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29 Jun 2011   ·   191
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: How do you manage homeschooling and homemaking without the house falling apart?

How do you manage to homeschool, take care of your house and have young children without the house looking like a toy store, art store and grocery store blew up? -Jessica

Great question, Jessica!

I think many people have this unrealistic picture that I just sit around in this perfectly clean and organized home and do geography lessons, hands-on science experiments and read for hours on end with my three children with nary an interruption or mess.

Truth be told, we have plenty of messes. There are days when I never make it out of my pajamas and it seems like while I’m cleaning up one mess, the children are in the other room making an even bigger mess.

I love being a mom. I love homeschooling. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Not by a long stretch. There are days when I want to pull my hair out. There are many days when I feel so overwhelmed with the responsibility of training and raising three children. There are days when I just want to give up and give in.

But, I’m slowly learning and growing as a mom. Learning what works and what doesn’t work. Learning to rely upon the Lord more. And, most of all, learning to let go of my expectations and my perfectionism.

There are many moms who are much farther along in their mothering journey who likely have much more wisdom to share, but here are a few things I’ve found to be tremendously helpful:

1) Accept the Fact That It Will Be Never Perfect

One of the quotes from The Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family that I loved was, “Embrace the Chaos”. This has helped me so much.

Children are being raised, trained and nurtured in our home and this means that it’s not going to be perfect — or even close. Messes, spills, sticky peanut butter fingerprints are inevitable. When I let go of perfectionism and accept that this life of mine isn’t going to be all neat and tidy all the time, I’m a much more relaxed and cheerful mom.

2) Ask God for Patience

Many days, I feel overwhelmed and incapable of doing this mothering thing. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it forces me to my knees on a very regular basis to ask the Lord to help me. I try to start each day with time reading God’s Word and praying asking the Lord to please give me patience, love and joy as I teach and care for my children. I need His help and grace every moment of every day!

3) Have a Plan

I’m not a fan of rigid, regimented schedules. They just don’t work for this fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl.

A routine, however, is a lifesaver for me. Having on paper set blocks of time for our main priorities in each day has been very beneficial to me. We get more done, life is more organized and instead of having to worry about what we’re going to do next, we just do the next thing on our routine list.

We’re always tweaking our routine (and that’s the beauty of it!), but here’s how our summer schedule currently looks for us:

I wake up sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. I read my Bible, pray, read for 10 minutes from my current book, exercise, blog for a bit, take a shower and get dressed.

Our day “officially” starts at 8 a.m. Sometimes the children wake up before then and, if so, they have free time until 8 a.m. At 8 a.m., we have breakfast, read our Bible devotional together and work on our Bible memory verses.

8:30 all the children take baths, get dressed and get their hair fixed.

9:00 is chore time. This is when I do the bulk of the house cleaning. I have daily chores that I do on a daily basis (clean the kitchen, wipe down the counter tops, clean up my room, etc.) and day-of-the-week chores that I do once a week.

The girls are responsible for their room and bathroom, plus they help out with emptying trashes and vacuuming. Once they get their chores done, they can play until 10:00.

10:00 is homeschooling time. We do My Father’s World, Math, Reading and Penmanship (we’re already finished with History, Art and Science until the fall) around the kitchen table.

Kaitlynn and Silas listen in and work on busy bags, coloring, bean-scooping, etc. I have a big tub with activities that I rotate for them to do. They usually only stick with one activity for 10-15 minutes, so I stop and get them set up with something else as needed.

Kathrynne usually doesn’t finish up all her work during this time so she’ll work on finishing it up after lunch.

11:00 is read-aloud time (during the school year, we bump this time to the afternoon and continue homeschool time here). I read a few picture books and then a few chapters from our current read-aloud book. The children often play with Legos on the living room floor while I read. I’ve found that they seem to listen better when their hands are busy.

11:45 the children can go outside to play in the backyard while I switch the laundry, make lunch and check in on blogging stuff.

12:30 is lunch time. If we’re still in the middle of an exciting part in our read-aloud, I’ll often read again during part of lunch.

