About CubbaKid

Home is my jam. It's where the heart is, where your story begins, where the good stuff lives. I write about all things home: decorating, lifestyle, homeschooling, home birth, homesteading, home finance, and more.

Fun Financial Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

This article first appeared in the January newsletter for my local MOPS chapter.  I had the pleasure of being asked to write a little something about financial resolutions for the New Year and decided to republish it here as well.  Enjoy!

 

Ok, ok… talking about finances might not actually be a whole lot of fun, but as a Financial Coach I can assure you that life is less stressful when your finances are in order.  When I help families put a plan together, I can almost see the stress melting away! The Bible mentions money hundreds of times, and while God cautions us not to “love” money (1 Tim 6:10), He does expect us to be good stewards of our finances so that we may provide for our families (1 Tim 5:8) and bless others.  This year, getting on track with your finances is completely doable – here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Review (and stick to) your budget.  This seems like a “no brainer,” but this also seems to be the area in which families struggle the most.  All families have a budget. The question is whether or not your family is following it! Get started by printing out 3 months of bank statements to see where your money is going.  You’d be surprised at how much those trips to Chick-fil-A add up! Look for areas of spending where you might be able to cut back or save. And be honest with yourself, your spending, and living within your means.  One of the things I enjoy doing for families is helping them find money they didn’t know they had! That results in money which can be put towards other important things (savings, debt, investments, insurance, tithing, etc).
  • Save your money!  One of the biggest reasons families fall into financial distress (aside from job loss)  is not saving their money. An unexpected expense pops up and suddenly you’re faced with a financial emergency – leading most people to credit cards (which starts the cycle of debt) or borrowing from family and friends.  Having an emergency fund with money set aside for the unexpected solves this problem! Additionally, most families also need a separate “short term” savings fund for expenses they know are coming.  For example: the trip to Disney, a new car, or a home improvement project.  This year, commit to saving just $84 each month and by the end of the year, you’ll have $1,000 tucked away.  
  • Make one extra payment on your mortgage this year.  Just one extra payment on your mortgage every year shortens the length of your loan by 4-5 years!  You can spread this out over the course of the year if one whole extra payment isn’t manageable. And if you really want to make an impact on your debt (yes, your mortgage is debt!), look into starting a debt stacking plan that could cut the length of all your debts – saving you thousands of dollars in interest payments.  If you’re not sure how debt stacking works, feel free to ask me!
  • Get the right insurance.  Having the right auto, home, and life insurance for your family not only provides you with peace of mind if the unexpected should occur, but having the right insurance can also save you a ton of money!  Many families don’t realize they could be overpaying for their insurances or could possibly be underinsured. Just looking at this one area of your finances alone could drastically change your overall financial path!    

If all of this seems overwhelming, that’s ok!  The key is to start small – take just one step and implement one tip listed above.  Once you’ve done that, you’ll feel great – and taking the next step will be easier! And remember: I’m here to help! My advice and coaching are free, so reach out if you have any questions!  

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Winter Decorating

‘Tis the season for taking down the holiday decorations, right?  Unless, you’re like me and enjoy embracing the icy hues of winter.  After all, it can be a dark, dreary time of year, and sometimes taking down the decorations just makes it all the more depressing… but that doesn’t have to be the case inside of your home.  Here are a few examples of easy, bright, wintry decorating ideas from my own home that can easily stay up until St. Patrick’s Day!

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White lights intertwine with sparkly white garland in the window, while ornaments perch in and around some sedum I saved in a terra cotta pot from this summer.  Icy shades of silver, white, and teal are perfectly suited for wintertime and don’t necessarily scream “Christmas.”  The wreath hangs in the window all year and I just change out the accessories on it.

Here is a daytime view of the same window.  My family room has a “beachy” theme and these colors work well even through the holidays.

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In the living room, a giant Chinese dough bowl holds an assortment of wintry picks, ornaments, and my absolute favorite: a large glittered pinecone.  This year, my goal was to decorate without any red, so the transition from Christmas decorations to Winter decorations that could stay up after the holidays would be easy.

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Some views in the daylight:

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As you can see, the dough bowl is very large, but to achieve the same look you don’t need the exact same thing.  Instead, you could use an elongated basket, wooden box, or ceramic planter.

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I really love this pinecone.

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Happy Winter!

But, What About Socialization?

Yes, what about socialization?  The Holy Grail of “go to” questions from pro-traditional school proponents grates like the proverbial nails on a chalkboard for most home-schooling/unschooling/school-free parents.

