Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Pt. 7


How Do I Afford This?

Homeschooling “on the cheap” is covered by various sites. It has also been covered by this blog in the past. Yet, because this series is about homeschooling as a single parent, I felt I needed to at least address some ideas on how to be able to afford to homeschool when funding may be tight.

With the internet, a printer, and a good local library, it is possible to homeschool for almost free. Unit studies are very popular ways to homeschool inexpensively. There are literally hundreds of free unit studies available online. There are some paid sites such as CurrClick that offer a free study each week. There are sites like HomeschoolFreebie which offer daily free resources. They also have paid resources that are often offered at a discount. Khan Academy is a well-known free site for many subjects. YouTube offers countless free educational videos and even audio books. Your local public library often offers free learning kits also. It is an extremely valuable resource.

There is a time exchange when you want to save money on homeschooling. When you have free resources, there is no one there organizing the lesson plans. That means it will require more time of the mom or dad to do the planning. Sometimes it is easier to find time than to find money, though.

I should say that the most “bang for the buck” I have found is Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which offers curriculum that is Christian in nature on every subject, and dozens of electives. They offer very easy payment plans also (sales are advertised often). Even though my children are finished, I still maintain my membership in this site since learning never stops. They also offer lesson plans. This is truly a one-stop place for all grades and subjects.

Other curriculums that are low-cost: Pray & Prepare. This is an excellent program that is not Adventist, but teach many of our doctrines such as Saturday Sabbath, unclean meats, and even modest dress. It is low-cost and has activities for all age groups. It is truly a program for the whole family.

Blessed is a Man/Far Above Rubies are high school programs that are specific for gender. They are college-prep programs that require a good deal of reading and writing/research. Again, they provide activities and ways to count high school credit. The parent only has to pick and choose according to interest and needs.

Before leaving this topic, I will also share about the K-12 program offered all across the country through the public school system. Because of the growing number of families who are pulling their children out of the public schools, a home-based public school program is now being offered country-wide. Word of warning…it IS public school. They do offer a number of perks like a free computer, a printer, and funds for internet access. They also offer funds for extras in some areas. When considering this option, ask yourself why you are homeschooling. From the friends I have seen using this program, it is a lot of work. There is also a teacher who oversees the work. Many times I have seen families extremely stressed in trying to finish the work by the end of the school year. Even though the cost is free, there are other costs to consider.

There are other options with information available on the blog and other lists. This post is simply a reminder of some ways to cut the cost of homeschooling. Having low funds needs never be a reason to not homeschool.

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Pt 6

Practicing Self-Care

Teaching, working, housework, church, community activities… Just how in the world is a single parent supposed to manage any “me” time or to practice the important self-care?

It’s impossible, many say. I tell the parents I work with that it is not an elective to have me-time, but an essential part of life. It boils down to boundaries. (Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend, is an excellent book for those who have trouble setting boundaries.)

A well-known example of the concept of self-care is the spiel the stewardess gives before a plane takes off regarding oxygen application in an emergency. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. If your children do not see you setting healthy boundaries as they are growing up, they will not learn how to set healthy boundaries themselves.

I realize that time and money may limit how a single homeschooling parent can practice me-time. One thing I want to convey in this post is the importance of self-care, and to hopefully remove any guilt that may creep up if you take time to implement this practice.

Some parents will wake early or stay up late to find private time. It’s important to schedule me-time that does not necessarily end up being the time you simply do devotions. Private devotional time is important, but it is also important to have time where you do something that is fun (not that devotionals cannot be fun). Some things I have done for self-care time: bubble-bath time, joining Toastmasters, scheduling a weekend at a state park for just me, movie time with girlfriends, library time without the kids, and window shopping sans children.

Ideally, self-care would happen daily. This is not always possible, especially if the children are young. Once a week would be minimum. This can be scheduled when the other parent has the children, or maybe during a parent-swap time. If the children are older and involved in community activities, then me-time can occur during this time.

