Public School or Home School?

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Abigail and Eliza
2nd Gr and K-4

We’ve had a lot going on these past couple weeks.  It all started when my husband and I finally went on a long overdue date, thanks to our wonderfully gracious Mothers who offered to watch the kids for a few hours.  We were able to talk through many things that have been looming over our heads during the summer months.  One topic in particular was the topic of this year’s homeschooling curriculum.  I had been asking him for weeks to help me get things set in stone for our 7 year old to start 3rd Grade Math and 2nd Grade Reading, Writing, Science, and so on.  We had gone through most of her 2nd Grade workbooks last year, but we were interrupted by my husband’s new job and our newborn baby boy, Timmy.

My husband had been able to help with homeschooling up until March of this year when he started his job as a web developer for a new company and was no longer able to work from home twice a week.  I had especially been needing help since our baby boy, Timmy, was born in December of last year.  Plus, I’m not always on top of things when he’s not there cheering us on.  So, needless to say, we were feeling a bit overwhelmed by the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.  Our heads just weren’t in the game like they should be.

Our conversation began over a couple of mocha shakes around 7pm.  We knew it was going to be a long night, so coffee sounded like a good choice at the time.  We began talking about what our schedules were going to look like for the Fall Season.  My husband talked about his desire to improve his health and activity level and I expressed the same desire.  We talked about the time we would need to focus on that and added that into the schedule.  Then, we began discussing our spiritual health.  We both would be signing up for our separate small groups in addition to our Sunday morning meetings with another couple at our church.  These things were all added to the schedule. Add in the date nights and grocery shopping trips every week and we had a full schedule to say the least.  Plus, my husband decided then and there that he would be signing up for a History course at our area technical college!  Well, that would mean that he would be maxed out for time.

After taking a few good sips of our mocha shakes, we came to the topic of education for our children.  Since being married, we had always thought that homeschooling would be a great adventure and superior to any public school education.

Some things we thought homeschooling would offer:

  • Flexibility with schedule and curriculum
  • A closer relationship with our children
  • A faith-based alternative to public school curriculum
  • The ability to advance our children as we see fit
  • Giving our children one-on-one teaching
  • Allowing our children to take part in daily activities and chores
  • A superior education and learning experience

What we’ve now discovered that homeschooling offers (in addition to those listed above):

  • An often stressful environment for parents with many small children
  • Distractions are everywhere!
  • Organization is a MUST!
  • Learning can take place at any time, not just during the day
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Having Mom in your face every day doesn’t.
  • “… with many advisors they succeed” Proverbs 15:22.  Having more than one teacher is a good thing!
  • A superior education and learning experience may be hindered at home

After discussing our findings from the previous homeschooling year, we trudged on to our options for the upcoming school year.  It was already mid-August!  What could be done?  We reflected on our public school experience and the statistics for the schools in our area.  We knew that our children would be in good hands if we were to enroll them in the public elementary school close to our home.  Our county schools are known for educational excellence.  If we were living in the city, we would not even have considered enrolling them in a public school.  But, we love the county we live in and know many of the people in it.

Our conclusion?  Add “start 2nd grade at the local elementary school” on to the schedule for our 7 yr old and call it a night!

The weeks following our date night were busy to say the least.  My days have been filled with paper work, e-mails, and phone calls to the school.  I was able to get my 7 yr old, Abigail, enrolled in 2nd grade and couldn’t be happier about our decision.  Everyone at the school has been very helpful and Abigail is super duper excited to start school next week!  I will still be homeschooling my soon-to-be 5 yr old (on Sept. 7th) since I couldn’t get her enrolled in Kindergarten for this year.  She is sad, but I know she will work extra hard this year to prepare for Kindergarten next year.  She may even be able to skip right to 1st grade!  Not sure she’ll want to, though.

We’re all excited for Fall and look forward to a year filled with learning and growing!

 

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How We Made Extra Money Using Craigslist, Ebay, and Rummage Sales

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I love looking on Craigslist at what people in my area are selling or trying to barter.  It can be a great place to find stuff you need, sell stuff that you don’t need, or resell something to make extra money.  Sometimes you can even find some good stuff for free that you can sell to make extra money!  This weekend, I will be listing a bunch of our stuff on Craigslist to make extra money.  We’re hoping to get enough money to replenish our emergency fund after we cleaned it out to buy a used van (more about that later.)

