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Shannon Enos is a wife, recovering Pinterest addict, and homeschooling mom of two young girls. Her hobbies include analyzing music with her husband, pretending she’s going to finish that crocheting project she started 4 years ago, and making lists of things she has already completed just so she can cross them off. Shannon values truth, education, the arts, open minds, humor, and “Nashville" binges on Hulu. She believes that learning happens everywhere, whether you’re paying attention or not.

 

MWH blog april



It's All Learning

Ten Ways to Save Money as a Single Income Household

Definitely one of the most challenging aspects of being a full-time homeschooling parent is managing the ol' family budget. My husband recently changed careers after going back to school and earning his degree, which is terrific but it means starting all over toward the bottom of the pay scale. We are grateful he was able to find a good opportunity with benefits, but we still have to be very conscious of our spending and financial planning. I am pretty good at budgeting but that does not mean we don't have our frustrations, mistakes and utter defeats. But thanks to trial and error, we have discovered several ways to help control our budget. Drops in the bucket really do add up!

1. Meal plan and shop the circulars. Meal planning isn’t the most exciting way to spend twenty minutes, but it can save you a lot of money and time. It is so easy to just glance at your menu and see what’s for dinner rather than staring into the fridge, trying to figure it out. It can also save money by planning for nights when your time is more constrained. For example, if I know we have a soccer game at six, I make sure to plan a quick and easy meal for the kids, like mac and cheese or sandwiches. That way, I am not stuck with irritable, hangry kids in the car on the way home and feeling the pressure to stop for fast food to get something in their stomachs so I don’t kill them before they kill each other. Here is a great, free template for the meal planning chart that I use.

Shopping the circulars helps you focus your meals on the items that are on the best sale. So if pork chops are at a rock bottom price this week, I know I can make regular pork chops and I can even throw a couple in the crock pot for pulled pork sandwiches later (true BBQ aficionados are cringing right now at my suggestion of using chops for pulled pork). I can also stock up for the next couple weeks, too. It does require some sacrifice; if we have been dying for chicken breast and it is not on sale, we don’t buy it until it goes Buy One, Get One Free or some other decent sale. Looks like it is pasta again, family!

2. Use coupons. This one is obvious, but I have found that a lot of couponing ends up costing you time (from cutting out and organizing coupons) and money (from buying newspapers). My family often doesn’t use the vast majority of the coupons included in newspaper circulars, so we don’t bother with those anymore and instead use printable and online coupons. The three biggest coupon sources for that are Coupons.com, Smartsource, and Redplum. You can also find coupons on many large brand websites as well, and most grocery stores offer coupons that you can digitally load onto your loyalty card. Personally, I print my coupons from Mypoints.com (see #8 below) because for every coupon I redeem, I earn 10 points. I also use my grocery store’s coupons loaded to my loyalty card. I generally save between $10-$15 a week using these methods. I also shop at the local discount grocery store for as much as I can before heading to a traditional chain.

3. Buy/sell used. I can’t stress this enough. If you look around our house, you’ll see a bookcase we bought for $8 on a Facebook yard sale group, a higher end dresser bought at a consignment store for $79, another dresser we are repurposing as a buffet/microwave stand bought for $40 on Craigslist, a pile of clothes from large-scale consignment sales, and loads of games, toys, housewares and clothes from the thrift store. Both our cars were purchased used. There is no shame in our ‘new to us’ game because it enables us to have everything we need and we pay far less than most people we know. Some items might need a little sprucing up, others are in pristine shape (like the girls’ Janie and Jack striped dress we bought new with tags for $3 from the Goodwill), but an open mind and a little shopping patience have saved us so much. Likewise, we use Craigslist and yard sales (both in real life and online) to make a little money back, which we then use to buy more gently used items! There is no way I can tell you how much we have saved/earned over the years this way... thousands, easily. (Below: my girls playing Operation from the thrift store for $1.99 in front of our $8 online yard sale bookshelf.)

operation

4. Use rewards apps. I resisted these for a long time because it gives away the information of what you buy. I am pretty picky about privacy. But I decided that, being an educated consumer, I could deal with the evils of the ways that information could be used against me in the interest of making a few bucks for my family. There are several cash back rewards apps out there, but the two I use are Ibotta and Yaarlo. Ibotta works by loading cash back coupons on its app, then once you buy the items (and prove it by scanning the receipt and item barcode), it adds the reward into your account which can then be used to purchase a gift card or put into your Paypal or Venmo account. You can also invite friends to join you and earn extra bonuses for your team. I love Ibotta!

ibotta

Yaarlo is much easier but takes much longer to earn. With Yaarlo, you scan every receipt you get. It will give you a teeny tiny amount of cash per receipt. There are other ways to earn from them, but honestly I am just in it for the simple, straight forward stuff, so I stick to receipts. Maybe one day I will have the will to look at the other methods to increase my earnings. The nice thing about Yaarlo is that there is no catch and very little effort - you just scan and earn.

yaarlo

These apps aren’t life changing, but I am up to about $72.00 in earnings between them in about eight months’ time, and I don’t use either to their full advantages. I’m also not much of a shopper, so if you shop more than I do, you are likely to earn more.

