Give Yourself a Raise!

Mums Cash Stock PhotosAll right mama. You and I need a break every once and a while. Actually, we need a break everyday, we just usually do not get to take one. 
 I have a few amazing deals to share with you that hopefully help you get that break!

Buy Starbucks Coffee Gift Card is a new website that helps busy moms like you and me buy gift cards at a discounted price. Just click on the Starbucks cards and see what I mean.

People like you and me go to to sell their unused gift cards. That means moms like you and I can save a few dollars buy purchasing their preloaded gift card at a reduced price!!!

How cool is that?

I love a good deal, don't you?

This is one of those pages that we need to bookmark and check often. Some of the cards will save you a a dollar or two, but there are many, many out there that can save you $15 or more!

As a stay at home mom, that makes me smile!

  Are you ready to Give Yourself a Raise?
Just click on the gift card picture at get shopping.
Colorful gift card Stock Photography
Be sure to come back here and let us know what kind of deals you found!

Look at all the categories of gift cards:

Arts and Crafts:       (are you scheduling any art activities?)
Automotive:             (I need new windshield wipers!)
Baby and Kids:        (Can I just hear a YES!)
Beauty:                    (This is a chance to treat yourself!)
Books and Magazines:         (think homeschool supplies!)
Computer and Software:     (We are looking at new computers for our boys)
Department Stores:      (It's Spring. We all need a few spring summer items)
Education:                 (Yes! Homeschool stuff for less!!)
Electronics:             (I do not need any more electronics, but if I did...)
Entertainment:        (Take your husband out on a date!)
Finance and Business:    (Find what you need for less)
Flowers and Gifts:          (Make sure your spouse knows about Raise!)
Food and Beverage:       (We all need to eat)
Health and Wellness:
Home and Garden:    (It is Spring!!)
Jewelry and Watches:   (I do not want a new watch, but the boys need one)
Men's Apparel:        (Hubby needs new work clothes)
Office Supplies:       (Do you have enough paper, pencils, and school supplies?)
Pets:                     (Yes, even out dog gets a discount)
Relationship Services:     (Read your Bible! Just sayin')
Restaurants:        (Do I hear a second date?)
Shoes:                  ('nough said)
Sports and Outdoors:     (shin guards, shorts, balls, gloves...)
Toys:                     (We all have kids)
Travel:                  (I would love a get away)
Weekend Savings:
Women's Apparel:   (Yes, and double yes!)

Wow! I see 25 categories minimum that I personally need to shop in over the next month. Shopping for gift cards could save me between $25 and $700+!!

Gifts from Heaven: Gifts and Letters from the Past

About 10 years ago, great grandma came to visit for about a month. It was a delightful time!
We baked, read stories, made tape recordings, and homeschooled the kids together.

While she was there it dawned on me that this precious woman would not be there a few years down the road. She was already about 90 years old and was not in perfect health.

Gifts from Heaven

I encouraged her to do something amazing: To make each of her grandchildren a wedding gift and to pick out a card and to write them each a personal letter that they would receive at their wedding.

Well, grandma has been in eternity for a 
few years now. 
I am so blessed that she did not get offended at my suggestion, but rather took the task to heart.

Sitting in my home, nestled away in a safe place are five handmade wedding gifts and cards; one for each of our sons. 
...I call them gifts from heaven.

Someday each of the boys will receive one of these precious, priceless, handmade gifts...
I am blessed beyond words.

A Fun and Future Writing Assignment 
Because anything can be turned into a homeschooling lesson

I recently began having the boys write themselves letters to the future as well.

How fun will it be to receive advice from their 10, 14, 18 or 23 year olds selves?
Ok, some of the letters are hilarious, but they are all precious.

I would encourage you to capture pricelessness today:

  • Do you have an aging parent or grandparent? Encourage them to invest some time into the future by hand making a gift, handwriting a card, or setting something aside for the kids. They will never regret setting aside something special, and the kids will be blessed!

