Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The farm is on the mend, & some questions answered

It has been busy around here lately, as usual. Friday, the girls and I left and headed to Horton KS to Mission Lake Christian Camp for a weekend retreat for grades 6-8. (Emily is in 8th, and the twins are in 6th). I was a dorm mom, assistant family leader and camp nurse. Our theme was the "Who's", "Who's your Daddy", "Who's your Leader"..... It was a good weekend, good group of kids, good food, and good fun. It was cold, but not too cold. We went into town on Saturday for a couple games of bowling (you don't even want to know my score!), and despite some chill had a short campfire on Saturday night.

As the girls and I were preparing to leave for camp, the clothes dryer quit (it was already on the list to be replaced, just wanted it to last till the weather would be more comfortable to use the clothesline outside), the dishwasher started leaking again, the furnace on the main level of the house went out, we had a stillborn calf, and my suburban quit.

But, we arrived back from camp to find the suburban has now been diagnosed, a brand new calf was born (the last one we will have, I think), and parts for the furnace were ordered. My husband received a couple of gift cards from work that will be applied to a new dryer, along with some gift cards I earned doing surveys and such from MyPoints.com . I plan to get a high efficiency dishwasher and dryer to replace the current ones with. Last spring I got a high efficiency front loader Bosch, and cut our rural water bill down to less than a third of what it had been. So, if I can bring down the water bill further and lower the electric bill that will be a plus.

This Friday, the girls will be entering projects in St. Joseph at the Homeschoolers Science Fair. This will be our third year to attend. Each year I am amazed at the various projects that are entered and the knowledge of the kids.

Now, I will start to answer some of the questions I have been sent. It will take several days to get through the list, but keep sending them in!

#1. How do you and your girls do your chores and what are they?
Each girl is responsible for keeping a clean room (often an issue!!) and their bed made, and their bathroom clean. They rotate the other chores a week at a time.
Those chores are:

feeding rabbits, chickens & ducks, cats & dogs, throwing corn to the pigs
watering pigs year round, and cows & horses when the ponds are frozen over
daily counting of the stock
**gathering eggs
**sweeping the kitchen after every meal
**baking & cooking (one of their favorites--they can lick the bowl and pick their own menu)
**mending
**dusting, vacuuming
**their own laundry
taking out trash & picking up the trash in the yard
helping in the garden during the spring, summer and fall
bring up firewood from the barn

**These count towards their home-ec time

There are also other things they help with. Such as changing a tire or working on an engine. JD handles things of that nature and is very good about explaining the how's and why's. We count that as votech-life skills time.

Being on a farm, all 3 girls have learned to drive, however Emily is the most accomplished driver--better than many adults. She can drive all the vehicles and the big tractor. The girls drive some when counting cows (cows tend to hide in the back 40 when it is counting time) and when bringing up firewood from the barn.

So, our chores are probably a little different than "city" kids. I do feel it is important for kids to learn responsibility. I also feel they need to learn to cook, sew and keep house while they are young and still living at home. I went to college with some who couldn't even boil water without calling home to ask their mom how. Once I had a roommate who threw away a shirt because a button came off, and she had no idea how to sew it back on--said the shirt was ruined. I vowed then my kids wouldn't be like that!!

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#2 How do homeschool families afford to homeschool?
Most homeschooling families either have a work at home parent who does the schooling (works best with older kids, not preschoolers or younger elementary ones) or one parent works part time away from home, or have a stay at home parent.

In order to do this, we make some sacrifices, depending on the families income. Most homeschooling families have the same saving ways, and exchange money saving ideas with one another: One thing we gave up was big vacations. We now do more day trips instead.

We buy more things at thrift and consignment stores, especially kids clothing which is quickly outgrown. We shop in bulk (some families split bulk purchases to take advantage of the bulk pricing--such as flour, wheat, sugar, oatmeal in 50 or 100 lb quantities). In our area we have an Aldi grocery store, where I shop heavily. I spend around $200 to $250 every 2 months there and usually get 3 grocery carts full. Items I buy there are usually by the case, such as mushrooms, fruits and veggies. Our store also has good produce.