I would normally blog about Frugality on Fridays, but I’ve decided to combine topics today.  Topics will include Frugality, Fitness, and Fun.  And, they will all relate to making extra money with Craigslist somehow.  So, here we go…

Frugality

  • Make extra money by listing things you don’t need anymore on Craigslist.  Easy, right?  Just look around your house, take some pictures of the things you don’t need anymore, and post it on Craigslist for free!  Then, just wait for someone to call you, pay you, and pick it up. And, if there’s no one in your area that wants it, there’s sure to be someone out there in eBay Land that wants it.  We actually tried selling a Limited Edition Harley Davidson Leather Jacket on Craigslist, had someone come take a look at it, and they passed it up for $300.  Then, we listed it on eBay with a starting bid of $0.99 with no reserve.  The winning bidder paid $600!  So, we made twice as much money by listing it on eBay.
  • Save money when you purchase things on Craigslist.  Make sure you don’t pay the asking price by offering to pay cash at a lower price.  We bought our used mini van off of Craigslist just yesterday.  We offered them cash if they would knock off $600.  They agreed and we are now the proud owners of a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country that we paid only $2800 for.  Many people are more than willing to negotiate and come down on their asking price.  Just have the courage to ask and bring cash if you can.Garage Sale
  • Have a Rummage Sale and list it on Craigslist!  Some of my family will be having a rummage sale this weekend and I was more than willing to put an ad on Craiglist for them.  Why wouldn’t you put your rummage sale on Craigslist?  It’s free advertising!  Of course you’re going to list your rummage sale on Craigslist when it’s free!  Who’s going to pass up free advertising?

Fitness

  • So, I purchased a Malibu Pilates Chair with 3 Workout DVDs from a woman off of Craigslist for only $25!  It was still in the box!  Everything was still in the packaging.  It retails for around $500!  It will give you a great workout if you have a little extra space.  Sadly, I found that we don’t have a little extra space.  At least not any usable space.  Having 4 small children doesn’t really allow for personal space other than our bedroom.  If I were to set the chair up (which I did by the way) in my living room, my kids would think I had bought a jungle gym for them to play on in the house (which they did by the way.)  My two year old especially couldn’t keep his hands off of it.  So, back in the box it will go.  I’m still debating whether I should keep it or sell it and make some money off it.  I’m leaning toward selling it to make some extra money.
  • The Malibu Pilates Chair is a great exercise tool and would be great to have if I had my own workout room.  I’ve discovered, though, that I really only need a couple of 3 pound weights and an exercise mat to get a good workout.  I’m thinking that I’ll try making a couple hundred dollars off of the Malibu Pilates Chair and put that money toward my healthy food plan.  What is my healthy food plan you ask?  It’s simply that, a plan to eat healthy.  I plan… to eat healthy!  But, healthy food costs a lot more than empty calories.  So, we just have to make it a priority to eat healthy.  Which means, any money we can spare will go toward healthy eating.  It’s a work in progress.  Just put some of that “extra money” toward buying some cook books with gluten free and sugar free recipes.  I made the gluten free/sugar free chicken fingers last night and they were AWESOME!

FUN!

  • Isn’t it fun to go to rummage sales?  I just love looking through all of the junk until something catches my eye.  My husband and I mostly go looking for things that we can purchase for less than $50 and sell for over $100.  We did make a large purchase one time, though.  My husband found a Vintage Slingerland Drum Kit and paid $300 for it.  We turned around and sold it for $800.  That was the most we’ve ever made on a resale item.  And, the whole experience of buying it and finding out how much it was really worth was a lot of FUN!  It’s such a thrill!
  • When finding things on Craigslist, at rummage sales, and at thrift stores, it’s not really about making money.  Making extra money is a nice outcome.  But, for me, it’s mostly about FUN!  It’s fun to hunt for treasure!
  • Want to read some Mindless Banter about Rummage Sales?  Check out my husband’s blog post.  You’ll either laugh until you cry or be completely dumbfounded.
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Overwhelmed By Food

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I’ve been a little overwhelmed by food lately.  It’s just that there is so much that goes into meal planning.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell the average homemaker that.

overwhelmed by food

Every week, I go through the same routine.

  1. Find recipes for the week based on our health needs and budget
    (What should my budget be?)
  2. Go through pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what needs to be restocked
  3. Make a shopping list based on the recipes and restocking needs
  4. Find any coupons I may be able to use
  5. Find time to go to the grocery store without the kids having to tag along
  6. Go to the grocery store and resist impulse buying (avoid bakery at all costs!)
  7. Try to be as frugal as possible without sacrificing the health of our family
  8. Don’t forget main ingredients!  Get EVERYTHING on your list!
  9. Get home and unload groceries (freezer items first) without getting distracted by the kids
  10. Make the next meal of the day and prepare meals ahead of time if possible

This gets to be pretty overwhelming every week.  I suppose some people have meal planning and grocery shopping down to a science.  I’m not one of those people!  I would say there are three categories of grocery shoppers that people fall into.

