Thursday, February 27, 2020

Getting disciplined with a home management binder

You know how there are Type-A and Type-B personalities in this world? Well, I sit firmly in the Type-B camp. I like, no love, feeling free to go with the flow on any given day, working within my energy levels and mood at the time. Menu planning, for example, has always been hit or miss for me, because, what if I don't feel like eating pasta on the night I wrote pasta down on my plan? 

And yet...

....the kids and I were recently listening to The Way of the Warrior Kid audiobooks in the car and they delivered some hard home truths for me. The main one being that with discipline comes freedom. The freedom to have the money you need when you need it. The freedom to use your time wisely. The freedom to accomplish your goals.

So, in a very non-Type-B personality move, I have started putting together a home management binder to help me gain discipline around many areas of my life, but especially around our finances. I've previously mentioned that I struggle in that area.  

I realised that, although I am frugal in many ways, I've been letting money slip through our fingers in small ways that add up to big dollars. My biggest problem, however, is that I haven't been making a plan for where every dollar goes, so it keeps disappearing. (At least, that's what it feels like.)

All this is starting to change.
I recently went online and discovered The Budget Mom website and corresponding YouTube videos. These have given me a great starting off point for ways to track our spending with pen and paper. (I also have a digital spreadsheet in development, thanks to my kind friends, Lizzie and Stuart, but for the moment, I'm finding it helpful to physically write everything down and carry it around with me in my new home management binder. When I have more of a grip on what we need/want to spend our money on, I will input that into the digital spreadsheet and tweak it to match our needs.)

So, what sorts of things have I included in the binder?
The first thing I see when I open it up is a beautiful menu plan designed by The Budget Mom. Because it's pretty, I find it more fun to fill out and use during the week.
Behind the menu plan, I've included recipes I plan to make during the week. Recipes I've printed but don't plan to use in the current week move to a different section of the binder. I'm planning to grow my printed recipe collection so I have a one-stop shop for all of our family faves.
I printed this beautiful to-do list off I Should be Mopping the Floor, along with a bunch of other free printables you'll see popping up in this binder (like the cover page). I know I'll use this binder more if it's pretty and I like looking at it.
I made a two-page 2020 Financial Tracker calendar, to give me an overview of the year. I've shaded the different school terms their own colour, because we often have big homeschool bills like music lessons and homeschool activities to pay at the start of each term.

I've also highlighted when our pay-checks will come in each month in blue.

Printing the calendar out has made it a working document for me, so now I've hand-written in when each of our big annual bills are due and how much I estimate they're going to be. This way, I can ensure we have enough money in savings to cover them. I'm a visual person, so I'm finding it helpful to see all this information at a glance.
I've also made individual monthly pay-check trackers, which I adapted from ones The Budget Mom has developed. These trackers are still a work in progress for me, as I figure out how they will work best for our family.

So far, I've found it incredibly helpful just listing out our set-in-stone expenses each month and subtracting them from our income, so that I can then work out how I want to divvy out the rest of our money, eg. for groceries, petrol, clothing, or discretionary funds, or for saving for our big annual bills, or for other areas like house renovations, holidays and birthdays.

Because I can physically see how much money is coming in and going out before it actually does either of those things, I can take the time to plan where I want it to go and not just wonder at the end of the month where it all disappeared to. It's a wonderful feeling. (I'm sure that lots of my more organised readers already know and appreciate that feeling, but it's new to me.)
I've printed out beautiful Freezer, Fridge and Pantry inventories from I Should be Mopping the FloorI'm yet to use them, but I've printed them out so they're ready to go when I next make a tally of the food items we have in the house.
I've also printed out Birthday and Christmas planners from The Budget Mom so that I can think about how much these are going to cost well in advance, and start saving for them in their own categories.
The Budget Mom recommends using the envelope system, where you physically get money out of the bank for different saving and spending categories separated by envelopes that you put the money into. It means that the money is there when you need it and doesn't accidentally get spent on other things. I haven't done this yet, and I'm trying to figure out whether individual savings accounts would be better for us, but I've printed out and made up some of her envelopes just in case I do decide to go with her system.

I am already using a "Groceries" envelope to store receipts and an index card where I keep a running total of everything we've spent on groceries this month. On the index card, I subtract our spending from the amount I've set aside for groceries and ensure I don't go over budget.

