The Fantastic Five Foods for the Frugal Family

 

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Let’s not mess around. Let’s get down to making austerity healthful, and what the heck I suppose yummy too, just for the kids.

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(Mika’s hat shown above was made from two of our old sweaters. Her vintage dress was on a free rack at our local thrift store. Total cost for cuteness: $0)

Frugal Tip 1. Rerun Coffee. (Skip to Tip 2 if you don’t understand coffee people.)

We love coffee. We only love good coffee. We love dark organic freshly-brewed coffee. We love coffee. I love coffee. He loves coffee. Good coffee is expensive. We are not rich. We still want good coffee. Coffee matters more than any other food item.

Rerunning coffee works really well in a french press, but also can work in a coffee machine. Sure the best coffee is in the first run of it, but your second run is still pretty awesome. This can be acceptable for a second cup after you are already in a state of awesomeness from the first cup. To ensure the rerun is decent enough for true coffee-lover consumption, add a scoop or two of fresh grounds and make sure your water is very hot with the next press.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re going for a third run. Slow down, Bessy. Third run is just brown water and if you are at the point of foraging for your food and trapping squirrels this will work. But don’t think for a second this is considered acceptable for a civilized woman with a more delicate need in establishing a perfect coffeed state.

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Frugal Tip 2. Eggs Erroneous

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This name does make them seem disgusting and downright wrong, and I won’t deny it, sometimes eggs are that. But lots of times, and for the purpose of this post-they are not always erroneous. Don’t worry if you don’t have that fancy contraption from Ernest Goes to Camp that makes Eggs Erroneous seem so glorious. All you need to do is get crackin’. Hardy, har, har.

I probably don’t need to preach it, but eggs are nutrient dense goodness, yada, yada, with antioxidants and vitamins, and perhaps more than any other food, including Omega 3 fatty acids.

If you’re a homey like me, you could free range some hen ladies to lower your cost for a healthful egg. Feed is still purty pricey but they will require no gas to pick them up, just a child on a chore list.

These things are so versatile. Their texture can change so much between fried to baked, omelet to scrambled, boiled to custard. So you can change it up every day and it doesn’t feel like the same old breakfast and your family will not hate you.
You just need a good fat, say olive oil or butter, some salt-n-pepper, and your family’s tummies are good to go. You could add any vegetable in the fridge that needs to be eaten soon and any sort of cheese will pair very nicely. My favorite egg additions are from the garden. Fresh basil, zucchini, peppers, chives, and cherry tomatoes are my favorite. At times I combine all these garden vegetables with eggs and cheese into a baked buttered casserole for dinner meals, too.

Another option to incorporate more eggsaliciousness into your life is to add more than a recipe requires. (Yeah, break rules; that helps a ton for cheap eating.) Adding more eggs will make for a more hearty, and yes, eggy, pancake, waffle, or baked good. I learned this trick after making egg-rich Dutch pancakes.

Boil some eggs for a great lunch start for salads, deviled eggs, or sandwiches. Pack some for a road trip for cheap fast food. You don’t think you’d want to eat them when you leave the house, but down the road guess who wants an egg? You’re going to see them packaged up all smart at KWIK Trip and be like, “Dang dude, I could have saved me a whole buck or two.” And don’t be an amatuer and forget the salt for the top. And you’re going to want to pack some for everyone or they will blame you for stinking up the car.

Frugal Tip 3. Oatmeal. 

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Or better yet porridge. That’s more fun. Don’t call it gruel unless you are having your enemies over for breakfast, or your kids are acting like goblins and are your enemies.

These little gems contain complex carbohydrates and encourage slow digestion, so they will not spike your glucose levels and will help you to not get fat. Oatmeal is nutrient dense and contains B vitamins.

Plus, you will feel so historical eating these tasty morsels all snuggled beside a hearth with little spicy swirly-curls lifting into the cold autumn air with your awesome coffee cradled in your hands. Because don’t forget the coffee just because we are on the third point. Historical, because peeps have been eating these tasty oats for a long time. Probably because they were poor just like you.

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They are also very versatile. You can simply cook them on the stove with boring old water or any sort of milk: cow, goat, almond, human. I am kidding about that last one, but it would be a good idea for the nursing babe, and for those enemies to whom you are feeding gruel. Add some fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices. Top it off with butter, cream, or yogurt, and you are on your way to yummy town!