Buy why?  Why are we all so concerned about socializing?  Why are pro-schoolers so concerned with it and homeschoolers are so bothered by the question?  Let’s consider a few things.

As an adult, I want you to imagine being in a room with 20-30 other people your age with whom you are forced to work, interact, share, and socialize for a minimum of 6 hours every day for 5 days out of the week.  You also have to eat with them.  And go to the bathroom in groups.

How does that make you feel?

Whether it makes you feel good or bad is irrelevant.  What I want you to focus on is choice.

You see, as adults we have the option to control the amount of socializing we create in our lives.  If we need downtime, “me time”, alone time, or free time – we make it happen.  Granted, there are exceptions and obligations, but for the most part, we have the choice to “socialize” as little or as much as we choose.

Why don’t we allow our children the same choice?

Why do we believe it’s healthy for our children to be surrounded by other children for 30-40 hours every week for 40 weeks out of the year, when we wouldn’t do that to ourselves as adults?  Why do we believe that children gain some sort of positive social growth by having this kind of forced, concentrated, overextended interaction with their peers?

It seems manufactured and unrealistic when we describe it that way, right?

Consider, too, if parents and close family members are the people who are best suited to instill social constructs and beliefs that align with an individual family’s values, why then are schooled children spending such a disproportionate amount of time away from the family?

Also, consider your child’s future.  What are the chances that he or she will end up in a career or entrepreneurial endeavor where they will interact only with people their age, ability level, and social status?  Is it more likely that your child will end up doing something with their future that involves people from other age ranges, income brackets, religious beliefs, ability levels and so on?  What then are we teaching our children about socializing when we put them in a room full of other children similar to them?

Is it possible that what school is really teaching our children about socializing is that we aren’t supposed to interact with people who are different, or outside of our cozy little bubble?

Is school possibly teaching our children that time spent alone is somehow weird and unnecessary?

Is the social construct of school itself possibly the impetus for bullying?

As the mother of two young children, my social media newsfeed algorithms tend to default on occasion to articles and memes that stress the importance of “self care” and “me time” – since it turns out that being a parent is kinda challenging.  If it’s important for adults to take time out of their busy schedules for themselves, doesn’t it make sense  for children to have time to themselves also?

If children are constantly learning, developing, and growing – as the “little sponges” we imagine them to be – how much more critical is it then that they learn the importance of a balanced social life that includes people who are different from them and that they need sufficient time to themselves?  And wouldn’t it be ideal for them to learn these things as early as possible?  Why should we wait until adulthood to figure this out?

So, back to the original question:  what about socialization?

As far as socialization within the school system is concerned, we need an accurate and healthy definition, first.  Then, we need to give our children opportunities for choice and balance.  And as it currently stands, traditional school constructs are far from any definition or approach of that sort.

 

Faith in Focus: Rethinking Halloween

I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade when I made my first costume for Halloween.  Because I had no money and I was an overly-creative child, I decided to be a “cleaning lady” – a la Carol Burnett.

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This was my favorite Halloween costume – because I made it, and I thought it was funny.  And as handy as it was to collect candy in my bucket, the mop made for more difficult trick-or-treating – in case you were wondering.

Growing up, Halloween was a fun holiday where kids dressed up and collected candy.  It was innocent, and we never dressed up as anything scary or gory – or sexually explicit – mostly because it never crossed our mind to do so.

I think Halloween has changed a lot over the last 20-30 years.  It doesn’t seem to be the holiday I remember from my childhood.  It seems to be more focused on the macabre, the dark, the hopeless.  I don’t remember my neighbors decorating their houses with demonic effigies, dismembered body parts, coffins, and bloodied weaponry.  I don’t remember women dressing up in a manner that blurred the line between cute costume and streetwalker.  Friends and family almost never bought entire costumes from the store – blowing their monthly budget on an something to disguise themselves for one night.

With that said, and as a mom, looking at Halloween from a Christian perspective, I have decided that it is a holiday we will not be overtly “celebrating” in our home.  At least not in the way I’ve seen it “celebrated” in recent years.

So, what do I do for my children when it seems the rest of the world is trick-or-treating and decking their front lawns with tombstones?  How do I keep my kids from feeling left out, but at the same time abstaining from the questionable practices of Halloween?

