When Will I Be Ready?

A few years back my mom was in some sort of regional church meeting with one of our worldwide church leaders (neither she or I can remember what the meeting was exactly or who the leader was – sorry for the vaguest context ever). The leader was taking questions from the audience and one woman asked him something to the effect of was it ok to delay having children until they had financial stability. The leader told the congregation – “You don’t have babies with money, you have babies with faith.”

That quote has stuck with me a long time. I think there are a lot of times when we feel as parents and in so many other situations that we don’t meet the basic qualifications. Whether from a standpoint of finances, spirituality, emotional wellness, education, age, time or any number of other factors in our life – it’s easy to feel like we should be more prepared before diving in. But the truth is, we are never fully prepared for the things we face in life.

We weren’t meant to have all of the answers before we start out – we’re meant to show up with faith and willingness to work and find the answers along the way. No one is ever really ready to have kids, or get married, or go off to school on their own, or go on a mission, or make a change in their career. You can’t have enough money, experience, education etc to be ready to take on any of these major challenges. Certainly none of these things ought to be taken on recklessly, but there will never be a time when you’re truly ready. Not being perfectly prepared should not stop us from doing the things we were meant to do. The Lord will help us as we have faith. If we show up with our woefully inadequate loaves and fishes He will work miracles with us to accomplish whatever we have before us.

COVID-19: Tips for Homeschooling Under Duress Part 2 – Curriculum

When I started this post series it was under the assumption that most students would be back in their regular classrooms within a couple of weeks. However, as things are progressing it’s seeming more likely that families are going to need more long term educational solutions than just a couple of weeks. With that in mind I thought I would chime in with some of my curriculum recommendations.

There are more different curriculum choices out there than you can even imagine and the process of deciding on a curriculum from scratch can be truly daunting. However, as most parents that are diving in right now aren’t necessarily looking for super long term solutions (just a couple of months rather than a full educational career) I thought I might chime in with some ideas for curriculum that is easily adaptable without too much hassle.

Most of my kids’ schoolwork is completed online which means that I am not actually the one teaching them. I know lots of parents have different feelings on using technology with kids. For me, this is a critical element of any curriculum that we use – that my kids can largely go through the work with little intervention on my part. Especially as many parents are working from home now while trying to get their kids through their schoolwork this seems extra critical. I will look over my kids’ schoolwork but the only actual teaching I do in a typical day is to do a 15 minute reading lesson with my kindergartner and once a week I will facilitate science and social studies – and none of those require any real prep on my part. I might work out problems on the whiteboard with my 3rd grader, or help my 5th grader through his grammar lesson – but I don’t actually prepare lessons or teach. While my older kids are working on school work I can mostly work on other household tasks, or entertain the 2 year old.

I’m also personally opposed to curriculum that has a lot of worksheets. Our first year of homeschooling we used K12.com which is a public-school-at-home curriculum – all free, and the actual curriculum was pretty good – but it was SO many worksheets. It killed my 1st grader’s love of learning and it was at least a year before I could even mention the idea of a worksheet without him melting into a puddle in a PTSD tantrum. I’ve heard the same from many others who have used K12. I will use worksheets but I’m very particular about the ones I use – it can’t just be to keep someone busy, it needs to have a really good purpose behind it.

Our Curriculum Picks

I use different curriculum for different subjects. I will break down below how I cover each different subject in our homeschool, as well as some resources that I’ve used in the past or ones that I’ve seen highly recommended. If you’re just looking for a specific subject I’ll link to the different subjects here –

All-in-One

Before I jump into my personal favorites though I should give a plug for Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool, The Good and the Beautiful, and Family School Online.

Easy Peasy is a free, complete homeschooling curriculum. You can go in, print out the assignments, and be off to go. They have workbooks that you can buy, and books that you could purchase if you don’t want to look for them at your local library. I know lots of people who have used their curriculum and love it for being easy to just open and do. It didn’t fit our personal style but I know lots of people love it. And did I mention that it’s FREE? Free is always a best seller ūüėČ

The Good and the Beautiful is not free, but the curriculum is low priced and very modular so it’s not a huge investment like some other curriculum are. I’ve heard so many great things about how well their units integrate many different aspects of learning as well as incorporating a spiritual side of things. Lots of people LOVE it, but again, it didn’t fit our personal style so we haven’t used it ourselves.

