1-8th Grade History for under $200 ($25 per year!)

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I had grand plans of teaching history using a  laid out curriculum; that utilized a classical approach. I had researched a ton of curriculum options and settled on one that came with a high cost of several hundred dollars a year. It was suppose to be perfect. I ordered the first unit and quickly realized when I tried to implement it that it wasn’t going to work for us. It was to much and frankly boring. It didn’t keep Paul’s interest. He wasn’t interested in learning about things chronologically. He didn’t want the boring stuff. He wanted to pick a subject that interested him and dive in.  So, we promptly threw in the towel on our fancy expensive curriculum and decided to go with child led unit studies.

In teaching this way our biggest asset is our local library. I let Paul pick a topic and than we go on to the library catalog and start reserving books. Once, they have all arrived (our library is very small; so we rely pretty heavily on inter-library loans.) we go and pick them up. I use pinterest to assembly a list of hands on activities Paul can pick from. We normally do around 5 activities per topic. I try to find at least one field trip in our area that ties in. We will also do virtual field trips via the internet. I can normally find a couple good documentaries or movies on netflix as well.

However, I do have a couple materials that in my opinion are worth investing in. They are materials that can be used over and over; regardless what historical topic you are studying. They can all be purchased for under $200 and will serve you all the way through eight grade. When used in conjunction with the library and internet they help you provide your child with a quality eduction in history. (They could even be used through high school either with a curriculum or continue to be used with unit studies). They are the following:

I bought two poster frames from Walmart ($15 each) to put the maps in to make them easier to use and keep them looking nice.

The other thing is a timeline. I think a timeline is so important for children because it helps them see how history builds on itself. It helps them see the relation between people and events. As we study each topic we add relative events and people to our timeline using figures from the timeline figure collection I listed above. Now, there are timelines you can buy to hang on your wall (like this) but I was to cheap for that. So, what I did was get some painters tape and make my own. I added dates to the tape and that is our timeline. Here is a photo; so you can see what I mean. It’s worked out really well for us and cost me under $5.  So, what is your favorite product for teaching history?

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The Crazy Dream

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Anyone who knows my husband knows that he likes to save money. He has crazy budget spreadsheets that project out for years. A lot of the times he starts talking numbers and I struggle to keep my eyes from glazing over. It’s mind boggling to me his ability to budget so far out and talk big numbers. He dreams of early retirement and being able to retire when William heads to college. We’ll be in our mid-40’s at that point. This dream and love of saving money means that on occasion he throws out crazy ideas; ideas that I promptly shut down and veto. Sometimes, after the initial veto I will take a moment to reconsider and open up to the idea; like when he suggested we become a one car family.

The other night we were having our monthly budget meeting to talk about upcoming expenses. We were talking about where we could cut our expenses and had pretty much came to the conclusion the only place really left to cut are transportation and housing. All of a sudden he threw out the idea of living full time in a travel trailer. He threw it out there facetiously. Imagine his surprise when I took it seriously. Not only did I take it as a serious idea; I thought it would be a great.

I can see it now you are scratching your head and thinking, “Wait, don’t they have 4 kids?” or “Why, would she want to live in such a small space with 4 kids?” All legitimate questions but it is entirely possible and do-able to live in a RV with four kids. Actually, a ton of people live full times in RVs with their families. This family does it with 11 people. This family does it with 6.There are websites like full time families that are dedicated to helping families find resources needed for their travels and connect with other full timers. There are facebook groups, books, etc. The amount of information out there is astounding. They come from all sorts of walks of life but there is one resounding element found in each family- they want freedom and family time.

I was all ready to start this adventure when our current lease is up next fall. 11 months to plan and prepare were more than enough time in my mind. Mark being the voice of reason pointed out some things that made this unlikely…mainly the cost of an rv that would be comfortable for our family size. He also pointed out that a radical lifestyle change like this is something one should be well researched and prepared for. After the initial disappointment (what can I say I really love this idea!) I could see his point. So, with that in mind my hope and dream is that in three years when it comes time to pcs again we can buy a RV and become full timers. (Mark still isn’t sure what to make of my enthusiasm. He is still wrapping his mind around it being a viable option; because he never thought I would go for.) Now, we won’t be able to travel for most of the year because of Mark’s job; that will have to wait till after he retires. We’ll be stationary most of the year.

