“Ten Steps to the Finish Line” is on sale now! Visit the BOOK STORE to grab your copy!
“Ten Steps to the Finish Line” is on sale now! Visit the BOOK STORE to grab your copy!
Every now and then I get some free time. Actual uninterrupted free time.
I never used to take time for myself. But, eventually, I learned the importance of relaxation for my health and my sanity. I now see that the better I feel, the better I am able to do my job and take care of my family, too.
I highly recommend it!
How do you use free time? Lately, my favorite ways include walking, deep conversations with my kids, playing with my dogs, and sitting in the sun with no agenda whatsoever. Another favorite way I relax is discovering new blogs. I love to read health information, discover design ideas, find new projects to try, and — of course – see what other homeschoolers are up to!
Many people don’t realize how many blogs are out there. In the homeschool niche, there must be thousands. It can be hard to choose a favorite!
But, alas, I have misled you. In reality, all homeschool blogs are my favorites! That’s because each is unique and has something special to contribute. After leaving a new blog, I always feel grateful to all the woman (usually) who took time from her busy day to encourage someone else.
My only regret? I cannot keep up with them all. Call me biased, but homeschool bloggers are the best!
Since I couldn’t choose a favorite, I decided to share a whole list of blogs with you instead. I asked my homeschool blogging friends to raise their hands this week. If they did, they ended up on this list!
The next time you have a few moments to relax, I hope you’ll choose some of these blogs to visit. Even spending time with just 1 or 2 will give you a glimpse into someone else’s classroom, someone else’s homeschool journey, or someone else’s heart. Don’t feel as if you have to do what other families are doing. Instead, visit with the goal of getting a little more informed, a little more inspired, or a little more peaceful about a homeschool challenge that may have been on your mind. I highly recommend it!
Quick Start Homeschool (my blog)
Want to share your homeschool blog? Leave a COMMENT with the link to your home page or favorite post!
Enjoy your time off.
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A frequent question from parents is, “How long does homeschooling take?” It’s normal to wonder how long something will take if you’ve never done it before. It’s also normal to wonder if your school day is taking much longer than everybody else’s.
When we first started years ago, the time factor played considerably into our decision, as the nearest school involved driving dirt roads, paying a toll, and an almost 2 hour round trip. Though my husband and I were 99.9% sure we’d be homeschooling at that point, we were still keenly aware if we ever did decide to put our kids in a classroom, the journey back and forth would have a major impact on our time.
Parents each homeschool a little differently. Kids learn differently, too. I cannot estimate the average length of a homeschool day, because there is no average. But I can tell you this: when my kids were little, they were easily homeschooled (the formal lesson portion) in less time than it would have taken me to drive and pick them up from school twice a day.
It’s time for a little disclaimer. What I’ll be talking about in this article is strictly book work and the curriculum types of exercises that many people view as the “homeschool” part of the day. The reason it’s important you know this, is because kids learn all day long, whether they’re “in school” or not. What I am about to tell you, is how long the book work portion of homeschooling took in our home. But what you also need to realize, is that our success really came from raising our kids in an environment rich with opportunities for learning all day long. Please understand any estimate I could give would account for only a fraction of our success.
Now, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably still wondering how long homeschooling takes. I am about to give you an idea of how long it took my kids, in our home. But, please, make sure to read this article to the very end, as it is only then that you’ll understand fully how long homeschooling really takes.
Preschool / Kindergarten / 1st Grade
(2 to 2.5 hours formal lessons per day)
We simulated a classroom environment in the early years, and my kids did book work from a very young age. I was lucky, as my husband built us a dedicated area for our classroom, which included a learning area, a quiet area, a swing set just steps away so I could see the kids from the window, and a bathroom, too. The classroom model was all we knew, and it turns out, we enjoyed many years of using it, too.
In the early years, we began each day in a very school-like fashion: a calendar lesson, a day of the week, a letter of the alphabet, a weather report, and learning to tell time on a little plastic clock. We’d then read together for 20-30 minutes, and then split up for individual activities.
Because I schooled all my kids in the same room and kept the baby in there, too, it was easy to move from kid to kid. Those years included early curriculum, but also lots of reading, drawing, workbooks, audio and video tapes, and creative projects to accompany whatever we were working on. I kept boxes and boxes of early learning toys in the classroom, which I swapped in and out for children who needed a break or needed to be kept busy as I was doing something else. We had chalk boards, white boards, felt boards, and plenty of ways to learn for the several hours we were in there. We kept pets in our classroom, too, so there was always something fun to do.
I am not going to lie — those years were pretty exhausting. If I had it to do over, I would greatly relax my requirements (learn how) . But, again, it was what I knew at the time and, fortunately, it worked very well for us.
Grades 2 – 5:
(3-4 hours per day)
As my kids got older, I introduced more curriculum for the core areas we covered in the mornings, and more things we could all do together for hands-on and specials in the afternoon. We covered pretty much every subject, every day. Our days varied, but with several young ones in the house, it definitely took all morning long for the older ones to get their book work done — approximately 3 to 4 hours. We also worked through lunch, and I did music appreciation lessons and foreign language (on alternating days) during our lunch breaks at the kitchen counter. On a typical day, our mornings started at 8 or 9, and ended somewhere around 12 or 1 — even 2. The afternoons were when we came together for projects, electives, chores and play time.