Family School Online is FREE through the end of June! This is a faith based curriculum geared towards members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I haven’t used this curriculum before in large part because it’s usually fairly pricey. It is definitely a more hands-on curriculum than I usually go for as well, but the quality is excellent. Everyone who I’ve heard that has used it has been very happy with it!

As far as an all-in-one option that I’ve actually used – Time4Learning. I don’t currently use Time4Learning but I have in the past and I think it’s a great option if you want low effort, complete, online learning. For $19/month for your first student, and $15/month for additional students in your household you cover all of your basics – math, language arts, social studies and science. I wasn’t thrilled with the assessment process – I felt it was too easy for kids to keep progressing through many of the activities without mastering them. I also wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed with their social studies and science curriculum. They were fine, but nowhere near as involved as their reading and math, and not as high of production value. However I haven’t found any other single online curriculum that covers all the bases at such a low price so I felt I needed to start with that recommendation.

Math

We have used so many different Math curriculum through the years. Currently each of my kids each use a different math curriculum so I’ll try to break down those three, plus a great free option.

Khan Academy – Let’s start with the biggest selling feature – Khan Academy is FREE! I also really like their learning model. Khan Academy is all mastery-based learning. To move on you have to really prove that you understand the material. It’s easy to move at your own pace and the videos do a great job of explaining the material – albeit in a bit of a dry manner. Khan Academy also offers other classes in many subjects (all still free), but I’ve only used their math courses personally. Their math curriculum includes representation of same gender relationships. I’ve found that their courses can be a little bit difficult for kids to navigate and they’re not really easy to work with if you have a struggling reader. I actually like using Khan Academy for myself because it’s a great way for me to brush up on my math skills without much investment or time. One day I hope to make it to higher levels of math than I completed in school, but with 4 littles running around… it hasn’t made my top priority ūüėČ

Beast Academy – This is my current favorite curriculum for Math! It costs $15/month for your first student and $7.50 for additional students – but there are discounts if you pay annually rather than monthly. Also right now they have a coupon code for $15 off a new subscription (i.e. a free month if you’re paying monthly!) – FLATTENTHECURVE. The program is set up with comic books that explain the concepts as well as short, engaging video lectures. I like this curriculum because it does a great job of teaching logic as well as math. It includes lots of great problem solving skills which I think is awesome for kids to learn. This is what my 11 year old is currently using and he’s loving it! My 3rd grader was too set in the curriculum he was using and wouldn’t really give this one a fair shake, but I think if I were starting him fresh this is what I would put him in too. It’s a little higher level though than my kindergartner is ready for – it’s geared for ages 8-12. They have a partner curriculum – Art of Problem Solving – that’s for grades 5-12. So if you have a student that’s grades 3-12 this is where I would start!

Teaching Textbooks – This is the curriculum my 8 year old prefers. It’s super straightforward – a short video lecture, a few practice problems and then 22 problems per lesson. There are quizzes sprinkled throughout. It’s not quite as “fun” as Beast Academy but it’s very clear and not dry. You have to purchase this curriculum by the level rather than having access to the whole curriculum for a subscription fee, but it’s only about $43/year for the lower levels up to $67/year for pre-calculus – so on a monthly basis you’re only looking at between $4-6/month which is a pretty good deal. They also offer FREE access to the first 15 lessons of any level, so you have a good chance to try it out before committing. Teaching Textbooks is taught on a spiral method – which means that they keep coming back to earlier concepts if you didn’t get them the first time which I really like. They also have the clearest grading system and the ability to reassign different work for your kids which I think is helpful. Their style is definitely the closest to a traditional school setting for better or worse – I don’t think it’s the most innovative, but it’s clear and easy to use. My 8 year old loves that he knows exactly what will be required of him. I have him go through the lecture and the problems on his own. When he’s done I will review with him any problems that he got wrong and we will discuss them. When he finishes a full level I save a copy of his gradebook and then I go through and delete all of the problems he got wrong (this takes forever because it’s a super manual process). Then I make him spend a few days going over each of the problems he got wrong until he gets them ALL right. That may sound like cheating, but I’m more interested in him learning all of the material before moving on than any grading system.