  • Have your kids write to their future selves. Then, put a reminder in your calendar to prompt you to gift it to them at a future date (21st birthday, wedding, etc.). Be sure to place these priceless things in a safe place!
As homeschoolers, we have the ability to focus on the most important things in life. Embrace that gift today!

More from me:
Dad's Role in Homeschooling
Successful Homeschooling: What if...

Summer is Almost here!!!

I am so ready for summer. 
What I am also ready for is the inevitable cry of "I'm Bored!"

Are you ready?

My dad always said creativity and imagination lived just on the other side of boredom. I watch this truth play out not only in my own life, but the lives of my children as well. I have 5 very talented and creative boys. Yes, I am biased, but I am telling you it's true.
My boys are Lego architects, writers, painters, musicians, and simply a whole bunch of fun to be around. Before I sound too much like a snotty prideful mom, I want to repeat what my dad always told me:

Creativity and Imagination live just on the other side of boredom.”

Here is the secret to growing amazingly creative and imaginative kids... 
...Let them be bored!  

Allow your kids to get bored. I mean really bored. 
  • Do not rescue them (unless there's blood).
  • Do not turn on the TV and absolutely ban "all things electronic.
  • Tell them all you have is an endless list of chores for them to complete if they come to you for suggestions.
  • If the weather permits, send 'em outside and tell them they cannot come in until the timer dings. At least an hour!
  • Sit back and wait...
 Depending on how over-stimulated and over scheduled your kids are, there will likely be a delay between their first boredom appointment and the flow of creativity. It could be a few minutes, or a few days.
Trust me it is worth the wait!
Plan for periods of boredom regularly. Daily is best. Summer is meant for this type of schedule- embrace it.
You may think I am crazy, but I am quite sane. Its the bored kids who create the "new games". Its the bored kids who create awesome forts. Its the bored kids who write creative stories. Its the bored kids who think painting a fence is fun. Its the bored kids who weave complicated characters and events into their make-believe playtime. Its the bored kids who change the world.
Now, if you just cannot handle the thought of allowing your children to become really bored, or if the thought of the possibly whining makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck: cheat.

  • Go to the local thrift stores and let them buy some new dress-up clothes.
  • Pick up a few (or a few dozen) empty cardboard boxes.
  • Buy an assortment of PVC piping and let them create.
  • Find a spell-binding book to read aloud at breakfast or lunch. Be sure to stop reading at an exciting part! This is a great time to send them off. My kids end up personifying literary characters often!
  • Buy some spiral bound notebooks and "special pens" to help them write a creative story (Tell them you will not correct spelling and grammar... just let them write).
  • Invite a “cool big kid” over to play.
As homeschoolers we can over schedule our children's lives to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. Slow down. Let the lull of summer on the horizon remind us that it is more than OK to slow down. We need to allow our children to come to the end of their schedules in order to provide time and opportunity for creativity.

Grab your copy of Homeschooling 101 here!

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Dad's Role in Homeschooling

One of the hardest lessons I have learned over the years is that I should ask my husband for homeschooling advice.

I asked teachers.

I asked girl friends.
I asked other homeschoolers.
I even googled.

But I neglected asking my own husband for help or guidance in homeschooling.

I share this with the hope that you will learn from my mistakes.
I was never intentionally ignoring his wisdom, I was simply wrong in my thinking.

You see, I have always been the primary teacher for our five boys.
I cook, I clean, I teach.

My husband has always worked very hard as the provider of our home.

He is a brilliant computer guy who is always up to his eyeballs in the latest technology.
I always thought this meant he didn't know what the boys needed as far as "school"  was concerned.

Boy was I wrong!

Hubby is too busy at work to:

  • pick out science experiments
  • choose curriculum
  • grade math tests. 
That's where I always failed.
I thought since he wasn't involved in the "small" homeschooling things that he wouldn't have anything to offer besides support for me.

Sheesh. I was so wrong.
While I do still struggle with this mindset from time to time, I have learned to prioritize not just including my husband, but rather allowing him to lead us in our homeschooling adventure.

How does My Husband Lead without being the day to day teacher?