Trunk or Treat is the first thing that comes to mind.  Typically hosted by churches in lieu of the typical door-to-door candy-collecting, Trunk or Treat is basically a gathering of families in a large parking lot with decorated cars or gymnasium with tables.  Kids visit each car/table for a treat.  It looks something like this:

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It isn’t necessarily always hosted by churches, either.  Local municipalities have started hosting Trunk or Treat nights for families who live in rural areas, who have strict curfew laws, or for other reasons.

So, it’s basically costumes and candy and fun… and depending on where the Trunk or Treat is hosted, there could also be other activities like music, food, entertainment, games, and so on.  Which also sounds a lot like the parties and fall festivals that also take place, in case a local Trunk or Treat isn’t happening.  That sounds like more fun than traipsing through a dark neighborhood worrying about whether or not someone’s porch light is on.

So, when the actual evening arrives, we’ve already been having fun attending Trunk or Treats and Harvest Parties.  Our girls don’t feel like they are “missing out” if they happen to stay home and hand out candy.  And they actually enjoy it, too.   They dress up, we sit together as a family on our front porch, eat dinner, have a fire in our chiminea, and greet our neighbors.  Sometimes if we’ve been really lazy, we wait until the night of Halloween to carve our pumpkins on the porch.  We try to make this night more about connecting with our community and hanging out together as a family.

If you are seeking alternatives to Halloween, check with your local churches, homeschool groups, and municipalities to what’s available.  And if you can’t find something in your area, take the lead and set something up!  Host a Fall Festival or Harvest Party at your house.  Get a few friends and neighbors together to do your own Trunk or Treat… or, better yet, encourage your church/youth group/municipality to host one for the community.  You may discover that other parents are seeking alternatives, too.

5 Easy Steps to an “Old School” Summer

If you’re anything like me, you may be longing for the simplicity of a summer like the one you had as a child.  For me, it was the 80’s.  They were the kind of summers where the days were full of freedom and stretched forever into a golden sun and all you really needed to make you happy was a Slip ‘n’ Slide and a box of Fla.Vor. Ice pops.  However… if you’re anything like me today – well, the nostalgia may be a bit harder to grab if you’re the mom of little people.  You may be feeling overwhelmed and pressured to provide a summer full of All the Awesome Things to Make All the Memories – and I have totally been there – but I’m here to say a simple summer where you are truly present with your loved ones and relaxed will be so much better.  Go ahead and give a few of those Pinterest crafts and activities a try – but all those other days in between?  Well, here’s my idea of how to do it – in 5 steps – mom style.  You can relive your childhood summers while letting your kids in on the secrets to a really rad summer, too.  And even if you’re not a mom –  I’m pretty sure this list will work for you, too.

So, without further adieu:

5 Steps  to an “Old School” Summer

  • Step 1:  Turn on the radio to the local “oldies” station (or whichever station is playing the most 80’s music).  Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and satellite radio don’t count.  You need to hear all the local ads.  It’s part of the charm.  Plus, you can do step #2 during commercial breaks.
  • Step 2:  Mix up a big pitcher of lemonade, iced tea, Kool Aid, or Tang.  Choose which childhood memory you want to relive and try not to think about the ingredients.
  • Step 3:  Go outside and stay there.  Your backyard, front porch, local park, beach… whatever.  Just get outside and even if you do nothing but sit and listen to the radio from step #1, it’s good for your soul.  If it’s raining?  Go to the mall.  Meet up with a friend for an Orange Julius.  You know you want to.  Bring the stroller and stay away from the Disney store and you’ll be fine.
  • Step 4:  Let the kids get wet and dirty.  It’s ok, really.  This is why you have towels and bathtubs and washing machines.  Don’t have kids?  Do a friend or family member a favor and offer to babysit – and get THEIR kids good and dirty.  Or, you could just let your own inhibitions down and run through the sprinkler yourself.
  • Step 5:  Put your phone, iPad, tablet, computer – whatever electronic device you are tethered to – away.  Turn it off, put it down, and go have an awesome summer!

Repeat steps 1-5 as often as possible from now through Labor Day, and in the meantime, you know what I’ll be doing.

 

Biscuit Feet

So, just for today, so you know I’m alive and well, I’m just going to share a thought that is totally fluff:

Six months after Honeybean was born, I went for my check-up and brought her with me.  My midwife commented that Honeybean had “biscuit feet,” and I’ve never forgotten it.  Mostly because it was cute of my midwife to notice, and because it’s true.  My daughter has high and wide feet – and as a baby, you can imagine that they might look like little breakfast biscuits.