MathSeeds – If you have a student that’s K-2 this is my favorite curriculum for them. It is also paired with their ReadingEggs curriculum which I’ll talk about below. They offer a free trial but a subscription is only $59/year – or less if you hold out and wait for good coupon codes (they’ll start emailing them to you when your subscription expires) plus you can get even more money back if you use Honey. The activities are fun and easy to do. It’s all approached as a game so if you’re sneaky about it you might even be able to convince your kids that it’s not work at all ūüėČ I like that it won’t let your child move on until they master an activity – however sometimes my kindergartner gets frustrated when she’s stuck on an activity. I find that if I keep an eye on her we can get through things together though when she gets frustrated. The reporting isn’t as complete as I would like and it’s not as easy to send a kid back for a single concept or lesson, but for the age level and the price, I think it’s fantastic and I would highly recommend it.

Language Arts

Language Arts covers Reading Comprehension, Handwriting, and Language Mechanics. For my kids my goal is that we’re making progress in each of those three categories and I design their assignments to cover those categories. Language Mechanics covers a few different disciplines and in my mind the progression roughly goes Phonics -> Spelling -> Grammar -> Composition – but there’s a lot of overlap. I don’t really have a full curriculum that I follow for each of these but I will explain what I do to cover these subjects.

Reading Comprehension

This is probably the easiest one – READ! If your kids can’t yet read on their own, then read to them. If they can read provide them with great reading material and let them loose ūüôā I’m not very structured in how we do reading. I don’t assign particular books, there’s no worksheets or quizzes – I just want them reading and enjoying it. My oldest can’t be kept from reading so he has no requirements set on him. I have set him up with a GoodReads account and ask him to review his books and track them there. My 2nd son struggles with reading so I have him set a timer each day and he’s expected to read for 30 minutes – lately he’s been enjoying his dad’s old Boxcar Children books and the Magic Treehouse series. My kindergartner listens to a lot of audiobooks. I try to discuss books with my kids and we’ve set up a small book club with some other families so the kids can discuss their books with other kids – but that’s really it.

I have an Audible account and each of my children have an Echo Dot in their room. They all listen to books as they go to sleep at night, and sometimes throughout the day as they’re doing chores. My oldest has a Kindle Paperwhite and it is his most prized possession – we check out lots of digital books from the library and I’ve purchased him a lot of books with Prime shipping credits and off of sales through the years. We check out lots of books from the library and I buy books all the time. Reading is hardly considered a chore in our house, I feel like my job is to facilitate a love of reading and learning.

Handwriting

Handwriting Without Tears has been my favorite handwriting curriculum. I should follow it more closely than I do but I’ve mostly just had my kids fill out their workbooks. I set a timer for 15 minutes and expect them to work through whatever they get through in that time. I like making handwriting a timed thing rather than a completion thing because it doesn’t incentivize them to rush through and do sloppy work – if they get through 1 page or 25 pages they still have to write for 15 minutes, so they might as well do a good job ūüėČ

Right now none of my kids are actually actively using their HWOT materials. My 11yo combines his handwriting practice with his grammar curriculum which I’ll talk about below. My 8yo is assigned to write a journal entry every day. His entries are to have the following things in them –

  • The date written out long hand (i.e. Thursday, March 19, 2020)
  • A brief report on the weather (he’s been struggling with associating months and seasons so this is his practice for that)
  • His 5 spelling words
  • A paragraph of free write that must be at least 30 words long (I have to be really specific with him so he doesn’t try to pass off crap work with me ūüėõ )
  • His full name written out

My kindergartner has very simple handwriting worksheets that I printed out for her. I googled “kindergarten handwriting worksheets” and I’ve printed different ones from different sources. She would probably be better off doing the HWOT workbooks, but this is working for us right now.