Remember I had multiple children, so homeschooling one child would have been entirely different for us in those grades. And in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t above putting kids for naps or letting them watch a video when I really needed a break — which was quite a bit. These were the years when things could fall apart with no warning, and when I spent much of the time gathering the scraps of our days and counting them as school. Our well-planned days didn’t always go as predicted with little ones about, but there were enough days that finished well, so the accumulation of these years amounted to a whole lot.
(4 to 4.5 hours per day)
The middle years were much more straight-forward in our home. In my opinion, they were easy. My children were assigned things to do, and they did them. I had trained them to work on schedule, they knew where everything was located, plus all of our household and chore systems were well in place by the time they were able to work more independently. Those were also the years when I moved more into a supervisory/tutor/helper role than that of the full-time teacher I had been when they were younger. And because my older kids spent more time working on their own, those years afforded me the time I needed to be with the younger ones. For those who were wondering, that may help to explain how homeschool parents manage to teach multiple children at the same time.
Honestly, if I had it to do over again, I would have skipped some of the middle grades with my kids. The truth is, they were all ready for high school work long before I ever offered it to them. I feel we wasted time during the middle years when I could have been accelerating them forward even faster than I did. Knowing what I know now, I believe traditional middle school is wholly a waste of time. But, I digress…
High School Years:
(6-7 hours per day, maybe more)
It is hard for me to estimate how much time my high schoolers spend on formal book work. That’s because their sleep schedules change (they don’t start at the same time every day), they are able to work for long periods on their own (thus I don’t always see them), and their classes and study periods often take place somewhere else (they take online classes and college courses). In addition, since my high schoolers make their own schedules for the most part (except in 9th, when I schedule them), there are days when they decide to work solely on one thing, and other days when they touch multiple classes in one day.
I estimate my teens spend approximately 6 hours per day on book work, but I think the number could actually be higher. It isn’t that I don’t observe my kids, because I do. I also go over their planners every Sunday night. But, so much happens out of my direct earshot, and so many classes happen somewhere else, I cannot always really know how many curriculum hours they put in. What I do know is that we all meet at the dinner table every evening, and oftentimes my teens have just finished their work, or say they still have more to do after dinner until late into the evening. Their workload varies pretty much every day. Sometimes, I don’t even get to see the work until it’s turned in for grading.
I hope this has given you a glimpse into how we do homeschool in our home, but I remind you that these estimates include only our book/curriculum work, and not all of the other things my kids do during the afternoons and weekends, and the activities they do with other homeschoolers and community groups. For instance, this doesn’t include the coops my kids belong to and the field trips they go on. It doesn’t include the classes they take at libraries and museums. It doesn’t include the things they listen to in the car, read in the paper, discuss at the dinner table, and books they bring along with them to the beach. It doesn’t include the programs they watch, the web sites they visit, the games they play, the hobbies they keep, the lessons they take, the sports they play, the volunteer organizations they work with, and the thousands of other things that add as much — if not more – to their education. I am not boasting about my kids, merely reminding you there is no way to measure all the learning that occurs during childhood by simply counting hours.
Remember, there are many paths to homeschooling success and our way is just one of them. I always encourage families to see what works best in their homes, and continually tweak the process as they move along. Whereas an hour may seem like a long time to work on one topic in one family, it is never enough time in another.
Please, always do what works best for you and your children.
When people ask how long homeschooling takes, though we can give estimates like these, what we also need to do is explain that homeschooling really takes all day. It takes all night, too. Actually, it takes an entire childhood. That’s because education is more than just the books and the schedules. Learning is the work of a child and homeschooling lasts until they take learning into their own hands as adults.
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[This is the last post of a 3-part series. If you’d prefer to start at the beginning, click HERE.]
When homeschooling high schoolers (what I like to call, high schooling), credits become pretty important. You may find yourself asking, “What’s worth a credit?”, “How many credits is that class worth?”, and, “How many credits have we accumulated so far?” just a little more often than you’d like.
However, learning to count credits is a necessary exercise during the teen years. That’s because, both inside and outside of homeschooling, credits are the way that high school courses are measured. Just like grade points and quality points, credits are a part of the high schooling vernacular. Parents must learn and adopt this terminology whether they like it or not.
What is a credit?
Generally speaking, credits are used to translate hours. In most areas, a single high school credit is equivalent to 120-160 hours of instruction.
What that means is, once that number of study hours has been reached, the student is owed a high school credit in that particular course.
In this example, shown with completed course hours in parentheses, it is easy to see how this teen has earned 5 credits toward high school graduation:
What is a half credit?
Half credits can be earned the same way. When approximately half the number of hours of instruction have been completed, the student is eligible to receive half credit instead.
In this example, utilizing the concept of both full and half credits, the student also earns a total of 5 credits toward graduation:
Did you know that quarter credits are possible, too? Those who do not follow a yearly schedule will find that using half and quarter credits makes it possible to earn many more credits. By collecting a variety of different experiences together and adding their credit values, students can be rewarded for their efforts, even if the partial credits didn’t always occur in the same academic year.
