A mom who likes to live outside the norm

Archive for the category “Home School”

Child Finance

I recently attended a homeschool educator’s conference, and one of the talks stressed teaching your kids personal finance.  We have too many kids entering college who not only have to feed and clothe themselves for the first time, but they are also having to motivate themselves, wake themselves, go to class by their own motivation, and also somehow pay for it all.

Personal finance is barely taught in High School.  But if you start early and they have several years to master their finances and make mistakes when it’s still in the safety of home, they are less likely to wind up with huge financial mistakes as adults.

I remembered my dad teaching me how to manage my finances as a child, so I decided to go visit all the vendors and see what I could find.

I.  Found.  Nothing.

So I decided that I would make something up myself.


My kids have received an allowance for awhile, but my husband and I decided that it’s time for our oldest to manage his finances more on his own.  This is a scary idea for me, but I’m diving in.

My son is 10 and will be entering 6th grade in the fall.  Since I want him to learn how to fully manage his finances, he will now have a salary starting at $10/week and will be responsible for all his own expenses such as: clothing, shoes, toys, treats, etc.

Since we live in an electronic world, my son will be dealing with somewhat virtual money.  Each week we will enter $10 onto his check register as a “direct deposit”. Any money he receives as a gift or from other earnings can be deposited into his “account” with a deposit slip.

When he has a purchase to make he has these options:
1) He can write a check to cash or fill out a withdrawal slip and get cash directly from me.
2) When we are at the store he can write a check “to the store” and I will purchase it for him and deduct it from his “account”.

The goal of this whole process is for him to start figuring out how balancing needs and wants actually works.  If he runs out of money, he will have to make the choice to go without or find a way to earn more money.  He can decide to buy new or used, to buy all that he wants and wear clothes with holes (this idea has me a little scared), or make his coat last another year.  Hopefully will learn to take better care of what he has once he learns the true cost of his possessions.


When searching online I had a hard time finding pretend checks.  Check printers won’t print bogus checks, and I didn’t want him using something too childish.  So I created my own!  Since I went through all the work, I thought I’d share it with you.

Download my blank fake checks here.  This file is what I created to make into his own checkbook, check register, and withdrawal and deposit slips.  I kept it in Excel format so you can easily add your child’s name and address to personalize it.  You may need to test print a few to make sure it prints correctly on your printer and format accordingly.

On the first tab are the checks.  So that you can make a book with correct number sequence, it is formatted so that you can change the first check (top and bottom check numbers) and it will adjust the following checks.  I tried to make these as realistic as possible so that it is a good learning experience.
Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.32.15 PM
Print as many checks as you would like to start with, two sheets should work well for each book.  I have them with colored backgrounds.  You can also change everything to white and print on colored paper to save on ink.

First print, cut (I used a paper cutter for this whole process), and stack your checks together:
You can just stop here and have individual checks, but to have a realistic checkbook you will need a sewing machine.  Stack a few at a time and sew thread-less with your machine.  Warning, this may dull your needle:

Stack together as many as you think your stapler can handle (I did 10-12), and staple face down to a manilla folder or card stock:
Fold the card stock over at the perforation and then again at the top, and trim to fit your checks:
Now they’re ready to put in your checkbook!
The second and third tabs may be the most difficult step due to formatting, sorry! You will print the first tab and then put the sheets back into your printer so that you can print the second tab and make the register double sided.  You can also skip this step and just ask for a register at your bank branch!
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After you successfully get it to double sided print, cut them out and fold them in half:
There is one page that has the labels in the middle, this is the page that you will have on the outside:
You need to cut a piece of card stock to be the same size, fold it in half as well and that will be your cover:
Staple at the seam and your register is done:
You can use an old checkbook cover or your bank may have some in stock you can use:
The Withdrawal and Deposit slips should be the easiest to cut and finish.

These checks can have so many purposes other than using them to manage your child’s finances.  You could also make an economics/personal finance course.  I found a great resource called The Checkbook Project that you could use as a course for your child, I will be modifying it for a co-op class this fall.

I hope you have a lot of fun with this!


Do you ever find yourself stretched too thin?

I know I do, A LOT.  And I justify it by comparing now to when I used to work 50+ hours a week.

But this last week, starting to feel down and realizing Bilbo’s quote of “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” totally fits how I feel.

So I looked at all I am doing:  SAHM to 3 kids aged 7, 5 and 10 months.  That should be enough right there.  Add homeschooling, trying to cook everything from scratch, babysitting 2 boys 2-3 days a week, trying to make sure my house isn’t condemned…

Then add to the difficulty by being a 1 car family, so any day I babysit and any days with classes or field trips I bring my husband to work at 7:30am (with the 3 kids) and pick him up at 4pm (with an occasional 2 more boys).

Then there’s church things.  Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings, occasional Sunday evenings.  And then the ministries I participate in: coordinating children’s church, taking turns in nursery, 2’s & 3’s, children’s church, praise band, etc.  And my husband’s a deacon, so there’s a lot of planning and such from home.

Add to the craziness: babysitting for a women’s Bible study once a week, field trips, homeschool co-op.  The list can go on and on.