We actually went grocery shopping yesterday, and I was meticulous about writing down the prices of everything that went into my trolley. I managed to come in under budget (woohoo!), so I've got a little bit extra in case we need to buy more milk or bread this week.

My financial goal is to have no money owing on our credit card at the end of this pay cycle.

We usually run out of money in our checking account before the end of the month, and so cover the difference with our credit card. But then we have to pay the credit card off when we next get paid, and so we start that month with less money in our checking account. Because of that, we inevitably run out of money before the end of the month and have to cover the rest of our expenses on our credit card.

It's a vicious cycle.

A vicious cycle that I'm actively working to get us out of. Last month we managed to finish the pay cycle with half the amount owing on our credit card that we had owing the previous month. I know we can do it again this month and keep the whole thing paid off so that we go into the next pay period owing nothing on the credit card.

I know this because I've tracked and planned for all our expenses this month.

It means we are only spending NZ$190 on food a week for our family of five, but that's money we have in the bank, and not money we're taking from next month's pay.
The last thing I have in the binder is a Kids of Integrity bible study on obedience. Part of getting disciplined is ensuring I'm consistent in training the character of my children, and there's no better way I know to do that than by getting God's help.

If I succeed at nothing else as a homeschool parent, I would like to succeed at raising kids with sterling characters. Being of good character will serve them well, no matter what path they choose to take in life. (I'm grateful to my friend, Geraldine, and to my parents' group for teaching me that.)

Final thoughts on the binder (for now): I'm still planning to add in a section on house work/maintenance, so I'll be on the hunt for good printables for that.

And lastly, do you use a home management binder? If so, I'd love your feedback on how you use it and what works well for you. Any suggestions for house work/maintenance systems would also be appreciated. Thanks!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

What we ate, week ending 22 February 2020

It's been a while since I've written a post like this, but I thought I'd share with you what we ate this week, in case you're always on the hunt for meal inspiration like I am.

Breakfast - French toast (a great way to use up old bread, and the eggs we're getting every day from our chooks)

Lunch - Pumpkin soup and buns (I pulled the pumpkin soup out of the freezer and reheated it, but made the buns fresh, letting my breadmaker do all the hard work.)

Dinner - Roast lamb, mashed potatoes (from the garden) and peas

Breakfast - Mango lassis

Lunch - Overnight bread (this is the easiest thing to make, which is why you'll see it popping up again and again this week), served with a vege/fruit platter

Dinner - Sausage crumble, spaghetti and vege crudites (Miss S cooked)

Breakfast - Mango lassis for the kids, Bircher muesli for me

Lunch - Homemade pizza at our friend Becky's house. Lemon muffins

Dinner - Slow cooked BBQ butterfly chicken, rice (cooked in homemade chicken stock), corn and peas

Breakfast - Scrambled eggs (using eggs from our chickens)

Lunch - Overnight bread with a platter of fruit and veges

Dinner - Chicken, kumara and tarragon pie, made with leftover chicken from Tuesday's dinner. (I just happened to have two sheets of flaky puff pastry in the freezer, one for the base and one for the top of the pie. I also had a couple of old kumara that needed using, and tarragon in the garden.)

Breakfast - Cereal for the kids, Green smoothie for me

Lunch - Sandwiches, lemon muffins (we were given a bag of lemons from our friend, James, who has an epic tree, so we've been making lemon muffins a lot), salami sticks, crackers and fruit

Dinner - Mince and cheese pie (just a store-bought one for an easy meal), served with a vege/fruit platter

Breakfast - Cereal for the kids, Green smoothie for me

Lunch - Pumpkin soup (finishing off the rest of the soup from Sunday) and Overnight seed bread. Lemon muffins.

Dinner - Chilli bean potato wedge nachos (featuring potatoes from our garden), topped with cheese and sour cream. Plums on the side

Breakfast - Cereal for the kids, Leftover mince and cheese pie for me

Lunch - Sandwiches (Peanut butter / Nuttvia / Salami, cheese, tomato, cucumber and mayo)

Dinner - Hamburgers on homemade buns. (To make the patties, I shaped mince into patty shapes, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and fried them in butter. We topped the burgers with the patties as well as lettuce and tomato slices from the garden, cucumber slices, gherkins, cheese, grated carrot, mayo and basil pesto.)

