!