We garden, can and freeze our own food. We grow our own pork and beef, and have 2 ponds stocked with fish. We have an orchard with fruit trees, grapes and blue berries. Our orchard is still in the growing stage--it takes 2-4 years for trees and vines to produce. We are in our fifth year of growing, and add a couple vines and trees each year. We have been known to pick wild berries and walnuts.

We have chickens and ducks for our eggs. Some families have goats for milk and cheese. We don't have goats--yet--I am wanting a couple however to help me with the mowing and cleaning out of the fence rows.

I also use coupons, and take advantage of the specials that CVS and Walgreen have. Often combining coupons and their sales, rebates, I get for free our shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, Kleenex, lotions and rechargeable batteries. (At CVS, Walgreen, Dollar Tree, Dollar General you can use both the store coupon and the manufacturers coupon on the same item, for double the savings. Many people don't realize that). I also use frequent shopping cards.

We save by washing our own cars, changing our oil during he early bird $12 specials (can't change it ourselves and buy a filter for that price). We mow our own lawns, cut our own firewood and do as much of our own maintenance as we can. Most homeschooling families also sew, as does ours.

We cook and bake from scratch and don't eat out. For day trips, we take our own sack lunches and drinks.

Many homeschool families do not have TV, cable or dish. That alone is a savings of at least $50 a month. We take advantage of all the free videos and programs from the public library.

We keep the thermostat set lower during the winter, and use the clothes line during the summer.

Homeschooling families also network with other families to trade books and skills. We have a few families we barter or work with for butchering, cutting wood and mechanical work. When possible we try to do business with a homeschooling family or church family.

We shop around for insurance rates and are not name brand loyal. We are not afraid of generics.

Also, in many homes you may find that the mom may do some part time child care, or sub teach one day a week (as is my case).

All these things may seem like just pennies saved, but when you add them up, it amounts to a fairly large savings.

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#3. How do you decide what materials to use? Does the state pick them out?No, the state does not pick them out--at least not in Missouri.

I have picked out our materials based on what we already have, what my dad has given me (he is a retired teacher, preacher and a book collector. One of his favorite activities is going to library and school book sales!!)and advice from other homeschooling families.

Right now we are using Alpha Omega's lifepac for Emily for math, history/geography/social studies, language and science.

All the girls are doing daily Bible readings for Bible following the schedule on the website http://www.ewordtoday.com/year/31/bjan01.htm. It takes you through the entire Bible in a years time. Depending on what we are reading in the Bible, I may opt to count it as history for a day.

I create their assignments for home-ec, spelling (which is an issue for one of my girls--used to be a problem area for two of them, but now we are down to just one!!) and reading. All my girls love to read, and I require one hour of reading a day. We also do reading comprehension several times a day. A great free website for reading comprehension is http://bookadventure.com/ Here, kids can take a test over the books they have read and earn points they can trade in for prizes. This is open for both public/private schoolers or home schoolers.

Next year, the twins will be switched to lifepac from Alpha Omega as well. But for now, their texts include Saxon for math, Alpha Omega lifepac for history, Abekka for language, health and science. The twins is different because their books I was able to purchase from a Christian School that was closing. We just started the history lifepac.

Some families use online programs instead of books. Some families are more hands on, some use computer programs. We use a little of everything. When you homeschool, you have the freedom to adapt to the students learning process. Some students learn by watching, or hearing, and others by reading. In a traditional classroom with close to 30 students, a teaching usually doesn't have the freedom or time to be able to change learning styles for each student.

The state of Missouri does mandate that we have 1000 hours of schooling per year, with 600 being in core classes (math, reading, social studies, language and science). 400 hours of those 600 hours must be in your regular homeschool location--not at/or on field trips or at a friends house. However, that "regular homeschool location" does not have to be at your home. Some parents may homeschool at their place of business, or the grandparents may be the teacher at their home. http://www.hslda.org/laws/analysis/Missouri.pdf
**Please note, each state has different laws regarding homeschooling and education.

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