A question I get asked a lot is “How do you take a real world experience that isn’t a visit to a museum and turn it into a learning experience? How do I make life a learning experience?” Well, it’s easier than you think and linking knowledge to an experience will boost retention, especially if that experience contains exercise. One of my biggest factors in deciding to homeschool was to be able to give my kids experiential learning opportunities and create fun memories at the same time. My oldest will never forget our visit to our local Toad Suck Daze Festival where he got to ride all the rides and learned about the forces of motion like inertia and momentum (and experience them, too!). It was really easy to take that experience and stretch the learning into the realm of safe driving and riding in cars. We had science topics to explore for weeks.
My parents were active outdoors people, and we spent much of my childhood summers on Lake Ouachita (Wash-it-TAH; Osage word) in Central Arkansas. While this included lots of swimming and watersports, it really centered around fishing. My parents seemed to know everything about it. Where the fish would hide, how to maneuver the jig or bait to catch one when no one else was, even how to rig a fishing pole out of nothing but a sturdy stick and extra line. They constantly gave us science lessons without actually realizing it, and I am going to show you how to do it, too.
Harnessing the power of experience sounds so difficult. But it’s not. It does require creativity. It may take some preparation, and it definitely takes the effort to find an opportunity. However, the rewards are a hundred fold. Your child will remember better, will see the world as a place of wonder, education and knowledge as a jumping board for fun, and you will make a memory that will comfort both you and your children forever.
For the rest of this post, join me over at Minnesota Country Girl where I have the privilege of guest posting for Summer in the Outdoors: A Homeschool Series of Gardening, Foraging & Nature Studies.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I only link to quality products. I am grateful for your support in reading and ordering my suggested products.
Guys, I am a Southern Belle. I don’t sweat. I wilt like a prize flower. I hate the heat. I really do, but I hate having an empty checking account even more. Balancing the two can really be a pain. However there are so many things you can do to lower your energy bills without wilting.
First, I would like to say that I do not employ all of these. I just don’t have the ability. Anyway, on to the substance!
Seriously, guys, I cannot stress this enough. Drinking plenty of water, gatorade, coconut water, whatever you drink, is going to allow your body to keep a cool temperature better and will let you whether the summer with your house temperature just a little higher. This is practically free, and I really, really can’t emphasize this enough.
Of course dressing cool will help keep you cool. Shorts, thin fabrics, short sleeves, etc. Keep your hair off your shoulders. Wear cotton and other breathable fabrics.
Each energy company is going to charge more during the hottest part of the day. Turn off your air conditioner so that you don’t have to pay those prices. Turn on fans instead. I will often run errands during this time like going to the grocery or whatever so I can use their AC.
Keep your thermostat set at a slightly higher temperature. Setting it to 76 or 78 ℉ will drastically reduce how hard your AC must work and your bill.
Supercooling-- This is a technique for running your AC over a 24 hour cycle. Set it very low at night (Like 67 or 68 ℉) so that it can cool the house easily when the sun is absent, then set it higher during the middle of day as outside temperatures start to rise and enjoy the cold air trapped from the night/morning. A programmable thermostat makes this so easy! Set it and forget it!
Newer ACs are quite expensive but are also very energy efficient and updating is a great way to save money in the long run. Additionally, this investment will add value to your home.
Solar is becoming cheaper every day. You don’t have to go completely off grid. Getting a few panels installed will drastically save on your bills.
Fans use much less electricity than an AC so running several of them costs less and helps circulate the air to keep you cool! I recommend ceiling fans since my kids stick their fingers in floor fans.
For those that want to make their fans work harder without using more electricity, set up buckets of ice right in front of the fan so the fans blow straight over the ice. This circulates the cold air coming off the fans.
You can now buy timers for your thermostat, hot water heater, etc that will turn off the appliance during peak hours, after a certain amount of time or whenever you set it.
Vents and doors
Close the vents and doors to any room that you will not be using. This directs all the air into the rooms you are using and reducing the volume that your AC must cool down.
Close the blinds and use blackout curtains. The sun shining through the windows is going to drastically heat your home.
Cut bubble wrap to fit your window. Spray your window liberally with water, stick the bubble wrap to the window. The water and air in the pockets of the bubble wrap will absorb the heat from the sun instead of it heating your home. I have seen people put a piece of cardboard covered in fabric behind the wrap so that the window looks nice.
Dry your clothes outside if possible. The dryer makes a lot of heat and uses quite a bit of electricity. (Again, I run my dryer all the time. I don’t have the ability to dry things outside.)
Check your windows and doors for drafts. Many energy companies do energy audits where a technician will come to your home and show you where you can improve your insulation or what updates you can do that will save you money in the long run. If you know you have drafts spray some insulation foam there. It may not be a pretty fix, but the savings will be well worth it. I know we have drafts through our electrical sockets so we plug those with the baby safety plugs!
Turning off appliances like the air conditioner when you’re out is a perfect way of saving money. You won’t be there to enjoy it so why run it? (I would like to add an author’s note that we do not do this because we have a very furry dog that needs the AC while we are gone).
I have even heard of people turning off the electricity at the breaker to save money while they are gone so they don’t pay for electricity at while they are out. Practically, it is probably easier to plug most appliances into a power strip and cut of the power strip.
It’s obvious that cooking creates a lot of heat, so don’t cook or bake during the hottest part of the day. Use a crockpot, microwave, grill, instapot or just eat food that doesn’t require heating.
Please leave a comment if you know of a tip that I missed.
Diapers are perhaps the worst thing about parenting. They are gross, kids jam their hands in their poop as soon as you remove it, and they are expensive, even if you use cloth. There is certainly ways to save money on them though.
First, I am going to talk about cloth. I do use cloth diapers for all my biological kids. I love them. I was able to diaper all 3 kids using about $1000 total (including buying disposables during travel, illnesses, and when my dryer was on the fritz).
Using cloth isn’t guaranteed to save money though. First of all, there are collectible prints that some go crazy over and end up buying 90 diapers at $20 each. That’s overkill. Then there is water, detergent, wet bags, and power. How do you know if cloth is going to save you money?
What to Know Before You Buy the First Diaper
First, you need to gather some information. Go to a local pet store with a sample of your water FROM INSIDE YOUR WASHER. Don’t take it out of the faucet as it probably will skew with the results. Ask the pet store for a hardness test.
Hard water has minerals like calcium or iron dissolved in it. While these minerals are delicious, they can leave stains on tubs (iron laced water stains red), clog thin lines, and build up in your diapers causing stink and repelling.
This score is important because if your water is moderately or very hard, you will have to add a water softener (like borax, washing soda (NOT Baking soda), or Calgon) in order to properly clean them. While these additives aren’t expensive, they can strain a budget.
For mildly hard water, you will be limited to either powdered detergents (which contain softeners) or adding softeners with liquid detergents.
Second, you need to evaluate your detergent choice. For those wanting to make their own soap (this is a bad idea— leave me a comment if you are interested in knowing why), your diapers just won’t come clean and will have build up quickly.
Commercial detergents are required to clean diapers. Weak detergents like Sun require much more detergent than strong ones like Gain or Tide.
If you still think cloth is a good choice (which it is for many families), next you need to decide how often you want to wash. To properly clean diapers, you must wash them twice. A short prewash to remove any debris and flatten the cloth to facilitate movement of water and detergent all the way through the cloth. This wash needs detergent. The second wash is long and needs up to 3x the recommended amount of detergent. I recommend washing twice every week making for a total of 4 wash cycles and 2 dryer cycles.
Here is why this is important: washing less often keeps the water and electricity bills from going up but requires more up front investment in diapers. Washing everyday, as some people do, can make a difference on those bills, depending on how much energy and water costs in your area. It can also increase detergent costs.
By washing 2x per week, only buying diapers I need, and using a strong detergent, I have barely spent anything on diapers and have seen no increase in my water or electricity bills. By my estimates, I would have spent $4,500 on diapers by now, but cloth saved me $3,500!
Cloth diapering is right for my family, but it really depends on the family. It can add one more stress on a family already in the middle of a huge transition. So there are good ways to save money on disposables, too.
First, brand matters. I have used disposables during travel, illnesses, etc, and have used brand name and off brand including the cheapest of the cheap. Some like LUVS I will never buy again. Seriously, LUVS did not work for my oldest bio son at all. I have also used Best Choice ($2/package of 27 newborn) and was I surprised! They were cute, sturdy, and absorbent. So, my advice is experiment with brands and see which you like.
When you find it, and it’s brand name, don’t panic.
Some cultures skip or greatly reduce the need for diapering all together. Wow. I know. I had much the same reaction. So it's pretty common in Asia and Africa to watch your baby, get to know their cues, and hold them over a toilet or bucket while the go. Kids are taught a signal to release like a whistle or snap. While I personally didn’t choose this for my family, I love the idea, but it does require a lot of work in the beginning. This practice is becoming so popular that there even clothing companies springing up around the idea of making it easier for babies to eliminate. Please shoot me a message if you want to hear more about elimination communication, and I can put together an informative resource page!