Category #1:  The Budget Busters

  • These grocery shoppers are the type that don’t do any planning.  They look around the kitchen a while before going to the grocery store.  Once they are there, they proceed to put whatever looks good into their grocery cart. ” Hmmmm, I think this $10 jar of almost butter looks good.  I think I’ll get that!  Oooo, and that!  And, I could do something with that!”  Before they know it, they’ve got a grocery cart full of condiments and they’ve gone way over their budget.  And, they almost always run out of meals before the week is over.

Category #2:  The Mindful Mommies

  • These grocery shopping mommies will do their best to find food that’s healthy AND on sale!  If they can get something that’s healthy AND low-cost, then they’ve “done what they came to do.”  Mission accomplished!  Planning healthy meals and staying within the monthly budget are a mindful mommy’s constant companions.  She eats, sleeps,and… well, eats her mission to have healthy, low-cost food in her home every week.

Category #3:  The Crazy Coupon Crew

  • These Coupon Crazies are Crazy about Coupons!  All they care about is spending the least amount of money possible.  No time to worry about whether or not that bag of potato chips is healthy or not. ” If there is a coupon for it and it’s a double coupon day, then I’m buying it!  After all… food is food, right?  Gotta make sure we stay UNDER budget!”  So, they spend all of their time clipping coupons instead of planning meals.  And, when the shopping is all done, they’ve got a pantry full of processed food and a rather empty fridge.

Want to know how I came up with those categories?  They’re ALL Me!  I’ve been to both extremes.  I’ve been that Budget Buster who goes down every isle and searches for anything that catches my eye.  I’ve been part of the Crazy Coupon Crew and only cared about dollars and cents.  And, now, I’m starting to settle into the middle category where I should be at this point in my life.  I’m a Mindful Mommy with 4 beautiful children and a great husband to think about.  It’s a little overwhelming at times, but I know it’s worth it.  As long as my family is eating healthy and our finances aren’t suffering, I will feel confident in saying, “Mission Complete!”

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The Importance of Women’s Fellowship

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women's fellowship

Our Fall Women’s Fellowship Bible Study sign up is here and I’m debating whether or not I should sign up.  I don’t know why I’m even questioning it.  I should have been zoned in to the sign-up table right after church on Sunday.  But, I hesitated and decided to think about it until next Sunday.

 

Some things that were going through my head at the time were…

  1. Is a women’s bible study important enough to take time away from my family?
  2. Should I spend money on the study book and the gas to get there every week?
  3. What if I can’t make it every week?  I’ll fall behind on the study.

All of these are, of course, excuses.  After all, I know the benefits of being in fellowship with other Christian women. 

For me, the benefits of Christian women’s fellowship are…

  1. Being lifted up every week through God’s Word and prayer
    Smile:  Maybe given a good face lift too from all of the smiling and laughing!
  2. Being encouraged by other believers
    Smile:  They’ll give you a good kick in the butt every week to be your best!
  3. Being refreshed and renewed, ready to face life
    Smile:  You’ll get a much needed break from the dishes, laundry, and crazy kids!
  4. Being blessed by new and developing friendships
    Smile:  We all need somebody to lean on… just call on your sister in Christ!
  5. Being fed spiritually
    Smile:  Maybe fed a few yummy carbs too!  Women love to bake!

So, what is my final decision?  I will be signing up first thing Sunday morning!  Praise the Lord!

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Do We Need Two Cars?

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Crowded CarWe’re in a bit of a pickle right now.  Our second car is on its last leg… finally.  I mean, what did we expect?  It’s a 1993 Toyota Corolla and it has been in my family for years!  I think my oldest sister learned to drive in that car.  We’ll be ok though, right?  We don’t need more than one car. That is, if we don’t ever have to go anywhere as a family.  Our other car is a reliable 2004 Honda Civic that we purchased about 6 years ago in a moment of weakness.  We’re still paying for it, although not for much longer.  Everyone keeps telling us that we need a van, and I guess they’re right.  We are a family of 6 after all.  We need to be able to get to church on Sundays.  No question about that.  And, I’m definitely not going to be asking my parents to help us out every week.

So, I guess we’ll have to put our house hunting off a while longer in order to stay on track with our financial plans.  We just did some landscaping, which added a few thousand dollars onto our credit card balance.  So, we’re set to have all of our cards paid off by April of next year.  Once we have those paid off, we should be able to save for a down payment on a house.

It is very tempting, though, to just refinance and include all of our credit card debt in that.  But, we only pay 1.99% on $5000 of credit card debt at this point.  So, to refinance that balance into, let’s say, a 3.5% interest 30 yr mortgage would be stupid to say the least.  We just need to be patient and help each other stay on track.  It will all be worth it in about 5 years when we own a rental property (our current home) and have only our mortgage on our nice new home with plenty of space for our 4 children… make that 6 children in another 5 years.