1:30 is quiet time. Silas goes down for a nap, Kaitlynn reads books in her room (usually falling asleep) and Kathrynne reads or plays quietly (or finishes up her school work). I do most of my blogging during this time. In the fall, Kathrynne will be working on finishing up her homework during this time, plus reading.

3:00 (or whenever Silas wakes up) is snack time. If the children have all their chores and Kathrynne has all her school done done, they are free to play until dinner. They sometimes play very nicely, other times, it’s complete chaos… we’re still working on that. 🙂 I get dinner made, pick up, fold and put a load of laundry away and finish up any blogging/computer tasks if I have time or need to.

6:00 is dinner time. We usually take our time around the table, talking about the day, getting into rousing discussions, etc. Dinner sometimes lingers until 7:30 or later. After dinner, we quickly clean up, the children get their jammies on and teeth brushed and then we have our family Bible Time. After that, the children go to bed.

8:30 is our time as a couple. Sometimes, we have an “at-home date night” complete with a movie and some sort of treat. Sometimes, we both have projects to work on so we’ll just hang out in the same room with our laptops (the glamorous life of both being self-employed!). Other times, we just talk.

10:30 to 11:00 is typically lights out. Yes, we’re “early birds” like that — and sometimes I konk out soon after the kiddos go to bed! (I’ve always wished I could be one of those people who thrives on 5 1/2 hours of sleep. But alas, I’ve learned need at least 6 1/2 to 7 hours every night — preferably a little more! — to function well.)

4) Focus on One Habit at a Time

It’s so easy to want to change our homes and selves overnight. But that’s entirely unrealistic.

We all have areas we need to grow and improve in. We all have things we want to instill in our children. But none of us can do it all at once.

One thing I’ve found to be very helpful is to make a list of all the areas I want to work on and then just choose one area to focus on for three months. Instead of trying to get up earlier, make healthier meals, exercise, read more and learn how to knit all in the same month, pace yourself and pick the highest priority goal first. Once you feel like you’ve somewhat mastered it, add in something else.

Slow and gradual improvements tend to be much more long-lasting — and much less exhausting!

5) Give Yourself Grace

Superwoman is a myth. No woman does everything and every woman has her areas she struggles with.

Having a plan for our day has helped me tremendously, but nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan. There are always unexpected interruptions, messes, children with bad attitudes and many, many disruptions to each day.

I used to beat myself up that I wasn’t as organized and efficient as I wanted to be. But I started realizing how unproductive this was as it only served to discourage me.

I’m slowly learning to give myself grace. When I’m tired, I’m learning to choose sleep over a spotlessly clean kitchen. When I’m feeling burnt out, I’m learning to let myself not worry about blogging or laundry for a few hours and just go do something fun with the children, with my husband or with a friend.

Life is meant to be enjoyed and savored not run through at breakneck speed. Take time to stop and smell the roses, even if it means fewer things get crossed off the to-do list!

I’d love to hear suggestions from the rest of you on balancing homemaking and toddlers (and homeschooling, if you do that, too!). I’m constantly learning and would love to hear your ideas!

29 Jun 2011   ·   136
Money Saving Mom

An incredible opportunity to help those in dire need (even if you don’t have a penny to spare)

The following post is part of a two-part series sponsored by Yahoo! Every time someone clicks here to make Yahoo! their homepage, they’re showing their support for my charity.

A few weeks ago, my advertising agency contacted me about a special promotion with Yahoo! Typically, I turn down most of these opportunities because they aren’t a good fit for my site and it’s not a win-win sort of situation.

But this particular opportunity was different: Yahoo! was offering to give $10,000 to the charity of my choice in exchange for me to ask you to change your homepage to Yahoo! for two days.

$10,000 to the charity of my choice? That was something I couldn’t turn down. Not after Stephanie, Tsh, Lindsey, Shaun, and others blogged about their trip with Compassion to the Philippines.

I’d read their stories. I’d seen their pictures. And my heart was moved.

We already give 100% of all proceeds from private ad sales here to Compassion and Show Hope. Our family sponsors two children through Compassion personally, as well. But I wanted to do more.

My heart was burdened and overwhelmed for these people who have nothing. Who are grateful for the tiniest act of kindness. Who are living in poverty beyond what we can imagine.