Clothes are so expensive for kids. Seriously, a baby only wears clothes for 3 months before they outgrow them!
Coming from a woman who still has clothes from high school (a dozen years ago for me!), replacing my kids wardrobes so often is like nails on a chalkboard for me!
We get lots of hand-me-downs, but those usually come with clothing that is stained or ruined in other ways or clothes with messages that I won’t let my kids wear. We of course keep our older kid’s clothes for the younger ones.
But even with all those hand-me-downs, we still have to buy clothes. We only buy used clothes because on average, they resale for about 1/3 of their original price. You can get even better deals. Here are some easy ways to get kids’ clothes cheap that I have discovered.
No need to be concerned about health or safety. Consignment and secondhand stores do have regulations that dictate how they must clean and sanitize clothes. Sign up for our newsletter below and get a free printable checklist for inspecting used garments before buying!
Buying used can be as easy or as hard as you make it. I personally don’t care about brands so that has never been a concern for me. However, I do know ladies whose kids only wear secondhand name brand clothes.
They shop often, usually only buying one or two pieces of clothing at a time. Some trips they come home with nothing. Their shopping trips have a list, they stick to it, and they do not make purchases on impulse.
Tips for shopping second hand
For those who insist on buying new, you do have options.
Last, I want to add that those in dire need can check out churches and charitable organizations. They often have kids’ clothes closets where families can pick out a certain number of items for free, like a food pantry. Look for these to be most active around back to school time.
With a little effort and planning, one can clothe their children for cheap and still be stylish and well dressed.
This post may contain affiliate links that I will make a small commission off of is anyone uses my links to purchase the products. I only suggest products we use and like.
Food is the biggest expense for most families. Here are my 20 best tips for saving money on breastfeeding, formula, and food during your baby’s first year. Personally, I do not buy any special food or teething biscuits or yogurt melts or any of that.
1.)Breast milk is free. I have spent less than $50 on formula, mostly because of short notice. Money was a huge part of my decision to breastfeed. I was able to get help from WIC with my first, found free lactation consultants at a local hospital with my second, and needed no help for my third. I chose to breastfeed for the health benefits (for me and baby), because of money, and simply because I wanted to since my mom did, and my aunts did, and their mother and aunts did. . .
I really cannot recommend the WIC program enough. Breastfeeding moms get food for themselves for free as well. Things like milk, eggs, tuna, whole grain bread, beans, and fresh fruit! Useful things.
2.) Pumping. Many women get breast pumps for free from WIC or their insurance companies. It’s fine to buy a used pump from a friend or second hand store. Just boil all the parts that touch milk for 15 minutes or buy new parts (those will need to be boiled as well).
3.) Use programs like ebates.com to receive cash back on disposable items and replacement parts.
Breastfeeding is certainly not for everyone, and there is no inherent superiority of breast milk or formula. Even the health benefits touted earlier in the decade are controversial. It can really be a stress on moms dealing with juggling work and sleep, moms of babies with ties, moms with health concerns, moms without a safe way to store milk.
4.) Talk to the nurse before you leave the hospital. My first was a hospital baby, and our nurse sent us home with 3 packs of diaper/wipes, and several more packs of ready-to-go-formula and nipples since I needed help breastfeeding. I think our insurance was billed for them.
5.) Low income formula feeding moms or moms of kids with disabilities can get free formula from WIC.
6.) Check formula companies websites. They often give out coupons and run promotions, especially for new moms. They will mail you samples and coupons. (Psst— Get your friends to sign up too so you can get extra coupons, but you didn’t hear that from me). In a perfect world, you could pair the coupon with a sale price, but that’s an idea. I don’t even know if formula goes on sale.
7.) Powdered is cheapest and meets the same requirements as ready to feed.
8.) Buy in bulk. Once your baby is settled on a formula, then buy it in bulk. Use ebates.com and similar products to get even more savings.
9.) Don’t fear the generic. They are the same quality and are held to the same standards of all formula sold.
11.) When shopping in store, the store you choose matters. Straight shot grocery stores, like Kroger or Aldi, may up charge their stock compared to mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart or Costco.
12.) Any special needs that require specifics formulas may be covered by your insurance. Check with your provider to be sure.
DO NOT buy formula from an online yard sale, Craigslist, or Facebook MarketPlace. Many times, these sales are people selling their WIC formula when they have excess. This is illegal and immoral. They are supposed to return the unopened extra cans to WIC. *NEVER WATER DOWN FORMULA OR BREASTMILK* I cannot stress this enough. This will cause a fluid/electrolyte imbalance and is potentially fatal.
13.) Use a service like Ebates to receive cash back on your purchase. Leave me a comment if you want to know more about Ebates. You can use it with most retailers.
Weaning and Real Food
14.) Skip pre-made baby food. Buy a food mill.
This is a 3 piece contraption I bought for my first and am using my original (yes, it’s lasted 4 years and 3 babies). You put food in the base, press down, turn the handle, and voila— puréed food without a blender. I use it for every fruit and veggie. Tougher things need to be boiled first. Plus it turns into a bowl when you remove the grinding mechanism. Let me know if you want to see me use ours!
15.) Buy canned fruits and veggies to purée or very small quantities of fresh. You can get veggies canned in water, fruits in 100% juice, or just rinse the syrup under water to remove it. You can mix different fruits or add fresh fruits to get fresh tastes. As baby gets older, and worries about allergies wane, I scooping a spoonful of our dinner in there and baby eats what we do.
16.) Buy easy snacks baby can eat. I feed my babies regular yogurt (from the dairy case), no sugar added applesauce (in the big jar), and as they start to crawl I add things like graham crackers, vanilla wafers, whole grain bread (cut in small pieces), smoothies, rice, oatmeal, and veggie pasta.
17.) Restrict sippy cup usage and skip buying juice., limit choices to water or one 8 oz serving of milk a day. Kids will get all of their nutrition from juice if allowed. A kid full on juice isn’t going to eat. Juice is no better for you than soda, despite having a few nutrients. So we don’t buy juice. (Ask your pediatric dentist and pediatrician for more reasons to skip juice).
18.) Offer only a few tablespoons at a time. Kids’ tummies are small.
19.) Plan your meals around complex carbs like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice, and proteins. Plan your snacks around fruits and veggies, peanut butters, while limiting sugary snacks. Complex carbs, proteins, fruits and veggies, and the like will digest slowly and keep everyone fuller longer. Plan for your child to eat about every two hours.
20.) Shop for fresh fruit around sales. We only eat grapes when they are on sale. We rarely have the problem of fruit spoiling, but if we did I would either freeze the extra or turn it into some sort of baked product depending on the fruit. Frozen fruit can be blended quickly into smoothies or dumped into baked goods.
Am I capable of this? Did I make the right decision? Am I ruining my child’s life? Maybe all my doubters were right. What if I am killing my relationship with my child? Am I adequately preparing my child for life?
We have wrestled with these questions in general, but when faced with them in the context on homeschooling, these doubts have the ability to devastate us.
All of the homeschoolers I know do this because they are dedicated to being close with their kids and giving them the best education possible. Because of this, the hard days hurt us more than we thought possible.
So how should we handle the bad days when we fight to keep our cool?
Simple. One at a time.
While this sounds easy, this is the most frustrating piece of advice people have ever given me. I know this means to focus on right now, but it’s still hard because we are faced with building a person from scratch.
How can we focus on just right now?
Understand the value of your frustration.
Kids learn by imitating. As frustrating as it is, your reaction in this moment will be the same your child has when they face their own anger. I found it’s always a little easier to keep my cool when I focus using the situation as a teaching moment.
These are the moments when you show your child you are dedicated to the character trait self control.
Self control — the act of pausing before you react
Focus on just letting a few seconds pass between what is frustrating you and your reaction. This will give you time to remember not to yell or fly off the handle.
Tips to Pause
I really can’t stress the importance of breathing when you are frustrated. Inhale for a count of 5 then exhale for a count of 8. Focus on feeling your breath come in and release out. This cultivates an awareness of right now.
Take a break
There is no shame in telling yourself and your kids that you need a moment of quiet or isolation in order to control yourself. Retreat to the bathroom or send the kids to their room. Simply admit, “I need a moment to get myself under control. It’s important that I have self control, too.” No blame. No shame. All responsibility.
Evaluate if this day may be better spent on learning something that isn’t academics. Cleaning, car or home maintenance, cooking, service projects, or taking the rest of the day to focus on connection may be lessons that will stick better.
If taking the rest of the day off isn’t an option, taking a short break to play, be active, get a snack, go outside, etc will refresh everyone.