  • He helps cast a vision for our homeschooling.
  • He keeps me focused on the Lord.
  • He reminds me that character trumps curriculum. Every. Single. Time.
  • He reminds me to focus on life skills and "an attitude of learning" rather than any particular topic.
  • He helps me regulate my own schedule so I do not spin myself into the ground.
  • He trusts me to choose curriculum and teaching topics that align with our family while educating our boys.
While that is not an exhaustive list, it is an important one.
My husband and I have very different homeschooling roles and we are dependent on one another. Without his guidance and wisdom I would quickly chase the wrong rabbit down the wrong path.

For those of you homeschooling alone, I can only imagine how challenging your journey is for you. If there is anything I can do to make your homeschooling journey easier, just ask!


Hindsight: 18 Years of Homeschooling

If I could rewind the tape and begin homeschooling my kids today with the benefit of my 18 years of experience, what would I do differently? 

1. I would spend the first 6-12 months to a year organizing my home, working on establishing a daily rhythm, and study my children.

2. I'd go to the library at least once a week allowing them to choose books that interest them, and hand picking random books for me to read aloud. I would be watching for what they are interested in, what makes them excited, what they find boring, etc.

3. I would rely on my husband more in creating a vision for our children, rather than trying to figure out what everyone else is doing. I wouldn't waste a second trying to make what works for your kids work for mine. I'd keep my husband in the loop about our daily escapades and accept his advice more quickly. I mistakenly thought that because he worked outside the home all day he would be unable to see what the kids needed. This piece of humble pie would have been better to consume early in homeschooling.

4. Rather than spending countless hours worrying about this curriculum or that, I would begin with the family goals we have now:

  • Put the highest priority on sharing our love for Jesus with our children. 

  • To insure the kids know their math facts inside and out. Period. Forget learning them, they need to over learn them.

  • To inspire a love for literature by exposing the kids to a steady flow of great books. (I would read aloud daily no matter what their ages). I'd be picking the brains of the veteran homeschoolers, librarians, and authors that are in my sphere of influence for suggestions and I would prioritize a daily reading habit.

  • I would focus all learning to develop excellent written and oral communication skills. I would find my children pen pals so they could perfect the friendly letter.

  • I would have them do copy work from the masters and discuss why the sentences, paragraphs, essays, or stories are so great. I would understand that excellence in writing really comes from being well read and practice, tactics, practice.

5. I would find opportunities for my kids to stand and share in front of others, whether it is during a family BBQ or performing with the local theater- giving them the skill and confidence to speak in front of others.

6. I would view curriculum, tests, quizzes, and state tests as resources to help me customize each of the kids education, not the substance of their learning.

7. I would relax more.
I'd let the kids get dirtier.
I would get dirtier.

We would play in the rain, build in the snow, chase rainbows, cloud watch, visit the farm, play at the beach, collect more leaves, examine more bugs, watch more plays, attend the theater, interview our doctors and dentists, locate inspirational guests like missionaries, mechanical engineers, artists, poets, and ace mechanics to share their passions with the kids. I would put a map of the US and the world under glass or plastic across my kitchen table and every single time we read or heard about a place we would locate it on the map and discuss how close/far it it from us.

8. I would hide the duct tape...

9. I would do it all over again. And again. And again.

I know my children so much more intimately because of homeschooling. I am forever grateful for the vision my husband was given for our family.

How about you?
What are the top few things you would change if you could rewind the tape and homeschool those beginning years with the wisdom you have today?

Advice for a new Homeschooler
~Visit my Store: Lots of freebies~

I Quit: Again!

(write down your bad days. you'll laugh later... This was one of my "bad days" last year-enjoy)

Today is definitely one of those days.