Language Mechanics

Reading Eggs is my favorite online tool for teaching language mechanics. It goes from preschool through about 6th grade and it has great phonics, spelling and grammar. It’s combined with the MathSeeds curriculum that I mentioned in the Math section, and it’s only $60 or less per year for the two programs which is a fantastic price! Plus you can add on extra students for even less. Right now only my kindergartner uses this, but I’ve used it with all of my kids in the past and I would use it again. The only reason my 8yo isn’t using it right now is that he gave me too much push back and I surrendered and got him Reading Kingdom instead. Reading Kingdom is $15/month and does not include a math curriculum (I’m realizing while writing this what a ding dong my 8yo is and how much extra his stubbornness is costing us in different curriculum… we might be having words ūüėõ ) but my son is making really great strides in his reading so it’s probably been worth it.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is one of my favorite resources if you have a child just beginning to learn to read. It’s only about $15 off of Amazon and it is SO easy to use. I recommend reading through the introduction before starting as it explains a lot of the methodology – but once you do that it is a no-prep reading lesson that is very effective! The lessons take about 15 minutes to get through and they’re really easy. I found though that sometimes the lessons get too hard suddenly. When we get to a point where we’re struggling too much with the lessons I will sometimes go back 5 or 10 lessons (or sometimes back to the beginning) and re-do the lessons we’ve already completed to build confidence and get more practice before moving on. You don’t need any other supplies to use this curriculum and it’s a one time purchase that you can use with multiple children. However I purchased these pointer fingers because reading is much more fun with ridiculously oversized pointer fingers ūüėõ

Fix It Grammar has been great for my 11yo for working on his grammar and handwriting. At the beginning of the week we introduce a new concept that he will be working on for the week. Then each day he has a sentence that he’s supposed to correct using that new concept and each of the concepts from the previous units. Then he rewrites the sentence to practice his handwriting. At the end of the week he takes all 4 sentences and rewrites them into a clean copy. The sentences all connect together to make a story that goes through the whole book – so it’s fun each week to get a new part of the story.

Social Studies

The Tuttle Twins books have been my favorite resource for teaching civics/government/economics to my kids. Their books are fun to read and easy to understand. I have learned so much from them and my kids have impressed many people with the complex concepts that they’re able to discuss. Each week we will pick one of the books, read it, discuss it and then maybe do a couple pages from the workbook. They’re super easy lessons and they’re great! Right now you can get 35% off their combo pack with discount code COMBO – which includes all of their current books in the series as well as the pdf workboks. I’ve also purchased the audiobooks so that I don’t even have to be the one *reading* to my kids (I’m a pretty lazy homeschooler ūüėõ ). They also have a great economics curriculum that’s on sale right now for only $5/month – they will email you a new unit study each week which has a short lesson, activities and discussion questions. I’ve been doing this with our kids and I’ve been very impressed with them. I would probably start with the books to set a really good foundation before moving on to their Free Market Rules curriculum.

Story of the World is a really great history curriculum for kids. I like it because it ties in many different cultures and histories together. I also like that you start at the beginning and work your way through to modern times so everything feels continuous instead of chopped up. Again with these books I’ve purchased the audiobooks and I’ll have my kids listen to a chapter and then we’ll do a worksheet from the workbook and discuss. No prep beyond printing out the worksheets. There are other books that are recommended that you can purchase or check out from the library to enrich the study, but the books are pretty great as standalone material.

Both of these I think are great for all levels. I will have all 3 of my older kids – kindergarten – 5th grade – working through the curriculum and discussing it together. They all get different things out of it but there’s appropriate content for each different level.

Science

Kiwi Crates have been one of our favorite ways to do science. Each kit comes with reading material, lots of expansion activities and a few building projects. I have purchased a single subscription for my kids and we have fun building the kits together. I’ve been impressed with how much they pack into each kit and my kids have learned a lot. I can stretch a kit out over a full month if we do all of the activities but we have a lot of other places we go for science as well.