Focus on connection
Sometimes it’s as simple as a hug, short silly break, or a short “I know it’s hard”. Searching for connection reassures everyone that our relationships come first.
Other times, we all need a mental health day, kids especially. Take a while (or the whole day) to show that our hearts are focused on doing the best possible for each other. Play, talk, explore. Bond.
We need to teach our kids that consistency over a long period of time is the key to accomplishing great things and with that comes setbacks and delays. It’s in these moments we teach them to pause, evaluate, and then react. These days are the ones we teach our kids it’s ok and beneficial to to take a break and come back refreshed.
Anger and frustration can easily destroy, and we must recognize the need to teach our children how to deal with it. That means we must learn to practice self control ourselves.
Shelby Davis was a failure right up until the day he wasn’t.
He went to a prestigious high school then went to Princeton. After that he was a Wall Street analyst until the Great Depression smothered that dream.
He tried writing speeches for political candidates but flopped at that, too. By 1947, he fell back on becoming Deputy Superintendent of Insurance for New York. While it seemed that he was a disgrace, he had access to something that would change his life: information.
Specifically, he had all the data on which Property and Casualty Insurance Companies were doing well and which ones weren’t.
He bought stock in a handful of those companies with money he borrowed from his wife’s family and became a billionaire on that passive income alone.
One company he invested in Government Employees Insurance Company is now known simply as GEICO.
Don’t we all wish wealth building wealth through investing was this simple. We can’t believe that one stock choice or one trade is going to change our whole life, but we can learn some thing from this story:
Invest in Insurance Companies that make more than they pay in claims
I don’t mean your entire portfolio should be insurance companies. It also can’t be just any insurance companies.
GEICO was a great buy then. The company was making money hand over foot. Look into these companies very carefully. If you have a financial advisor, be sure to ask them how the underwriting of each insurance company works. Profitable underwriting is the key to picking which of these stock is worthwhile and which aren’t.
Why should these companies be a foundation in your portfolio? They do not have to pay for capital. That’s a distinct advantage.
Budgets has become a bit like vegetables. We all know we need it, but it’s got to be deep fried before we will actually use it. Budgets are intimidating and confusing, but they don’t have to be. Here are my 2 biggest tips for making a budget you can actually stick to.
Budgets need to be flexible
My budget, at least, has to be flexible. Some months we decide on the fly to do things like lake cookouts, or kids get sick and we end up have to drop $30 on fever reducer over a few days.
So we have a special section of our budget each month for “come what may”. Having a small amount put aside for unexpected expenses (this is separate from your emergency fund) each month can give us all a little bit of wiggle room that makes a budget seem doable over a long term.
Record Your Spending First
Listen, we can all estimate how much we spend on things like drive thru coffee or gas station sodas, but it will always been a bit of an underestimation. It’s the same with calories.
Before you start trying to build a budget, record all of your monthly income and spending, down to the penny.
Organize each purchase by type, and the data staring back at you may be embarrassing. So let’s say you buy two sodas a day from a vending machine at work. If each is $2 (20 oz sodas are $1.89 here), that’s $120/month.
By recording first, then building your budget, you can evaluate your purchases, find those that you can’t live without, and build a budget that you can stick to without feeling deprived.
Record your spending, build a realistic budget, leave a bit of wiggle room, and you have a real budget that’ll tempt you like ice cream instead of repel you like veggies.
Microinvesting is a new buzzword. It’s a pretty great tool that has some real limitations.
What is microinvesting?
Microinvesting is a strategy used in many apps like Acorns, Stash, or Robinhood that allow you to connect a debit card, round up your everyday purchases and invest the difference.
So if you spend $3.51, the app takes $0.49 cents and invests it. Each platform has its own mix of investment portfolios and will even let you choose between safe and riskier portfolios.
They also let you start investing with small amounts, like $5. Some have the option of adding capital independent of the rounded debit card purchases.
Strengths and Limitations
This is a strategy for using your spare change as a side hustle. That’s fantastic. This is not a significant investing strategy unless. . . .
You hold the account for a long time (slow and steady wins the race after all)
You add more than just your spare change at regular intervals.
If you are someone with no savings or little capital, these are good options to get you on the scoreboard so to speak, but don’t think these will produce a significant return any time soon.
Homeschooling rarely looks like we imagined. Instead of dutiful, clean lines of children sitting around discussing Socrates and jumping rope, the kids are running around like a wind up monkey clashing its cymbals.
Some days kids can’t pull their mental stuff together. So how should we handle those days? There is no simple answer to this question. It requires evaluating many variables and weighing options.
First, I want to reiterate that in homeschooling there will be days when your kids can’t pull their mind together enough to tackle their school work. Even adults have bad days when concentration is elusive. This is not a big deal. Work with it to make every day productive. Use these days to concentrate on teaching life skills like cleaning, home, or car maintenance.
Second, I would like to point out that only about half homeschooling is learning academics. The other half is learning character, self forgiveness, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills. Talk about how it’s ok to take breaks or switch tasks if needed, but channel your energy into something productive (this includes fun), diligence, responsibility, wise time management, trustworthiness, and how to handle doing things we dread.
Third, focus on keeping your cool. These days are the hardest. We question our competence, desire to do this, our methods, our sanity. If this means you gotta park each kid in their own space with quiet toy, so you can sneak into a room to regroup, don’t feel guilty. SuperMom doesn’t exists. Focus on finding what productive things you can get accomplished and running that smoothly.
Where to start?
Begin by reflecting on possible causes.
Every change of seasons presents a challenge for my family. They each bring their unique mix of weather, sights, smells, animals and activities for experience. I find that a quick trip outdoors to explore is well worth the investment of time.
A tired, hungry, anxious, sad child can’t concentrate.
Has there been a recent change in the child’s routine or other aspect like the birth of a sibling?
How active have they been? Studies show active kids retain more and are more engaged during school after having a lesson outside. (https://ti.me/2pJeDvr retain) (nature https://bit.ly/2mTYnq7)
Some of these are easily solved like feeding a hungry child or separating kids that distract each other. Others are not.
What should we do if it’s more abstract, unchangeable, or there is no seemingly obvious cause?
Start with fun. Get everybody up and move. Have an impromptu dance party. Have a family race. Sing “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, Toes”. Go outside (I really can’t stress this enough) and play. Set a timer so you can get back to school in a reasonable amount of time; however, be sure to give transition warnings. With kids that need help calming after activity, make sure to save time for some calming stretches and deep breathing exercises to ease the transition.
If activity doesn’t help, try engaging the child with connection. Touch the shoulder or give a hug, then look into their eyes and ask if they need help.
Often an overwhelmed child reduces their effort which looks like refusal to work.
Instead of saying, “Do your work”, ask them to read the directions. Listen for mispronounced words. This can be a good clue about what is keeping them from understanding. Ask them to repeat what they read in their own words to check understanding. Lead them through an example while asking questions to check their understanding. If they continue to be overwhelmed, let them copy an example or work the same problem over and over. It helps to remember the steps.
If being overwhelmed or misunderstanding isn’t the cause, try moving school outside. There are countless ways of doing this. Send the outside to read. Take your work to the park. We alternate playing with completing one subject. Integrate outside into your school. Catch bugs or take a picture on your phone) and identify it. Go fly a kite then figure out how it flies.
If doing lessons outside doesn’t help, then maybe it’s best to quit academic work for the day. In my house, these days are still productive. We clean together or do other household type chores. I don’t frame this as a punishment but rather a way to harness the power of activity to help us concentrate and improve our lives. So instead of learning multiplication, my kids may learn how to fold laundry or mop. All are valuable skills.
I also use this time to reinforce our character traits like diligence. When I decide to quit school, I would say something like, “Let’s be done for today. You are having problems staying focused. It’s ok to take a break. Let’s go outside for 20 minutes then come back in and clean.” After coming in, “We still have to work today because work keeps our home clean and tidy, so we can be well. It’s our responsibility to clean. Let’s be diligent so we can be done quickly.”
When it’s a long term problem
If trouble concentrating is a long term problem, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your doctor. Learning disorders like dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADD/ADHD can all manifest in very different ways (for example ADHD can manifest without hyperactivity; replacing it with impulse control issues). Only a professional can screen for them and connect you with knowledgeable therapists and useful techniques to manage and overcome the challenge.
Last, anxiety (and depression) are affecting much of our youth, but because these insidious disorders manifest quite differently in kids, most are going undiagnosed and untreated. A professional can screen your child for these mood disorders and teach both you and your child coping mechanisms and how to tweak your routine to reduce anxiety.
Every child will have times when they can’t concentrate. Don’t sweat the occasional setbacks. If it becomes a predictable pattern, talk to your doctor to explore causes and options.
In large families, everyone must clean or chaos takes over quickly. It’s always a challenge to get our youngest to clean. I have some tips and tricks to get my toddlers to help clean. However, these only work when enforced consistently and expect for there to be plenty of days when it doesn’t happen.
