Tag Archives: money

Budgeting in the Homeschool

Budgeting in the Homeschool

Budgeting.

It is a word that many people fear.

We shouldn’t though. We should try to embrace it and think of it as freedom rather than submission to a number or slavery to a given amount.

I thought I would share a little bit about out budgeting because it directly impacts our education. And, just as a side note, we have one income. No additional income sources. Budgeting is the reason this is not a problem.

We work from a combination of a zero line budget and an income based budget. We start with the lowest amount possible that will be received as income. We deduct all possible spending, including giving at church, insurance, savings, and all utility/house bills. That leaves us with what lots of people call “disposable income.” This is where we move to a zero line budget.

I don’t know the real name of it but this is what we call it. We assume that we will spend $0. Nothing. From there, if we do need to spend something. We look at the checkbook to see if there is money there for it. We write everything down in the checkbook. Just as if we were writing checks rather than using online bill payments or debit/credit cards. We try not to spend money. It is simple as that.

How this impacts our education  is really quite simple. If we need money for something, we spend it. But, since we are working from “only spend what you have” rather than “how much can I spend” or “I have budgeted $550 for curriculum”, I can purchase what we need for unit or a book that will help us out. Honestly, I don’t know what I spent on homeschool needs last school year because it was what we needed. It was not an outrageous amount. It probably was not even $550. But, it benefitted the girls by giving them what they needed to learn what they were interested in.

Education does not have to be a big budget item. Regardless of how it is painted in the world, it does not require tons of money to teach your children what they need to be successful in life. Sure, it is a joy to be able to just go out and purchase whatever big money item you might want like a telescope for astronomy or a microscope for biology. It would be nice to be able to travel the world. Those are definitely things to shoot for and plan for (see the savings comment made in passing above – that is what that savings is for!) but education is about life.

If you are looking for a more specific post about how to lower your costs for education, check out my post on 10 of Our Favorite Ways to Save Money Homeschooling. You could also read about Teacher Discounts.

At Home.

This post is part of a round-up of budgeting ideas for the homeschool, brought to you by the TOS Review Crew. Click below to see what other budgeting ideas we have for you. (post is live on Friday, August 5, 2016)

Homeschool Budgeting 101

10 Of Our Favorite Ways to Save Money Homeschooling- July Blogging Challenge

The blogging challenge word for today is simply 10. So, I thought I would combine it with something I have been thinking about – ways we homeschool on the “cheap.” I use the word cheap loosely because people define it differently. Some people use that word saying things like “I only spend $600 per child each year.” For me, it is more like “If I spend $600 on homeschooling this year, we better be taking a nice vacation with homeschool opportunities built in.” This brings us right to my #1 favorite way to save money while homeschooling.

10 ways to save money

#1

Make your learning a part of your life. Don’t separate learning from your every day activities. A trip to the grocery store is a major learning opportunity – health, math, science, and more. Going to the bank? Teach your kids how to fill out the deposit slip. Going on vacation? Look to see what is around where you are headed and make a book of free printables you find on the web that relate to those places for the kids to complete. Learn to navigate with street signs or give directions while on errands. The possibilities are endless.

#2

Use the web to your advantage and find free printables. When we were going on a visit to my parents, we were going to stop by Carlsbad Caverns and go to White Sands. Both are in the desert so I used free printables to create a notebook for the girls to complete. That post is titled Vacation Books and I included links to many of the places I got printables from.

#3

Field trips are a wonderful way to put knowledge to use or to get an experience prior to a unit study. There are tons of places that are free. Around here, we have several large parks that are great for nature study and observation. We also have a wetlands area that clean the water from a river naturally before it goes into the lake we get our drinking water from. There is a botanical garden. Our local university has an art exhibit area that is free and we have an art center at the community college that also has free exhibits. We also have a wonderful museum that we have a membership to and a great zoo where we have a membership. Don’t forget to think about local, state, and national parks. Many of these places also have a junior ranger program with a booklet for the kids to learn from and this program has been free every time our girls have participated.

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#4

Ask for memberships as a family gift for Christmas or birthdays. We have been wonderfully gifted our museum and zoo memberships at Christmas for the last few years. We have gotten so much use out of those memberships!