Now we just have to find a van that is reliable and doesn’t cost more than $3500.  Good luck with that, right?  Maybe we can swing having just one vehicle?  Would it be worth it to sell the Honda for a few thousand dollars and get a van when my husband would have to take it to work every day?  There aren’t many fuel efficient vans out there to my knowledge.  What to do, what to do?

Option #1:  Sell the old car for $500 and buy a used van for $3500

  • Pros:  We would have two cars and a vehicle that our entire family would fit in
  • Cons:  We would have to buy the van on credit and would have to hold off on buying our second home

Option #2:  Sell both cars for $4500, buy a used van with cash, and use the bus for work

  • Pros:  We would have a larger vehicle that our entire family would fit in and we may end up with some extra cash
  • Cons:  All of that extra cash would go toward gas!  NOT fuel efficient at all.  Inconvenient to only have one vehicle.

Option #3:  Sell the old car for $500 and just keep other car

  • Pros:  We would have some extra cash and no additional debt
  • Cons:  We would not be able to go anywhere as a family and would only have one small vehicle

Are you in a similar situation?  Please share your vehicle woes and put in your two cents about the above options.  Which one will it be?  Option#1, 2, or 3?  Our fate rests in your hands!  Until we take it back into our hands of course.

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Finding the Time

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Too Busy Poem

I often struggle with time management.  I try to sit down every night and write a schedule out for the next day.  But, unfortunately, many nights I go to bed feeling overwhelmed.  And so, the next day I scramble to get things done.  I don’t think about slowing down to read to my 4 yr old or listen to one of my 7 yr olds jokes that make absolutely no sense.  I do not think about slowing down to interpret my 2 yr olds babbling.  And, why would I even need to stop and make funny faces for my 8 month old when he has three older siblings that will happily accommodate him AND add singing and dancing for an extra laugh?

Kids

Timmy, Abigail, Ethan, and Eliza

Those things all seem to take a back seat to the laundry and dishes, the bills and financial planning, and the meal planning and grocery shopping.  Sometimes I wish I had more time.  But, after really thinking about it, would it really make a difference?  Probably not.  I would still feel overwhelmed and race through the day like I’m running a marathon.  I do know this, though.  I NEED to find the time to just enjoy life.  I NEED to build a relationship with each of my children.  And, I NEED to do it NOW.  This verse comes to mind: James 4:17, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

No more excuses.  And you know what?  I bet the laundry and dishes will still get done somehow.  The bills will get paid and our future will be secure (in the Will of God.)  And, our family will still have breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.  If not, at least we will have love for each other and a clear conscience before God.  Who says you can’t live on love… and PB&J sandwiches?

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Rent Our House?

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Should we rent our house out and buy a larger home?  Or, should we stay in the house and add more rooms in the basement?  Either way, we’ll be spending money.  If we buy another house, we’ll need money for a down payment and closing costs.  Plus, we’ll have to do some touch up work on our current home before we could rent it out.  If we added rooms in the basement, it would cost us just as much and it wouldn’t add much value to our house in todays market.

Right now, we’re leaning more toward buying a larger home and renting out our current home.  With the market and mortgage rates at a new low, this would obviously be a great time to buy.  It is not a good time to sell, however.  So, that is why renting our house seems to be our best option.  Plus, we wouldn’t just be breaking even on renting it out.  We’ve estimated a rental INCOME of around $200/month.

There is a third option of course.  It’s an option I don’t really like to think about.  It involves spending another winter couped up in an 1100 sq ft house with 6 people.  I would say that our health depends on us getting into a larger space BEFORE the winter colds and the dreaded flu hits.  It is a known fact that people get sick more often when they work or live in crowded conditions.  I would also like to put in an extra vote for my sanity.  We should definitely get into a larger space BEFORE winter.

In order to do that, we must first consider our buying power.  What can we afford?  Sadly, we do not have much of a down payment.  In fact, we don’t have ANY down payment.  So, we would have to put aside our surplus for a couple of months instead of paying down our debt like we had wanted to do.  We may even have to borrow part of the down payment from a family member.  YUCK!  I don’t like thinking about that.  But, that’s what family’s for, right?  Just kidding of course.  That’s why it makes me sick just thinking about borrowing money from family.  I don’t like owing anyone anything.  I would much rather be the one lending out the money.  I suppose if someone we trust just happened to have, o let’s say, an extra $10,000 just laying around, they wouldn’t mind earning something like 3% interest on that money.

Definitely something we’ll have to pray about.  In fact, I think I’ve been praying about this every day now for about a month.  I’m not sure if the Lord is answering my prayer now, but we are supposed to go look at a house this evening.  It is a little over our budget, but it’s a short sale.  So, maybe the bank will consider a lower offer.  Like $20,000 lower than the asking price.  Hmmmm, not so sure.  But, just looking can’t hurt, right?  I guess we’ll see.

 

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