Other ways to earn credits
Although counting hours is probably the most common way to award credits, there are other ways to award credits in high school, too.
For instance, credit can be awarded on the basis of completing a textbook or a curriculum that has been assigned. Regardless the number of hours put in by the student, finishing the entire [full-year curriculum] is worthy of course credit.
Another way to award credit is using a mastery approach. This method requires some period of study on the part of the student, after which the student is assessed to see if mastery has occurred. Mastery can be measured using any combination of tools: discussion, observation, presentations, portfolio, or examination. No matter the method, when mastery is proven, a credit is awarded.
For additional ways to measure credits, read THIS. Meanwhile, brush up on the vocabulary of high schooling, and begin to understand credits as they apply to your student. This skill will serve you well when planning high school courses, creating a high school plan, making transcripts, and beyond.
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I always suggest creating a one-page transcript. Despite what you may read about running out of room, I have no trouble including everything I want to list on a single page, and still get a great-looking transcript. I have had personal success using a one-page design, and my clients have, too. And because I attach a printout of course descriptions with every transcript I create, should there ever be anything that doesn’t fit on the page, it can always be included in the attachment, anyway.
Though others may charge big money to create what they claim is the “best” transcript in the industry, I’m here to tell you there is no magic format that is preferred by colleges and universities. I have never (to date) come across a format that is universally required, and I have never had a transcript rejected by anyone, anywhere. If anything, I receive praises from counselors and admissions officers who receive one of my transcripts. That, I believe, is the most important feedback of all.
The format I use is very straightforward. It’s comprehensive, without being overcrowded. It’s neat and easy to follow. It’s professional, without going overboard on the bells and whistles you might find somewhere else.
The parts of my transcript are as follows:
1. The word “Official” appears across the top. This is perhaps the single most important word on the transcript.
2. All student data is displayed prominently. (This is not the time to skimp on information or worry about privacy.)
3. I show the yearly GPA and cumulative GPA for each of the 4 years. Though colleges recalculate GPA when they receive a transcript anyway, remember that transcripts are used for more than college admissions alone.
5. I list the grading scale used to award grades and credit. This is applied consistently over the 4 years of high school.
6. I provide an Academic Summary. I find this is a great at-a-glance look at the student, and I purposely put it right next to the student’s test scores, too.
7. I choose a reasonable graduation date and display it there. Though part of the Academic Summary, this is worth repeating, as many parents forget to put it on the transcript.
8. I sign and include a statement of authenticity and accuracy. Though it isn’t necessary, when families request it, I also emboss and/or have the transcript notarized, too.
I provide assistance for families needing help in this area, and I am happy to help you produce a transcript that best reflects your student and his/her 4-year high school plan.
Families creating their own transcripts are strongly advised to follow the guidelines I have outlined above.
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[This is one in a 3-part series. To view the next post, click HERE.]
I’ll cut right to the chase. The takeaway from this article is to start high school transcripts early. And by early, I mean at the end of 8th grade or the beginning of 9th. Some of you planning-types may want to do it even earlier.
And whatever you do, don’t start one in the middle of a school year. Not when everything is in full swing. Use vacation time or summer break. Or, if you don’t get those, then give yourself a planning day to create a blank transcript. Better yet, take a couple of days to begin focusing on all of the other record-keeping strategies you’ll want to put in place for high school at the same time, too.
Here’s why you must begin your child’s transcript early:
By starting in 9th, the blank transcript is set up and ready to go. It’s typed up. It’s saved to a computer. You like it. You trust it. It contains a place for every little thing you know needs to be there. It’s printed out, and a blank copy is pinned to a bulletin board. It’s ready when you are.
It takes time to get a transcript just right. Spacing takes time. Grading formulas must be thought out. Advanced design elements take time to figure out, especially if this is the first time you’ve ever done a transcript.
With a blank framework already in place, you’ll never need to do that step again. Ever. It becomes a fill-in-the-blank kind of thing forever more. You can drop things in any time you get a minute. Updates are quick. Entries are a breeze. Changes take no time at all.
Finally, it avoids you reaching the finish line unprepared. I call that, “transcript horror”, which is basically your worst nightmare — the one in which you’ve been asked to recreate the last 4 years of homeschool entirely from memory. Oh, and part of the nightmare is that your student’s entire future depends on your ability to perform this task in, say, a couple of hours or less. Perfectly. Otherwise, he won’t get in to college, get a job, earn scholarship money or have a good life.
Early transcript prep is one the greatest returns on the high school investment. A great transcript goes a long, long way for your student. I have seen lots of transcripts over the years, so you’ll have to trust me on this one. Your student deserves better than a last-minute, hastily thrown together sheet of paper that barely meets minimum standards.
Do you have a student grades 7th, 8th or 9th grade right now? Can you guess what time it is?
Unless you already have a transcript hanging from the wall, the time to create one is now. Get working.
No excuses. I’ve even got a free sample for you here.
P.S. I have extra transcript help in my e-book, Ten Steps to the Finish Line. Find it in my book store.
Ever traveled a road without a map? For the adventurous, it can be a lot of fun. On the other hand, without knowing where you’re headed, it can also be pretty scary, too.