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Something we heart is homemade granola. I always felt like I needed so many ingredients on hand to make granola, but necessity is the mother of invention. Also, I can’t believe at one time I was so commercialized that I thought I had to buy granola! All you really need is to bake rolled oats on a sheet so they are toasted. I usually split it up after baking and make half of it sweetened and the other half unsweetened. Our kids like it sweetened with honey and brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon. You can doll it up with dried coconut, toasted nuts, dried fruits. Oh man, I am hungry. That’s why I keep on elaborating.

You could bake them into a fruit crisp or throw them into your favorite muffin or bread recipes. If you are running short on flour, substitute a cup or two with these trusty oats. They will make any recipe more substantial and help keep your bellies full longer. My daughter, Mary, likes to whip up oatmeal cookies some afternoons for a sweet fix that could also be called healthy.

Bonus Tip: Remember to save some oats to grind into colloidal oats for soap making and oatmeal baths. Just use that coffee grinder to mill. And if the chickens or cows run out of feed, just share the oat love.

4. Stone Soup
20160919_165313I love soup. It is so forgiving a thing. Once you get the hang of a few different soups just improvise. I tend to head down a few different roads with soup. There’s the chicken stock route, the creamy route, the tomato route, the beef stew route and the bean route.

It can be thick or thin, low fat or good fat. You need more? Add a liquid: stock, milk, cream or just water. You need more? Add a grain: wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, or bulgur. You need more? Add some more cozy carbohydrates: think pasta or dumplings. You need more? Thicken it. This can be as simple as a roux made of water and flour or make it rich with heavy cream, butter, cream cheese, or any cheese.

There’s just no right or wrong here if you didn’t notice. But I like these frugal vegetable staples for plenty of options: onions, garlic, celery, peppers, carrots and canned tomatoes.

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Super Duper Frugal Tip: Make your soup on a woodstove in a dutch oven. Soups turn out perfect and cook much faster and do not seem to burn. Plus you don’t run any electricity. Creamy Salmon Wild Rice and Cheesy Broccoli Potato are two of my favorite winter soups. Make stocks this way too while your heating your home.

5. Bag O’ Beans

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You knew they were coming and I saved one of the best for last. It kind of reminds me of another bean I know that topped this chart. Though coffee really isn’t really a bean, I just checked.

I constantly marvel over these bean things. They are so cheap, healthy, and tasty. And yes, so tooty. But it’s worth it. I guess soaking them overnight in water and discarding (the water that is) helps with the tooting business.

You can throw these magic beans into a crock pot with water in the morning and eat the beans. All day. All night. They just never stop. Sometimes, I start them in the morning, say a blend of black beans and pinto beans. We will eat them with some seasonings on top, maybe some cheese or sour cream. Then I keep the remaining beans in and add some vegetables and meat for a chili at dinner. Voila! Two for one deal. And there might be some for tomorrow because some kid won’t eat them. Don’t worry about him. Give him some bread and cheese.

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The options are endless but here are my favorites: black beans, pinto beans, great northern beans, small red beans, white beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, red lentils, brown lentils, and split peas. You can also blend these into a refried bean dish or make a hummus.

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Bonus Tip: You folks deserve a treat. Popcorn. This stuff is so cheap and great. Pop it up. Salt and pepper it up. You don’t have butter you say? That’s okay, try coconut oil or olive oil. You don’t have any fat around? That’s okay. Now it’s that expensive low-fat store brand. Sprinkle it with parmesan, seasoning salt, just whatever you like. Want it sweet? Do you got brown sugar and butter? Make a toffee. More sweet? Got chocolate, melt it. Pop this stuff up and put it in a paper bag for a handy snack on the road with those darn eggs. Every time I get our popcorn popper popping, it’s like a party around here. Popcorn confetti shooting left and right.

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Now that we have tightened our belts a bit and our pockets are full, maybe momma can buy some shiny, new boots? What do you say, baby?

p.s. New soap curing. It smells so delicious! Sweet Cardamom Kiss, listed on etsy but will not ship until early November until fully cured.

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Enjoy your weekend!