Tips to get toddlers to clean:
Preclean- organize the mess
I take a quick few minutes (<5) to put all the laundry in a loose pile, any dishes, toys, trash, shoes, etc all go in one area. Ensure each child can focus on one simple task at a time.
Show exactly what is expected
I will provide buckets or a trash can to gather whatever needs to be put away. Then I demonstrate or just tell them what to do depending on their age. Younger kids need simple skills.
While everyone is cleaning (or not), help do the dirty work while cleaning. I say things like, “Cleaning is hard work, but it makes our home so nice and tidy so please put this laundry in the dirty laundry. It needs to be washed.It keeps our home smelling good; put this trash in the can so I can take it out. It keeps us from tripping on or breaking toys so put these toys in this box so I can put them away. It keeps clean dishes ready for us so put these dishes in the sink. It keeps us safe and well.”
Take every opportunity to talk about being clean, keeping things clean, putting trash in the can as soon as possible, putting things away. Let them see you pick up trash in parking lots or restaurants that isn’t yours. Make it clear that you understand cleaning is work, but that you want to do the work to enjoy the cleanliness. This is also a good idea to reinforce the ideals of diligence (with a phrase like, “When you clean diligently, you get done much faster), responsibility, work ethic, etc. This is how you develope a home culture.
Here few tips in general for kids and fostering cooperation:
Well fed and rested kids are easier to direct
Look into their eyes to make sure they are listening
Most kids need a warning before a transition (“We are going to clean in a few minutes”) and a reminder
Give short, succinct direction with gestures
Leading by example helps keep kids engaged and focused
Touch helps keep kids engaged and focused
Talking about how and why you do it reinforces the need for work
Last, I want to reiterate that there will be days your kids don’t clean. It happens. Clean and get on with your day. This is building a habit, and that means there will be set backs.
Big families know big money is made in small batches since we make every penny we can save work for us to the maximum advantage. One easy way to increase passive income is often overlooked. Online savings accounts offer a few advantages over traditional accounts that we can take advantage of to squeeze just a bit more out of every penny:
High APY: Some Accounts actually have 1.05 - 1.55% annual percentage yield or higher. Compare that with the traditional .01%.
Some accounts will give you money upon opening an account.
Some accounts will give you a debit card to the account.
Easy management through mobile apps.
Typically have lower fees or completely skip some fees such as annual fee, minimum balance, monthly fee.
Unless you get a debit card, your money is a bit less accessible giving you extra time to decide if the situation is a want or need.
Of course, there are drawbacks.
If you get paid in cash, have frequent deposits or withdrawals, it may be easier to save at a local bank or credit union that has plentiful ATMs.
Customer service has been reported to be subpar at some online banks so do your research. Please leave a comment if you’d like me to review online banks.
No local branches mean all deposits must be made from another account or via direct deposit.
Transfer times can be slow. Three to 5 days is a normal time range.
Lastly, if you do choose an online bank for your savings, make sure the institution is FDIC Insured. Check to see if it is connected to a brick and mortar business, and read reviews of its customer service to insure you find a quality institution.
As a large family, we are always looking for ways to stretch, save, or appreciate our capital. One easy way to do that is buy a home instead of renting.
Our first adventure was a few years ago. We got preapproved for a loan, picked a house, got an inspection. We were so excited. Then we got a phone call from the bank. Our loan officer had been fired for illegally preapproving people. People like us. Our credit report was full of surprises, and the loan officer was going to ignore them.
So after we got over the shock of dealing with a dishonest banker, we got to work clearing our debt. We paid off everything, including our car.
So we took our shiny, clean, and debtless credit report to a bank. We had paid off quite a chunk of debt over the last few years and expected to be commended and have a great credit report.
Turns out our credit was worse than before! We hadn’t financed something in over a year! We hadn’t missed payments because we owed no payments to anyone.
That’s when the loan officer explained about revolving credit.
Revolving credit is credit which automatically renews once the debt has been paid, like a credit card.
Without debt to show you are making payments or revolving credit, your credit score will go DOWN, even if you incur no new debt.
A mortgage is the only debt I am content with, but in order to get a mortgage and ultimately, a home, I must have a good credit score. Buying a home with cash isn’t possible for us now.
So here is the trick I have learned about credit cards and credit scores: It’s all about utilization rate.
Utilization rate is the percentage you spend compared to your total credit. The lower it is the higher your credit score. For example, if you have a credit line of $500 and spend $400 of that, your utilization rate will be 80% and will push your credit score DOWN even if you pay off the balance at the end of the month. However, someone with that same line of $500 who only uses $100 will have a utilization rate of 20% and their credit score can go up, if they make their payments on time.
Make your payments on time, spend very little on credit, and still live within your means in order to ensure your credit score is an appropriate reflection of you.
Gentle parenting means that I always strive to have gentle reactions to my kids and enforce boundaries gently. It does not mean that my kid’s reactions must also be gentle. Here are my top three Gentle Parenting Myths!
I go out of my way to avoid upsetting my kids and that my goal is make them happy all the time.
What a doozy. I don’t try to upset them of course. I want them to be happy. What makes people think this is that I do speak respectfully to my children, recognize their feelings, validate their feelings, and do compassionate things for them.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say we are at the park. It’s time to go. My 3 year runs away from me screaming, “I don’t want to leave” so instead of leaving, I give him 5 more minutes to play.
Seventy percent of the time, at the end of his 5 minutes we leave peacefully. The other 30%, I carry a kicking screaming toddler like anybody else.
People assume I “gave” into him because he was screaming and unhappy.
I didn’t give into him. I compromised with him. I understand that children are ruled by their impulses and lack the brain power for self control. I recognize that children almost always react better to change when they have been warned and allowed time to process the information and their feelings. I worked with him instead of against him.
I only say yes.
I do say yes a lot because I realize my kids’ whole lives are defined by my yes’s and no’s. If I want my kids to see the world for the amazing, vibrant, exciting thing that it is, I must let them experience it.
However, I also say no. I enforce boundaries. I don’t give them free reign. For example, recently my 3 year old got his first dental fillings. Immediately after he wanted some taffy. He did not get it.
Because I don’t spank, I don’t discipline my kids.
This couldn’t be more wrong. The problems comes from the differences in the meaning of the word discipline. Popular culture sees discipline as punishment or exacting revenge. While we have dealt out some punishments (like taking away an Xbox for unauthorized game purchases totally more than $100), we always use them as a last resort.
For my younger kids, I always frame my discipline through the lense of safety. For my older child (10 year old), I find I barely have to do any discipline. Much of the time, his mistakes are unintended out of ignorance so a simple “don’t do x because y” is all that is needed.
Sometimes, we must delve deeper into an issue. For example, recently my 10 year old seemed to be skipping his math work and refusing to do it after I show him examples. Turns out, he was actually having quite a bit of anxiety (he has been diagnosed) that was making it very difficult. No amount of punishments will make the anxiety disappear so we spent 3 school days looking up and practicing coping mechanisms to find what works for him. His math anxiety is controlled, and he learned skills that will benefit him in many situations for the rest of his life. This is what discipline really means: to teach.
In closing, I think these ideals persist due to a lack of education. Those who believe Gentle Parenting is permissive simply are not aware of the many techniques and options out there to fill our parenting tool boxes.
While my oldest is only 10, I see him struggling with much the same angst that plague all teens.
To my teen,
You are living the best and worst years of your life. Your understanding and perception are getting stronger. You are controlling more of your own life and dealing with those complications on your own. Worst of all, you are seeing the cracks in my facade. You are starting to recognize my weaknesses and my hypocrisy. You see me for the imperfections that I am. Let me explain to you why I seem to be grasping to all the wrong things for dear life while you are headlong rushing into adulthood.
First of all, let me explain why I get so upset that you are stubbornly insisting on making certain mistakes. While mistakes are an integral part of life, I don’t want you to repeat my stupid mistakes. I want mine to be a starting point so you can learn from my mistakes and make better use of yours. Make smarter mistakes. Make better mistakes. Just don’t make the same ones I did. I have already been there and want to spare you the embarrassment, heartache, stress, and effort it took for me to learn and move on from mine. Mistakes are the best part of life because they are opportunities to learn. Mistakes are the key to success because they are how one learns to be successful.
You see, from the moment I looked into your bright eyes, I became obsessed with giving you the best. I wanted to give you the best home, education, friends, experiences, food, emotions, and things I could. I became obsessed with making you better than me. Smarter, wealthier, more kind, stronger. So when I come to you and tell you to do it one way, it’s because I am trying to hand you the key, my knowledge gained from my mistakes so you can leap frog over me and make a better mistake, one that’s truly your own. Not a copy of mine.
