Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Who Are These Kids??

(besides being squinty-eyed because the sun is really bright!)

Did you say they are two kids that are glad that school is finished?
You're right!  Mostly, anyway.  They both love school.

Did you say they look like a Kindergartener and a Second Grader?
Right again!  And they are so proud of it!!

Today was our final day of this school year!  Wow!  It's hard to believe we have another year of homeschool under our belts.  Hannah was in Pre-K this year, and Benjamin was in First Grade.  Being a homeschool mom is one of the biggest blessings God has given me.  I can't imagine not getting to teach them and be by their side each day as they learn and grow in so many different ways.

Our house is only a couple of blocks from the high school track, so in the mornings that is where I go to do my walking.  I'm usually walking by the school about 7am, and it absolutely breaks my heart to see a school bus in front of the school dropping off kids for the day.  At 7am!  Those same kids probably don't get home until at least 3:30 pm or 4:00 pm each afternoon.  I completely understand that for some families, this is the only option.  But oh, how grateful I am that God has called us to a different life.

I'm not one to get on my homeschool soapbox and say that everyone should be doing it.  But I do believe that we are ALL scripturally called to be the first and most important teachers of our children, and I understand that looks different for each and every family.  I feel truly blessed and humbled that homeschool is what it looks like for ours.

We are officially on "summer break" for about six weeks, and we'll start our new year of school in mid-July.  I decided last summer that three months of unstructured summertime is just too much for us!  Our plan is to have a shorter summer break and incorporate more breaks in our school year.  I'm anxious and excited to see how that works for us!

In the meantime, my agenda includes an anniversary trip to New York City (holy cow am I excited!!), a church conference, planning for next school year, snow cones, a homeschool conference, and plenty of time by the swimming pool!!  Hello, Summer!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Family Travel

I recently read an article in "The Old Schoolhouse" magazine I subscribe to that talked about "Travel Kits" for kids.  The definition of a Travel Kit from the article is "a collection of items that will entertain and/or delight the passengers (especially the younger passengers), thus making the trip more pleasant for everyone."  This idea really resonated with me because at the time, we were planning a family vacation to the Metroplex area, which would be about a seven-hour car trip.  The longest our kids have ever been in the car was for five hours when we made our move last summer.  Needless to say, I was a little nervous about surviving the car ride!

So I decided to try out the idea for myself and make travel kits for Benjamin and Hannah to have on our trip.  After a trip to the dollar bins at Target and The Dollar Store, here is what I came up with (sorry for the sideways pictures--I have no idea why Blogger is doing that, and I don't know how to fix it!!):

The gifts included two movies each that I had picked up along the way when on sale for $5 each, candy and suckers (more sugar than they would normally have in a month!), snacks, story books, activity books, silly putty, notebook paper and pen, stencils, music CD, cars and legos for Benjamin, jewelry and Princess stickers for Hannah, and a disposable camera for each of them.  I spent a couple of evenings after the kids were in bed wrapping each gift in tissue paper and curling ribbon and putting them in plastic tote buckets to be presented to them the morning of the trip.  The finished products looked like this:
The Travel Kits worked wonderfully!!  The buckets sat in the seat between the two kids, and they were allowed to open one gift about every 30 minutes.  Who doesn't love opening gifts??  Benjamin and Hannah loved their gifts so much and were excited each time they opened something new.  It was a fun, successful, torture-less trip with very few complaints of "how much longer until we get there?".  Being able to alternate between movies, music, games, and gifts helped them not get bored and restless.  I was so pleased and plan to use this idea for future long car rides.

Now for a few pictures from our trip (for some random reason, these pictures are all right side up....go figure!):

We took in two Texas Rangers games while in the Metroplex--soooo much fun!!

We also took a tour of the new Cowboys Stadium--AMAZING!!

In front of Tony Romo's locker...

In our Rangers gear...

We had an absolute blast on our trip and made lots of fun memories.  We still have to send off the disposable cameras to get the kids' pictures developed.  I'm really anxious to see them...I think we'll have some interesting shots, to say the least!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dave Says...

In the late Fall of 2008, I was approached about facilitating a Financial Peace University class.  I had heard of this class and Dave Ramsey, but didn't know a lot of details about either.  I knew that there were things in the financial area of our lives that we needed to be doing better, and I knew there was a lot we could learn.  Experience has taught me that when you are in charge of a class or study, you often learn more than if you are simply a participant.  So our desire to get our financial lives in order combined with my willingness to lead the class landed me in front of a class of about 30 people in January 2009.

Mark and I began Financial Peace University with about $10,000 in total debt.  We set what we felt was a quite lofty goal of getting that paid off before the end of 2009.  With determination, sacrifice, a very focused drive and the grace of God, we were able to pay off the last of our debt on September 16, 2009--three and a half months ahead of schedule.  Wow, what an incredible feeling that was to be completely free of ANY and ALL debt!!  (I need to insert here that we are blessed to live in a parsonage, so we do not have a mortgage.)

We now purchase only that which we have the cash in hand to buy, which will include our next car (no, car payments do NOT have to be a way of life!), and we are determined to never get into debt again.  We have an emergency fund, sufficient life insurance, and are putting money into appropriate accounts for both retirement and our children's college.  We have a family trip to Dallas coming up as well as a tenth-anniversary trip to NYC, and both will be paid for in cash.  Having financial peace is an incredible place to be!

Having learned many financial lessons the hard way, Mark and I want our children to start early in learning how to live in financial peace.  So a few months ago, we purchased Dave's "Financial Peace Jr." kit, which is recommended for ages 3-12.  This afternoon, we spent some time getting ready to put this program into practice.  It uses Dave's sound financial foundations in teaching your children how to give, save and spend.  The kids are pumped, and I, too, am excited to get them started on the right track NOW!

In case you can't tell, we are huge Dave fans at our house!

If I have your curiosity piqued, you can go here to learn more about Financial Peace University!