5. Be smart about utilities. This is as old-fashioned as it gets, but it really goes to the heart of saving money: using less. Turn off water when you are not using it. Seriously, when I am cleaning up the dinner dishes, I turn the water on and off probably 15 times because if a dish isn’t under it, it goes off. The ring around our bathtub (which means, yes, I need to clean) goes less than halfway up the tub. Lights off unless necessary. If we’re hot, remove (some, not all) clothes. If we’re cold, add some. If we’re still cold (like I always am), grab a blanket. I’m not militant about it, but I try really hard to reduce my consumption of utilities. Helps the environment, too.

6. Consolidate errands. This one takes some planning, but if you can think ahead to what items you will need to purchase over the next several days and grab them all in one shopping center trip, you have just saved yourself gasoline, wear and tear on your car, significant time and helped reduce emissions into the air. Next time you need to run to Target, ask yourself, “what else is in that shopping center that I need something from?” and grab it while you are already there.

7. Fix and repair what you can. This is a gray area. Some things are best left to the experts, and certainly there comes a time when death is a non-negotiable for even your favorite items. But we try to fix anything reasonable before paying to replace it. We have repaired multiple vacuum cleaners, laptops, printers, electric pencil sharpeners, comforters, leggings, and knit tights in the last couple years, and saved us hundreds. Just give it a try before you declare it time for the garbage dump.

8. Use cash back/points websites for online shopping. You all know about Ebates, which I use with regularity. If you don’t, it is a website where you stop first, pick up a coupon (if one is available), and then let it redirect you to the online retailer you want to shop at in order to get a percentage back on your purchase. I even do this if I am heading to the store to pick up an item. Larger retailers let you purchase online (and you can use the websites like Ebates to get a percentage back), then pick up in store. Another great one is Shop At Home, which I actually prefer because I get overall better rebates from them, but you can be a member of both for free.

Another site is MyPoints.com, which I mentioned in #2 above. Mypoints has loads of ways to earn points, including online shopping, printing coupons, watching videos, signing up for sponsored emails, taking surveys, etc. You then exchange your points for gift cards. I have earned my kids free L.L. Bean backpacks, gift cards to give out for birthdays and free dinners at restaurants this way. I mainly use the coupon printing and reading the emails to earn points, but it is free and very easy.

9. Stop watching commercials. This one might sound silly, but hear me out. We are all suggestible creatures, to varying degrees. Children are especially suggestible. Friends have asked me why my kids don’t beg for every little toy, game or breakfast cereal when we go out, and I honestly believe it is because we restrict commercials. They don’t watch very much tv at all, but when they do, it is public television or a pre-recorded show with commercials eliminated. People have rolled their eyes at us, but I know this is why they don’t beg me for Spongebob Pop-Tarts when we go to the grocery store or for the latest talking rainbow-tressed stuffed unicorn when we need to go to Target. The power of suggestion is strong and even we adults are not immune. If you didn’t know the latest iPhone was out, would you really be so dissatisfied with your current model that you just HAD to have a new one? Advertising is a HUGE game, and if you don’t play, they don’t win... meaning you are more content and your wallet is fatter.

10. Put the brakes on the consumerism. Going along with #9, try to be less of a shopper. Don’t kill time by heading to the mall; head to a park instead. Don’t feel the need to go to that retailer’s website just because you got an email that they were having a sale. Try to be more minimalist. Go through your stuff and get rid of everything you are not using and have no connection to. You might be amazed at how much lighter and calmer you will feel. This will help you not want to fill that space with even more stuff. Make a list of things your family can do that are free, and consult that list before choosing an activity that costs money. Give gifts to your kids that allow them to experience something instead of having yet another video game or trinket. Reward yourself with time with a friend or loved one instead of a shopping spree. You’ll see space in your closet or house free up (allowing you to appreciate what you do have more easily) and you’ll see that number in your bank account go up (giving you enormous satisfaction). It’s true what they say: the best things in life are free, and you will feel freer as well by reducing your spending and increasing your happiness.