No, I couldn’t turn down $10,000 to give to Compassion. If $38 helps feed and clothe and educate one needy child for a month, think with me how far $10,000 would go?

So I’m thrilled to be partnering with Yahoo! today and tomorrow to ask you to change your homepage to Yahoo! It literally takes five seconds to do and by doing this through my link here, you are showing your support for Compassion.

Will you help me help those in impoverished countries? I’d love to have you consider sponsoring a child through Compassion. However, if that’s very much outside your budget, will you change your homepage to Yahoo! for today and tomorrow? Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping these children and families in desperate need.

I usually don’t ask for this, but if you would be willing to share this post on Twitter, Facebook and/or your blog, I’d be humbly grateful. Thank you so much!

photos used with permission from Compassion International, all photos taken by Karen Stephenson

28 Jun 2011   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Reader Testimonial: Being financially responsible pays off during job loss

Emily emailed in the following testimonial which I thought many of you would be encouraged by reading:

I lost my job at the beginning of April. My former boss told me that he would pay me through the end of May. I figured that would give me enough time to find a job and still live without a worry. I was wrong! I have not received a paycheck since April 15.

Thanks to the advice that I have been reading on MoneySavingMom.com and my frugal ways, I am in a financial position in which I can go at least three months (comfortably) without pay. This support net has lifted a weight off my shoulders.

I spend many hours a day applying for jobs and searching for jobs. Unfortunately I haven’t had any luck yet, but I know that eventually I’ll find something (hopefully sooner than later).

Here are some of the things I have done to reduce my cost of living over the past year:

  • Watch my energy rates and change when I find lower rates.
  • Cut coupons and use them on items on sale, so that I pay minimal.
  • Use free samples I find on MoneySavingMom.com and AllYou.com — I have enough shampoo to last me at least a year!
  • Cook meals according to what’s on sale at the grocery store.
  • Buy meat that is on sale because it’s approaching the ‘sell by’ date (and cook immediately).
  • Cook big meals and freeze leftovers for days that I’m too tired to cook.
  • Call Comcast periodically to see if they have lower rates (I’ve hit rock bottom — $86 for internet and cable).
  • Collect gifts (on sale at stores) in the closet. When birthdays come up, I don’t have to go to the store and spend more money than planned.

Living a conservative and modest lifestyle has already helped me though the past couple of weeks. Of course I still feel very stressed to find a job, but because I’ve lived like this for a while, there is a little less stress and less of a financial transition to make which is great! -Emily

27 Jun 2011   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Breakfasts
Cinnamon Roll Biscuits, fruit
Cereal
Amish Baked Oatmeal, bananas
Whole Wheat Waffles (using Homemade Baking Mix), fruit smoothies
Oatmeal Raisin Muffins, Scrambled Eggs, Cantaloupe
Double Chocolate Oatmeal Muffins, hard-boiled eggs, fruit
Banana Brownie Waffles, fruit salad

Lunches
Cereal — I wasn’t feeling well on Sunday afternoon so Jesse sent me to bed after church and fed the kids cereal for lunch! Everyone was happy and I got a nice nap in. 🙂
Eggs, apple slices, carrots
PB&J, carrot sticks, watermelon
Tuna sandwiches, peas, apple slices
Refried beans, chips, salsa, fruit
Leftovers x 2

Snacks
Watermelon Frosties
Healthy Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”
Homemade Smoothie Popsicles
Fruit/Veggies

Dinners
Dinner at friends’ house — we brought chips and watermelon
Chicken Stuffing Casserole, watermelon
Steak, fruit, tossed salad, Oven Baked Parmesan Fries
Dinner at church activity night
Italian Pasta Bake, Homemade French Bread, edemame, watermelon
Build-Your-Own Haystacks, fruit
Homemade Pizza, fruit, Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Double Chocolate Oatmeal Muffins
Banana Brownie Waffles

What’s on your menu this week? Feel free to leave a link to your plan in the comments!

27 Jun 2011   ·   29
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Classroom Tips


Guest post by Karin at More Than the ABC’s

Teaching can mean lots of supplies. Whether it’s home school or a classroom at a school, if you find yourself responsible for teaching something and organizing it all, but don’t want to break (or touch the bank) here are a few tips:

Keep it Simple

Space, storage, and too many options can be overwhelming. Plan ahead so you aren’t making more work for yourself in the future. Look for multi-purpose equipment. I have a good number of the exact same sized box so they’ll stack, fit, and work well together.