Mystery Science has a lot of great “open-and-go” science lessons. They have a limited number of free accounts that they give away each year, but even if you miss those it’s only $70/year for your whole household. We have a subscription but haven’t used it as much as we should – only because we cut off access to YouTube on my kids’ computers which made the site unusable ūüėõ But the lessons that I’ve done through there have really been great. I really need to get my kids back into Mystery Science!

We watch a lot of YouTube science videos and other science videos. I mentioned these in my first post but they’re worth repeating here –

  • Mark Rober – I can’t say enough good things about Mark Rober’s channel. He is by far and away my favorite YouTuber, everything he publishes is high quality and teaches complicated concepts in ways that make them seem simple.
  • Wow In The World – This podcast is SO much fun for kids! My almost 9 year old (he won’t accept being called 8 anymore) LOVES this show so much – he insists on listening to it almost every night and talks to me about what he learns all the time.
  • DIY Sci – Steve Spangler has long been a staple in the children’s science world. If you have Amazon Prime I highly recommend this series as well. My kids have learned so much from this and I’m always interested to hear what’s in their brains after watching these episodes!
  • Magic School Bus – If you didn’t watch Magic School Bus growing up I’m sad for you. These shows are fun, engaging and they teach kids a lot! The series is available on Netflix – along with a new remade series which I find every bit as enjoyable as the originals!
  • Smarter Every Day – Another great YouTube channel with lots of interesting things for kids – and adults too!

I feel like science is the easiest subject to get in. Kids are naturally curious and love learning about the world around them. Of course, my mom is a scientist so maybe I just inherited her love of science ūüėČ

Technology

Technology can cover a huge range of things but I’ll limit my suggestions here to some of my favorite computers & programming curriculum as well as one more hands on product. I should note that I have worked as a computer programmer since 2004 so I have a little bit of experience in this area ūüėČ

Kids Typing Bundle – if your kids are learning to type I think this is the way to go. You get two different programs for about $25 total, and you have access to them for all of your kids forever! The programs that are in the bundle are both fun and easy to use. There are free programs out there but I’ve never found anything that my kids have liked as much.

Tynker – if your kids are ready to get into programming I think Tynker is a great place to start. They teach programming and a lot of the courses are based around programs that kids already love like Minecraft! My kids have loved these courses. Plus, right now they’re offering FREE access during all of the school closures so you really don’t have anything to lose by trying them out!

CodeCombat is my favorite resource for teaching serious programming. It’s a game that kids play by programming their character to do different things. It’s free for the first couple of worlds – which is actually quite a lot of material before you’d need to pay. The game does involve swords and killing monsters so if that bothers you then this won’t be for you. None of the game play is graphic at all though so it’s not something that bothers me personally.

Snap Circuits are great if you’re looking for a more hands-on approach to technology. Their kits have lots of fun projects with electricity and building circuits. These are a great place to start if your kid has any interest in robotics or electricity. My kids have really had fun with their snap circuits kit!

Music

My kids have been enrolled in music lessons that are in person which obviously doesn’t work so well during the shutdowns. But I still feel like I need to put in a plug for Let’s Play Music. I’ve enrolled my 8yo and 6yo in their program and it’s been AMAZING. The only reason my 11yo hasn’t gone through the program is that he was too old for it by the time I found it. But my kids have learned so much great musical theory and had so much fun doing it. By the end of the 3 year program my 8yo was able to *compose* his own piano piece and perform it. I can’t say enough good things about their program.

During the shutdown we’re trying out Hoffman Academy which offers free online piano lessons for kids. I’ve heard great things about it from lots of people so we’ll see if those recommendations hold true in the next few weeks.

Art

I wish I could say I had good recommendations for art curriculum… but I don’t. For art we do a lot of coloring sheets or google for art projects. I should come up with something more concrete for art for my kids but it hasn’t been a priority for us.