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Pinterest Review: Silk-Dyed Eggs

eggs

 

So in my bio, I say I was a former Pinterest addict. I am in recovery. There are several steps to the recovery process:

  1. Denial - refusing to admit you have a problem
  2. Reluctant Acceptance - the acknowledgement that not everything has to be served in a mason jar
  3. Separation Anxiety - withdrawal from Pinterest as you try to stay away
  4. Anger - how you feel when faced with the realization that you have to now clean your house instead of browsing ways to repurpose Starbucks cups
  5. Punishment - the insistence on serving your family cereal and mac & cheese for dinner to ‘“teach them a lesson” about how Pinterest was actually making their lives better (this is a step backward in the process)
  6. True Acceptance - usually occurs after your spouse catches you looking at Pinterest during your daughter’s ballet recital/soccer game (this is rock bottom)
  7. Maintenance - finding new and creative ways to live life without Pinterest
  8. Responsible Use (optional and risky) - when you dip your toe back into the Pinterest waters just to see if you can handle it

I actually got through these steps rather quickly and now use Pinterest very responsibly, if I say so myself. I actually graduated to the secret step nine in the process, which is harboring hostility and cynicism toward the ideas on Pinterest and desiring to try them just to see if you can make fun of them. This is one of those times.

You’ve seen those silk-dyed Easter eggs for a few years now, right? The idea is that you take patterned silk fabric and wrap them around eggs to make stunning, beautiful designs. I thought two things: either this would be a cool alternative to the standard dip-dyeing, or I would waste several hours and a bunch of money ruining otherwise perfectly edible eggs. I started by heading to the Goodwill store to see if I could find silk ties (they have to be 100% silk). I decided that if I could find ties, we would do it; if not, no biggie. I was surprised to see there were loads of options for us to choose from. We also found a random white cotton sheet thing that we needed. We paid a total of $4 for all the ties as well as the cotton fabric. Not too much damage so far.

I figured, “why not set myself up for the ultimate failure” and used the directions on Martha Stewart’s website. Step one - dismantle all the ties for their silk. I have to say, I felt a whole new level of mom guilt while cutting apart these ties. I felt bad for all the men who would go to the thrift store and not be able to find a navy and maroon paisley silk tie to match their suit. I felt bad for the garment worker who put so much effort into the construction of this tie. I felt guilty deconstructing something so fancy into its raw materials. (I can turn anything into mom guilt, it’s really ridiculous.)

ties

Anyway, I have to disclose that the taking apart of the ties is super tedious. It really is a job best done while sitting on the couch, listening to your favorite comedian doing a stand-up routine, which is exactly how I did it. I also used my gigantic coupon cutting scissors, which was not the best idea. You’d be better served to use a seam ripper or tiny manicure scissors. I am that girl who never has the right tools for the job; I’ve crushed graham cracker crumbs with a rock and have hammered in nails with a shoe heel. Whatever works. Anyway, I then cut the ties into several squarish or rectangularish shapes big enough to wrap around an egg.

silk

Next we had to decide whether to hard boil the eggs, which would require throwing them away after a time, or blow out center of the eggs, which would allow you to keep the eggs as decoration until you finally inevitably crush the shells from overhandling. We decided to blow out the center. This was a rather obnoxious and foolish choice. After several methods, I settled on one that required a syringe, which I happened to have because we refill our own printer ink cartridges (a process I highly recommend). After struggling for nearly a half hour with two eggs using the straw/mouth method, I switched to the syringe method which made the process go much faster. It only got better when my thoughtful husband put on Rush’s "Moving Pictures" album which took my mind off of how gross this process was. Total eggs destroyed: four.

egg

After rinsing the eggs inside and out and letting them dry, it’s time to wrap. First you wrap the silk as closely as possible to the egg, then wrap the cotton around that, then fasten with what you have (we used twist ties). I lectured my kids on how fragile the eggs were and how delicate this process was, then I proceeded to immediately crush one. You know, just for, uh, demonstration. After they are wrapped, they go into an enamel or glass pot, floofy side up. You fill with water and 4 tbsp. of white vinegar (I’m sure I used more since I just randomly dumped some in). Then you bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 mins. Take out, let cool, and unwrap. Total eggs destroyed: five.

wrap

wrappedeggs

Ok, my eggs floated as soon as I added water. This makes perfectly logical sense, but it was not what the directions said would happen, so I clamped down the lid on top and let them boil and steam, periodically pushing them around with a spoon and hoping for the best. When they were unwrapped, I would say we had -- er, moderate -- success.