Don’t start buying specialized learning tools if you can achieve the same results with something much simpler. Check out teacher supply catalogs with a frugal eye. Look for what you can make yourself, modify or re-purpose to get the same effect.

Think Outside the Box (or in it…)

Re-purposing ordinary materials for classroom use can be a huge money-saver. Use paint sticks as pointers and unmatched socks as white board erasers. Enlist family members or classroom parents to keep an eye out for everyday items that can be useful in the classroom.

A teacher I work with had the great idea of making salt dough geography maps — in pizza boxes. A local pizza company was happy to donate the boxes, and with a box for each student to create, store, stack and dry the maps the lesson was a huge success!

Think about the goals for your lesson. Evaluate if available technology or online resources might satisfy a need and save you a purchase.

Frugal Meets Practical

Decide what your real needs are, and how to meet them without going shopping. Pie pans and large yogurt tubs turned out to be the perfect solution to pass out supplies. Empty tissue boxes trimmed, stapled, and taped become universal storage systems. After 25 students use something, it’s bound to show wear and tear quickly. I don’t blink an eye when a tissue box shows wear, but sure would be frustrated if pricey containers cracked and broke!

Check Out Yard Sales

I love a good yard sale, and have made a list of things (at the right price) to look for. Ask if they’d reconsider the price for a school purchase, negotiate if appropriate, and keep your eyes open.

At a yard sale or thrift store I keep my eyes peeled for:

  • zippered fabric pencil pouches
  • high quality rulers or scissors
  • items to use as counters (decorator flat marbles etc.)
  • giant bags of fun writing tools
  • fancy notepads, decorative paper
  • craft supplies (pipe cleaners, tissue paper, yarn, stickers, beads)
  • hard back picture books

Be picky. Keep in mind how you will use it, store it, and if it is a high quality product. Spending ten cents on scissors that don’t cut isn’t worth it!

Frugal but Fashionable

A hodgepodge of supplies doesn’t mean it can’t look good! Come up with some unifying themes and keep it simple. Donated paint, simple colors, contact paper and a little work can do wonders transforming your learning space!

Karin is a 4th grade classroom teacher interested in classroom blogging, technology, and continuing to be a life long learner. She hopes to instill a love of learning in her students, and encourages them to pursue their interests whole-heartedly! Visit her blog, More Than the ABC’s.

Note: If you are teaching somewhere besides your house, check with the powers at be to make sure your great ideas don’t go against any policies or codes.

25 Jun 2011   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: The I-Didn’t-Use-Any-Coupons Edition

I went to four different stores this week and used a grand total of zero coupons. Here’s what I bought:

Dillon’s Shopping Trip — see the full price breakdown and shopping trip details here.

Aldi Shopping Trip — see the full price breakdown and shopping trip details here.

Health Food Store Shopping Trip — see the full price breakdown and shopping trip details here.

Walmart Shopping Trip — see the full price breakdown and shopping trip details here.

Would you like to know what the best deals and coupon match-ups are for your local stores? Be sure to check out the Store Deals section of our site where we post the best deals and coupon match-ups each week for over 100 different stores across the country. You can sign up to receive the top deals in your email inbox each week as soon as they are posted!

Find

Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

24 Jun 2011   ·   97
Money Saving Mom

How Downsizing Gave Us More

Guest post by Amanda

About three years ago, my husband and I decided to build a home. Sounds simple enough right? After agonizing over colors, finishes, materials, and umpteen trips to the big box home improvement stores we ended up with a beautiful 3,500 square foot home that was falling apart.

Yep, you read that correctly. Our brand new home needed over $100,000 in repairs. Our general contractor had cut corners throughout the entire process of building the house and in doing so had left us with a home that looked beautiful, but wouldn’t stay that way for long.

We legally battled with our contractor for two years and ended up being forced to say goodbye to our lovely home and downsize into something smaller. We were blessed to find a place that was in our budget and that was actually owned by my parents. The only problem with the house was that it was about a fourth of the size of the home we had built and filled up with our stuff!