What have you been eating this week? Do you go through food phases like me? I'm definitely on a lemon muffin, green smoothie and overnight bread kick at the moment. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Fun in the kitchen

I fessed up at the end of last year that I had got all stressed about money and wasn't doing so well making ends meet from month to month.

Well, that's all still true, but help is coming and in the meantime I've been having a fun with making food out of what we have as much as possible, with the occasional small supermarket/orchard top up.

There's something to be said for not being able to buy whatever groceries you want. It activates creativity and really gets you prioritising what you put in your trolley.
This week I've made three loaves of overnight bread, and it's been wonderful. Easy to make and delicious to eat. It also uses simple ingredients - just flour, water, salt and a tiny bit of yeast - so it's very inexpensive to make.

We've taken a loaf of the overnight bread to a homeschool picnic, shared it with friends for lunch, and eaten it for lunch at home. The kids all go crazy over it and I'm planning to experiment with seed versions next.
The kids spread their overnight bread with butter. For myself, I topped it with homemade basil pesto and sliced tomato. The basil and tomatoes were both furnished by my garden, which makes them that much more satisfying.
The garden has also been furnishing us with cherry tomatoes and salad greens for easy salads. (Oh, and if you're wondering what's tying my tomatoes up in the photo above, it's an old sock I cut into strips.)
If there's one thing that makes me feel like a frugal homesteading-type mama, it's making chicken stock. I've been making it for years and I still love to do so.

This week I made a big pot of chicken stock using all the bones and vegetable scraps I've been saving in the freezer for the past few weeks.

Some of the chicken stock got used in a chicken, barley and split pea soup we ate for our lunch at home with overnight bread. There was enough soup leftover to freeze for another meal, so we'll be eating that again before the month is out. (Probably with more overnight bread.)

I actually made two batches of chicken stock with the same bones, simply by replacing the water and adding another squirt of apple cider vinegar with the second batch to keep extracting the nutrients from the bones.

I froze most of the chicken stock in one-cup portions, because I like throwing a cup of it into the rice cooker every time I make rice, to give it extra nutrients and flavour. I then whizzed up all the spent bones with water and dolled them out around my fruit trees for a fertiliser boost.
I wasn't sure how this next kitchen experiment would turn out, but it was really scrumptious. Even the kids liked it.

I sliced up homegrown potatoes into wedges, skin and all. Then I cooked them in unflavoured coconut oil until crispy, before covering them in feta cheese (that I got at a discount store), a mixture of baked beans and salsa (which was open in the fridge and needing to be used), and grated cheese.

I baked them again until all the cheese had melted. They turned into a potato-based nacho dinner that I'll definitely be making again, although the kids said they'd prefer it without the feta.
Yesterday, I visited a local orchard and bought plums, apples and pears for the kids to snack on, as well as a mixed bag of apple and pear seconds for cooking. I turned the apples into apple crumble, and we ate that with whipped cream for dinner last night.

The kids couldn't believe we were having dessert for dinner, as that was a first around here, but they loved it and it really captures the fun we've been having with this eating challenge.

Here's the kicker. I spent this lovely Waitangi Day gardening and used up all my energy, so now I have no idea what we're going to eat for dinner tonight. And... it's 6pm. So dinner should be now.

Oh well. You win some; you lose some. Hopefully we'll be winning again tomorrow.

What fun kitchen experiments have you been trying lately?

Friday, December 13, 2019

How healthy are my unvaccinated children?

When I think about all the wonders of living in our modern era, the thing that I am most disappointed in is our healthcare. It could be doing so much to improve our health, but it's not.

The vast majority of us are living with chronic illnesses, and we don't even know why.

Western healthcare is pharmaceutically-driven to the point where doctors don't seek to find the causes of our ill-health, but rather seek to match the symptoms of our ill-health to pharmaceutical drugs that only treat those symptoms and not the root cause. And if you get put on that drug for life, all the better (for the pharmaceutical companies).

Most doctors don't even realise they're failing us, because they have spent years mastering a healthcare education that was shaped by pharmaceutical companies.