It may take some creative thinking and scheduling, but it is possible to schedule regular self-care time. Learning to set boundaries with yourself, the kids, the church, and other family members/friends is very important. There is only so much of yourself to spread around. It is important to manage your resources. Remember how often Jesus would have the disciples withdraw into a quiet area. When we do not set healthy boundaries, we end up suffering burn-out, yelling at our children, and even developing chronic health issues.

Please, toss the guilt and “can’t do it” feelings, and begin today by scheduling some self-care time. It will improve your own well-being and that of your children.

Train Up A Child

homeschooler to entrepreneur

One of the most well-known verses on raising children is Proverbs 22:6. It is used as a source of comfort for many parents who have had children leave the church. Recently, I was doing a Bible study with someone and this verse came up. He told me that it is actually misinterpreted. I got online and started researching and reading. What I found was surprising since it actually pertains to educating a child. As a veteran homeschooler, I have long suggested that parents focus on educating their child using their interests and abilities. This verse here actually discusses this perspective.

The term “train up” comes from the Hebrew word chanac. In addition to training up a child, it also means to dedicate or consecrate a child. So, we are to dedicate our child to God as we tend to nurturing and disciplining him. God gave us this child to our care. Part of this raising in the Lord is for the parent to teach and demonstrate, but also the child is to actively assimilate the body of knowledge into their lives. We all know there is a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge.

The term “in the way he should go” is often thought of training the child in God’s way of righteousness. This actually means “according to the tenor of his way.” This means we are to train this child in a way that matches his disposition, natural abilities, and personal character/personality.

We are to learn about our children. What makes them tick? What special talents and interests did God give them? We are to use this as a pathway to training them in God’s way. This point right here puts waste to the idea of a one-size-fits-all education model. Our child’s temperament needs to be considered with the training so that any adapting can be done so the child can achieve their God-given potential.

Now to the next phrase that offers so much hope to parents. Unfortunately, it is not about the “returning to the fold” belief that many hold. What it means is, if the child has been trained or raised up according to the natural talents/character in the pathway of truth, then he will not leave that teaching as he grows. The reason is that this lifestyle has become second nature.

Earlier I talked about the importance of the child assimilating the information into his life. This is how it becomes second nature. Very rarely do people leave their faith when it is second nature to how they live.

In Ellen White’s writings we are counseled to use nature to teach in the early years. We are to keep God’s lessons ever before their mind. She counsels to give children activities that will interest them. We are to help them channel their abilities into useful channels. This is how the principles of God are taken into our children’s lives and made second nature. It is the little things we do each day, using the natural talents and abilities to teach our children, that will help each child become a life-long follower of God who is fulfilling their specific purpose in life.

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Pt 5

Teaching, Cleaning, and Working: Balancing it All

I think, with all the challenges of being a single homeschooling parent, managing the house was the most challenging of all. I have to confess, sometimes I failed dismally. In my early years of homeschooling, I would often compare myself to other homeschool moms who appeared to have it all together, and feel even more of a failure. Never mind that these moms were not single parents. Never mind that they didn’t have a child with challenges or health issues of their own.

Housekeeping would fall way down on the list of priorities many times. I remember one time I had an unexpected visit from a relative. This person started in on criticizing me that my dishes were not washed. I told this person that they were washed each night before I went to bed, but I had more important things to do with my time than worrying about dishes three times a day. I had the habit of doing the dishes after I put the kids to bed (they were young then). I would do the picking up and all the house chores after bedtime.

We often run into well-intentioned family and friends who think our homes need to be magazine-ready since we are home with the kids all day, right? I have to warn you that having children at home all day, living life as a life-long learner, doing experiments, creating art, etc., will often leave the home in a state of minor chaos.

I will share some ideas that helped me through the years as I slowly gained my “sea legs” on the homeschool journey.

First step is always to downsize as much as possible. An excellent resource is Flylady. She has a lot of free information on setting up cleaning schedules, etc. I must warn you that she does send out a lot of email/reminders. You can fix your settings so you do not get these and only access the information online. Flylady is very well known and has helped many families.