Watching you grow has been both the best and worst experience of my life. It has been the best because I love being with you, having fun together, talking, crying, and I will always cherish the memories of the easy times, and, especially, the hard times. My years with you will comfort me for the rest of my life. The worst part is how deeply being your parent challenged me. I had to face the darkest parts of myself. I had to tame the beast within me. Being your parent showed me that I am much weaker than I ever imagined. This is all a normal part of being a parent.
I have so much invested in you. I don’t mean money. All these years, I have invested my time, energy, frustrations, gratitude, heart and hopes in you. Earlier, when I talked about giving you the best, I didn’t mention how many hours I have spent thinking about how to teach you things that I wish I had known at your age. I don’t think infinity would be enough to describe how long I have contemplated how to instill better knowledge and experience in you so that you will start out in adulthood ahead of me. I want you to start your independence knowing all the things I had to learn on my own so that your mistakes are exactly that! Your mistakes, not a repeat of mine.
Raising you has been a blessing of a depth I was unprepared for. While we have uncountable great memories, the most valuable memories are the memories of the hard times. The hard times taught you about life and me about myself. Being your (step)mom has taught me so much about myself. I am stronger because of you. I will always cherish the memories of climbing mountains with you. However much of that time,I was completely responsible for the outcome. I was the only one with any real power. Everything came down to me. I had to be in control of everything from making sure you ate and exercised enough to making sure you apologized if you hit the neighbor’s kid while playing. Now that you are raring to take the reins of your life, I find it very hard to give it up. See, we are at a confusing time in your life. You want to be in control and responsible for everything you can, but it isn’t fair to just dump everything in your lap. I still must be responsible for parts of your life like keeping a roof over your head and food available to you, but I am having much trouble realizing where I need to let go and where I need to hold on. That’s the thing about parenting. It’s very much like walking a tightrope, trying to figure out where to hold on and where to let go without plummeting to the ground and splatting into a big pile of self hating failure. So forgive me when I misstep, and end up hanging on too long.
I don’t want to control your adult life. I don’t have the ability to control my own. I want you to find what you are passionate about and spend your life working around that. However, there are certain things that I must teach you and certain things that must be done each day. I have to teach you to be a hard worker, to finish your assigned tasks in a timely matter, algebra, physics, how to interact with people, how to do the dishes, how to be honest even when its not in your favor, cooking, how to save money, and countless other tasks that may or may not interest you. I wish I could make this easy for you, but I can’t. I wish I could make it where you could just skip all the things you hate, but that may set you up to be unable to cook your own food or go to work in clean clothes. That is unfair to you. I have to teach you to do those things with a cheerful attitude even if you don’t want to. That is why I am such a hardline about your chores. It’s not because I give you chores I don’t want to do. It’s about teaching you the dignity of clean and the satisfaction of work. It’s about teaching you time management skills that I didn’t learn until after college.
My sweet teen, our years together are drawing to a close. Soon, I won’t be only a mother. I will be a mother in law and a grandmother. I am mourning our time together. This time in your life is bittersweet for me because I am getting my freedom back and now I am not sure I want it back after fantasizing about it for all the years you were completely dependent on me. Lonely years stretch before me, and I am not sure who I am anymore without framing it around my role as your mom. So while you are stretching your fingertips trying to brush independence, I am hoping there is enough of me left without you to keep me going. I am facing my greatest test now. As you move on to your greatest adventure, mine feels like its coming to a close, and I frantically trying to tie up loose ends to ensure you have a better chance than I did. So much of my time this past decade has been spent researching, planning, and implementing lessons and now my toil is starting to bear fruit, and I am freaking out. Not because I fear you aren’t ready or capable, but because I fear I am not.
This post contains affiliate links. I do make a small commission on any links you use to make a purchase. This profit helps make This Addictive Mess better and to support my family.
Let’s get real for a moment. Tantrums are the most stressful point of early childhood for most parents. Kids throw them at the worst possible times over the smallest things. They are embarrassing because we have all have this pressure to keep our kids quiet and calm in public, and a tantrum is the antithesis of that. To those still grasping to the archaic idea that parents should control their children’s actions, it’s quite a slap in the face.
How parents see, interpret, and react to tantrums deeply influences our relationships with our kids, their relationship with themselves and how they deal with others.
For example, a child who is told, “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” is learning that you don’t care for their emotions or hardships, they can’t turn to you for understanding or help (which is very isolating for a child), that emotions should be ignored, and ultimately a perfect teaching moment for emotional resilience is lost.
Tantrums, I believe, are an integral part of learning emotional resilience. Because of this, I am very steadfast in my views of tantrums and what they mean. The common thought that tantrums are a manipulation tactic is ridiculous. Manipulation requires strategy and prediction skills toddlers just don’t have.
Instead, remember that tantrums are a child’s reactions to emotions so big they are consumed by them. A child throwing a fit is a child at the end of their rope pleading for help and being ignored. When a child throws a tantrum, it is because that child is experiencing the hardest emotions, they have ever felt. Think back to the last time you were so angry that you were shaking or the last time you cried so hard you got a headache. That is what a child is feeling during a tantrum.
My favorite form of dealing with tantrums comes from theRIE method of parenting for toddlers and preschoolers. RIE teaches that kids are whole people and that our interactions with them should be grounded in respect for the as a person, not seeing them as a pet that we need to control.
If you are interested in learning more about RIE, I highly recommend Janet Lansbury. She runs an awesome blog (linked above).
Prevention is the most important tool for dealing with tantrums. This involves doing some things differently than most parents do.
First is sleep.
A well rested child has the emotional reserves to conquer churning emotions easier than a tired one. Plan your days to get naps in, even if the sleep happens in a car seat, stroller, carrier, or pallet on the floor. Even a 30 minute nap works wonders. For instance, if we are going on a long drive, we leave after lunch so the kids can sleep in the car.
Plan things that you know will be hard first thing in the morning. Our dentist and doctor appointments are at 8 o’clock. This way my kids have had breakfast, a short time to play, and are in the best mood they will be all day! They are cooperative.
Second is food.
A hangry toddler will break faster than wet tissue paper. Do important things as close to possible after a meal, bring snacks, and offer cranky kids high energy, nutritious foods like cheese, fruit, or whole grains.
On the subject of food, don’t let your kids replace food with their sippy cups. Most toddlers have one glued to their hip. If it’s filled with something that has calories, your toddler may drink all their calories and refuse food. This is a huge mistake. Not only is this bad for their teeth (besides cavities, sippys can push teeth out of their proper placement like pacifiers), but it’s bad for their bodies.
Drinks like juice and flavored milk are just as hard on your pancreas and blood sugar as soda because they don’t have the fiber needed to slow digestion. What this means is that a child will become very hungry, very suddenly- recipe for disaster! Stick to water in the sippy and one serving of milk a day (your wallet will thank you, too).
Last in prevention is awareness both yours and your child’s. Take notice of things or places that trigger a tantrum. Then warn your kids ahead of time so they are aware and know what is expected of them. For example, if a child is prone to throw a fit over candy, and you are going to the grocery store, start at home.
Being with talking about going to the grocery store, about getting food, then say, “We will be bring home lots of delicious food, but all the candy will stay at the store. When you see candy, keep your hands away from it. Leave it on the shelf, and wait quietly and patiently while I pay for our food, then we will go home and eat something delicious.”
Then remind them in the car, saying something like, “Today, we are going to the grocery store. There’s much delicious candy there, but we will not be getting any. We will get lots of delicious food and take it home. The candy will stay. I know you really want candy. It’s hard when we can’t have what we want. It’s upsetting. What should you do when you see candy?” Shortly go over what is expected when you pass candy. Remind them in the store when you know you be passing candy and before checking out.
Even with the best prevention, tantrums will happen so let’s move on the the second part: Facilitation.
I have found that managing tantrums is as easy as 3 steps: Prevent, Facilitate, Teach.
Let me reiterate: tantrums are not manipulation. Tantrums are your child’s reaction to the strongest emotions they have ever felt. Tantrums are a starting point for learning emotional resilience. As a parent, you must realize that you have absolutely no control over your child or their emotions. It is not for you to dictate their emotions or reactions. It is your job to teach them to recognize and control their reaction. How on earth can you do that?
Well, that’s divided into during tantrums and during calm times. I will focus on what to do during a tantrum, but if you want to hear about what I do during calm times, leave me a comment!
So, during a tantrum, recognize what is happening, their feelings, assure them their feelings are normal, and ride it out. So if your child is crying because you aren’t buying the candy during checkout, say something like, “You really want the candy, and I am not buying it. That is making you upset. You seem mad, you seem sad, and it’s making it hard for you. I am sorry it’s hard. I wish I could make it easy. I can’t. It’s normal for you be mad and sad. Everyone feels mad and sad sometimes, but it can be so hard. I know it’s hard.”