Homeschooling high school requires a road map, too. In ©high schooling terms, we call this a “high school plan”.
Creating and following a plan still means high schooling will be a lot of fun. But, it also means something else that is very important — it helps avoid the time-wasting swerves, curves, and distractions it takes to get to your destination.
In other words, you get there better and faster.
A high school plan is a like a road map in more ways than one: it requires quite a bit of planning before heading out onto the open road; it provides the most efficient route toward your destination (or can help you plan a longer route, if you prefer); and, it also designates the specific roadways, travel markers and exits to spot and follow along the way.
Why take a risk with your child’s future? Following a plan guarantees you’ll all arrive safely and on time.
When I create plans for high schoolers, I use a
road map worksheet, too. You can create one of your own, or print the one I recommend right here.
I don’t wait until high school to create a child’s high school plan, and you shouldn’t either. Middle school is really the optimal time to start. You can certainly start one at any time. But, starting in 7th or 8th grade gives you plenty of time to begin thinking about all the different high school options, and start shopping for opportunities, too.
Homeschooling provides many different roads to graduation, but one thing is perfectly clear: having a road map is the surest way to arrive safely and on time. And though occasional pot holes and detours can’t always be avoided, a plan makes it easy to hop back on course, and lose as little time as possible along the way.
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As homeschool mammas, our days are really full. From the minute our feet hit the floor in the morning until we (literally) fall into bed at night, life doesn’t stop for a single second.
Why do we do it? Because it’s important, we believe in it, and we love it.
But it isn’t easy. Not by a mile.
That’s why on those days — you know the ones – when we barely manage to get dressed by lunch time, have a sink full of dishes from two nights before, and somehow manage to last all day without a single pee, there are some things we just don’t want to hear.
So, heads up, dads. This one’s for you.
It’s for all the hubs who were only trying to help. All of the spouses who meant well. All of the guys who took one look and decided it was time to step in. Basically, for all those lovable hunks we mammas couldn’t live without, yet know not what they do.
Please, husbands. For the love of all that is good in this world. For a long and happy marriage. You must never utter these words to your homeschooling wife:
#1. That’s all you got done today?
Because when you say: “That’s A-L-L you got done today?” (variations: “She’s still working on that?” and “Yea, you told about that last week.”)
We think: Yea, that’s helpful. Thanks so much for pointing it out. But, in case you hadn’t noticed, that’s almost half a page more than yesterday. And he couldn’t even do this kind of thing last month. And, by the way, do you have any idea what it took to get this page done? <insert gray hair euphemism> Besides the fact that I can actually r-e-a-d the answers this time! And it only took until 4 o’clock. Not 8 o’clock like ALL. LAST. YEAR. Total victory in my book.
#2. Is there any meat?
Because when you say: “Is there any meat?” (variation: “Did you make my lunch?”)
We think: No, hon, sorry I didn’t cook any meat tonight. But I did cook beans (okay, I opened a can) and I put that jar of peanuts on the table over there, so there’s your protein. And I’m trying to save money like you asked me to. And I didn’t have time to run to the store anyway. And don’t you think it’s nice to go meatless every once in a while? Besides, me and the kids happen to love beans. And, by the way, it’s a small miracle I managed to get any dinner on the table after the day I’ve had. Oh, and, sweetheart, if you really want something special for dinner,
would it really kill you to make it yourself? make sure to remind me when you leave in the morning, so I can put it on my list of ten thousand other things to do. ‘Cause I love to prepare your favorites <smile>.
#3. You’re just imagining things.
Because when you say: “You’re just imagining things.” (variations: “Remember all those other times you…?” and “I don’t see anything.”)
We think: Any combination of the following: How can you be so blind? How can you be so blind to how I feel? Can’t you tell how I feel? Why can’t you just tell how I feel? You’re supposed to know how I feel! Or, any combination of these statements: Actually, I wasn’t really looking for advice. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. How friggin’ dare you? Hold me. How the heck would you know when you’re not home all day? Mothers intuition trumps everything. Why can’t you just listen without saying anything? Hmmm, maybe I am really crazy.
#4. You should teach that.
Because when you say: “You should teach that.” (variations: “You should teach that.” and “What aren’t you teaching that?”)
We think: Why, thank you, dear. What a wonderful idea! <insert major sarcasm> Let me just add it to my list of 24,995 other things I’m already teaching, so I don’t forget. And, by all means, don’t forget to check back with me every now and then, to remind me, and to let me know if I’m doing it right. I want to be sure I cover it exactly the way you want me to.
#5. I deserve a day off, too.
Because when you say: “I deserve a day off, too.” (variations: “I need a break”, “I’ve been out there busting my butt all day”, “I just got home!”, and “Can’t I just get a few minutes of peace and quiet around here?”)
We think: You’re kidding, right? Of course you deserve a break, dear. Because all I do all day is sit around watching TV and ordering new shoes on your credit card. You do need to relax. After all, your job is more important than mine anyway. Not to mention so much harder. (Seriously? Well at least somebody around here gets a break.)
#6: I’ll show you how to do it.