And cute little champagne grape toes.

These are the things that make my heart warm up – probably much like a … biscuit.

And these are the blips on my Mom Radar that give me pause to think about what makes my family uniquely us – and at the same time, what connects us to every other family and makes us the same.

This is why I love what I do – connecting with other families through our passions:  homebirth, homeschooling, homesteading (I’m sensing a pattern here).  And then, appreciating the different things that make us all uniquely part of the big ol’ puzzle of life.

Look, I didn’t promise Shakespeare … I said this was fluff.

 

 

Accidental Pumpkins

So, summer is ignoring my request to slow down and let me enjoy what I can – in light of me having walking pneumonia for the past 2 weeks immediately following a business convention – I pretty much feel like the school year is just going to pop up and start tomorrow.

It might as well, considering that I already have pumpkins in my yard.  And not green, small ones, either.

No, I have large, orange, jack-o-lantern-ready pumpkins scattered about a large corner of my yard.  And I realize they won’t last until October, which just adds to the melancholy of it all.

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But still, I have to smile.  Because these pumpkins totally happened by accident.  They were in the garage after Thanksgiving just rotting away and the hubs decided to toss them into the yard and turn them into the ground.  Compost, I believe, was the original thought here.

But no, Mother Nature had other ideas and now we have a large pumpkin patch with about a dozen carve-ready pumpkins.

Any takers?  Just 10c a pound!

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This all just makes me think about the little actions (and the big ones, too) that lead to unexpected, yet joyful, occurrences in life.  You toss a few pumpkins in the yard expecting compost, but you end up with a bumper crop of gourds.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, I just know it.

It gave me pause today to just think about the little things I do every day that could lead to some serious joy in the future (or some serious pain, depending on what I’m doing).

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I think that’s my metaphor.  I’m still working it out.  But you get the idea.

So, I think, instead of making grand, sweeping plans for what remains of my summer vacation, I will instead be intentional about making small, sweet, important things happen – to build something bigger than I could have ever imagined at all.

Happy August!

The Definition of Insanity

You’ve heard the phrase before:  Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

When I’ve recognized it, I nod my head in agreement:  surely, this (whatever I’m doing at the time) is insane.  We’ve all been there, and hopefully, when we see that the same old processes and actions aren’t producing the results we want, we change course.

How is it we can recognize these patterns in our everyday lives, but not in education?

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In a recent article, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post quotes the work of Alfie Kohn, in which he outlines ten things about learning that are absolutely true, yet we continue to largely ignore them in our educational system.  You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, but for your brief reading purposes, here are the “Ten Obvious Truths About Educating Kids that Keep Getting Ignored:”

  1. Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten.
  2. Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean you’re smart.
  3. Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting.
  4. Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do, and more enthusiastic when they have some say.
  5. Just because doing X raises standardized test scores doesn’t mean X should be done.
  6. Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.
  7. We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically.
  8. Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder, doesn’t mean it’s better.
  9. Kids aren’t just short adults.
  10. Substance matters more than labels.

If we are all talking about education reform, but continuing to ignore these naturally-occurring truths about children and how they learn, we aren’t going to change anything.  We’re going to continue to spin in this endless cycle of dissatisfaction, continue to throw money at the problem rather than real solutions, and in the generations to come, we’ll wonder why we’ve “fallen behind” – which is a another discussion in and of itself.

Let’s stop the insanity.

Class Dismissed: My Review

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Last week, I had the opportunity to view Class Dismissed: A Film About Learning Outside the Classroom.  From their website, “Class Dismissed showcases a growing trend in alternative education strategies that are working for many families across America.”

Indeed.

Since I am speaking from the position of a public school teacher (for the better part of fourteen years now), rendering special needs services in a private setting, I can say that my opinion of this movie might surprise some of my readers.  There also exists the possibility that I’ll edit and revise my review as time goes on, since I’ve only seen the movie once, but I’m planning to host a viewing myself – so next time I may see something new.