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Apple Plum; Pigeon Gun

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When we were looking for a farm property four years ago, apple trees were a huge selling point. We had planted a few apple trees on our little lot in the city and dreamed of when they would produce fruit. We almost bought a property just because it had apple trees. I am glad we kept looking. I can now see how much we were aching for country life.

Another sign that we needed to get some land involved pigeons. The children and I witnessed a pigeon get run over right in front of our old city house in broad daylight. The poor thing didn’t even make a sound. We clearly needed to act. We scooped the little guy up with some towels and put him in a cardboard box. I called the DNR and some other animal care centers to see what we should do. They had nothing for me. Shocked at the lack of proper animal care in the world, we took him into our covered porch. I know, I was acting kind of silly, but we would see these poor guys warming all winter by chimney tops like hobos at a burn barrel. We needed to do what we could which wasn’t much. Just a place to rest and eat.

Once we felt it was time for our little bird guy to go back to the life of hard-knocks, we released him onto our small front yard. He jetted into a big bush, and we felt we had done our humane duty. Yeah, unfortunately the irredescent green/blue guy didn’t fly off.

A child of ours went to check on him later that night only to see a flurry of pigeon feathers and a stray dog strutting the street like a big, fat bully! We felt so much injustice and we were clearly on the justice league for helping out those feathered pigeon friends.

Ironically, fast forward like two months. We are researching how to get rid of a certain kind of pest. The pigeons are congregating on our roof. The neighbors that park on the side of our house started to complain about pigeon poop. My husband and another friendly neighbor sealed off any spots that were an opening for them into our attic.

The pigeons still perched. We began to consider a costly apparatus that would deter them from our high roof top. Perhaps a poke in the derriere? Or an owlish eye thingy? But first we needed to try a cheaper route, a homesteader’s route, if you will? A husband with a pellet gun route.

Frank, similar to the pigeon we found in the road, had always been a city dweller but had some pretty good country folk roots from his mother’s side, as I am sure the pigeon had as well. To avoid suspicion, he would wake up extra early with the pellet gun hid along his leg and head out onto our side lot to pluck those pigeons down.

I had completely turned my alliances and felt so relieved when I heard them from the inside of our house hit the pavement outside. I know you are thinking there is no way I could have heard them, but I did. Ka thump! I would be enjoying my morning coffee. Ka thump! Is that Mozart, I hear? I also considered how we would never go hungry with all those big breasted pigeons. See my country folk roots were beginning to emerge as well. Rest assured we never went hungry, at least not enough to eat pigeon meat, thus far that is.

We were a little concerned with city ordinances and all, but the internet did not offer any definitive answer and everyone we talked with agreed it was worth a shot. If we wrong, ignorance was bliss. The whole neighborhood was really quite pleased, and most likely quite amused, with our shenanigan done in neighborly civility. Even the neighbor who was on the city council and parked along the side of our house, seemed more than fine with changing our neighborhood into a mob. Everyone was happy, except for the guy with the next tallest roof a few houses down. He can borrow our pellet gun if he likes.

I grew concerned that this thing had gone too far when my husband was spotted very early one morning by a passing college kid with his gun pinned along his side. I could not believe there wasn’t a visit from the police to follow. Oddly, we did get a visit from the police many months later for a complaint that a man, and they incorrectly ascertained that perhaps that man was my husband, had urinated along the side of our house. It was the same side as the pigeons did their thing on, which is curious. I can attest under oath to the fact that my husband never had a desire to pee outdoors while living in the city. Perhaps it was a mix-up with the nature of the complaint? Or, the neighbor who got all of our pigeons on his roof had perhaps added his urination to the stoolie pigeon mix in retaliation. Most likely it was just a drunk college kid.

Nevertheless, one thing was for sure, we had turned solid redneck and should evacuate the city as soon as possible.

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Follow-up: Certain males may, or may not, occasionally feel the desire to tinkle outside here in the country while out frolicking vast meadows with birds humming about and the deer nibbling on the fallen, crisp apples. And that is completely, and totally, and absolutely, different from wee-weeing outside in the city. And that goes for pigeons, too!

Happy Apples!