I came up against this in my own life a few years ago, when it was discovered I had goiters on my thyroid glands.

My GP referred me to a surgeon so I could have ultrasounds on my neck to check if the goiters looked malignant. Thankfully, they didn't, so I asked the surgeon what could have caused my goiters. He told me there was no known cause, but it was likely hereditary. I thought that was strange, since no one else in my family suffers from goiters, but he was the expert.

The surgeon's suggestion to me was that if the goiters continued to grow and bother me, he could "whip them out" and then I would simply take one tablet a day for the rest of my life to do the hormone-balancing work that my thyroid had been doing.

In his spiel, he spoke with joy of the fact that the tablet he was offering had relatively few side effects. That was the thing that brought him joy.

Neither my GP nor the surgeon mentioned that goiters can be caused by an iodine deficiency. I found that out from my friend, Michele, three years later, just in casual conversation. She had also been burned by the medical industry and had started doing her own research on everything health-related. She recommended I start taking Lugol's Iodine and even told me where to buy it online, since you can't get it over the counter here in New Zealand.

The change to my goiters upon taking iodine was dramatic. They immediately began shrinking, and within this year have reached the point where my neck looks and feels completely smooth. Another symptom of iodine deficiency has also resolved; My hair, which had been breaking off near the roots, isn't anymore.

If you are mistrustful of our healthcare system, you have a right to be.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the constant pushing of vaccines, despite the fact that vaccines put a toxic load on our bodies and negatively change the way our immune systems operate. How many vaccinated children do you know who are dealing with allergies? What about asthma? Eczema? Recurring ear infections? Tonsillitis? Cancer? Learning difficulties? Inflammatory bowel disease? Neurological disorders?

As you will know, if you've been following my blog for any length of time, I chose not to vaccinate any of my children. I feel really blessed that I stumbled across a book during my first pregnancy that listed some of the negative side effects of vaccines. I had never even heard that vaccines could have negative side effects.

The story we get sold by our doctors and the media is that vaccines are the most marvellous medical invention of our age, that they save lives and that they are incredibly safe. The adverse reaction statistic that gets thrown around is "one in a million." As in, only one in a million people will have an adverse reaction.

Well, I don't even know a million people, but I know a heck of a lot more than one person who is vaccine injured. Something isn't adding up.

My eldest child is now 10 and has no health issues. When we fill in forms asking about what health issues she has, we get to leave the entire health section blank. The same goes for my other two children. We have no allergies, no asthma, no learning difficulties, no eczema, no recurring ear infections, no tonsillitis, no cancer, no inflammatory bowel disease, no diabetes, no neurological disorders. In fact, no medical disorders or chronic illness of any kind.

I recently had to re-enrol all of my children with our GP, because it had been so many years since she had seen any of them.

This good health is despite the fact that all of my children had to be formula-fed from their first week of life, due to my lack of milk supply.

So, what health issues have my children had to deal with over the years and what medical decisions have we made?

My eldest child
We declined the vitamin K shot for Miss L (and all of our children) due to its link to an increased risk of cancer. However, we did give Miss L oral vitamin K as she had a large hematoma on her head due to her turning from a posterior to an anterior position in the birth canal.

Miss L was put on IV antibiotics in her first 24 hours of life because an initial swab showed she might have contracted Strep B. She hadn't, so after a day, she was taken off the antibiotics.
While in the hospital, a midwife recognised that L was positive for Coombs (her A+ blood had mixed with my O+ blood and caused antibodies to develop). L had to spend several days sleeping on a UV bed. It took a while for her jaundice to clear, because my milk supply was not sufficient to help her kidneys flush out the antibodies that had built up with the Coombs.

We introduced formula when she was a week old, (after doing everything we could to increase my supply) and that gave her the nourishment she needed to be able to leave the hospital.

After a time, the formula caused mild constipation, so we switched to goats' milk formula and I fed her boiled prune juice, which helped alleviate it.

When L was six-years old, she caught the chicken pox, along with her two siblings. I treated her at home, and kept her there until the last of her spots had scabbed over.

L had antibiotics for the second time in her life shortly after we moved into our current house. She was six-years old and had caught impetigo off her younger sister. I hadn't recognised it in her sister, because I didn't even know what it was. I had never had school sores or seen anyone who had. The antibiotics cleared up the impetigo. (Note the six-year gap between her hospital stay at birth and her next medical treatment.)

