Monthly Archives: January 2014

Homeschooling: How to Get Started…

We began homeschooling in the fall of 1997 when my older son was in 5th grade.  That seems like ancient history at this point.  Suffice to say, we have learned what works and what doesn’t work over the years.  I’ve been asked a number of times how does one get started with the homeschooling journey, and I’d like to include what I hope to be helpful information here.

When we began homeschooling, it was a foreign concept to us.  I didn’t know where to begin.  There were two homeschooling families in our church, and I picked one of the mom’s brain for  ideas that may work for us.  After spending the afternoon at her home and observing her two seemingly perfect girls do their school work, I came away a little frustrated.  I had no concrete information to work with or ideas to formulate a homeschooling plan.  I decided I would check out every book on the topic at our local library.  And read, I did!  I made copious notes.

The following are some things to consider:

1.  Craft a “Mission Statement”.

I recall reading somewhere that it was important to develop a “Mission Statement” and to keep it visible.  On the hard days, you will need to refer to this.  The “Mission Statement” answers the question “Why do I want to homeschool”.  It not only will encourage you to overcome challenges that will arise, but also keeps you on course and reminds you of your goals.

2.  Research homeschool laws in your state/country via the board of education’s website & comply with the regulations.  Submit paperwork to your local board of education as necessary.

In our early years, I found the Home School Legal Defense Association to be a valuable resource.  Check out their website:

They have helpful information regarding each state, as well as other resources.

Another consideration regarding the legal aspect, is choosing to be a part of an “Umbrella (or oversight Group”.  Basically, depending on your state laws, you can join an umbrella group and avoid having any interaction whatsoever with the state.

3.  Decide on a curriculum.

Now, comes the fun part!  What am I going to use to teach my kids?  Well, there are countless pre-packaged curriculum sets out there.  Below are a few you may want to research:

  • Abeka
  • Bob Jones
  • Saxon
  • Alpha Omega
  • Apologia

A great resource for books and DVD’s is:

We have dealt with them for more than twenty years and have never been disappointed.  Highly recommend.

The local library is an invaluable resource in your homeschooling experience.  One could literally build a curriculum using library books.  They have many educational DVD’s that can be a great tool.

My older son learned to read using the Abeka curriculum in his preschool and kindergarden classes.  My younger two learned to read using Hooked on Phonics, which I really like.

You have the freedom to assemble your own curriculum, of course.  Mixing and matching is what many homeschoolers do.

4. Learning Styles

Is your child an audio/visual learner?  Are they a kinesthetic learner? Does your child work well with traditional textbooks?  If you don’t know the answers, research learning styles and see which method your child does best using.  Everyone processes information in different ways.  We can set our child up for greater educational success if we teach using their “Learning language”.

5. Develop a Game Plan for each year.

It’s helpful to write down the educational goals for your children each school year.

6. Give yourself grace.

Don’t expect perfection.  Of yourself or your pupils.  If your child was previously enrolled in a brick and mortar school, allow ample time for adjustment.  It helps to verbalize and write down your expectations, so you’re both on the same page.

Assess and reassess what is and what isn’t working for you and your children.  Don’t be afraid to try a different curriculum (even mid-year) or method of learning.  It’s really all about trial and error sometimes. What works for one child, even within the same family, may not work for another.

7. Link up with other homeschoolers.

Most areas have some sort of homeschooling support and/or activity group.  These can provide immeasurable assistance, especially to new homeschoolers.

Co-ops are another great resource to explore.  Usually they’re comprised of a number of families, who alternate teaching various subjects to the children.  They may meet a couple times each week.

8. Extracurricular

If your child expresses a desire, enroll him/her in a sports activity or music lessons, etc.  Find an opportunity for your child to volunteer in your church or community.

…This is by no means an exhaustive list, but is a brief synopsis to get you headed in the right direction.  Homeschooling is not just an educational choice; it is a lifestyle.

We find opportunities for learning everywhere! It has been quite a journey for us, but one I wouldn’t trade for the world. Our older son was dual-enrolled in the community college in 10th-12th grades.  When he graduated from high school in 2006, he was just 3 classes shy of his Associate’s Degree!  We knew we could do this thing called homeschooling then! 🙂  Success!