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He Learned to Fly

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Change can be hard and change can be welcome. Sometimes it’s both. I sent my sweet baby boy off to school for the first time this year. Hello, tears.

It’s not your typical story of a cute five-year-old toting a Transformer lunch box in a cute new matching outfit. It’s not that this day could not have happened sooner or that I didn’t consider it happening sooner along the way.  It just never happened. It would have felt strange for it to have happened sooner. Homeschooling came natural to me like nursing a baby.

Just so you know, wrangling kids and telling them what to do is not my idea of a fun time. Some days were pure mayhem. Some were mediocre. And some were the ideal packed with meaningful conversations, quiet breakthroughs, and passions ignited. We could eat second breakfasts and wear pajamas, to boot!

I didn’t think about him reaching the age of eighteen before stepping into an actual brick and mortar school, and a college at that, but that’s what happened. Time just flew. And, If you wait this long, they can drive themselves there and pay for their own lunch. Bonus!

It has been my pleasure to have had him home with me these eighteen years and we already reminisce about our quiet afternoons reading Tolkien and Lewis together for the first time when he was elementary age. But now it is time. Time that he should seek his fortune, slay his dragon, and perhaps, find his true love? One thing is for certain, his heart is in our little Hobbiton.  And he will find his way back.

Now that he is a man, I need not fret if he gets hurt and needs a hug, or breaks down and needs a milk and cookie break. I need not worry that what he says is not heard, or that his hard effort is not praised.  I have praised him so many times. I need not miss how cute he was playing knights with his younger brother, wearing blanket capes with butter knife swords, and building a great fortress made of sheets and school books. Because some days that was all books were good for. I need not miss his childhood presence when I would bring a new baby home, the cattle got loose, or we would hear sad, hard news and we all needed each other.

Of course, I still worry, but I know he’s fineI have seen him grow every hour, every day, from baby to man, and in such a smooth and natural manner. He can chop a cord of wood while smiling, milk a cow without her noticing, change a tire, and write a sharp essay. He can make a crying baby laugh and knows when a woman just needs a hug. He is armored with the strength that is forged in familial love. He is kind to others even when he disagrees wholeheartedly. He knows his purpose, importance, and has an opinion. He has a hungry intellect and a clear path to follow. He is strong in his faith yet humble in his soul.

I don’t mean to say he is in anyway perfect, or that I have done an excellent job as his mother. Hardly, so. I could elaborate on those two points quite extensively. It is just that the job and duty of mothering is one where you do not get to step back and reflect much. It seems you are always swimming and the end is never in sight. You get these moments on the mountain top and you see that the path you went down was guided but that you have to get back down there on the battlefield. So the story continues.

Now, I feel my mothering work has changed. Not at all finished but different. That now, as mother, I am more support and advice, more adult-to-adult, and less the laundress, cook, and nurse. I am more, let’s sit and share a cup of french pressed coffee, talk philosophy, music, and discuss each other’s day. I am less, let me pack your gym bag for the day, where’s your homework, and here’s a pb&j. I can feel where now my care could be a hindrance, a crutch.

A friend explained an analogy about raising children that resonated with me. She likened children to compression springs. If you let go of the spring too fast, they will shoot off. If you hold them back too long, they will lose their tension. But if you let go steadily, they can maintain their buoyancy.

Knowing when and how to let go, I believe, is in the grace of parenting and is particular to each family. Homeschooling came natural to us, at least as of this day. For grace seems to come as you need it and goes where you will follow it. So no judgments if you choose otherwise. I am sure you are on the right path simply because that is your intention. Love is the rubric here, not fearful judgments or cookie cutter answers. That is how I think this parenting thing works.

And that love makes the hurting part of change turn its bitter to sweetness.

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Things Keep Falling Apart

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My poor husband has an extensive honey-do list. I do try to wait for the most opportune time to, “Honey? Can you? Do you? Think you? Could….?” Things just keep falling apart. <shoulders down> <get that chin up>

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We usually like to give things a good week or so to give them time to settle into a state of brokenness and to proclaim their changed status from functional to “are-you-ready-take-a crash-course-to-figure-out-how-I-work?” At that point we like to seriously consider if it is something we really need and should therefore fix. The absolute last resort is to replace. A microwave and toaster did not meet that last requirement.