Because when you say: “I’ll show you how to do it.” (variation: “Lemme show you how it’s done” and “Don’t you remember I showed you this already?”)
We think: Here he goes again. Telling me how to do my job. Was he the one who read all those homeschooling books? Is he the one who goes to all those meetings? Has he ever even heard of Maria Montessori or Charlotte Mason or Emilio Reggio? He’s not the one stuck at home all day with these
little brats darling children. Sure, buddy, go ahead and show me how to do it. I dare you.
#7: Is there any way you can get them to stop leaving their stuff all over the floor (table, porch, driveway)?
Because when you say: “Is there any way you can get them to stop leaving their stuff all over the floor (table, porch, driveway)”? (variation: anything containing the word “passage-way”)
We think: Like I haven’t tried? And this is what it looks like on a good day! You should’ve seen the place before we actually picked up <snarky laugh>. You think you can do better? Good luck with that. Besides, we live here, for crying out loud. If I pick it up now, it’s just gonna get messy in another 5 minutes. Sheesh!
#8: Just give him the book and tell him to figure it out!
Because when you say: “Just give him the book and tell him to figure it out!” (variation: “She’s not trying hard enough.”)
We think: If you could only see me shaking my head inside. You think I haven’t tried that? He doesn’t understand it, because he doesn’t understand it! Giving him the book again for the seventeen millionth time isn’t gonna help. What he needs, is for us to help him. We’re his parents — that’s what we’re supposed to do. <under breath> Didn’t you get the memo?
#9: You sure you should be eating that?
Because when you say: “You sure you should be eating that?” (variation: “Why don’t you go for a jog/do some push-ups?”)
We think: Did you really just say that? and Did you really just say that? (Okay, this might just be in our house.)
#10: Aren’t you coming to bed?
Because when you say: “Aren’t you coming to bed?”
We think: Leaving this one up to you, but I suggest something along these lines: “I’ll be right there. I just have a couple of things to do first” followed by a brief period in which you unload the dishwasher, tuck a half dozen kids in, carry in glass after glass of water, send kid after kid back to bed, feed starving pets, check calendar for tomorrow, take your vitamin, turn off a hundred devices left on around the house, hang up the phone, unclog a toilet, put the lid back on the jelly, put the clothes in the dryer, and hop into bed all showered and energized by that tempting invitation to stay up an extra hour and cut in to your sleep just one more time.
Bonus (and my all-time favorite):
#11: “Stop bugging mom.”
Good one. Really, really helpful. Thanks, hon.
P.S. This post was husband-approved (he’s actually pretty great).
P.P.S. Don’t deny it — you know you secretly have these thoughts, too.
P.P.P.S. Stay tuned for my next post, called: “Latest Couples Trend: Trading places for a day”
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My readers and I discuss this quite a bit on social media (connect with me “out there” to join the conversation). Since it’s a hot topic there, I thought writing about here could help some of you, too.
I’ll start off by saying, I know you’re on a budget. I am, too. It’s no secret most of us make it on one income. If you have a secondary income –great. But, for most homeschoolers, it’s just how we roll.
Also, I know lots of you are already incredibly smart about feeding your families. I have nothing over you in this area, and rely just as much on your ideas as the ones I’ve come up with on my own. I bow to your wisdom here, and have learned so much from many of you.
And I realize this won’t resonate with all of you. That’s okay. I believe every parent has the right to raise kids the way they see fit. I’ll always have my ideas about keeping my family fed and healthy and you’ll always have yours. I know you’re doing the best you can.
I want to share some of my personal observations and beliefs about feeding my family and staying healthy. These are my basic anchors, the ones I personally use when shopping and preparing our meals. My thoughts have changed drastically over the years, but these are what I currently base my buying decisions on, at this season of life:
It’s easy to buy unhealthy foods without even knowing it. It’s not always our fault. Our food supply has become so contaminated and ingredients so hard to figure out, we hardly know what we’re eating any more. I consider myself somewhat informed, yet I am constantly questioning my choices, too. I sometimes feel I’ll never figure it all out!
It’s cheaper to buy chemically-processed and manufactured non-foods than to buy more nutritious whole-food options. This may seem hard to believe and ridiculous, because it is. You may disagree; but, I have found this to be true. Modern emphasis on stocking up on sale items, scoring massive coupon deals, and taking advantage of ridiculously alluring store deals are (at least partly) responsible. Consumers are psychologically sucked in to buying harmful foods by appealing to their desire to save money. Just ask the woman with the cart full of fruit snacks, deodorants, and colorful sports drinks how much she saved. It’s just too easy to eat poorly.
Not everybody pays as much attention to what they’re feeding their families as they should. Again, many of you do a great job in this area. But, I still think there are parents who spend an awful lot of time thinking about other things, when they should really be examining what they feed their kids. More specifically, how foods affect the minds and bodies and health and behavior of their growing kids. I’ve met enough obviously malnourished moms with all manner of challenging children to make me wonder if this is not a coincidence. Please don’t post hateful or defensive comments about this statement. I am just saying that, among the many factors that may cause challenges in our children, a nutritional connection is possible, is it not?