Our daughter (16) will be a senior, and our younger son (14) will enter 9th grade this fall.  I feel like we’ve homeschooled for forever!  I keep saying, “One of these days I will actually graduate!  I will have been through every grade 4 times!”  🙂  Haha!  Yes, I sure have learned a lot!

If you have any helpful tips for newbies, please comment below.  Life works better in community!

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60 Frugal Ideas

I have been a stay at home mom for nearly twenty years now, and want to share a few things I have learned along the way.  Surviving and thriving on one income, particularly in today’s challenging economy, encourages one to continually find creative ways to save.

Because I’m an avid list maker, I compiled this list (in no particular order) some time ago that outlines 60 habits our suburban family strives to adhere to.  None of these ideas are new, but, they may prompt additional ideas that you can adopt to save a few $$.  I’d love to hear your money saving tips too!  Life is best lived in community.  “Iron sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 22:17)

Life is all about choices.  If we do this, it = this outcome.  If I trim my husband’s and son’s hair, then we’ll have more $ to go on a family outing, etc.  It’s all about what’s important to you, how drastically the budget needs to change, etc.

See if there’s any that may be useful for you and your family. Enjoy!

1.)  Use less/Make it last philosophy.

2.)  Have fewer wants.

3.)  Delay purchases or do without.

4.)  Plan ahead for purchases. (prevents impulsive buying at a higher cost usually)

5.)  Maintain organization to prevent duplicate purchases.

6.)  Read Dave Ramsey’s books/watch his DVD’s.  (Financial Peace, Total Money Makeover)

7.)  Consider the cash envelope system.

8.)  Implement a monthly budget.

9.)  Hold regular budget meetings with spouse/Communicate! It’s a blessing to be on the same page, financially! 🙂

10.)               Shop at thrift or consignment stores when possible.

11.)               Mend clothes to make them last.

12.)               Shop at discount grocery stores when feasible.

13.)               Buy store brands.

14.)               Use coupons for things you need.

15.)               Stock up on sales (for things you regularly use)

16.)               Buy quality when it counts & it will last longer

17.)               “Do it Yourself” mentality for most services.

18.)               Negotiate for everything.  (I happen to be married to a “Master Negotiator”! It’s embarrassing sometimes…but I always                          appreciate the $aving$!  Can anyone else identify?)

19.)               Comparison shop for goods/services

20.)               Bundle services (insurance, utilities, etc.)

21.)               Conserve electricity.

22.)               Maintain steady temperature on thermostat.

23.)               Check for drafts around windows/doors.

24.)               Install attic insulation.

25.)               Install water heater blanket.

26.)               Maintain furnace with regular service.

27.)               Cook from scratch.

28.)               Take leftovers for lunch.

29.)               Take snacks/drinks when running errands to avoid the drive thru.

30.)               Combine errands.

31.)               No lattes/coffees to go.  Brew at home & take with you!

32.)               Limit sodas & junk food.

33.)               Make our own iced tea. (I love sweet tea!  Any others out there??) J

34.)               Bake our own snacks vs. pre-packaged sweets.  They taste better too!

35.)               Have a meat-less dinner once a week.

36.)               Eat less.

37.)               Incorporate leftovers into next dinner

38.)               Shop perimeter of grocery store to avoid junk (essentials are always on      perimeter)

39.)               Go shopping with a list & stick to it.

40.)               Don’t take the kids when grocery shopping (if at all possible).

41.)               Clean oven during cooler months (serves double purpose)

42.)               No therapy shopping.

43.)               Wash laundry after 9p.m. (cheaper rates)

44.)               Wash only full loads of laundry & dishes.

45.)               Wash in cold water.

46.)               Make homemade laundry detergent.

47.)               Hang clothes to dry when possible. (less wear & tear on clothes too)

48.)               Take vitamins/supplements.

49.)               Exercise.  Be proactive about our health.

50.)               Practice good dental hygiene to prevent disease & costly procedures.

51.)               Invest in good shoes.

52.)               Communicate via email vs. snail mail when possible.

53.)               Print documents sparingly.

54.)               Pay bills online to save a stamp.

55.)               Stay with friends/family when traveling (if feasible).

56.)               Rent DVD’s via Redbox or purchase movies at thrift store.

57.)               Maximize your local library. (free entertainment!)  Many offer free classes as well.

58.)               Don’t buy “dry clean only” clothing.