The third time L had antibiotics was when she was seven and grazed her elbow roller-blading. I grabbed the first aid kit, but then noticed rain through the window so ran outside to bring in the washing, and handed over the wound care to my husband. He didn't clean the wound with an alcohol wipe like I would have done, or put Betadine on the wound. He simply wiped it with water and put a plaster on it. A few days later, L had red shooting lines leading away from the wound up to her armpit. The glands in her armpit swelled up and she got a fever. Paul took her to White Cross, where she was prescribed antibiotics that cleared up the infection.

That was the last time she had antibiotics or required medical treatment, and that was over three years ago. (Paul and I are both very careful with our wound care now. I carry alcohol wipes, bandaids and Betadine or Crystaderm with me at all times.)

Last year, L came down with the flu. I treated her at home with liposomal vitamin C, elderberry syrup, homemade chicken broth and plenty of rest. She came through just fine. She also suffered from a bad cough for a while last year.

Over the years, L has also had the odd cold and vomiting bug, but nothing I couldn't treat at home.

My middle child
My second daughter, Miss S, suffered with reflux for her first year of life, thanks to the formula she was drinking. We gave her Gaviscon as recommended by our doctor, to try and ease some of her discomfort. It wasn't working, so I began giving her homemade chicken broth and coconut oil when she was closer to one, and those both helped.
At 16-months, S had an ear infection that caused the whole side of her neck to swell up. She began to have febrile convulsions, so I took her to the hospital where she was given paracetamol and antibiotics. I now know more about how to treat an ear infection, and wouldn't give her either of those drugs if we were dealing with one again. Fortunately, she is the only one of my children to have ever had an ear infection, and that's the only one she's ever had.

That is also the only dose of antibiotics she's ever had and she's now eight.

At two-years old, L threw a rock at S's head, which caused a puncture wound. I took her to the hospital where the doctor strongly recommended I vaccinate her for tetanus. I asked if I could get that vaccination on its own and was told it only came in a multi-vaccine shot with pertussis and dyptheria, so I declined.

I did, however, bow to pressure somewhat and agree for her to receive the Tetanus Toxoid Antigen. She had that injected into both of her thighs, and is the only one of my children to have received an injection of any kind (other than L's IV antibiotics at birth). If I was doing it over, I don't think I'd even give Miss S the antigen. I don't know if it's a coincidence, and there's no way to test for a connection, but she regressed with night-time bed wetting around that time.

Even if the tetanus vaccine was offered on its own, I wouldn't give that either, because I've continued to research vaccines and now understand them to be even more unsafe and ineffectual than I first thought when I made the decision not to vaccinate.

Miss S had the mild chickenpox at age four, which we treated at home. She caught impetigo a few months later, but I didn't know what it was and she managed to clear it on her own (but not before passing it on to her brother and sister).

Miss S has also had the odd cold and vomiting bug over the years, but nothing serious.

My youngest child
Our six-year-old son, Master J, was incredibly blessed to receive donor breast milk for most of his first year of life, starting at seven weeks, so he had far less formula than his sisters did in that first year.

I was also able to keep up my meagre milk supply for that entire year by co-sleeping with him and breast-feeding him to sleep for all his naps and whenever he woke up overnight, so he received my maternal antibodies in that year as well.

He went to the hospital once in that year for croup. (I actually tried treating it at home with an onion poultice first, but didn't back myself and decided to take him in.) The doctor attempted to give him oral medication for the croup, but he kept vomiting it up so in the end I just took him back home and the croup went away very quickly with no further intervention. (If I'm remembering right, it was gone when he woke up the next morning.)

J has had antibiotics once in his life, and that was for the impetigo he caught off Miss S when he was two.

He also had the chicken pox when he was two, but we treated that at home and it was mild, although he did become quite constipated with it.
Like most active boys, J has been to the emergency room or White Cross a few times for accidents - mild concussion from hitting his head on a table, breaking his arm falling off a bunk bed, and splitting his chin open falling out of a tree.

On the whole, he's had more colds than his sisters, which started in his second year of life after he began drinking formula instead of donor breast milk.