Class Dismissed is a 90-minute documentary that follows a Los Angeles family as they navigate their approach to homeschooling their 13 and 11 year-old daughters.  They arrived at the decision to homeschool due to some of the changes they were seeing in their daughter’s attitudes, a growing dissatisfaction with their public school system (for the record, they were sending their children to the El Segundo school district, purported as one of the best in the Los Angeles area), and from being flat-out asked by their older daughter to try homeschooling.  With a healthy dose of both trepidation and excitement, the parents agree to start homeschooling, only to find they are frustrated and not sure where to begin or what path to follow.  Initially, they were excited about the change, but as time wore on, the long-lived expectation of needing to do school wore on them.  They ended up enrolling in an independent-learning charter school, which allowed them to continue homeschooling and provided some much-needed funding for extracurricular activities, but soon learned that this option didn’t work very well for them, either – as it was just busywork and paperwork.  After about a year of attempting to homeschool according to a set of rules, schedules, and curriculum, the family finally decides on a path that’s more suited to their needs and ultimately, “lets go” of the rigid expectations they set forth in the beginning of their journey.  In the end, their older daughter (at 14 years old) is volunteering at a local marine life center and studying to pursue a profession of the same, and the younger daughter (age 12) is pursuing gymnastics and paying for it through running her own business.  Everyone is happy, everyone is pursuing their passions, and everyone is learning.  Yes, books are involved.

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What I ultimately feel this movie does for both homeschooling and traditional schooling is dispel any rumors about what homeschool families actually do – what they go through, the decisions they make, and the way homeschooling really works.  Which, by the way, isn’t the same for every family – or even the same for each child in a family.

The movie also touches on other forms of alternative learning, such as unschooling, the classical curriculum, and alternative learning centers, such as The Village Home, as featured in the movie.  There are a few “heavy hitters” featured in the movie, such as John Taylor Gatto, Michelle Barone,  Pat Farenga, Linda Dobson, Blake Boles, and  the amazing Dale J. Stephens, which I feel increases the film’s credibility as these education professionals know their stuff and have made successful careers from their alternative approach to education and learning.

Class Dismissed is a fascinating look at alternative forms of education, and gives both ideas and rejuvenation to those who may be dissatisfied with the traditional schooling system in our country.  Class Dismissed has been released at a time when the debate over the validity of Common Core is hot, and teacher accountability is a sore subject.  It couldn’t have come at a better time – especially since the rise in homeschooling interest has soared over the past 15 years from approximately 850,000 homeschoolers in the year 2000, to more than 1.7 million homeschoolers in 2011, with the numbers still growing in the past 3 years.*

I feel that anyone who is currently homeschooling, is “homeschool-curious,” or is involved in any facet of education (including public and private school teachers), should see this movie.  It’s informative, encouraging, and proves one thing for sure:  the homeschoolers know what they’re doing.

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*National Center for Educational Statistics

Class Dismissed

For a long time, I believed that the best way to disseminate knowledge and information (a.k.a. to educate someone) was through the recently-adopted concept of teaching at a school.  In the past handful of years, I’ve come to realize that true “education” has nothing to do with a group of same-age children reading texts and completing worksheets together in an isolated room.  For as many reasons people will divulge to support the traditional school setting, I can come up with just as many to refute it.  While I am still, by many means, beginning this journey, one thing I’ve come to know is true (after MUCH personal internal conflict about EVERYTHING I’ve ever known about teaching):  education in America is broken.

You’ve heard this before – this is not a newsflash for you.

Problems run rampant within our educational “system” today and there are simply too many to list here, though I hope to address each one individually at a later time – which will likely take me the rest of my living days.  But I digress…

Maybe you are a parent or teacher or student who disagrees with me and finds that you’ve had a virtually pain/problem-free experience with traditional schooling.  I’m happy for you, but I have two questions:  When did you/your children attend school?  Where did you/your children attend school?  Because the answers to those questions can heavily impact your opinion of traditional school and how your opinion relates to traditional schooling today, in this country.

I’m beginning to “see the light” and it is with great joy and humility that I attribute my most recent awakenings to my daughter.  As of my writing this, she is 1 day away from turning 2 years old and has taught me more about how children humans learn, than any book, college course, or professional development program.

It is an absolute marvel to observe her and speak with her.  Yes, I have conversations with my 2 year old.  And most of the time, they make sense and go well.  The other times?  Well, she is still a toddler…

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So, it is with great pleasure that I share with you the next piece of my educational reform puzzle…  Class Dismissed: A film about learning outside of the classroom.

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If you’ve seen this movie, great!  I will be joining your ranks shortly.  There are two viewings coming up in the next week, and I’m planning to attend both.  Based on the trailers I’ve seen so far and the internet chatter, I’m guessing this is going to be an eye-opening movie that will likely change the course of my career and educational path for my children.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

In the meantime, here is a quick teaser from the movie:

Tune in next week when I’ll give my first review on the whole film!