Now in the middle of a crowded grocery store with the weight of a thousand eyes on you, all you really want is your kid to be quiet. That’s normal, and it’s very hard to keep your calm. It’s embarrassing, frustrating, makes you angry and anxious. (See what I did there?) It’s mortifying, but your loyalty is to your child.
Adults understand what’s going on, how kids act, and can adjust. Your child can’t. That’s why they are throwing a tantrum. Let’s shift the burden of action from kids to adults because adults are mature. Sometimes, I am able to remove my child to a quieter, secluded place which always helps, but I have also been that mom checking out with a screaming toddler, too.
So ride out the tantrum with as much disconnection from that feeling of embarrassment as possible. Take deep breaths and remember that the calm in this situation must come from you. Repeat the reassuring words that recognize and validate your child’s frustrations without demanding anything. Sometimes touch can help, like a pat on the back or a hug, but only offer, never force. As a child starts to calm, offer a snack or water/milk, hugs/kisses, or anything else that comforts your child because strong emotions are very isolating, and you are wanting to teach your child that you are with them.
Last, I want to reiterate that tantrums are not manipulation. A toddler simply doesn’t have the ability to predict and strategize in order to manipulate. Kids are the sum of their impulses. Period. We must use the opportunities to teach our kids.
Teach them what? First, that big emotions are normal, inevitable, manageable, and that you are accepting of their feelings and reactions while waiting to guide them to more appropriate ways of dealing with undulating emotions.
How do we teach them this? First, never criticize or belittle their emotions. This means refraining from comparing their reactions with anyone else’s or from trying to dictate them. Many parents, in well meaning moments, often say things like, “Why is the candy such a big deal now? You had x earlier?”
Well, that doesn’t matter because kids have the memory that makes a goldfish’s look like an elephant’s. They will also say things like, “You aren’t really mad. You’re just tired.” No, your kid is mad and tired. Both are true.
Second, we teach by example. Don’t be afraid to show anger, sadness, jealousy, or any other emotion. Just be aware that however you react is going to be the way they react. If you want them to calm themselves, you must do the same. If you want me to write about how I keep myself calm during stressful situations with my kids, please leave me a comment.
Last, we need to be very vocal and present in their tantrums. Again, we shouldn’t dictate anything. So if you offer a hug, and they vehemently refuse, then let it go. So during the storm, reassure them constantly like stated above. Reassure them that you love them, that its ok for them to feel that way, that you know it’s hard, that you will help them, name the emotions you suspect they feel and why they feel that way, and talk about it being hard to feel that way.
This is how you give your kids names for the emotions they feel. This is how you teach children that emotions are fleeting. This is how you show your children that you are their guide to emotional turmoil and will help them even in their hardest times. This is the moment when parenting is its hardest yet most rewarding.
In conclusion, a tantrum is a learning opportunity; don’t let it pass by in your pursuit of calm and control. Let yourself be well of calm your child can sink into. My own personal experiences show that this approach, while it doesn’t eliminate tantrums (that is an unreasonable expectation), it does lessen their intensity and shorten them immensely.
FSo I am from the Disney generation, and I love Disney. I love the heart wrenching stories, catchy and emotionally charged songs, the characters, the different animation styles and the morals. Especially the morals.
However, I also feel a bit cheated. I always related to the “You don’t need money to be happy” vibe I got from so much popular culture (not just Disney), and grew up thinking that money didn’t matter.
I grew up with unrealistic expectations of the importance of money. There I said it. I undervalue money. I don’t spend much and often feel embarrassed when I think about spending it on frivolous things. I want every penny I spend to be an investment, either in my immediate experience or my financial life. My core money values are fairly strict.
Money certainly isn’t necessary for happiness, but it surely helps, right? So here is what I teach my kids: Money doesn’t make the wheels of happiness turn, but it greases the wheels.
If I teach my kids financial literacy and instill self control and patience in them, they should be able to earn a comfortable living and live within their means, preventing money from causing them stress.
So while money can’t make you happy, making good financial decisions can prevent stress. How do I show my kids this?
Practically, I always make them save part of their money. I never tell them what to buy. Rarely will we spot them the extra money so if Connor wants a $15 toy but only has $5, he can wait or buy something else.
More theoretically, I repeat over and over that you can only spend money once. I talk about values. A new car drops in value as soon as you buy it. A used car’s value is more stable.
The crux of what I try to teach my kids is that saving money is more valuable than spending. However, a little indulgence is fine. It’s a balancing act.
Please leave me a comment if you would like to hear more about teaching kids about realistic money values and practices.
Homeschooling is often accused of being bad for a child’s socialization. This assumption is made because people don't understand the definition of socialization.
Socialization is the process by which we learn and internalize the values and expectations of our culture so that we may fulfill our roles. This is a never ending process. For instance, the role of a child at Christmas is different than that of a parent, and both are different from that of a Grandparent.
What people usually call socialization, the ability to interact well with others, is actually acquired social skills and interpersonal skills (there is a slight difference between those two as well).
How Homeschoolers Teach Socialization
So truthfully, both modes of education socialize our kids. Of course, it is minimally different subcultures but the same overarching culture.
My kids eat American food, watch YouTube, and keep up with trends like fidget spinners and video games.
However, they won’t have peers teaching them that’s it’s uncool to play with younger siblings or pressure them to act or dress certain ways.
Before I go any further, I want to be very clear. School, public or private, is not evil. It does a great service to our nation. I also don’t want to control my children’s every move or thought. However, I also don’t want to compete with immature, intellectually underdeveloped children to socialize my kids.
Homeschoolers fully take advantage of our ability to socialize our children and value our ability to be the primary influence on it.
We create a home culture and socialize our kids to it. “Home Culture” is the atmosphere we strive for in our homes, and it starts with us, the parents.
Think about what your home is like at any given time?
Is everyone glued to a screen (yes, this happens at our house, we are not a technology adverse family). Is there fighting or screaming?
Are the kids expected to help each other, with chores, or do they ignore each other? Do you spend time with your kids cooking?
Do you enjoy your home? Is it a place you can relax and be productive?
I think very intently on what our home culture is like and even wrote aFamily Mission Statement to give us a clear picture of what we are striving for. We want to emphasize education, entrepreneurship, cleanliness, the dignity of work, cooperation, character, and connection.
So how do I turn this abstract plan into a culture?
I make these things part of our daily life.
I model it as much as I can. I read tirelessly.
I am always sharing tidbits or interesting facts of what I read.
I weave science into daily life.
Someone doesn’t want to drink water before basketball? Let me count the ways the body uses water. . . .
I talk about our cultural expectations constantly, whether my kids understand fully is inconsequential.
They are learning, and it’s a never ending process; however, I don’t praise their results. I praise their work.
I stick to my guns. For example, I only take clean kids places. I ask who wants to go. Those that do, get a bath first. No bath, no go.
I set the example. If I lose my temper, if I hurt someone’s feelings, if I accidentally step on someone’s foot. I apologize.
Media is a launching point for conversations. We discuss how what we watch or see relates to our expectations. Is that character diligent? Did he do the right thing?
We spend time together focusing on connection and shared experiences. Spending time together working is as important as play. We cook together. Clean together. Do school together. We are together.
A strong home culture ensures that kids know what is expected of them. That in turn helps everyone avoid the stress of misbehavior. It builds a feeling of community and trust that we feel joy in the presence of each other.
My experience is that by making our home culture a significant part of our day, everyday, my kids have internalized it quite easily.
We have less behavior issues because my kids think it’s just a part of life. They know what is expected. They see cleaning as just another part of life.
Education isn’t just school. They know that learning to cook, clean, compromising, and everyday conversations all contribute to their education. It’s not separate. It’s life.
Establishing a home culture takes vision, time, effort, communication, and repetition, but the effort is well worth the result. Kids that grow into adults who are moral and hardworking who don’t cave to peer pressure.
What about Interpersonal Skills?
How do homeschooled kids learn simple social/interpersonal skills like sharing, taking turns and more complex behaviors like empathy and consideration?
First of all it is a myth that you must attend school to learn any social skills. Like socialization, learning social skills is a never ending process that starts at birth.
Many social and interpersonal skills are learned through day to day interaction. Each interaction has the potential to teach, and each is valuable.
Interacting with anyone, their siblings or cousins, friends, babysitters, grandparents are great opportunities to practice and learn social skills.
I would argue that homeschooled kids have more opportunity to practice these skills than traditionally schooled kids. Homeschoolers spend less time listening and doing busy work and way more time interacting than school kids.
In my experience, school was mostly: sit and listen, sit and read, sit and color, and very little group work. Our time to socialize was limited to before and after the bell, during lunch, recess, and break if we got one.
Next, I would like to distinguish between real play and interaction, and forced socialization. Forced socialization is what schools practice. All those kids don't really have a choice about what school to go to.
They aren't grouped by interests or abilities, rather geography and age.
Last, I would like to point out that there were not public schools for the majority of human history, and people were still socialized to their culture and learned appropriate social and interpersonal skills for thousands of years.