I began the task of packing to move and it was right around this time that I found out I was pregnant with our 3rd child. I was then faced with the reality that we would have a family of five in a two-bedroom, 850-square foot home.

How was I going to make this work? Where would we put all of our things?

Mission: Simplify

As I started going through everything we had accumulated over the five years my husband and I had been married, I was amazed to find that we had boxes in our basement that had never been unpacked, full of items that we thought we couldn’t live without. This to me seemed wasteful and it was then, after opening that third box that had been sitting untouched for almost two years, that I started a mission to simplify our lives.

This was my rule: If we hadn’t used something in a year, it was donated or sold. The only exceptions to this rule were pictures and a few mementos that held a special meaning to us, like the guitar played by my husband’s late grandfather.

Did I have to let some things go that I loved? Yes. Was it the end of the world? No. After all, they are just things. And while I did love those three sets of curtains, there were not that many windows in our new home so they were lovingly donated to our local Goodwill.

Our Lives Are Not Wrapped Up in the Things We Own

When moving day arrived, we were able to fit our once 3,500-square foot lives into 850-square feet — with room to spare for our upcoming addition to the family. Throughout this whole process, my husband I learned a valuable lesson: our lives are not wrapped up in the things that we own, but instead in the people that we surround ourselves with. Our family has grown and enjoyed the simple pleasure of being together in a home filled with love, not clutter.

Amanda is a 26-year-old, stay-at-home-mom to three little boys (ages 4, 2, and 4 months). She and her husband are high school sweethearts and have been married for six years. He is a public school teacher, just as she was before staying home with her children.

photo credit

24 Jun 2011   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

5 Ways to Save Money on Sewing Supplies

Guest post by Angi from SchneiderPeeps

When people find out that my daughter and I do a lot of sewing, a common response is “Fabric is so expensive! I can buy an item cheaper than I can sew it!” This can certainly be true. But I have learned that it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to be a frugal sewist:

Hand-Me-Downs

We often get fabric and notions from people who used to sew but no longer do. Some of it is great for us and we keep it. And some of it is not for us and we donate it to a nonprofit thrift store.

Thrift Stores and Garage Sales

Not only can we often find great fabric at thrift store and garage sales, but we also can get vintage sheets and tablecloths. We frequently use vintage sheets to make pajama pants. They are preshrunk, very soft and if you cut it right you don’t have to hem the bottoms

Old Clothes

I know this sounds funny, but if the fabric is good, then save it. I regularly cut up jeans that have holes in the knees and flannel shirts for quilts. I also save buttons on clothes that are headed for the trash because they are too stained up to donate.

Community Fabric Sales

The Senior Citizens group in our area hosts a fabric sale a couple of times a year. The fabric is $0.25 per yard, notions are $0.05 to $0.25 each. They also sell, yarn, books and patterns.

The fabric that I used to make the pajamas for my daughter (shown above) came from this sale. Each project cost me under a dollar to make. We always find some gems among the rubble. And if you need some double knit polyester, this is definitely the place to find it!

Coupons and Sales

When I find a fabric that I just love and would be perfect for a project, I wait until it either goes on sale or I have a coupon. Then I buy the least amount that I need for the project.

When I was re-doing our master bedroom, I found some decorator fabric that I loved. But it was $18 a yard! So I waited. When it went on sale for half price, I bought two yards. That was enough to make window toppers, and a couple of throw pillows. For the curtains, I used fabric that was $5 a yard.

If you are not familiar with how different fabrics feel, I suggest visiting fabric and quilt stores and feel the fabrics. You’ll soon learn what a quality cotton fabric feels like and what a lesser quality cotton fabric feels like. This will help you as you begin to build a stash of fabric that you didn’t buy off a labeled bolt.

Caution: be careful of using old (vintage) thread. Thread weakens over time and it is best not to use it on something that you want to keep for a long time for for something that will be washed or used a lot.

Angi is a wife and mom of 6 children who spends her days homeschooling, crafting, gardening, playing chauffer, keeping chickens, trying to learn how take better pictures and blogging at SchneiderPeeps.

photo credit