I should have quit when:

  • The ceiling started dripping.
  • I realized the water was coming from the upstairs bathroom.
  • When I called the landlord to tell her that the upstairs bathroom was leaking into the downstairs bathroom.
  • When my 7th grader decided I was "wasting his time by trying to get him to write down a few math steps".
  • My 7th grader was shaking in frustration, confusion, and rebellion.
  • The plumber came and asked me where the main water turn off was for our new home.
  • My 6the grader decided that 2 hours was an appropriate time limit for a lesson that was begun with the words, "honey, I am letting you do this easy math lesson today so you can practice three things: neatness, discipline, and timing..."
  • I looked at my 6th grader's paper only to discover he had only neatly written the lesson number after 30 minutes.
  • My 4th grader disappeared from the school area... AGAIN.
  • My 7th grader announces to me, in front of the plumber, "mom, ______ just bit ______" (no names to protect the guilty)
Ok, I really should have quit when:
  • I realized that one of my kids bit another of my kids. 
    • (Really? I have No I kids under the age of 9!!!)
  • The guilty child was just "play biting in order to get his toy back..." 
    • (I repeat. My kids are older than 9).
  • The plumber asks, "So... You homeschool?"
  • I reply, "Yes sir. Only today is one of those days that I question homeschooling!"
I really, really, really should have quit when:
  • The boys almost hung the dog. Accidentally of course.
So, I quit. Just now.
I sent the boys to bed until tomorrow. (Or until I cool down, which ever comes first)

Do you ever keep going on a day that clearly communicates, "STOP!"
Tell me, I'm not the only one!!

Successful Homeschooling: What if...

What if by the time I finish homeschooling our boys:
They are kind.
They are confident.
They look people in the eye when spoken to.
They befriend the new kids.

What if:
They put down their phone when others are in the room.
They are strong and hard working.
They know how to cook, chop wood and change the oil on a car.
They are compassionate and caring.
They LOVE to read and devour the written word.

They still love Jesus.

What if:
They hunt down information when their interests are peaked.They can balance their checkbook and manage a budget.
They can break down a project into a workable timeline.
They can manage a calendar.
They can create power point presentations and present their ides to a group.

What if:
They know how to receive instruction.They can add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers, fractions and decimals.
They can measure accurately using various tools.
They can take a disappointment in stride.
They lose with dignity and win with humility.
What if:
They pass on compliments (..."my dad taught me that")
They can manage their own small business, like lawn care.
They put things back where they found them.
They acknowledge that a great team is worth its weight in gold.
They master the art of harmony- working together blending talents and abilities for the greater good.
What if:
They are self-sacrificing of their time.
They are dependable in a time of need.
They do not whine: when folding laundry, going on a million errands, or picking up dog poop.
They are experts at something: art, music, design, gardening, physical fitness, writing, programming, etc.
What if:
They can write legibly.
They visit people in real like, talk to them in person on the phone, and text only when necessary.
They value life and place the highest value on loving God and others.
They are informed and involved in their community.
They open doors for ladies, stand in the presence of their elders, and play with small children.
What if:
They rejoice when others succeed.
They run to do the right thing, even though they might be afraid.
They know that there are only two kinds of information: things they already know and things they can learn.
They are not afraid of learning hard things.
They know the difference between needs and wants.
They refuse to live in debt, but instead work hard and save.
They are the first to volunteer, and the last to leave when work needs to be done.
What if...

Dear mama, 
Don't sweat the small stuff. 
No math concept, essay, or science experiment trumps raising your sons and daughters to be excellent, loving, kind, hard working, and dependable.
Focus on character and life skills as the default and homeschooling core. 
Subjects and concepts are simply tools used to teach children how to live.

A Challenging Math concept can be the perfect tool to show your kids: How to ask for help, how to look at a problem from multiple perspectives, to walk away/breathe/ and come back later and try again, to not quit.
Focus on the big stuff: attitude, character, habits of diligence. 
This world is at their fingertips. 

They can google anything and study for a day and know more about a subject than you and I learned in a year before the technology boom... SO don't worry about what they are learning. 
Focus on HOW they are learning and growing.

P.S-What if all parents focused on their children in this way...

Make your own "what if" list today.

Homeschooling 101

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Teenagers: Secure Their Parachutes

By the time our kids reach high school, we can bend to the pressure to “let them go” and “cut the cords”. 

Teenagers need the help, guidance, and strength of their parents even more than toddlers do at times. The transition from middle schooler to adulthood is like running a medieval gauntlet.