However, we’ll save a good amount of money than if we lived in a regular house. We’ll be able to save more towards his dream of early retirement. We’ll be able to travel more when he takes leave. Traveling can be difficult when you have 4 kids. Hotels become expensive. Camping is much cheaper. However, I am not cut out for tent camping. RVing I can do. I want to be able to show my kids all the amazing things our country has to offer. I want to take them to see the Grand Canyon (when we are pass the toddler stage. Taking toddlers to the Grand Canyon makes me feel like a panic attack is coming on!) I want to take them to see Yellowstone and so much more. All of that becomes a much greater possibility if we live in an RV full time; own a RV.

It’s not just about the freedom to travel either. Yes, living full time in an RV will have challenges but it also simplifies things. There will be less space to clean. Less spaces means less stuff because you simply don’t have room for it. Living in a large house it is so easy for your stuff to overtake you. For you to end up with more stuff then you really need because well you have the space for it. That isn’t true in an RV. There is a simplicity that comes with living in an RV and having less stuff.

So, there you have it my crazy dream that I want to make a reality.


Less Stuff, More Living

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In January we decided we had too much stuff. We were overwhelmed with the clutter and general messiness of our home.  We started talking about looking at moving into a smaller house because realistically the large house we are in is too much for me to physically take care of. Thus, started the great purge!  We desired a home that can be easily kept clean without feeling like we have to clean all the time. We wanted to feel like we could just go hang out at the beach as a family without a long to-do list hanging around our necks stealing our enjoyment.

Some things were easier to purge than others. For example: I had over a dozen vases but I only ever use two of them. I got rid of all put the two that I really like and use often. A pretty purple vase and a crystal vase with tulips sculpted around the edge of it.  Another easy thing to purge was cookbooks. I simply boxed all of them up and out the door they went. I get so many of my recipes off the internet I couldn’t see a point to keeping the actual books. I bought a pretty binder and when I find a recipe that we like I print it off and file it in the binder. It has gotten rid of all the loose recipes and made it super easy to find a recipe without having to get back online and print another copy.

I had an entire box of formal dresses and accessories from when I was in high school. I had been holding onto them out of a feeling of obligation. I kept one timeless classic dress that fits nicely for any fancy occasions that might come up. I then contacted a local organization that helps provide dresses and accessories to girls who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to their proms and other formal dances and donated the entire box.

Some things are harder to figure out what to do with. Things like yearbooks. I have every single yearbook from kindergarten through senior year. I don’t know if I want to keep them or if I should get rid of some of them.  The things that are the hardest to get rid of are the things with emotional baggage some of it good; some of it bad.  It’s been a learning experience to go through that sort of stuff. I’ve learned that as I let go off stuff that I had been keeping out of a misplaced sense of obligation or guilt that I feel lighter emotional and mentally. As our physical space becomes less cluttered everyone is happier.

I hope to have the great purge finished by the time we move in August. We want to fit all of our stuff; except what we need to bring with us in the suburban for our day to day living in a 16ft long by 8 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall storage container!


Downsizing to a One Car Family

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Some time ago Mark mentioned the idea of going down to one car. I promptly told him there was no way that was ever going to happen and that he was crazy to suggest it. It just wasn’t workable. However, after much discussion (almost 6 months’ worth) we decided to go for it. As of today we are officially a one car family.

Now, I realize in today’s society and culture the idea of anyone willingly being a one car family is kind of crazy. However, we were hardly using Mark’s car. He only drove it pretty much to and from work. Anytime, we went out as a family we had to take the minivan because not all the boys could fit in Mark’s car.  Even, on the rare occasion when we hired a babysitter to go out on a date we took the minivan because it was easier for me to get in and out of.. The amount of time he was driving it wasn’t worth the expense to keep and maintain it. Not, when we live as close to his work as we do.

So, for now he’ll either bike to work, take the car if I don’t need it or we’ll drive him. Though, given that I am not much of a morning person I don’t for see a lot of driving him to work being done! I know the biggest objection to the idea of one car is well, the kids and you will be stuck at the house. Trust me, I know. That was my biggest objection at first.

However, honestly, I am happiest when I am not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I am happiest when I can stay home for part of the week. However, the idea of staying home; of enjoying my home is totally foreign to me.  The idea of slowing down is alien to me.  From the time I was 6 years old and started kindergarten I’ve always spent more time away from home than at home.  So, even though I’d rather spend time at home it is ingrained in me that I shouldn’t. It is ingrained in me that I should be out and about filling my time up with stuff that happens away from home.  Being a one car family will force me to work on this. It will help allow me the ability to stay at home more often; something that brings me peace and joy. It will help in our quest to simplify our lives.