This year (2019) I started giving all three children a drop of iodine in milk every few days, and have noticed significantly better health because of it. Maybe one or two mild colds in all of 2019. I've always given vitamin C, but this year I also added in a vitamin D spray over the winter months. That could have contributed to the good year we've had health-wise. Of course, it's also likely that we just haven't come into contact with as many bugs, since this is the first year we've had no children at either kindergarten or school. (We now homeschool.)

So there you have it. That's the health status of my vaccine-free children.

I'm so glad we chose not to vaccinate, and the more I study vaccines and their toxic load on the body, the more grateful I am. Thanks to the tireless research of people like Hilary Butler and Dr Suzanne Humphries, I feel confident in my decision not to vaccinate, and I'm not afraid to treat my children at home for most illnesses they do get. It breaks my heart to see how afraid many of my vaccinating friends are because of the scaremongering that is coming out of our media.

I expect our family will still get its fair share of illnesses over the years, because we live in a fallen world and disease is a fact of life. It doesn't scare me though. We will deal with whatever comes our way by working to build health so that we can better fight those diseases.

I know that lots of you are particularly worried about measles right now, because of the outbreak we had here in New Zealand this year and because of the outbreak and deaths that are happening right now over in Samoa. I would encourage you to look deeper into that situation than what the mainstream media is sharing. This YouTube video by Just Dad offers a good summary of what is going on over in Samoa.

I would also encourage you to research vaccines as much as you can. You don't have to have a medical degree to read PubMed articles. Make sure you read the whole article though, not just the abstract, because the latter doesn't often match the former. The good stuff gets buried in the body of the medical literature.

Ultimately, whether you decide to vaccinate or not, do it from a position of knowledge. Don't just assume your doctor has done the research for you. Ask to see the vaccine inserts and read what the ingredients are as well as the possible side effects.

Then, before you agree to have anything injected into your children, go away and look up the ingredients to find out what effects they can have within the body. We all have different genetic makeups and responses to toxins. If you ask your doctor or nurse whether a vaccine is safe, they will always down-play the side effects, repeating the standard line that vaccines are safe. Don't accept that. Do your own research so you're genuinely aware of the risks before you submit your children to them.

For example, aluminium is the adjuvant used in most vaccines. It forces the body to create an immune response so that antibodies will develop. Find out what aluminium does in the body. Where does it go? Where does it settle in the body? What are its effects? How does a small baby with immature kidney function process this aluminium, compared to an older person with full kidney function? What happens when dose after dose of aluminium is injected into a person?

What I've learned is that aluminium is not used because it's safe, but because no safer adjuvants have been found. It would be replaced if it could be. Although, it's the best adjuvant option we have, it's definitely not a risk-free option.

Check out Vaxxed II, The People's Story, where people who have witnessed vaccine reactions in their own children are interviewed about their experiences. A recurring theme in these stories is that the doctors push for the vaccines, but then deny any link between the vaccines and the catastrophic injuries that result from them and also don't know how to help the vaccine-injured children.

I can assure you that I have done a lot of reading and research on the subject of vaccines (both for and against vaccines), so I understand the arguments people will give for vaccinating.

In my opinion, those arguments don't stack up against the reality of what we are seeing, both on the ground and in the medical literature.

If I am wrong about this, my children don't seem to be suffering for it.

If you have any questions about what I've shared today, please feel free to ask them. I'm happy to talk about this topic, so long as the conversation remains respectful. We can have different opinions without hating each other for them. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Spending less on homeschool

Thank you to everyone who got in touch with me after my last post, where I talked about my budgeting troubles. I received so much great advice and encouragement from you.

A kind friend is actually putting together a spreadsheet for me so I will be able to track our budget better going forward.

Paul and I examined our past couple of months of spending and it was pretty clear that the majority of our money goes towards the mortgage, utilities (including insurance), food, tithe/giving and homeschool activities.

A lot of that stuff is immovable, but I've taken a look at our homeschool activities and decided to cut back on some of them next term.

We are only going to go to one of our homeschool groups, although we will still meet up with the other homeschool group for lunch and a play so that the kids can continue to build their friendships there.