Generally, a week is enough time for true brokenness to become established. Though some things tend to fluctuate. If you’re an optimist, like we are, you will give things ample chances to just fix themselves. I think it’s a bureaucratic thing.  The “doey” item is forwarded from department to department.  And only once its status is made “officially broken,” it is added to our list.

This list of ours is a sort of floating, jumping thing that travels willy-nilly around our house. I am not sure if everyone has one like this? It just came along with our marriage. Anyways, some tasks are able to catch the wispy in a tizzy thing as it travels haphazardly around the house. For instance, remembering to get coffee. Coffee almost always manages to get on the list when it’s almost gone. Other tasks can just fall flat on their face never to be heard of again. Like, I’ll tell the list, “Okay, I need to call the doctor about a toothache.” And then the whole day will go by only to be reminded to call the dentist when they are closed! This can go on a long time despite my discomfort.

It can be difficult and slippery to hitch a spot on the Do This Thing Express. Though sometimes tasks adhere really well and then there is no end to it staying aboard. This is especially true if it’s riding coach. They do tend to get really uppity when that happens. Nonetheless, the list seems to work well enough. Why, it helped us get where we are today.

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The list has glitches, quirks, and a temper, but overall its intentions are good. Sometimes it pretends to just have a few helpful suggestions only to turn on you the next minute and issue some arrogant decree with deadlines, added expenses, and a new slew of broken things to fix. But some days it follows you around to the hardware store and grocery store and throws in some pointers in a nice and polite fashion.

We prefer to hold off just a tad from its direct orders, so the list doesn’t think it has total domination over our jollity, frolicky, “Here we go round the mulberry bush,” lives. In rebellion, the list will go all anarchist on us and lists things upside down so we remember to purchase ice cream and forget toilet paper. Not very funny but we laugh along.

Sometimes the house likes to place little jokes on the list when it gets snippy and will fix things all by itself. We seriously have had this happen more than you’d think. We do a lot of praying when things break too, way before forking any cash over and taking orders from ruley lists!

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Today, that prodding list made me feel like pulling my hair out. Isn’t that a strange sensation to feel. Probably the list put hair pulling on there for fun. It was just the clothes dryer and nothing life threatening you mean ta doey.

I do like our dryer machine. It is a fancy front loader and it matches our washing machine and that makes me feel cool. I have been hanging our laundry outside for at least a month now while my husband tries new things to poke at it to make it work. We are usually waiting for some forlorn piece to come from China, or some tool that got lost in the tumultuous outpouring that is our laundry. It just keeps being broken and the clothes don’t mind at all. They just keep marching in.

But we don’t give up. We never give up! We are a sorry case for perseverance. We just work around it until it works again, and then we feel so happy it works again. This really is a fun thing. I suggest trying it with hot water. Try one month without hot water in the winter then take a hot bath. Amazing! And dishes, wow! Dishes are great!

For now we have sunshine and and a four row clothes line. And, I don’t want to, but I will, hang lines all over the house come winter. But, to be honest, the hanging laundry thing isn’t going so well. I get the clothes washed and then I send out the girls to hang them. They do pretty good. Pretty good, not complaining. Then when I call them dry (it’s a laundry game I made up), they take them off and put up some more. Sometimes I call it dry the next day. Sometimes I forget I am playing a laundry game. It’s a pretty simple and forgiving game. But sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night to thunder and rain, and sigh. Sometimes it rains for days, and sigh. There is nothing to do but let them dry out there and let the dirty ones ruminate. I guess I lost that time. We had a huge oak tree fall over in a storm this summer, but those trusty clothespins kept our cloth diapers a hanging safely on the line. I got extra points for that one.

I do also wonder what the neighbors think of our laundry game.

And, sigh.

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I am kind of concerned how our clothes will be once the dryer is fixed. This method of washing and drying is hard on clothes. As I was folding clothes today, I noticed my eighteen year old son’s jeans were akin to sandpaper. I’d say, 220 grit. And sometimes the clothes are really not that dry when the girls take them down. I guess I called it too early. Little confession here, it takes me about a week to get to folding clothes and by that time smells can develop. Then it’s back to the dark abyss you stinky shirt. We keep the lights off during this time in our laundry room for dramatic affect. Okay, fine, it’s broken too.