I’m not sharing this to get sympathy.  I’m sharing this to come clean and to let you other moms know you’re not alone.  I think about some of my friends who add on a child with special needs (which I’ve done when I fostered), regular doctor’s appointments, etc.

I went to a homeschool support group meeting a few weeks ago that really spoke to me.  It was led by a mom who has 7 kids, with 4 of them being twins (so 2 sets of twins and 3 singletons).  She home schools, is super involved and seems to have it all together.  She stays “sane” by prioritizing and organizing her responsibilities.  She recommends:

  • List out everything you do.  I just did that!
  • Prioritize.  That’s what I’m going to do this week.  Rank according to priority.  Some things I cannot or will not give up like staying at home, going to church, homeschooling.  Some things I need to do to help my family financially like cooking from scratch and babysitting.  Some things will be hard to give up, but I need to do for my family (by regaining time and sanity) like coordinating children’s church and giving up 1 or 2 of the ministries I serve in.
  • Scheduling.  Actually put things on the calendar.  See the busy days and see if there’s something you can move or cut out.  Or if you like to have 1-2 crazy days and get them over with, schedule grocery trips and other errands in-between other events to maximize the trip and give you freedom elsewhere.

This also works with daily projects and to-do lists. List out everything you need to get done and then prioritize A, B, C &  D

  • A’s need to get done today,
  • B’s can get done today but can wait up to 36 hours,
  • C’s can wait until the end of the week, and
  • D’s good things, but they can wait indefinitely.

At the beginning of a new day, take your previous day’s list add any new things, make all of yesterday’s B’s now A’s, and re-prioritize.  You get things done, check things off, and you move forward.

Scheduling and lists are where she keeps her sanity and where I totally fail.  This is how she schedules her time, and my goal moving forward:

  • Spiritual life – Schedule daily time in the Word and for prayer.  The kids can fend for themselves for 30 minutes and know to be quiet.  Also, it’s a good example and  you can have your kids reading Bible books during this time.  (I need to confess this, I hardly ever read my Bible.  I never find the time with the craziness.  I need to put this first.)
  • Exercise and pampering – If mom’s not healthy, she doesn’t have the ability to care for her family.  If mom’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy!  This is another area where you lead by example and the kids will be okay while you do a video or paint your nails. (I’m getting the nutrition part down, but never find time to exercise.  I need to put this second.)
  • Husband – She schedules time with her husband to do things without the kids.  All her kids, even her teenagers, are in their bedrooms at 7:30 and can’t bother them.  They do bedtime routine at 7pm, the littles go to sleep, the elementary school aged can read, and the teens can talk to their friends and play video games.  There is a level of trust here, but I think it is amazing!  If there’s not a good relationship with your husband, it doesn’t matter what you do for your kids.  (I’m better about this one, but like the idea of an earlier bedtime so that I can spend more time with my husband and not be ready to pass out 30 minutes after the kids are in bed.)
  • Girl time – And I don’t mean time with your daughters.  Time out with girl friends.  Go dancing, watch a movie, go to a house party, get pedicures, anything to get a break from your kids.  Mom needs time to be a friend and have friends.  Especially for SAHMs, this may be the only chance to talk about something other than kids and let loose and laugh with friends.  (This is an area that I’ve never prioritized and I’m starting to feel the effects.  I miss spending time alone with friends.)

Soon I’ll share my successes and failures in these areas.  I’ll also share what’s worked for me and my progress.

What de-stressing and organization ideas do you have?

My curriculum free homeschool plan

I’m homeschooling again this year (I took 6 months off at the end of 2011- the spring 2012 semester when I was pregnant and had 2 foster kids!), and since my son is very advanced in several areas I decided to just “wing it” this year to see exactly where he’s at and learn how he learns. I’m also babysitting, so it helps to do things as a group.

My oldest is almost 7 and reads at a 4th grade level while also being very strong in math. My daughter is 5, the boy I babysit is 4 and I have a 4 month old.

I am basically doing unit studies based on different children’s books.  There are so many good books that you can read together for literature, and then use them as a theme for spelling/handwriting, art, writing and even science.  My son loves it because we also try to find a copy of the movie for that book from the library and we watch it after we’re done with the book.  We then work together to write an essay discussing the book and movie with comparisons and differences.

Our day looks like this:

After breakfast, we set the baby up either on the floor or in the exersaucer so he can be involved and I get out our book that we’re reading. This first session is “The Wind in the Willows”. After reading the chapter to everyone, I then use this handwriting worksheet generator  and print up words from the chapter. After that, the baby is usually ready for a nap…yay!

The younger 2 at this point are allowed to play together either in my daughter’s room or with play dough, rainbow rice, etc while I work more one on one with the oldest. We pick a science subject from the book (with this book having animal characters, we look up a different animal every day), read about that animal, watch online videos, google search, etc. Not only is he doing science, but he is also learning how to use the search function to find things that interest him (be involved and be sure you have a good filter). I then google images of that topic (usually with “coloring page” in the search) and print it and we diagram and add notes about what we learned. The younger 2 like to join in with this part and have their own copy of that page to color.

For math, I use for practice with drills, and I use a combination of a math worksheet generator and workbooks from walmart and the dollar store for math lessons.