The other thing we are going to cut is swimming lessons for the girls. They are both really confident in the water, so I'll just continue Master J in his lessons while the girls play in the pool. J is actually a fairly decent swimmer for his age, but I want him to be really capable since we spend so much time at the beach.

I used the recent government homeschool allowance to purchase the next level of Math-U-See resources for all the kids, so they'll be set for maths for most of next year (depending on how quickly they get through it). I supplement this with RightStart maths games that I purchased at the Auckland Homeschool Conference earlier this year.
Our language arts programme is The Good and the Beautiful. The levels that my girls are studying are offered as free PDFS, which is amazing, so I just printed them off right here at home. I had to purchase Master J's current level, but his next one will also be free. (Grades 1-5 are free and REALLY good. Check them out.)
I get all J's readers out from the library (there's a HUGE selection), and I've been reading through The Well-Trained Mind to get ideas for books to order for him. The Well-Trained Mind has also given me ideas for audiobooks to listen to with the kids as we drive to our various destinations. Here is a list of good quality audiobook ideas for you:

Our favourite audiobooks

  • The Wednesday Wars*, by Gary D. Schmidt
  • What Katy Did*, What Katy Did at School, and What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge
  • Pollyanna* by Eleanor Porter
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis
  • Sarah Plain and Tall series, by Patricia MacLachlan
  • The Story of Civilization volumes 1-3
  • The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Goose Girl* series by Shannon Hale
  • The Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory* by Roald Dahl
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  • Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
(I've put * next to our absolute favourites from this list.)

For history, we will be starting The Story of the World Volume 2, which I purchased from Book Depository. I managed to find lapbook printables to accompany that, for a donation of US$3. I just need to buy manilla folders to use for the lapbooks, and then we're good to go for history.

We are also listening to The Story of Civilization Volume 2 in the car as we drive about, as it covers the same time period as The Story of the World Volume 2 and I was able to borrow it for free from the library.
We are going to finish up our animal biology unit this coming week, as we only have reptiles and arthropods left to go. The kids have loved doing this science unit. Putting together their lapbooks has been a real joy. I've enjoyed learning right alongside them, especially the chapters on birds. Birds are amazing! This unit was really inexpensive to do, as I bought The World of Animals curriculum secondhand, and then printed free lapbook printables to accompany it.
Master J did a couple of science classes at our homeschool group this term, and they were excellent, so I'm going to enrol the girls in a science class each next term. At home, we'll do Mystery Science since we have already purchased a membership and it's lots of fun for the kids.
Our Bounce Back resilience group will keep meeting together next term. The curriculum for that has already been purchased by my lovely friend, Julia, who is taking us through the course. This week the Bounce Back kids all finished their lesson with a swim, which was absolutely necessary in this hot summer weather. 
Music lessons are what cost us the most activity-wise, but I don't want to sacrifice them so we'll just suck up that cost and forego other things.

I'm looking forward to our summer break, when I won't have to think about any of these things for a while, and can just enjoy time with my family.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Where did my Frugal Fun go?

A couple of years ago, I started a little series on here called Frugal Fun, where I shared about the ways I was saving money and having fun doing it. But last year I suddenly stopped sharing these frugal posts, and today I wanted to tell you why.

It was because I got really stressed about money. Like, I-was-struggling-to-breathe stressed. I don't know if it was because of the pressure I put on myself to be frugal for my ironically-titled Frugal "Fun" blog posts, or because money was something my parents often fought about, so it's a trigger for me, but I started to stress over every dollar I spent. 

More frustratingly, despite all my efforts to cut costs, we still ran out of money before the month ended, every month.

All this anxiety cropped up and I was having trouble sleeping, so when I started going to counselling to work through issues from my past, my counsellor helped me realise I needed to hand over my money worries to Paul for a while and just take a breather from them. Paul took over paying the bills so I wouldn't have to think about them, and it did help me unwind from the anxiety spiral I was twisted up in. 

When I felt ready, I took the bill payments back over. Ever since then, I've been trying to figure out how to balance our budget, but I still find we run out of money before the month ends, so I'm obviously not doing a very good job of it.

This month I was inspired by the YouTuber Frugal Fit Mom to be proactive and find ways to bring in more money when we were getting low. I was able to do this through World Organic sales, by selling homeschool curriculum we no longer needed, and by babysitting for a friend. That really helped me feel like I was taking constructive steps towards my budgeting problems. 