This post may contain affiliate links. I make a small commission on any purchases you make through my link at no additional cost to you. These profits are used to make This Addictive Mess better and to support my family.
Our parenting style is a mix of several different techniques based on age and maturity. All of our tools are founded upon respect for our children, and we do not spank or use vindictive punishments.
We want our kids to obey because they respect us and understand we are trying to protect them, not out of fear for their physical safety. And of course, at the base of all of this is also teaching our kids to recognize and deal with their emotions. But that is another blog post.
Let’s be real: There are sometimes when immediate control of a child is required of parents. We absolutely cannot let our children bite each other or stick a fork in a socket. You can teach kids to be gentle with each other protect themselves without using coercion. You just need patience and the right tools.
Kids can understand, even if they don’t have brain structure for self control yet. I completely believe, although I have no empirical evidence, that teaching kids why they should not do something will help them learn not to do it.
So with my young children, we do not spank or do times outs, though we do certainly pull them out of play if need be. We do not call them time ins, but it certainly mimics the idea. I will sit with the child and explain that they must be gentle and talk about how they feel.
1.) We frame as much of our discipline as possible through the lens of safety; talk to our kids in very specific ways to teach them what it means to be safe.
2.) Always give them choices so they don’t feel coerced.
If they are biting, I say, “Biting hurts. I have to keep everyone safe. You must stop playing because you are hurting them by biting them.”
If they are throwing, I say, “Since you are throwing toys, you are being dangerous. The toys you throw could break a window or hit someone; that would hurt them. I am going to take this toy away since you are throwing it. This will keep everyone safe.”
When we are in the grocery store, I make them hold on the cart. Whenever they let go of the cart, I remind them, “You must hold on to the cart because I must keep you close to me to keep you safe. If you let go of the cart again, I am going to have to put you in the cart to ride.”
Notice anything about the way I talk to my kids?
I avoid “not” and it’s contractions at all costs.
Not is a word that means “do the opposite”. So by using “not”, your child hears what you do not want them to do with one short sound that they probably don’t have the brain architecture to understand for several years.
“DON’T eat the chips.” -> “eat the chips” is easily understood. The N’T sound, not even a whole syllable, means “do the opposite”. That’s a pretty rich understanding, based on a single sound, that’s easily overlooked by someone whose brain is severely underdeveloped. That’s why I tell my children in easily understandable terms what they are doing, why they can’t, and how I am going to put a stop to the unacceptable behavior. My kids know with as much understanding as possible why they must stop.
Now, I am going to add the last facet of my communication style for my kids: How I give warnings. I believe that kids should get 2 chances in every appropriate situation to change their behavior, but I also practice a very specific way of warning my kids.
For example, let’s say a child is pouring water on my (concrete, thankfully) floor. I would tell them, “You are pouring your water on it floor. Water should stay in the cup. You need to keep water in the cup with self control. Either keep water in your cup or go pour it in the bathtub so the floor stays dry. If you keep pouring water on the floor, I will take it away.”
I have given my child 3 potential actions, keep it in the cup, pour it in the bathtub, or I take it away. They get their autonomy, and I get my dry floor. This is particularly effective with my kids. Although, they rarely choose the self control option, I am happy with them choosing the option where they still to explore the pouring the water out while containing the mess in the bath tub!
UPDATE: It has been 8 months since I wrote this post. AJ is almost 3, and Cayden is alost 4. Both are choosing the self control option and are able to practice self control, Well, most of the time.
Kids can learn self control with practice, and using games to practice add situational interest, a tool that helps children learn and retain new skills.
My parents didn’t teach me about money, assuming the public schools would. They did. I learned about budgets, checks, and interest. Never in great depth and sparingly in related subjects.
I never learned what passive income was or how repaying a loan starts by paying interest first so that the bank can charge as much interest as mathematically possible.
Homeschooling gives us the freedom teach our children according to our priorities so we painstakingly teach our kids about money. First, we opened our oldest a Johnny Appleseed Savings Account when he started learning to count money. He saved and spent, even saving $100 for summer camp! Watch Connor talk about Savings Accounts below!
We used this board game, Money Bags, to teach Connor how to count money and make change. Its a fast paced game (15-20 minutes) where you roll dice and collect money. You have the option to turn in coins for larger denominations and bills. The person with the most money at the end wins! We all have fond memories of this game and will use it with my 3 younger kids! I am currently working on a gameplay video so check back in a few days for that link!
Since then, we have given him money and made him earn it depending in the situation. We split up his chores into mandatory and paid so he learns that you don’t get paid to do some work and how hard money is to earn. We also are strict about making him live within his means. Rarely do we spot him money if he can’t afford what he wants.
Formally, we started with counting money and making change. Right now, we are going through a personal finance curriculum provided by The Actuarial Foundation (free here). Watch the unboxing here.
We also play Cash Flow for Kids, a board game (because, you know, #gameschooling) that illustrates the difference between active income, passive income, and liabilities. Watch us play below.
In the future, we will delve more completely into finance with him based on his own interests. We will play The Stock Market Game (this website) and help him start building a real, small business (like mowing lawns, bike or electronic repair, blogs or YouTube channels, etc all based on his interests) so, hopefully, he will be able to support himself when he graduates. Read about that goal here.
I feel like our society doesn’t prepare any of us to deal responsibly with money, but I will change that in my family.
A mom in one of my Facebook parenting groups recently taught me something very important. This group is for large families, with 4 or more kids, where the mothers’ work is not paid. We often talk about the negative reactions we receive, ranging from simple “Don’t you know what causes that?” with the “that” being our children to the more hurtful “You’re ruining the earth through overpopulation!” Yes, people actually say that.
However, this mother was degraded in an entirely more insidious way, “Don’t you want to be MORE than a mother?” While this question was meant to put the mother’s needs to equal to her children’s, it doesn’t actually do that. Don’t get me wrong. Mother’s, whether of 1 or 10, absolutely need to take their own needs seriously, but we need to re-examine our attitudes toward children and parenthood.
By using “more”, it is insinuated that all other careers, especially those which are paid, are inherently more valuable than a career in motherhood. Being a parent must be at the bottom of everything is more than dedicating yourself to parenthood.
It also shows an important misconception about feminism: it’s about choice. Women should have to choice whether to earn or not, if their situation allows. Those who chose to pursue a career are often dedicated mothers who are close with their kids and struggle to balance the needs of everyone in their family. Mothers who choose to stay home are still productive members of society without building a legacy in the workplace.
So instead of admitting I want nothing more than being a mother to many children, I proclaim that I want nothing less than being a mother. My influence will not get lost in a sea of profits in a company that may or may not survive the next 10 years. My legacy will be the kind, generous hearts of the next generation, the memories of teaching my kids to read, seeing their frustrations, teaching them to rise from failure, soothing their tears, and eventually becoming adults that protect and support other people.
Parents, ourselves included, have very strong ideas of what we want our children to grow up to be like. We thought it would be a good idea to actually write it down so we can keep perspective and our goals at the front of our minds so that when we engage in reflection we can compare our actions with our ideals to ensure they are lining up.
We have put much thought into our Family Mission Statement and it follows:
1.) We are a team working to keep our home peaceful and clean.
The Southerland Family is a cohesive team working together for the common goal of living in a clean, organized home with a jovial, peaceful atmosphere. Each member will work to clean an assigned area, on a rotating basis so that by the time our children are grown each will be competent in home keeping skills. These include cleaning and maintenance of home and vehicles as well as cooking and maintenance of cooking equipment. Ideally, each member will display an attitude of cheer when working, although we recognize that a cheerful attitude isn’t always possible or realistic.
2.) Discipline means to teach, not punish.
Our home is a place where discipline means to teach and not revenge. We are committed to using discipline techniques that don’t rely on shame and our children fearing us or our actions. We are committed to building a trusting relationship with our kids and are dedicated to teaching them our expectations before they need to meet them.
3.) We will be well educated and engage is entrepreneurship.
Next, our family will consist of well educated, dignified people. Educated is a multifaceted idea. First, educated means literate, especially fiction, science, math, and social sciences. Also, experience is a cornerstone in our homeschool. Education without experience is merely a shadow of knowledge. Business will also play a central role in our homeschool. Each of our children will own a thriving small business by graduation so that they may choose to focus on growing their business or if they choose to attend college they will have an income stream to support themselves.
4.) We will have strong character and dignity.
Dignity is an important trait that is hard to define and harder to teach, but we are committed to doing both. We define dignity as a love of cleanliness and work, kindness, the drive to help, pride, steadfastness (not stubbornness), perseverance, honesty, empathy, and general good character.
5.) We want our children to be close to us while encouraging independence.