#5

Camp experiences are another fantastic hands-on learning opportunity. Whether it is art camp, Bible camp, dance camp or any other. Again these could be birthday gifts or just an investment. Regardless, they are instruction that is hands-on and provides learning opportunities.

#6

This one could be included in field trips but it really deserves its own focus. We live where we have several high schools, a community college, a university, a professional orchestra, and a community band. We have a lot of opportunities to take the girls to musical performances without it costing us a penny. We have heard a lot of great music, as well as some more specialty performances like handbells and violin soloists. We also have been able to go to some performances for cheap, such a musicals or professional musicians. So much can be drawn from these experiences. If you don’t have access to live performances, there are a lot of web resources.

#7

Watch the sales. This is time of year to watch the sales flyers from places like Office Max and Target. Of course, Walmart and grocery stores have plenty of sales, as well. We are getting pencil pouches, erasers, and pencil sharpeners this week for a penny a piece. Know what you need and don’t stock up too much on things that can dry out (like clay or markers). Do stock up on things like paper, pencils, crayons, and glue. We will be watching for construction paper, glue sticks, and tape. Those are our big needs this summer.

chess game

#8

Play games. You don’t need much to play games and most families have a lot of games in their home already. Chess has been a fantastic addition to our family game playing. It teaches so much about strategy and planning. All games teach sportsmanship, following rules, and patience. Many of them also teach teamwork. There are plenty that have math components, science thinking, or historical recall required. Games such as Connect Four, Don’t Break the Ice, and Jenga  are fun and require logic.  Monopoly – The Classic Editionworks on math a bit while teaching planning and economics on a small scale.

#9

Jump back on the internet. Hit up Pinterest and YouTube. These are free to access and there is tons of information and projects you can find. Don’t have a CD on Medieval Dance Music? YouTube has it. Need a vocal piece of Civil War songs? Someone has pinned one on Pinterest. I use Pinterest to pin things that I publish here but I also use it so that as I am planning a unit or book study, I can find ideas that I think would be good. Feel free to check out and follow my Pinterest page.

#10

Your library. I saved this one for the end for a reason. If you have nothing else in this list, you can still accomplish a lot. Your library is an excellent resource. Whether you have a mobile library or live in a town with multiple branches, they can help you find resources to fit whatever you are studying. We visit the library every week and we check out a minimum or 20 books and videos each time. The girls read like crazy and we use the library to find books to supplement what our studies include. For example, right now, each time we go the girls check out a book on Ancient Egypt to complement our Homeschool In The Woods study/review that is coming up in the next couple of weeks. The library has a summer reading program, book clubs, Lego clubs, story hour, family nights, and so much more. There is something for everyone and it is all free. Use your library!

I hope you got some ideas for reducing your budget for home education. We don’t homeschool for nothing but we do take advantage of a lot of the resources that we have available in our community.

At Home.

Linking up at A Glimpse of Our Life and This Day Has Great Potential for the July Blogging Challenge.

This post includes some affiliate links. A purchase through an affiliate link may provide a small bit of income for our family.

Orphs of the Woodlands – a TOS review

Have you ever wished that your child’s favorite thing could be used to teach them their least favorite things? Well, get a taste of it with Orphs of the Woodlands. This is an online education resource and game that combines reading with experiencing hundreds of tidbits of knowledge.
Star Toaster introduced their first book in the Orphs of the Woodlands series not too long ago. It is titled The Treasure of HighTower and our family was thrilled to get the chance to review it.

TOS review

The Treasure of HighTower did not disappoint. Star Toaster has created a story line about a squirrel, whom your child gets to name, that becomes a spy and helps to rescue orphaned forest creatures. The story is so exciting, so full of adventure, that the girls had a hard time not reading all the way through it in pretty quick succession. They wanted to just keep reading. But, if they did that, they were going to miss an important and exciting part of the program.