Many people don’t know how to manage their time. Lack of time management skills contributes to families buying and eating a whole lot of foods they shouldn’t be. Which is ironic because planning, preparing and serving a nutritious meal actually saves time and money in the long run. While it may seem quicker to tear open a package or stop at a drive-thru, that’s expensive. Plus, it takes time to be sick, and money to treat it, too.
Some parents too blindly follow government guidelines and recommendations from medical and dental associations. I did, too, until I started doing additional research on my own and realized there is no one-size-fits-all diet for every person on the planet. It’s like choosing curriculum — what’s right for one child isn’t always right for another. And, by the way, those recommendations may not be right for anybody, either. Study what is actually inside those foods, and also study the motivations of the companies that produce them, to see what I mean.
I find it challenging to feed my family, on a budget, according to my standards and beliefs. All of our kids are males, all over 6 feet tall, and all come with those stereotypical boy appetites, too! Their never-ending snacking and my constantly-empty fridge makes this something I have to keep keep foremost in my mind all the time. We also all love to cook. Shopping the way I want to, means needing to make cuts in other areas. I do it, because I know it affects our enjoyment and our overall health. But, I’m not blind to the fact that the foods I choose have a definite impact on our bank account.
Here are my tips for eating healthy and saving money. If we are of like-minds, some of these may be helpful to you, too:
1. Eat at home. Hardly ever/never eat out. This saves money obviously, but also helps me control what my family eats. Though we indulge in take-out kinds of foods every once in a while, it is a pretty rare thing. My friends will vouch for me when I ask about restaurants and food-chains because, honestly, I have no idea what they’re like (we only in the last couple of years tried that taco place and that chicken place…not impressed.).
2. Cook from scratch. We cook only from scratch. I’m not saying I don’t buy pizza, a roasted chicken or organic mac and cheese in a box now and then, because I do. But generally, everything we eat is prepared with ingredients on hand. I no longer buy anything that comes from a box or a can unless it’s “a treat” or I carefully scrutinize what’s inside. For convenience, I do purchase canned tomatoes, canned beans, canned peaches, jars of applesauce, and canned tuna and sardines for the pantry, plus frozen bags of veggies (by the dozens), for when we don’t have fresh items on hand.
3. Use up all leftovers. It always amazes me how much food people throw away. I love leftovers! Not only is this not wasteful, leftovers save us time, because we eat them for breakfast and lunch the next day. If leftovers aren’t gone by dinner (unlikely), I get creative and turn them into something new. And if they’ve hung around a couple of days, I freeze it for some later use. I sometimes even freeze entire plates of food (like on the day after Thanksgiving) to pull out for another day. It’s fun to eat something yummy without having to cook the whole meal over again.
4. Stop using most coupons. With apologies to my couponing friends, I personally found that coupons contributed to unhealthy eating and overspending in our family. Yes, overspending. It was fun, and I enjoyed the thrill of receiving items for free. But I began buying foods we didn’t really need, therefore I was spending more than not buying these foods at all. I was also feeding my kids things I did not feel good about — all because it was free. Please understand I’m not against using coupons altogether, but I only recommend using them for items you would normally buy (or as “money makers” to save you money and donate to food banks).
5. Save scraps. I always have a jar of leftover dry pasta pieces and leftover crumbs from tortilla chips. I use up the pasta in soups or mix-and-match pasta dishes. We sprinkle leftover chips in soups and salads. I will never understand why people throw crumbs away, as they make great croutons and garnishes for salads, dishes and desserts, or (if sweet) add-ins to cookies, cakes and frosting. Scraps of soap make great potions for soap pump bottles at the sink, too.
6. Use less, dilute or make substitutions. Would it kill you to use less meat in a recipe? Less cheese? Substitute whole milk for heavy cream? Or use less/substitute anything in a recipe that could save you money? It’s often healthier this way, too. Think about using less shampoo, slightly less coffee grounds in your pot, or diluting hand soaps with a little water to stretch them farther. Stretching condiments with water. Stretching salad dressings with water, juice or extra oil and vinegar. How about using up the last few sheets of toilet paper on the roll before throwing it away? Squeezing the toothpaste out until the last drop?
7. Find which starches and grains your family can eat, and use them liberally. Unless your family is grain-free or no-carb, figure out which of these are safe to give your family on a regular basis ( i.e., in larger quantities). Then, make these a staple in your diet. Our go-to grain is brown rice, and I serve it several times per week. We also enjoy sweet potatoes and whole grain pastas, so I make those a variety of different ways each week, too. These are filling and can be topped with many different things to create different meals. If we have sprouted or other healthy breads, we use these quite a bit, too. I have personally backed off on giving my family so much wheat bread, since I felt it made up too large a part of our diet, but this may not be a problem for you.
8. Cook huge amounts of vegetables in season. We love veggies of all kinds. However, I try not to fall in love with a particular vegetable and desire to cook it out of season. When I take advantage of seasons veggies (and fruits, too), I can buy more of those items for a lower price, and serve them in heaping quantities over rice, pasta or in soups and ratatouille. If you tire of certain veggies in season, freeze them while in season, then pull them out the rest of the year.