The eggs were a) not caved in and b) not white anymore, so those were the plusses. The designs did mostly take, but in a more random pattern than I pictured. They were kind of cute though. They were also full of water, which had to be shaken out, which resulted in me crushing yet another one. Total eggs destroyed: six.

finished

Here was the final result. Again, nothing spectacular, but probably good enough to stick in a bowl on a coffee table somewhere, arranging them so the ¼” of prettiness on each shows.

Let’s summarize.

Pros: Unique patterns, something different, um... recycling ugly ties?
Cons: Not really a project for young kids (one of mine even ended up in tears of frustration - not exactly a fun Easter activity), inconsistent results, lots of prep, lots of cleanup, mom guilt about cutting up perfectly good ties.

The verdict? I would score it a 5 out of 10. It was cool to do -- once. Next year though, I will stick with the Paas.

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Bedtime Musings

josiebook

My older daughter has a very acute sense of time, probably because I am always hollering for her sister and her to hurry up. She would give me little updates on how many minutes late I was running, which was ever so helpful and not at all stressful.

Josie: Mommy, two more minutes!
Mom: Ok, thank you...
Josie: Mommy, we’re one minute late!
Mom: I know that.
Josie: Mommy, we’re six min--
Mom: GO OUTSIDE AND WAIT!!

She taught herself how to tell time at three years old and has been obsessed with it ever since. She has a weird knack for recalling what day of the week an event happened, even months or years later. She frequently refers to the calendar and clock. Lately, she has gotten very philosophical about time. In fact, she came out of bed to interrupt my Hulu binge-watch with the following:

Josie: I know I was supposed to come out and say goodnight by 9:15 and it is 9:18, sorry Mommy.
Mom: That’s ok. Goodnight.
Josie: So I am three minutes late.
Mom: That’s ok. Goodnight.
Josie: Goodnight. Mommy, what is time anyway?
Mom: (ugghh pause Hulu) Minutes, hours and seconds. Days, weeks, months, years, and so on.
Josie: No, like what really is it? I know you can measure it, but like what is it, really?
Mom: It’s how many minutes of my show you are taking up.
Josie: Well who made it up, time I mean?
Mom: I would have to look that up.
Josie: Why do we all need it so much?
Mom: To keep track of stuff, I guess. Like when to meet people or go places.
Josie: What would happen if we all stopped worrying about time?
Mom: Can I just watch Nashville, please? Besides, you should be in bed.
Josie: But why do I need a bedTIME? Why can’t I just wait until I get tired?

She has a penchant for asking random, complicated, existential questions after hours. It’s lovely.

“Mommy, how does digestion work?”
“Mommy, are Mother Nature and God the same thing?”
“Mommy, how do you invent a language?”

I can usually put her off until “tomorrow.” I feel bad for doing this, but with her? We are talking minimum 15 minutes of discussion. There will be Googling. There will be follow-up questions. There will be multiple rephrasings to aid in understanding. There may even be a quiz.

This was the most recent bedtime exchange:

Josie: Mommy, why do we only have one moon?
Mom: I honestly don’t know.
Josie: Saturn has 53 moons.
Mom: Ok.
Josie: I wish we lived on Saturn. Mommy, do you ever worry about black holes?
Mom: Not really.
Josie: Never?!? I do, like right now, I was worrying about us falling in a black hole by accident.
Mom: That won’t happen.
Josie: How can you be sure? Black holes are very powerful, you know.
Mom: Ok.
Josie: So one could suck you up RIGHT NOW MOMMY.
Mom: I feel pretty comfortable saying that that is not going to happen.
Josie: I am a little bit scared of spaghettification.
Mom: I don’t know what that is.
Josie: (walking back to bed) Just Google it, Mommy!

(I did.)

But they are not always life-altering, existence-questioning conversations. For example, this one recently occurred:

Mom: Josie, you ok? You look perplexed.
Josie: It just seems like every time I look at a plant, Mommy, I hiccup.

Ah, sweet relief.

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Rethinking the Schedule

josiemtvernon

The longer we homeschool (and it hasn’t even been very long), the more these little advantages keep revealing themselves to us. One advantage that I adore is the flexibility of our time. When I was teaching, time was in short supply. Our days were highly schedule driven, as most people’s are. Waking the girls early, rushing around to get out the door, scrambling to get last minute things done before the school bell, kissing my girls goodbye as they ran out the classroom door to get to their own classrooms. After school, it was meetings, clean up, prep materials, update data, contact parents, catch up on emails from the day, lesson planning... all while my girls did their homework, had a snack, and tried to keep busy and entertained while Mommy worked. Once we got home, it was all about (a usually late) dinner, baths, preparing for the next day, and bed. Weekends became about running errands, cleaning the house, completing those little necessary tasks that needed attention, and trying to squeeze some fun in there with the family if at all possible. Sometimes it wasn’t. Life was hectic and rushed-feeling, all the time. I hated it. Both my husband and I are more laid-back types who prefer to indulge whims once in awhile and keep things open ended when we can. We were doing our level best with this traditionally fast paced, culturally accepted approach to life, but it was definitely like jamming a square peg into a round hole.