I also did an eat-from-the-pantry challenge where I got creative in the kitchen to use what we had instead of shopping for more ingredients. That was actually really fun, and I enjoyed the puzzle of it - figuring out ways to turn what I had into edible meals. 
One night I made my own pasta sauce out of homegrown cherry tomatoes that I had frozen last summer. Another night I made a stir-fry to use up all the odds and ends of vegetables that were in the fridge. A third night I pulled out pinto beans from the freezer and made Mexican Rollups. There were enough left over to freeze for another meal, and I was able to pull those leftovers out for lunch this week. I also made a delicious creamy basil pesto spaghetti and meatball concoction that became my son's new favourite meal. 

All in all, it was a good end to the month, but I want to do even better next month. 

I would love to get a handle on our finances so that we don't overspend at the start of the month and then run out by the end. If you have any tips on how to budget on a monthly income, when expenses each month are variable, I would LOVE to hear them.

Also, please share any resources you've come across that have helped you learn how to be wise with your money. 

Thanks friends!


Monday, October 28, 2019

Our homeschool schedule for term 4 2019

Term four is already shaping up to be a busy one for me and the kids. I fear that my homeschool goals might not actually fit into the amount of time we have in a day, but we're going to give it a jolly good crack.

Activities outside of the home
This term the kids are all doing swimming lessons because I want them to hone their swimming skills before our summer holiday. We will be spending lots of time near water, so swimming skills are vital. 

In our Christian homeschool group, we are doing cricket for our sport and a Christmas nativity musical for our art. The kids are learning to read sheet music and are being instructed by one of our homeschool mums, who is a trained singing and piano teacher. 

In our other homeschool group, Miss L has signed up for polymer clay modeling, a dance class and a Lego creations club. Miss S is doing Minecraft computer coding, creative journaling and the same Lego class as Miss L. Master J is doing a class about epic voyages, a science class and a sports class. 

L and S are continuing with their music lessons this term. L has just moved up to a three-quarter size violin, and S is preparing for an end-of-year piano recital. 

This term J is doing club athletics, because he LOVES to run. 

We are also continuing the resilience course we started last term with three other homeschooling families. It happens once a fortnight. On the alternate fortnight, the kids go to an after-school club at our church. The theme of the club this term is 'The INCREDIBLE Word.'

Book work at home
All the children are doing The Good and the Beautiful for their Writing, Art and Geography curriculum. I can't say enough good things about it. The stories are inspiring and wholesome, the teaching is rigorous and the art is beautiful. L has just moved up a level, so I spent this long weekend printing, stapling and hole punching the curriculum to get it ready. I'm excited to start it with her. (I love learning alongside my kids.)
The kids are doing Math U See for mathematics and are all almost ready to move up to the next level. I'm waiting for our homeschool allowance to come through from the government before I purchase the next books for everyone. 
For science this term we are learning about animal biology. I purchased a Christian curriculum called The World of Animals, from a Facebook homeschool group, and have put together a looping basket of supplementary reading material. 
I've also made lap books for the kids, so they can add interesting information they learn about animals as we go along. The lap books are divided into 'Mammals,' 'Birds and Fish,' 'Amphibians and Reptiles,' and 'Arthropods,' to correspond with the different units in The World of Animals curriculum. I found animal lap book printables at Catholic Schoolhouse and at Homeschool Share.
We are just wrapping up The Story of the World book one, so I have ordered book two from Book Depository. I'm keen to make a large timeline with the kids, to recap everything we learnt about ancient times before we move onto the next book. 
I've put together memorisation books for the kids, because I want to make it really simple for them to memorise poems, Bible verses, geography facts and other useful information each week. 
My goal is for the kids to learn one Bible verse each week, so that they have a stack of them stored up in their hearts and minds for all the different moments in their lives when they need encouragement. I found bible verses online that people had created to look beautiful, so I printed them off and glued them into our Bible verses book. 
To help us memorise geography facts, I'm searching out catchy songs on YouTube. The best one I've found so far is this Rock the Capitals song about South America. If you know of any other good ones, please send them my way.

And that's it for term four. Wish us luck!