9. Shop differently. I no longer shop “for the week”. I now shop whenever is convenient, or wherever I think I can spot a great deal. Whereas in the past, I would head to a store, and buy only enough groceries to last a week, I have abandoned that notion in favor of stocking up anything I find that is worth buying. This has made such a huge impact on our eating and spending, I wish I had done it sooner. Instead of counting meals and buying ingredients for those meals, I now buy as much or as little as I feel is a great deal from that store. One week, I might come home with 20 pounds of poultry or 30 bags of a certain dried bean if they’re on sale. Whereas the next week, I might not buy any of these items at all. By combining items on hand, I always have enough for a huge variety of meals, though I do very little actual “meal planning” any more. I admit, it was a transition from the way I used to think and shop. I spend a different amount each week, but I’m so glad I did this.
10. Shop all the stores. Whenever I have the time, I shop stores wherever I am. This is not a regular practice, or it would take too much of my time. But, if I am waiting for my kids in an area, I check out the stores that are new to me. I have found great bargains this way, especially in smaller or lesser known markets and bulk kinds of stores. Most of the grains that are in my pantry right now were purchased at an “odd lot” type store, which was a great way to get name brand items (with good dates) for so much less than anywhere else.
11. Save on paper and plastic. I cannot remember the last time I bought zip bags or other plastic products. When I purposed to eliminate this spending (and help the environment), I began finding all kinds of alternative ways to store and freeze foods. I ditched all of our plastic containers and invested in good quality glass ones instead. I also now use bread bags, wax bags from inside cereal boxes and empty chip bags to wrap sandwiches, single servings of foods, or partly used tomatoes or onions in the fridge. They stay very fresh this way, and I hardly ever need to buy these items any more.
12. Use eggs. Eggs can be healthy and inexpensive. Contrary to what many people think, there is nothing wrong with eating good quality eggs on a regular basis. That is why, when my preferred brand of eggs goes on sale, I buy as many as I think we can use before they expire. I love creating meals around eggs and I find it a great way to get protein into my kids without breaking the budget.
13. Forget everything you knew about standard meal options. When I stopped thinking in terms of “breakfast foods” and “lunch items” is when our lives really began to change. No longer a slave to pancakes and waffles for breakfast, and sandwiches and lunch meats for lunch, I began serving higher quality foods to my family and saving money, too. Don’t get me wrong, we love pancakes and bacon, and we love to eat deli sandwiches, too. However, I don’t save these foods just for breakfast or lunch any more — they have just become “meals” no matter what time of day they are served. This has saved money by not creating a need for me to purchase special foods for certain times of the day any more.
14. Don’t purchase beverages. I do not buy sodas, juices or drink mixes. (I do buy almond milk.) The only time I buy juice is when I get a great deal on a real fruit or veggie beverage, as in $1-$1.50 per bottle, and every great while I purchase orange juice for a Sunday brunch. I do have one semi-picky eater, and juices can sometimes fill a nutritional need, so I do remain on the lookout for great juice deals. We pretty much only drink plain filtered water now. I recently also stopped buying wine and beer, as I realized I was really keeping it on hand for when friends came to visit, and I was wasting money on things we weren’t enjoying ourselves. (Husband and I stopped drinking wine some time ago.)
15. Take a chance on those food delivery/truck services. Only until I tried them did I realize what a great deal those bulk/delivery services really were! I now purchase meats and poultry off a truck and I have some of our produce delivered directly to my home. And, yes, I save money on high quality items that way, too! Instead of buying grass-fed beef for $10 a pound at my grocer, I can get it for $6 from a truck service. I am also able to get great deals on fresh, organic produce this way, too. I do not use many grains or I would also participate in grain co-ops, as well — an idea some of you might like to try.
16. Keep meals simple & eat what nature provides. With all of the recipes and ideas we see across our computer screens, it can be tempting to try to create many different recipes each week. I personally enjoy cooking and would love to do this every day. But over the last few years, I have found it is easier, cheaper and healthier to keep our meals simple. A trick I began using is to imagine all of the foods that are growing, swimming or roaming the Earth. Then, I try to buy and cook only those foods. When I pick up something to buy, I also try to imagine that food’s value and how it might help our bodies survive and remain healthy. It may seem strange to some of you, but if a food does not feel like it has a life force or contribute something positively, I don’t want to serve it to my family any more. I do add specialty ingredients to our recipes when I can, but using this imagery and keeping our meals simple has helped me stay within my desired budget.
17. Stop drinking milk. Perhaps the most controversial for some of you, but the most dramatic savings and health benefits for us, have come from eliminating milk. Previously, I was buying 4 gallons of milk at one time, and my family would consume it all in one week (sometimes more). Though I now buy almond milk (a little bit more costly), we are all so much healthier! That means, I am no longer spending money on buying the skin care, hair care and allergy products that we needed when we drank milk (and we look better, too). This is both a savings and an amazing health testimonial to the benefits of eliminating this unnecessary item from my grocery list.