While some kids skate through their adolescence unscathed, many need extra care and attention. Unfortunately we do not get to pick and and choose which kids need extra help, and which ones do not. As parents we need to “go the distance” with each and every child and teen. Our job does not slow down when our kids hit high school, actually this is when the real “fun” begins.

Truth’s About Parenting and Teaching Teens
  1. This is not the time to loosen the reigns. Honestly, adolescence is the time when kids really buck against authority, but should not be the time we let go. With the crazy flooding of hormones, teen brains can really struggle with rational thought and emotion. They need us desperately.
  2. Letting them make their own mistakes in their own educational journey should not mean we “Let Them Utterly Fail”. While we cannot complete their homework assignments for them, we need to stay on top of our teens. Some students flourish during this time and become “Captain of their Own Destinies”- even conquering the world. But, many students put on a realistic smoke screen that implies that they have the world by the tail, but are drowning in the amount of responsibility and work required in their life. By the time parents become aware of the fact that their students are struggling, they are facing a mountain of makeup work. Not fun on any continent.
What does this mean?
  • We stay on top of our kids. Continue to monitor their eating and sleeping habits. Maintain (or regain) parental control over things like tv and screen time so that we help them learn to manage these time-vacuum activities. While each family establishes what is acceptable to them, parents should be in control. Many teens need us to be firm over these things so they can safely flourish. Not doing acceptably in school should dictate less “fun time” with technology, social media, and texting. 
  • Be willing to go the distance WITH our kids. They are struggling in math? Either tutor them or find them one. Sit at the table while they finish their assignments. Model what it looks like to be confused, but to press through confusion to comprehension. There are adults who are willing to sit and mentor/coach not only our kids, but us parents as well. If you do not understand an assignment, concept, or assignment reach out and find help. Even You tube can be a great resource!

Some kids will be easy to guide, others will be challenging, but all of our kids need us. They need to know that they are not stranded on a deserted island, abandoned to figure out how to create a flowchart demonstrating how to name a chemical formula from its scientific name, write an expository essay, or solve a quadratic equation alone. There is a whole team of adults, teachers, and mentors ready to help them, but first they need us. Do not be intimidated by the amount or subject of material they need to assimilate. Let them see you confused. Let them see you research solutions. Let them see you ask for help. Let them protest as you take them to a tutor.

 Just do not give up and let go.
 God gave us the responsibility to secure their parachutes, no matter how loudly they protest!

Confession: I've Taken My Kids into the Men's Restroom

With all the drama with bathroom privileges lately, I feel compelled to make a public confession...

In my 22 years of parenting I have personally taken my boys into the Men's room. More than once.

It was always in desperation. They needed to "go" right then.
I am sure they would have been glad to pee in the hallway, but I had to draw the line somewhere.
Usually I was forced off the normal path of righteousness because the line in the ladies room was wrapped around the corner.
(Seriously. Why don't they make women's bathrooms with 1,000 stalls? or at least 10)

Ok. Full confession.
I have even used the men's bathroom once or twice when I had to "go" desperately too.
I will say that I have always chosen those one stall "I can lock the door" kind of bathrooms.

That's all.

While I understand all the emotion and fear behind all the current media drama about "who should be allowed to used which bathroom", I felt the need to come clean. Confession is good for the soul.

I am a married woman.
I do not think I am a creeper. Do you?
I have five boys. That means I have been pregnant five times, some of those times with toddlers in tow. The vacant bathroom wins.
Sometimes the line for the ladies room is simply too long.
I have a weak bladder. Sometimes this clouds my ability to reason.

As for all the bathroom drama:

  • Be safe. Keep your kids safe.
  • Make wise choices.
  • Choose single stall/locking bathrooms whenever possible.
  • Teach your children what to do when they feel uncomfortable in a public or not so public place. Kids need to know what to do. They are more likely to have a compromising situation at a friends house, so equip them with an escape plan.
Err on the side of grace. The person in the restroom just may be a child who couldn't hold it anymore and his mom who used that as an excuse to bypass the line in the ladies room.

"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
                                                             John 13:35

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