59.)               Home haircuts & coloring. (Any other homespun barbers out there?)

60.)               Donate to charity. (tax benefit, plus it’s good for the soul.)  🙂


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New Year, New Beginnings …


Happy New Year to you guys (& gals)!   I love the idea of a fresh start, don’t you?  Reminds me of the Scripture in Lamentations 3:22-23 that says, “His mercies are new every morning.”  Everyone loves a clean slate.  

Well, the organizing bug has seriously bitten me this month and I am purging like crazy!  If it’s not nailed down, it just may be subject to being added to the Salvation Army donation bag! Haha!  I made a drop off run a couple of weeks ago to the Salvation Army, and will make another run next week.  It is amazing to me how quickly things accumulate, despite constantly donating to charity!

I think sometimes I hold onto things because I may use them the proverbial “one day” or feelings of guilt, especially if the item was a gift or something I spent a good bit of money on.  Whatever the case may be, no longer!  I am on a serious mission to get rid of anything that no longer has purpose in our household.

We recently took 3 paper bags chock full of books and a couple CD’s to a used bookstore.  I knew I wouldn’t re-read them and they were just collecting dust.  The positive result was a $10 store credit.  I know, that’s not much.  But, they helped me get rid of my clutter.  I can only begrudge them so much.  They are, after all, in business to make a profit.  The downside to that expedition is that we spent much more than our store credit that beautiful Saturday afternoon!  But, I digress…

I’m a beginner quilter and have accumulated a fair amount of fabric, so I recently sorted through my stockpile for donation candidates.  I filled an entire kitchen trash bag, so I’ll send that home with my sister the next time she visits.  She’ll take it to our favorite little Mennonite thrift shop.  Lots of quilters there would find my discards useful.

These are just a few examples of what I’ve been sorting through.  So, I challenge you to survey your closets, craft supplies, etc. and see what you come up with that you no longer need.  I’m looking forward to spring for many reasons (can’t wait to see my daffodils and hyacinths bloom again!), but also because that’s when we’ll be able to really organize our garage.    No matter how much we have gotten rid of, we always have more that we can pare down!

Are any of you like me, in that your spouse likes to hold onto things and you like to purge and simplify?  If so, you know what it’s like to walk a tightrope when organizing and trying to gain control of things.  If it were up to me, we’d get rid of even more, but alas, I concede for the sake of peace.  🙂

Whenever I need motivation to organize or clean, I have found videos on YouTube to be very helpful.  Somehow getting ideas from others and watching them clean lights a fire under me as well.

I also have found making a list to be foundational to accomplishing my goals.  I’m Type A, so lists are right up my alley!  I love paper and pens!  🙂  And, the older I get, the more I find myself relying on those paper and pens.  I think it has to do with being busier than ever also, at least that’s what I tell myself.  Haha!  When I write a task down or type it up, I am holding myself accountable to accomplishing it.  It’s also fun crossing it off my list! Cheap thrills, I know.  🙂

My overall goal for 2014 is to simplify.  Living simply.  That just sounds therapeutic, doesn’t it?  I’m at the stage in my life where I’ve got a lot going on with the kids, caring for my aging father, being a wife, etc.  Some things just need to be simple because many areas of my life are complex.  It’s called maintaining my sanity, downsizing my stress levels, finding peace.

So, simplicity is my motto for this year.  Sometimes not only things in our lives are clutter, but also non-essential habits can also be mental clutter.  My focus this year more than ever is on the Word of God, for it is there I find true and lasting peace.  I’m also bent on being more deliberate with my time, being productive, investing in others who are important in my life, and just living life with purpose.  At the end of the day, it’s not about things anyway.  It’s about doing things that truly count in life.  That’s why organizing and living simply fit so well into how I want to spend 2014.

So, here’s wishing all of you a happy, productive and blessed New Year!059


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Introduction …

Happy New Year, all!  My name is Amber, wife, mom, homeschooler, friend, caregiver, savvy saver, etc., etc.  I have a variety of interests (such as: Christianity, frugal living, organizing, scrapbooking, quilting, traveling, genealogy, etc.) and will write about a myriad of topics here.

I’ve been married for 18 years and have 3 kids (ages 25, 16, and 14).

I am a people person and love making new friends.  So, pull up a chair and let’s enjoy a few minutes together…

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