We endeavor to raise children who see each other as friends, who want to spend time with us as adults, who seek our council unafraid to debate, and value our advice even if they don’t heed it. We want our children to remember their childhood in fond terms and to know that we always choose time and experience with them over money or things. We want them to remember that we kept our promises and made every effort to safeguard their physical and mental health. At the same time, we want our kids to have their own interests, friends outside the family, and to know they can accomplish great things independently.
This post may contain affiliate links. I make a small commission on any purchases you make through my link. We use this income to make This Addictive Mess better and to support our family. Thank you for your patronage.
As a science obsessed homeschooling mom, I am so frustrated with our culture’s lack of scientific literacy. I could go on and on, from the “one study said” (spoiler— one study doesn’t make a consensus) to the little understood difference between correlation and causation. Well, I want to start by asking why do our schools only teach half of the scientific method (and completely ignore the engineering method and reading method!)?
That’s right! Schools only teach HALF of the scientific method. The research, hypothesis, experiment, conclusion flowchart we all learn in sixth grade is not where science stops.
What are our kids missing?
Arguably the half our kids aren’t learning about is the most important: Peer Review. Once a study is finished, a researcher must then publish their findings. Once published, the real science begins. Other experts criticize each finding. Looking for holes in methodology, bad data, weak conclusions, or outright mistakes and then going on to publish those criticisms. Some repeat experiments to test their reliability, and others take it to the next step.
The process of peer review is a long drawn out one that makes or breaks careers (and one’s self esteem)! Not to mention that it is how we build a consensus, defined as a large body of LITERATURE that supports a conclusion as valid. Notice a consensus is not about people’s opinions. It’s about much data supporting a conclusion.
How can we help our kids learn about peer review?
How can we teach this to our kids? Incorporate the history of scientific debate into our lessons! Paleontology offers a perfect case study in the importance of debate. Since data is sparse, it relies more on debate than other fields. There are plenty of articles talking about whether Tyrannosaurus rex was a hunter or scavenger, exactly how pterosaurs flew, etc. One could even trace debates through history! For much of the 1700s and 1800s, specialists argued whether pterosaurs were even reptiles, whether they flew, or swam, etc.
Why is this important?
Because people see headlines like “link between pooping and cancer found” and start assuming pooping causes cancer. Ok, ok, my example is obviously fictitious, but you get the idea.
Don’t forget to teach that this peer review (debate) is the most important part of science. And the heart of debate is learning about cognitive biases and logical fallacies, neither of which are in most schools' curricula.
Cognitive biases are patterns of thinking in our mind that lead us to cling to certain ideas even when all evidence provided to us supports the opposite. For example, the bandwagon effect is the willingness for one to accept something as truth because many others believe it to be true. You know on infomercials when the narrator is like "250,000 satisfied customers can't be wrong"? Yes, yes, they can. They often are. For example, Galileo was imprisoned under house arrest because he believed the earth to revolve around the sun instead of the opposite, which was the prevailing belief of the time.
Logical fallacies are patterns of reasoning that are inherently misleading. For example, when someone tries to convince you that apples will cure cancer and sends you a link of an article that a doctor wrote. The doctor's claims are meant to support the assumption that apples can cure cancer because the doctor is an expert in health. This is called "appeal to authority". The doctor knows more about food, health, and cancer than lay people do; therefore, the doctor must be correct. Yet, this is inherently problematic because they doctor may not be an expert in cancer.
This absence of knowledge leads people to make life threatening decisions, not to mention change daily habits unnecessarily. I see way, way too many logical fallacies on social media, especially within debates on certain issues like vaccination and gender debates that impact people's daily lives, y'all.
I truly believe that the absence of education about cognitive biases and logical fallacies is a blemish on the American education system that needs to be corrected to save lives, put us on a more equal footing with the rest of the world, and just plainly to make out society better.
Would you like me to prepare a curriculum that would cover cognitive biases, logically fallacies, and the importance of debate within science? Leave me a comment if so!
One of the most important benefits of homeschooling for me is getting to teach character. Yes, most schools teach character. They all have neat little programs with monthly themes that teach character traits. But our nation sorely lacks character. For example, our society has so many jokes about crooked politicians, who are supposed to be examples.
Truth is character education is a coin toss when it comes to efficacy. Some think it’s a problem with the disconnect between what is good character in children (compliant, meek, obedient) and what we see as good character in adults (strong, leaders, steadfast). Meaning that we drill kids into obedience rather than teaching them to think about the gray areas of life and puzzle out the moral reaction. Alfie Kohn says it best “The point is to drill students in specific behaviors rather than to engage them in deep, critical reflection about certain ways of being.” (Citation)
How do we teach kids to be good people? Two ways: modeling and teaching them what is expected.
Modeling is simple enough. Your children are going to imitate you. Want children that are hard working? Start off by showing them how hard you work. Honest kids? Show them how to be honest. Modeling is the most important factor in producing children of great character. Read them stories full of characters worth emulating. Read (or watch) biographies with people with notable character.
Second, make sure your child knows what is expected of them. For older kids, explain it a few times, going into detail as needed. This can be quite hard with young children, but there are several ways to accomplish this, but pretend play is the best.
For example, if you want them to sit still and open their mouth for the dentist, start a few weeks before the appointment. While brushing your kid’s teeth, tell them “In a while, you’re going to go to the dentist. He and his nurses are going to clean your teeth. They will scrub in between them. They will have a vacuum, a special spinning brush that makes a loud sound, and special, delicious toothpaste. It’s important to sit very still so they can clean your teeth. It’s important to keep your mouth open very wide so you don’t bite the dentist.” Then pretend to be the dentist and ask them to open wide. Pretend to poke around their mouth a like a dentist does. Get them used to the idea of keeping their mouth open for a dentist. Repeat this process several times in the weeks leading up to the appointment.
Another example, eating a restaurant. Sit your child at table, and explain that, “eating out is a lot of fun, but it also means that you must sit so you don’t get burned by the hot food the servers are carrying.” Explain every important aspect such as “You can’t touch the beautiful decorations on the table or the salt/sugar/syrup etc.” Then pretend to be a server. Put on the whole shebang. Start at your front door. Pretend you are a hostess, seat them at the table with menus, serve them their food, wait while they eat, and let them pay a check. While you are going through this process, stop them from doing things that are off limits. If a child starts to get up, remind them to sit unless they must go to the bathroom. Remove the decor if they start to play with it. Then when you go out to eat for real, remind them to practice these skills.
Remember: no child is perfect so all children will, at some point, not fulfill your expectations. It’s fine. Get back on your horse and keep riding.
Lastly, young children will probably take much time to remember and abide by your expectations. Their brains aren’t built for self control yet. That takes time, practice, and close attachments with caregivers to bloom fully.
I have put much thought into the parent I want to be and on the days I fall so miserably short, I always try to revisit my plans while reflecting on what caused my lapse so I can live up to my expectations. Below is a list of my ideals and the reason I hold them.
First, I believe that there is no such thing as a bad child. Children do not try to maliciously manipulate us. Children do not have the brain capacity to have self control. The frontal lobe is the seat of risk evaluation and judgement. It is not fully developed until mid to late 20s.
Despite this, I still expect my children to behave a certain way when they don’t fulfill my expectations, I do discipline them. Discipline in my home looks vastly different than many other home. For example, if my 3 year old bites, I put him in the play (with toys if that’s why he bit). I explain that I must keep everyone safe, and because biting hurts, I can’t let him out to play.
Keeping the toys, shows him that I don’t want to be miserable, that I want him to feel safe, too. I don’t believe must feel either physical or psychological pain in order to learn. In fact, I believe it is highly detrimental because the children learn a sharp sense of distrust or anxiety. Children are tabula rasa. They are blank slates. They imitate or act on impulse but do not fully understand the implications of their actions which must learned as their brain matures.
Next, parenting is all about connection. It breeds trust. Trust is the foundation of obedience and learning. Spending time focused on their interests or doing chores together shows them that I am interested in them and want to spend time with them while working as a team to have the life we all deserve. If my child keeps trying to touch the stove, I may remove them from the kitchen and explain that the stove is hot, and I must keep them from being burned and keep them safe. So instead of saying, “Do this because I am the adult” with no explanation, I remind my children that I am trying to keep them safe.
Anger and yelling breed fear so when, inevitably, I get mad at my children my goal is to always handle it in a mature and quiet way without letting my anger dictate my actions. I fail much more than I care to admit.
This leads me into my last point. When I do my children wrong, I admit and sincerely apologize because I simply don’t want my children to think I am perfect. I want them to see me as the flawed individual that I am and not mistake me for perfect. Then, when I give them advice as young adults, they will realize my advice comes from sincerity and experience instead of a place of fake omniscience.
Each of these ideals impacts my actions on a daily basis, and I hope will lead to trusting, lifelong connection between my children and myself.
Here are some links to information on children’s brain development and what are realistic expectations of behavior by age:
I would love to hear some of your parenting ideals or practices and how they affect your life.