With our decision to homeschool, one giant benefit we’ve discovered is just how much time we have to do not only the necessary things, but also to pursue passions, try new things or places out, and just see where life takes us a bit. We are still busy, and certainly we have errands and schedules to keep with clubs, classes, and meetups. But with only two students in the family, both of whom usually work quickly and effectively, we can get more done academically in two and a half or three hours of school than I could get done in an entire school day when I was teaching a full class. This leaves us time for all the fun stuff (and chores). And there is an endless supply of fun stuff (and chores)! Some of these include:

Learning to sew

girlssew
Snacking outside in the fresh air and sunshine
Learning to use the stove
Tons of art projects
Reading in a laundry basket

carolinereading
Learning how to make homemade apple pie
Collecting acorns for a wildlife center
Playing in the rain
Swinging on a rope in a hay barn
Volunteering and finding ways to help those in need
Crafting
The occasional lunch date out

girlscicis
Leaf piling
Tree climbing
Teaching oneself Chinese

josiechinese
Picnicking
Stitching projects

josiestitch
Learning about the voting process
Learning how to do chores
LOADS of field trips

fredfieldtrip

carolineferryfarm

girlsseeds

My whole life I have lived by a schedule. We pretty much all do. And I am a reasonable enough person to know there is value in schedules. But I just can’t help but be thankful that ours is no longer so rigid!

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Spring (Cleaning) Break

girl 1531575 640

My daughter asked me if we were going to have a spring break now that we are homeschooling. At first I didn’t have an answer for her, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized we didn’t really have a need for one. We had no vacation plans, and homeschool is not as demanding on a child’s time as traditional school is. My girls have lots of time to play, explore, read, pursue interests at will, and relax. So I told her I didn’t see a need for a spring break.

It was met with an “awww” whine at first but when I asked why she felt that way, she wasn’t really sure. Then she decided it was because she wanted to take a vacation during spring break. Join the club, kid.

A couple days later, I was on my weekly “I can’t take the clutter anymore” tirade and I decided to repurpose our Friday (Fridays are usually used as either make up time if we are behind or free-form learning anyway) and use it to clean out the girls’ own personal Barnes & Noble store they continually have going on in their room. Most people call this a “bookshelf,” and indeed somewhere behind sliding-over stacks of unorganized books, journals, scraps of string, Lottie dolls, and Valentine’s-themed pencils there is, indeed, a bookshelf. We took literally three hours to have each girl go through each book, sorting them into “keep” or “adios” piles. If either kid wanted to keep it, it stayed. We then sorted the ‘keeps’ into picture books (which would be kept in bins, a.k.a. dishpans from the Dollar Tree), chapter books, and magazines. We further sorted the chapter books into series and non-series and shelved them accordingly. The most popular and oft-chosen got a coveted space on top of the shelf between painted bookends. Magazines and catalogs (are my kids the only ones who love catalogs?) were sorted by date and put in another bin. I tried to cultivate commitment to keeping it organized by adding a dollar store string of lights at the top for fun.

IMG 2359

My kids did a great job of sticking with the painstaking process (I bailed and returned several times). In the end we culled the collection to just the best of the best and had a giant pile of books left over to show for it.

Naturally, this gratified me enormously but only fed my desire for order and space in our small house. I thought it over for like ninety seconds and backtracked on my decision to not have a spring break. Oh, we’d have a spring break, alright. A spring CLEANING break. Much to their probable dismay, my children will use time typically spent swimming in a hotel pool, eating ice cream cones, bouncing on trampolines, riding bikes, and watching movies cleaning, sorting and organizing! After all, it is 90% their stuff. And doubtless they’d prefer a mom who is not suffering from a maniacal, clutter-induced nervous breakdown, so we are all going to pitch in to ensure that does not happen. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Pouches' Community Corner

Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (BACA) exists to create a safer environment for abused children by empowering children to not feel afraid of their world. Imagine how an abused child feels when a group of large bikers rides up to their house, inducts them into their club and then escorts them to court to testify against their abuser.

Pouches bike

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