It’s probably best not to wash things unless they are super dirty at this point. I have thrown the cloth on cloth diapering, and that’s been pretty nice. I consider it my mom vacation. If you want to try this, you just think I’m on vacation. Maybe say it three times, then get some disposable diapers and paper plates. It’s been a nice vacation from cloth diapers and from dishes. And a nice vacation from laundry, and a vacation from laundry….wait there is no such thing as a vacation from laundry in my life.

Those monstrous loathsome loads have begun to rear their natural and synthetic fibrous heads. Imagine how haggard my husband will look in his hot sauce graphic tees and sunken bottom pants. How our small children will be shirtless and sockless. How we will all wear winter clothes in summertime and it will always be winter. Then the nauseating pit will send forth its drake and henchmen for me whilst beating a horrid, putrid drum with an accompaniment of chant in cresendo:

“I don’t have any clothes.”

“Where’s a towel?”

“I need underwear.”

“I smell.”

“You smell.”

I will change all their clothing to sandpaper. Their towels, an exfoliation rub from a fine spa. Their shirts will smell of morning dew and their sheets of summer thunderstorms.

Go to the laundromat, you say? Never!

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Five Coping Methods for a New Home Schooling Mother

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You want to home school but you don’t want a crazy house and you would still like a life? I can’t help you with those last two things, but I do think you can home school. And what’s a house that is not lived in or a life that is not lived?

This is my life, and this year marks the thirteenth year of homeschooling for me. And, if you do the math (I had to do the math) do you know what that means? I had my first graduation last spring! One done, only six more to go! Oh boy…

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Homeschooling has always been a year to year thing for my husband and I, but one that we have always felt called to every year. I usually get so burnt-out and terribly distracted by the end of each school year only to get re-energized right before the beginning of the next school year. It is always so much fun to think about work versus doing it. I am by no means an expert on education, or really even home-education, for that matter. I am about as much an expert at home schooling as I am at giving birth. What I have to offer may still be helpful to the homeschooling novice or initiate. My expertise is simple, it’s experience.

These are five little things that I have learned and a few suggestions for you if you prefer to learn from others and not make your own mistakes. If not, carry on making your own mistakes; this is how I usually learn, too. I think schooling at home is just a matter of life-learning, so there is no right or wrong way, just what works best for you and your family. I like to include myself in the learning part too. This year I am starting violin with my children. For some reason my fifteen year old son thinks this is cringe? He’ll see how cool it is once we play some awesome duets. He has been playing since age seven, so he’ll help me sound better.

Five Coping Methods for Home Schooling with some amount of Success and Joy:

ONE – The first day is going to be stressful, and for that matter the first week. Make your first day an “orientation day. Or more generally, start out slow.  Don’t feel bad about pace, at least not right away.” Let the kids try out that fancy watercolor set or break into making a robot. The transition from a mind-numbing, loosely scheduled summer can be harsh for you, never mind the kids, make it fun and maybe make it a half day.

Most people start homeschooling with just a kindergartner and gradually add the younger children as they come. This gives you lots of time to adjust to your new lifestyle until it normalizes. Over time we have become a family that learns together at home. That is what normal family life is for us. If you are starting with small children, you will have plenty of time to plan for educating your prospecting engineer in Calculus, even if you never took it yourself, or involving them in this sport and that. Both technology and the culture around home schooling are advancing fast, and most likely, by the time you get there, things will have continued to improve for the home schooled.

One area I have seen really advance is technology. The internet has really opened up areas for discussions and endless resources at a touch of a finger. Imagine what will come next. I imagine all school will utilize the specialization technology can offer to an individual education. If you are jumping into home schooling with a high schooler, you will be amazed what types of skills your budding adult has when given more input and control over their own education.

So don’t let your first day, week, month, freak you out! Some people prefer to school year round and therefore avoid the sudden disruption of a flurry of new books and lesson plans, lunch and laundry, the baby crying then screaming, phone calls and the household mess that comes with a good day of homeschooling. Am I stressing you out? That’s what first days can feel like.