As the story goes along, Spy (what we’ll call the squirrel for the time being) runs into orphans, or orphs, that need help. If Spy doesn’t learn what is put before him in his day to day life, he won’t have the money to provide the help these orphs need. So, Spy must learn and pay attention and do the jobs in order to earn money and rescue the orphs. The more NID (New Information Daily) that is learned, the better Spy does on his jobs and the more money he has to rescue and provide for the orphs.

experiencing lessons

 

Now, don’t misunderstand. These are fun jobs! I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in charge of creating the exact color of paint needed for the HighTower Highbrow Museum of Art? Or what about being a number namer for the bank? Letter Linguist? Synonym Specialist? Maybe you want to bake something for the Badger Bakery? Whatever you want to try out, there is a job for you!

How do you get these jobs? Begin reading the book at the beginning. After each chapter is completed, there are new jobs that you can work. Each job completed correctly will pay gold stars, with which you can take care of the orphs. Do a good job and more orphs will come to be taken care of. The girls loved seeing how many orphs appeared at the end of each chapter.

discovering moreI want to share a couple of thoughts about the product. I am impressed with this product. It has done a wonderful job of exposing the girls to about 240 different aspects of learning. (This is how many jobs were completed by E when she had finished the book.) Some of the jobs reappear with a bit more difficult learning tucked in there but I don’t consider the girls to have gotten significant instruction on most of these topics. They were definitely exposed to them and it opened up a world of ideas to the girls, which is fantastic. (We took several “rabbit trails” to explore some of these worlds of ideas based on the information presented.) This does in no way diminish the quality or worth of this program. The more exposure the girls have with more difficult concepts in a familiar context, the easier those concepts are for them to learn.

Reading is the bridge for this program. You definitely need to have a good reader with good comprehension for this program. The range for this program is suggested 4th – 7th grades. I think this is a good range but it could easily stretch younger or older. My 3rd grader was easily able to read it but she loves to read. There are lots of words she didn’t know but there are rollovers embedded in the story that give the part of speech and several synonyms in varying degrees of difficulty for the word. There are also rollovers for quotes and ideas that are shared as part of the story, exposing the reader to thoughts of great thinkers from all walks of life.

quote and vocabulary

Because this is an online program you will need to purchase a subscription for the book and you will need a computer to read and complete the jobs. I hope everyone has easy access to a computer because this was worth the time and effort. The girls learned so much and I have a much better idea about some of the curriculum choices we need to make for them because I saw how much they enjoyed learning that was embedded in reading a story.

As I close this review, I want to share one more thing that we absolutely loved about Orphs. Throughout the book, there are videos. Prof. Forp is the instructor and he is hilarious! He cracks jokes that help them remember information and repeats things in such a way that they are remembered AND make sense. You can see an example of his video on the Star Toaster home page. The girls, E especially, really enjoyed the Professor.  And I loved the jokes. This is one I can wholeheartedly say “Go check out.”

free trial

We are waiting anxiously for the next book to come out in the Orphs of the Woodlands series by Star Toaster. If this sounds interesting to you, they have a free trial that you should check out. (Psst – this would also be a fantastic addition to a summer reading program.)

At Home.

 

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Star Toaster ReviewCrew Disclaimer

A Review – LearningPalette.com

LearningPalette title

Are you familiar with Learning Wrap ups? This is a company that created a unique product years ago to help students learn concepts in any area, from math facts to vocabulary words to music theory to Spanish and more. The product is a plastic card, shaped somewhat like a key with a string attached to it. The student uses the string to connect two things that match or the problem to the answer. The student can then turn it over and self-check the answers. This is a fantastic product and we use a number of these in our home.

Learning Wrap-Ups Review

So, when it was announced that Learning Wrap Ups had created a new product, the Learning Palette, and they would be offering an online version so we could have access to all levels of it, we were really excited. We were selected to review LearningPalette.com and the girls were very excited. Jumping up and down excited.

LearningPalette.com is marketed for users in kindergarten up through 5th grade, though the younger end of this group (especially non-readers) will need a significant amount of adult help since there is no audio for instructions. It is a full online family subscription for all levels of reading and math palettes, for up to 5 users, for a full year. The cost of this subscription is $59.99 for the year.

LearningPalette.com works like this. Go to their website and login. The student then chooses if they are going to work on math or reading. From there, the student chooses the level they are going to work on and the card that comes next in their series. Then, click load! and off they go.