Second step is to set up a cleaning schedule. Again, Flylady can help here. After the schedule is set up, I would assign chores to the little ones. If they can walk, they can help clean in some way. It is a huge disservice how many parents refuse to give chores to their children today. They want them to be “kids” as long as possible. The problem is that they are not teaching them responsibility or life skills that are very important. There are easily found sites online that have age-appropriate chores. There are also sites online that give lists of life skills teens need to have before they move out on their own.

An example of a site: http://www.momjunction.com/articles/everyday-life-skills-your-teen-should-learn_0081859/. Kindling Dreams, my organization, does offer a Life Skills 101 class for junior and seniors. We cover a variety of basic skills to equip teens as they move out on their own.

In order to develop these skills, children need to begin learning them from a young age. Everyone in the home contributes to the general well-being of the home.

When the children were young, chores were mainly picking up after themselves and keeping their room clean. As they got older, they began helping with dishes, and even helped in preparing meals. I would let my children experiment with meals in the kitchen with the one rule that they had to eat whatever they created. All of my children can cook, males and females.

As they became older, I divided work into zones. They would be assigned a zone for a month. There was a kitchen zone, outside zone, living area zone, etc. They would also have responsibility of shopping and preparing menus/meals. Once they hit their teen years, they had to do their own laundry. They were assigned days. If they missed, then they had to work with their sibling to fit into another day.

As children age, they also assumed more responsibility for their own learning. I would give assignments for the week, and they would be responsible for making sure they were done by Friday.

These suggestions may need to be adapted if a child has challenges. It is important for the child with challenges to learn as many life skills as possible. It may take longer to learn. They may also need notebooks with lists created so they have reminders.

The main thing I had to remember was that housework, while important, is not the top priority over work, learning, and life. If a parent begins early to teach general pick-up, then the chaos remains on a low level. If the limits are set — chores before play — then there is no question of the answer if Susie wants to go play with Lori next door, but has not finished her chores. Setting simple limits and being consistent is very important in achieving balance in the household chores just as in other areas also.

One thing my father would say to me was “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” It’s all small stuff at times when it comes to maintaining the home. We want to remain ahead of the “house condemn” stage, but also remember the importance of allowing children the freedom to “experiment and get messy,” as Ms. Frizzle (The Magic School Bus) says.

 

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Part 2: Preparing for Sabbath While Going it Alone

I think one of the hardest challenges I had as a single parent was trying to get all the kids ready for church, arrive in time, and still maintain some type of spiritual awareness. I have to confess that I failed on that last point many times.

It’s hard being a single parent no matter what school choice you make. It’s harder when you are going it alone as a homeschooling parent. You have hardly any free time to just focus on the house or even have “me” time. Then there is the issue of Sabbath and trying to get things ready so the house is ready, Sabbath lunch is prepared, the kids are up and dressed, you are out of the door on time, AND you are spiritually ready to be fed by the pastor that morning.

As I type those words, I can just feel the old feelings coming up in my body, and the thoughts of “that’s impossible” resonate in my mind.

Let me assure you that it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Many times I have read posts of parents trying to schedule each moment in the school day; yet on Sabbath, the schedule falls to the wayside. In my opinion, the Sabbath is one day when a schedule needs to be followed as much as possible in order to maintain some semblance of order when you are going it alone.

Today, I want to share with you some ideas I’ve garnered over the years on how to maintain a Sabbath rest while dealing with all the challenges of single parenting.

One of the most helpful things someone suggested to me when my kids were young was to make sure I had Sabbath clothes clean and ready on Sunday rather than waking up on Saturday morning with a child yelling they had nothing to wear that was clean. So, Sunday was laundry day. When the children are older, they can become responsible for their own laundry. I assigned days for each child where they would wash their own clothes, once they reached the tween years.

So, once the clothes are washed, dried, and put away (yes, instead of on the couch), each child can pick out their outfit and have it ready on the hanger. Shoes are nearby also.