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TWO – Use a schedule that works according to your family and its own natural rhythm. Trying to get everyone going at the crack of dawn or to alarms is not necessary unless that is the way you do things. I have tried to go against the grain of our natural routines and found that we don’t get more done, we are just more tired! I love quiet mornings and well rested kids, so I let the younger kids sleep until they naturally wake up. As long as they went to sleep when they should have, they wake up at a good starting time and I get some mommy time. Older kids usually wake up accordingly as the younger, but they may need some help if the morning gets too late for me. Sleep is so necessary for good brain development. So take advantage of the freedom to use what works best for you even if it is unconventional.

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THREE – Change things up and go back too. Dynamics will change within your family and it is so easy to think if something worked for one kid it will work for another. You can fall in love with something so much that you will miss something better.

Example 1: I loved Saxon math for the first 6-7 years of home schooling until I fell for Teaching Textbooks. Recently, my eight year old son was literally hitting his head against the dining room table last year with Teaching Textbooks, seriously hitting his head. We went back to Saxon just for him and what do you know, no more head hitting.

Example 2 and 3: I now have three girls that love art, so I added more art to our day this year after almost abandoning it for years because my two older boys dreaded it. Duh! I forgot about art as a subject because of that. I also went back to a classical education for my high schoolers after leaving it since their elementary years.

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Home schooling is always changing and growing that new things are opening up for us all the time. I am sure this has to do with all those home educators naturally wanted the best education for their children and in a convenient and approachable manner.

Keep checking into your local sphere for ways they can help you educate your children, like your school district, charter schools, home school groups, 4-h groups, colleges, tech schools, libraries, art and recreation centers. These facilities can help flesh out where you may be lacking.

However, be careful not to add so much that you forget why it is you are doing what you are doing. It can be easy to add and add, but then implementing becomes hard on you and the family. Some things are worth the sacrifice and some things are nothing but a headache for everyone. For me, I feel I homeschool best when I have an open day schedule. That way when life happens we can work around it without a huge disruption.

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FOUR – Listen to your kids, and listen to yourself. This seems like a no-brainer, but listening to your kids, and yourself (and husband), is a balance act. Sometimes, you know in your heart what is best for your kids and you have to put your foot down. My husband and I try to make important decisions together, and if it has both of our blessings, we almost consider it sacrosanct.

At the same time, we try to listen to our kids and act on their desires as much as possible. Family life is complicated and finding creative ways to keep everyone stimulated educationally takes paying attention to the growth and development of your kids, all the while, honing into what your priorities are for that to take place effectively. Staying the course on things you feel strongly about is important, but changing the course may be necessary to not sink the boat.

believe all kids love to learn and have gifts to cultivate. Find those, listen for those, and adapt a plan that feeds it, but keep to your vision of why you are choosing to home school in the first place.

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FIVE – Chill out and get to work. Kids are so forgiving and I think it is important to remember that they are ultimately in charge of their education. You can rest assured that they are still learning even if you had a bad teaching day, month, or year for that matter.

Probably the biggest part is getting, or simply letting, their creative mind motor run. Engaging in a good dialogue where you value their input works well. If you can get excited by what they find exciting it can be really helpful to instilling confidence in your budding scholar. Experiencing their education with them will help you encourage their learning. That may be all education really takes. Nevertheless, once you get to that point, you naturally want to help them along their merry way through a planned route or freestyle route curriculum that fosters it.

Combining subjects for multiple children is a big secret to success as well. If the content is interesting everyone is going to want to join in. Every time I start reading storybooks, old and young alike start to listen. But seniors do not get credit for “The Giraffe that Walked to Paris.” Maybe have them read it to the little kids. That way they will not be called for listening to a child’s book and you can go make a pot of tea.

Investing in their early education is key to tuning the motor and helping it to be strong enough to run without your assistance. It is like a weaning process or learning to ride a bike. They start out by learning on your lap, then snuggled by your side, then across the room, and then they are off telling you about things you didn’t know.

They will find new roads, they will probably go down roads beyond your vehicle’s capabilities or desires. Maybe they will hate driving roads and choose to fly, maybe they will develop laser portals and beam you up into outerspace for an afternoon Milky Way Coffee at My Momma Homeschooled Me Cafe and I Thank Her for It.

Our work is to facilitate the running of their amazing mind engines and then to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Enjoy your year!

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