Starting in September (once I’m only babysitting T & Th and not every day) we’ll be adding 2 more subjects.  Our day will then start with a Bible lesson on M, W, F.  I’m unsure yet whether we’ll be working through one of our story Bibles, but I’m leaning towards actually reading straight from a regular Bible.  We’ll either be starting with Psalms or Proverbs.  I also have a social studies book I will be using this year.  Next year I want to start learning about how our country started and the year after that working through the presidents.  We have a great library and I plan on just using books to read through and not a textbook.

To add extra work for after lunch, I often let him watch science videos from the library, do extra reading on or other learning sites, watch science videos from the “wild kratts” section of, and many other resources I’ve been given such as Dance Mat Typing, a puzzle generator, and (this one costs money).

My more “laid back” days are T and Th.  On Tuesday mornings I go to a Bible study, so we just do reading an math in the afternoon, and on Thursdays we have a co-op we go to all morning where we do art and PE.  After lunch is when we go to the library and just play the rest of the day.  Next year when we are required to log hours and meet certain criteria, I’ll use this time as a make-up day to get anything missed done.

It’s lots of fun for us both and the younger kids can be as involved as they want. Maybe in a year or two I’ll actually invest in some curriculum!

My homeschooling calendar/tracker

So while spending a lot of time in the car today, I was busy in the beginning stages of planning out the school year.  I home schooled my son for a little over a year but enrolled him in school part way through the year last year (being overwhelmed while pregnant and with 2 foster placements).  This year I was planning on HSing my daughter in kindergarten and then next year pulling my son out as well and HSing them both.

But over the last few weeks I’ve been feeling the desire to pull him out and HS him too.  After talking to him about it, and expecting disappointment because he LOVES school, he was all for it.  I think finding out that I was planning all kinds of cool stuff and that so many of his friends are HSed too made a big difference.

One of the things that came out of my endeavors is this Blank planning schedule.xls.  So you know, when you click on the link, it should download it to your computer.  With all the work I put into it, I’d love for others to be able to use it.  Basically, it’s a weekly schedule with a hour tracker on the bottom.  On the very first tab (week 1) you want to enter your school start date.  It will then update all 53 tabs with the correct date.  If you think you will want to use this in following years, be sure to keep a blank copy saved to your computer.  You can start your school year whenever you want, I’ve decided to track July-June, though we won’t be starting to really do school full-time until September.

On the bottom of each tab is an area where you can track your hours.  Every state is different, but in the state of Missouri, you have to reach 1000 of school each year, 600+ in core (math, reading, science, handwriting, spelling) and 400 can be in non-core (art, music, bible, theater, PE, etc).  And then, of the 600 core, 400+ has to be in a structured setting (at home, a class or co-op) and the rest can be in field trips.  That’s why I have it broken down at the bottom.  The beautiful thing about the table, is that whatever you put in, it will update on all the following tabs, so you can see how your hours are building from week to week and know if you need to get more hours in.  You can change the colors if you want different ones, but if you’re not familiar with excel I wouldn’t mess with that table or any formulas as it will affect all future tabs…

My plans for this is, I’m putting in all reoccurring things like church (I’m counting sunday school as non-core since it’s structured and has Bible, music and art), story time at the library and our art and PE co-op.  When I learn about field trips I’m adding them too.  Then I’ll use the chart for my lesson planning where I can add in when I plan on teaching certain subjects.  I can plan out when I plan on taking school off.  If during the week I end up tweaking things, doing more or less, I can change it as I go.  At the end of the weeks I’ll add up the types of work we did and then I’m printing it for a paper back-up (my aunt has had her school records get lost when her computer crashed…).  It’s formatted to print to a standard page, and I’ll 3-hole punch it and store it in a binder.  I’m a very visual person, so I plan on shading everything we do for school, but that of course is optional.  Each section on the calendar is 0.5 hours, so I can easily add everything up!

So, I’m really hoping that this file share works, and I’m really hoping someone else can benefit from my craziness at making a file exactly like I want it.  🙂

Rainbow Rice

My friend’s kids love this stuff, and I finally got around to making it.

You’ll need:
Food coloring
Rubbing alcohol
6 cups of rice
A sandwich sized ziploc style bag
A storage container (those plastic shoeboxes work great!)

You can pull off making this in one bag if you go in this order with the colors: yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, orange.

The ratio is 1 tablespoon of alcohol, 2-3 drops of food coloring, 1 cup of rice.  (for purple do 1-2 blue and 1-2 red, for orange do 2 drops yellow and 1-2 red).

Take your bag and put in 1 T alcohol and the coloring and mix up.

Add one cup of rice, close, and mix up.

Pour out the rice onto a pan and let sit out in the sun for an hour or so until dry.

Pour it all into the storage container, add some odds and ends from your kitchen, and let your kids go to town.  It’s fairly clean, and as long as your floor is pretty clean, you can just sweep up any spills and put right back into the container!

Just make sure you’re careful when storing this.  Unless the container is fairly watertight, the rice can spill out of the container. Best to have just older kids and parents carry and to store where little ones can’t get it and spill!

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