Friday, January 25, 2013

Percy Jackson

Our first year of homeschooling we used Sonlight. Obviously we've moved away from that - when I get ready for a new year though I always look at Sonlight. There were so many things I loved about it, but far more that I didn't - so I know not to go down that road again. By far my favorite part of Sonlight was read alouds. We read Charlotte's Web, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and tons of other books that year. Some I'd read and some I'd never heard of before. I always enjoyed that time.

This is our first year homeschooling again after my son spent fourth and fifth grade in public school, which is why we are having some adjustment problems this year. A third grader is really different than a sixth grader! Yeah, we'll call that one of my "duh, mom" moments.

In our recent revamping I've started reading out loud to my son again. I know, he's almost twelve (12 - oh my goodness!), and probably doesn't need me reading out loud to him. But although he's always been a very good reader, it's just something he doesn't like to do. A couple months ago I asked him to read Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. This book sat, mostly unread, as we kept putting reading aside to catch the missing pieces of math, or grammar, or whatever was missed in the last couple years.

I picked the book up the other day and started reading to him. Now we spend some time every day reading out loud. We get to discuss the book, he asks me about words or inferences that he didn't understand. We compare how he imagined it and how I imagined it. Basically, we have a good time. And something is finally 'clicking' with him.

He's making the connections between what we're reading and what we're studying (Mayans), and trust me, that boy can make some crazy connections I never thought of! He's even doing better in math, spelling, and writing more fluently (his spelling is still bad though!).

Is this just because I started reading out loud to him again? I'm sure it's not. Completely. While we are still focused on our studies, I finally figured out how to teach my son.

And all it took was Percy Jackson and a quest.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

You Need a Budget

OK, maybe you don't - but I know we sure did. I did tons of research. I did some of my own budgeting and failed. Let's face it, we're not the best with handling money. I don't know why I'm not, my dad was very good at it, so I must have got it from my mom. But I even I soon realized that the way we were handling things just wasn't working anymore.

Enter You Need a Budget, or YNAB.

What a difference this program has made to our finances. Before YNAB I was juggling bills and we were basically living off next months paycheck. In effect, living off money we didn't have. It was extremely frustrating and time consuming trying to time every bill to a paycheck. I was good at it though, we never missed a payment!

YNAB has a four step method - give every dollar a job, save for a rainy day, roll with the punches, and live off last month's income. Seem impossible? I thought so, but it really works. Trust me on this, if I can follow this plan anyone can.

Give every dollar a job - well, since most of our dollars were accounted for (sometimes twice!) I had to figure out exactly what we needed every month. It was a little time consuming, but totally worth the effort. Now we live off what is budgeted in our categories, if there is no money there, nothing gets bought. And it's very flexible - you can make a many (or few) categories as you need. We have a bunch of them, but every time we get a bill paid off we have one less.

Save for a rainy day - these are those bills that you pay every once in a while, or an emergency fund, or both. We have bills we pay once a year and paying those used to really throw a wrench into my finely calculated juggling act. Now we're ready for them and honestly, it feels great! We also for the first time ever have a small emergency fund. Thank goodness for that - we needed it twice in the last month for completely unexpected expenses (battery for my van and a repair on our heating system). Before YNAB we would have used credit cards to pay for those things.

Roll with the punches - those punches like we just encountered. No freak out, no pulling out the plastic, just knowing that we could cover those as they arose was so not stressful. It made those previous (would have been a) panic moments boring. Gotta love that!

Live off last months paycheck - ok we are still working on this one. It's quite simple, in March you are living off the money you made in February. We are so close to being there, we should be there soon. I can't wait for that day.

They even have an app for your iPhone or Droid. Great to have when you are in the store eyeballing those awesome shoes (or 49er gear in my husbands case!). Not enough money? Can't buy them. This has been my favorite tool by far.

 This program is not free, but the cost is just one time and you can put it on all your computers. I have it on my laptop and desktop so I can use it whenever I need to. The basic program is $60 - but there's nothing basic about it. They also offer a package with a study guide. Honestly, I read everything online and figured it out on my own.

If you want to check it out here is the link - You Need a Budget. They have a 34 day free trial if you want to test it out before you buy. I get nothing if you buy the program, I'm just sharing because it's been so amazing in helping us get our, um, stuff together that I wanted to throw it out there in case it could help anyone else.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Unit Studies

We have been doing some revamping here. Our struggle with Monarch for history and science has led us to unit studies. Honestly, I did that our first year of homeschooling too - the year when I didn't know what I was doing and just kind of tried to handle everything the way I thought was best.

Our first return into unit studies started with Animal Classification, a Hands of a Child Project Pack. I love these and bought a bunch the first year we homeschooled. My heavy spending year one as most certainly helped our small budget now! We do these a little differently - my son is not a huge fan of cutting, coloring, or pasting (ok - he loves pasting), so we do most of the work notebook style with just a few of the cut out projects that would go in a lap book. I noticed right away that even though he had to write a lot more he was definitely more engaged. I worked on the white board, we sat in the living room, and I learned that my son loves Venn Diagrams! Who knew? Since the science went so well we are going to do a history unit next - Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas. I picked this one because our museum has a Mayan exhibit going on and it's a perfect field trip tie in. While we are working on that I pulled out a health book I got a couple years ago and we will do that for science. Here's to the second half of the year going great!

My semester ends on January 31st and my next one starts February 1st. I have a couple more papers to finish but I know I can get it done. I do have to take my Praxis I this term. Ugh. I have the money set aside to register I just want to get my papers done first. It is my goal at some point to work ahead and get done faster. It just seems like when something has to give, it's my school work. I need to not be like that - my education is important too!

~Keep on Learning~

Today I'm linking up with Hip Homeschool Hop

Crazy Fear

I honestly thought I wrote a post this year. Hmm. Yeah, I guess not! Maybe I should change my blog name to "Slacking on Planet Caddick"! I still have to order my blog book for last year too. I love having those in print to look at when I want. It's kind of fun to see the ups and downs right next to each other. Sometimes I even wonder what I was thinking!

Right now though, I'm thinking about retirement. Not mine of course, I did that 5 years ago next month. Nope, this is my husbands retirement and it's a little more frightening. I like to call it crazy fear because it had no merit (most of the time) - it's just a sudden panic of "Oh my God, what's going to happen when we have no ties with the military any more?" It includes all kinds of things, where will move (if we move), what about a job, can I move and do school at the same time? Sometimes these ideas come all at one time - sometimes they come by themselves, randomly, usually when I'm in the middle of doing something else - like teaching Zach or doing my school papers. Crazy fear.

Are there a lot of unknowns? Oh yeah. Will we survive? Yep, pretty sure we will. Will it be a completely new experience for both of us? Oh boy will it ever! Will we go to a new place or try to grow our roots more deeply here?

Ultimately the answer to all those questions is I don't know the answer. I guess that's the part that makes it exciting - and brings on the crazy fear!