The student matches the problem or question from the center of the palette to the correct color marker. The student then moves that color marker to the corresponding answer. For example, using the picture below, the student would determine that 8+7=15 and that problem has a solid red circle next to it. The student would then locate the solid red circle on the left, click it to move it and click it again in the circle next to 15 to drop it there.

palette example

This was easy for the oldest giggly girl, at age 10, to understand and use. It was much more difficult however for the middle giggly girl, at age 8, to use. The youngest giggly girl, at age 5, could not do it without a parent sitting right there helping her know which problem she was working on and helping her check which marker she was using for which answer. Additionally, the instructions are often difficult for the student to see and understand so a parent will need to be close by to help the student know what she is supposed to do on each card.

using palette

The girls were really excited to use LearningPalette.com at the beginning. In fact, I was going to ask not to be put on the review until the oldest giggly girl saw the sample. When she saw it, she got very excited and worked with the sample for a long time, just for fun. All three of the girls were excited to use it for a while. However, the enjoyment of it quickly wore off, especially if it was not a review card they were working on. If the card contained information that was not simple for them, it was not an enjoyable activity for anyone. By the end, the product was one that no one wanted to use anymore.

The concept for LearningPalette.com is a good one, in my opinion. I think what is missing is the ease of use. It takes work, even for me as an adult, to make sure that I am choosing the correct marker for the correct problem and putting it in the correct answer. That work is not “do I have the right answer?” or “do I know how to do this problem?” The work is simply “do I have the right color?” , “is it supposed to be solid or have a hole in the middle?”, and “did I put it in the right place?” That makes it not so much fun.

Another frustration that we encountered over and over was the program marking the answer wrong when it was right. This happened on a number of cards in both the math and reading sections of the program. When the card was redone, with the same answers, it might mark it correct that time. There was no way of knowing if you were going to get marked one way or another and the girls began asking if everything was actually right, even when there were checks on each of the problems to indicate it was correct.

This is a program that might work better for us if we focused on using it only for “fun time” and “reinforcement”.  In my opinion, it does not work as an instructional program but rather as a practice program. We will continue to use it sporadically as a game and something fun to use to do review on concepts the giggly girls already know.

If you are looking for an online program, I encourage you to head over to LearningPalette.com and sign up for their demo. See if it is a good fit for your family. Learning Wrap ups is currently offering a coupon code for 20% off of the full price of $59.99 if you use the code HOMESCHOOL when you sign up for a year. That is a fantastic deal!

At Home.

 

Others on the Review Crew were given physical products to use and review. You can find reviews for the physical products, as well as others who used LearningPalette.com, by clicking on the banner below and visiting the Review Crew blog.

 

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Enterprise

The girls are on another tear with earning money. I try really hard not to interfere in these moments because they are full of ideas and energy and go-get-’em. They are doing something that I am too scared to do. They are trying out something new to see if it will produce income for them so that they can buy the things they want. I am in awe of how fearlessly they go at it.

A common theme to their enterprise is the bedroom sale. Never hear of it? Really? Think garage sale at the bedroom door. They choose things from their own rooms that they no longer want or need, price them (a few cents each, generally), and put them just outside their doors with price tags on them. Their sisters then come by and shop for things that they can use. This happens every few weeks. It is very fun to see and observe.

More interesting, though, has been the last couple of days. L has been making crowns for their bears. She added bracelets this morning. Each creation is unique and she really takes her time making these. They are special and fun. J and E are making necklaces and bracelets. Charms are being talked about by a couple of the girls.

E is talking about making some purses and crowns and charms out of felt or fabric. We talked last night about placing them in the Etsy shop that I have but has not been used a lot lately or posting them on the At Home Facebook page. This may be the start of true enterprise for her. I would love that! She sees possibility where I tend to see the possibility of failure. I love how brave she is and I am going to work on following her lead.

Currently, there  is a different form of enterprise going on and here is what it looks like:

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The girls are providing a service to each other’s animals this morning. They are having storytime. Each girl has at least one animal from a sister and is reading to them, having discussions, and teaching them. I LOVE THIS!!! Makes my heart sing.

What a way to pass a summer morning – reading, helping each other out, and making a few cents. All is cheerful and happy today. At Home.

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