Weekly housework can be divided up so that most of everything is done by Thursday rather than waiting until Friday. Wait, isn’t Friday Preparation Day? Yes, and unless you want to run yourself ragged trying to get everything done, it’s best to assign chores so that throughout the week, everything is taken care of. The only thing left on Friday should be meal prep for Sabbath, getting things together for the next morning’s rush, and even planning a Sabbath afternoon activity.

If your children are walking, they can be doing chores, even if it is just picking up their own toys. By the time they are teenagers, they would benefit from having learned how to run the whole house on their own. Believe me! I graduated without knowing how to do this. I made sure my children learned. They will be much better off in the long run; plus, it relieves stress and responsibility from you.

For meal planning, the older ones can take turns deciding menus and even cooking the meal. This is good life preparation. It also helps develop good habits for when they are on their own. Sabbath afternoon plans can also be planned by the younger ones. This also teaches life skills. Plus, it gives them ownership in the family. They also learn more about what’s appropriate and what’s not. It also lessens the stress on the parent.

If you need help in getting the house chores done before Friday, FlyLady is a great resource. Donna Young’s site also has some good resources on home management, along with homeschooling. There are also chore lists available to help parents know which chores are appropriate for what age.

Clothes are done. Chores are finished. The house is ready for Sabbath. The menu is planned and prepared. Activity is planned. Now, for the finishing touches of actually going into the Sabbath hours.

We had evening and morning worship in our home. On Friday evening, it would be nice if some special activities could be planned. Perhaps even a special Friday evening meal could be made. Candles could be used. Songs sung. Favorite verses recited. Blessings of the week shared.

Some meal ideas could be potato bar, pizza night, popcorn and smoothies, or whatever is a family favorite. We loved haystacks. It was easy to fix and easy to clean up. Some families will use disposables on Sabbath to save time in clean up. Other families will use the special china on Sabbath. You determine yourself what is most important. Just develop a nice family evening that can be fun and relaxing, while helping you turn your thoughts to God in a special way.

Since the clothes were made ready last Sunday, Fridays can be time to grab baths, perhaps before supper so that evening worship is calm and relaxing. Saturday morning, try to get up early enough yourself so you can have time for your own personal devotion time. I know I would often skip this on Sabbath, thinking I would still have spiritual food at the church service. The problem is that it would lead me where I was not focused on God so much as the things I needed to get done in time.

Always get the kids down to bed on time on Friday so that Saturday morning is easier with a full night’s rest. If you have little kids, be sure to have their Sabbath bags ready on Friday so they are ready to grab as you walk out the door. You can even have the bags in the car when you get the car ready for Sabbath. If you have a diaper bag, that can be ready and in the car already. Snacks, if used, can also be done on Friday.

I am one who feels like if I am not at least 10 minutes early, I am late. It would create stress on me, trying to get the kids up and out the door on time. Give yourself time for those last-minute happenings. We can plan and schedule, but life happens. Build in a time cushion. It’s important for children to learn to be to church on time. Teach them by example. On the other hand, it is also important for them to learn that when we mess up or something happens, it is up to us to show them how to cope with stress. Breathe, pray, ask for forgiveness (if needed), and move on. I hope that the event doesn’t cause yelling and scolding. This can lead to everyone in the home losing Sabbath blessings. Instead, the young ones can learn so many spiritual blessings even in these times.

Once at church, breathe, relax — no matter how things were that morning — and let God bless you. Be sure to enjoy the interaction of your church family. This is a good time to allow those adoptive grandparents to step in and help with the kids. If you do not have to, please do not volunteer for children’s Sabbath School. With you homeschooling and being a single parent, it is good for the children to have other godly adults speak into their lives. Plus, it gives you a chance to soak in spiritual support from other adults.

Sabbath does not have to be the hardest day of the week. It can be the blessing God intends it to be. It takes planning and consistency. It takes asking God for the strength and wisdom each day, especially on the Sabbath.

As you finish the Sabbath hours, it can include family worship, a fun family meal like pizza and popcorn, along with a family activity. We would rotate between board games and family movies. It’s a good time to thank God for the day’s blessings.