18. Make soups regularly. Some of my friends use this method, as well, so we bounce great soup ideas off one another all the time. I find that soups are a good way to offer my family great nutrition without overspending, and a perfect way to use up leftovers or vegetables that are starting to wilt. We make all kinds of soups, sometimes using recipes, but often using every bit of what is in the refrigerator and pantry in one giant pot! My children are particularly fond of making soups, too, so we enjoy lots of different varieties here, and they gain experience in this area as well. This can be an inexpensive meal and can be nutritionally complete, because veggies already contain some protein and fiber, or additional protein/fiber can be added (meats, nuts, fish, tofu, barley, rice or pasta).
19. Prioritize eating. So many families are on the run, and I find it sad when people cannot sit together to share a meal. Perhaps it is my European upbringing, but I love to sit at a table with my family, visit, talk, or laugh about different things. I believe when we prioritize meal planning and enjoy our meals, it is healthier for our bodies and our relationships. Prioritizing meals also means we are less apt to grab expensive foods outside the home, or grab random things from the pantry just to fill our bellies. Although I’m not wild about the clean up, enjoying a meal with my family is one of the best parts of my day. (If you have young children, intentional meal time might not be possible until your children get older.)
20. Graciously accept whatever people give us. Occasionally, someone will offer our family a delicious treat, a gift card to an eatery, or some bounty from a tree or vegetable garden. I accept these gifts with pleasure and gratitude, and make the most out of these wonderful gestures bestowed on our family. My husband recently came home with bags full of oranges and lemons, something I do not always buy in such quantities. These made great juices and snacks, and were a nice addition to the items I usually buy.
You may be feeling that some of these ideas are outside of your comfort zone, your personal spending budget, or are downright silly. Believe me, I used to think that way, too. It wasn’t until I made all of these changes that I began to notice huge savings coming from the grocery bill, and improvement in our health.
When shopping and eating this way, the important thing to realize (that many people miss), is that savings do not always come from the foods themselves. A good deal of savings will come from the foods. But another portion of savings will come from all of the non-food items you no longer buy.
For instance, I now spend less on kid’s vitamins, medications, hair and skin remedies, acne prevention products, digestive aids, hygiene products, allergy and cold medicines, boxes of tissue, medicated soaps and powers, cleaners, and so many items that I was buying before. I don’t buy canned soups or individual yogurt cups, which are very expensive relative to their serving size. Plus, we’re healthier now. So, one could also make the argument that our savings extend to fewer doctor visits and other services that are no longer necessary because we’re eating well.
Do I sometimes overspend? Of course! Sometimes I look at a meal and realize it cost as much as several other meals combined. That happens most often when I serve wild caught fish, which (despite living in Florida) is very expensive in my area. But overall, I think I do rather well. So, I try not to let a feeling of overspending take away from our enjoyment of that particular meal.
I hope this has given you a glimpse into how I feed our homeschool family within our budget. I am still learning, and I am sure there are many other ideas I have not tried yet. But this works for us at this season of our lives, and I hope it helps some of you.
Do you have great cost saving tips you can share? My readers and I would love to hear them!
Please, post a COMMENT, will you?
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More things like this:
Suddenly Homeschooling — pages and pages full of tips to make the most of what you’ve got.
How do families afford homeschooling? — food isn’t the only place to cut expenses.
Where the money goes — every family chooses its own path to saving and spending.
I love connecting with families in new places and in new ways. Today, I had the pleasure of posting over at The Homemaking Cottage. If you’ve never visited there before, I encourage you to head over right now to read my article (short preview, below) and learn all about supporting your students from homeschool to college.
While you’re over there, make sure to check out the many other wonderful offerings on this lovely e-zine style blog. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!
Here’s a preview…but click over to read the ENTIRE ARTICLE so you don’t miss a thing:
One of the most satisfying moments for a homeschool parent is watching a child easily gain acceptance to a college or a university. Even more gratifying is the realization that successfully preparing that student for adult life was just part of the larger homeschool journey all along.
Not all children are college-bound, and attending college certainly isn’t for everyone. But, even when kids have other plans, it’s certainly nice to know they can decide to go to college later on, and that they’re well prepared for the demands of college, career and adult life.
College readiness goes far beyond academics, includes other life skills that should be taught throughout the childhood years. The good news is, a homeschooling lifestyle makes it easy to cover it all, so these additional skills are nothing more than most families would be teaching anyway. There is absolutely no reason for homeschool grads not to enter the college world with skill and confidence (and for their parents to rest easier, too)!
I have personally graduated students on to college and I meet regularly with families of high schoolers applying to colleges, too. In this article, I’ll talk about the academic preparation plus all of the other skills needed to best prepare students for this very important transition.
Opportunities to connect with new families are always welcome! Today, I get to meet some awesome new people over at Vibrant Homeschooling! In my guest post, I’m completely transparent about a struggle I faced when my kids were very young. I share how hard days sometimes got to me, but how they also taught me valuable lessons about my […]
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My readers and I discuss this quite a bit on social media (connect with me “out there” to join the conversation). Since it’s a hot topic there, I thought writing about here could help some of you, too. I’ll start off by saying, I know you’re on a budget. I am, too. It’s no […]
I love connecting with families in new places and in new ways. Today, I had the pleasure of posting over at The Homemaking Cottage. If you’ve never visited there before, I encourage you to head over right now to read my article (short preview, below) and learn all about supporting your students from homeschool to […]
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