Social Thinking

Social Thinking isn’t necessarily a subject explicitly covered in schools but I have some kids who struggle with behavior and social interactions. We have purchased the “Social Thinking and Me” book as well as the Thinksheets workbook. We read one chapter from the book together and then over the next several days my son will work through at least one thinksheet each day. When he finishes all of the thinksheets for the unit I will go over his thinksheets and we’ll discuss his answers. I feel like these have been so helpful for us – it helps teach my son and it’s given us all a shared vocabulary to talk about these behavioral problems.

Foreign Language

DuoLingo is a great FREE resource for learning a foreign language. None of my kids are currently actively using it but my 11yo has used it before, we’re just focusing on other things right now. My husband and I both use it though and I’ve been reasonably impressed with it. My dad also uses it and frequently tries to impress us with how many lingots he has (lingots are the in game currency… they aren’t good for much except bragging to other people about how may you have ūüėõ ). This curriculum also includes representation of same gender relationships. They do have a premium membership that’s you can purchase on a monthly basis if you don’t want to have ads interrupting your learning. I’ve really enjoyed making my foreign language practice a game!

Conclusion

Wow did you stick with me through all of that? Great job! Whatever you choose to do I would generally recommend starting out with the shortest subscription or a starter set of any new curriculum. You’ll notice that I have several recommendations for most subjects – that’s because we’ve changed curriculum several times and chosen different things for different kids. Even within the same family what works for one kid doesn’t work for another – and what works for me might not work for you! Pick one and give it a try for a couple weeks, and if it doesn’t work for you then try something else. You know your kids and you’ll figure it out. You got this!

MyTechHigh Reimbursement Tracker

UPDATE 7/30/2020:¬† After seeing a few requests for features I decided to rebuild this tracker almost completely so that it will support multiple students on the same workbook as well as making it a lot prettier to work with.¬† It was a HUGE project but I’m pleased to announce that the result is live!¬† I will continue to maintain this older version and it will still work but if you would like to see the new and improved version click here – My Tech High Reimbursement Tracker 2.0 .

UPDATE 07/22/2020: This post is a couple years old but I have been maintaining the spreadsheet still.¬† I made a couple of updates to reflect the changes in reimbursements, as well as making it so that you can associate expenses with subjects instead of reimbursement buckets! The post below has been changed to reflect these updates ūüôā

For the past 3 years I’ve been homeschooling my kids.¬† One of these days I’m going to blog the what, why and how of our homeschooling, but today I just want to share a resource that I put together to help other homeschoolers who use the same charter we do – MyTechHigh.¬† MyTechHigh has been the most amazing resource for our family.¬† They function as a provider through a charter school that helps facilitate home education.¬† The best part is they are very hands off – I’m required to provide course descriptions for my sons’ academic curriculum for the year, turn in weekly learning logs (2 sentences per subject of what they did that week), and either have my boys take the state tests or opt them out.¬† In exchange I can be reimbursed for their educational materials and classes between $600-1900 each year so long as I get my expenses approved and turn in my receipts on schedule.¬† What a deal!¬† They also provide additional academic resources, meet ups, events and field trips that we can take advantage of during the year.¬† It has been an amazing resource for our family.¬† ¬†If you would like a really great run down for how it works you should check out ToriAnn Perkey’s webinar – it is hands down the best use of your time if you’re considering the program.¬† She is like a MyTechHigh super ninja ūüėČ

The trickiest part in all of this is managing the receipts for reimbursement for my kids’ classes.¬† I’m given a certain budget for each class based on meeting certain criteria – $225 for custom built classes, $300 for 3rd party classes, math/english/science can be combined if they’re all custom built, but other expenses have to stay in their category, some expenses can only be reimbursed through the tech allowance, certain classes take money away from the allowance etc.¬† It gets to be kind of confusing to keep track of how much I’ve spent on each kid and each class.¬† So I came up with a Google Spreadsheet solution that makes the whole process nice and neat that I wanted to share with my fellow MyTechHigh parents in hopes that it will help make other people’s lives easier too ūüôā

Alright, so let’s get to the good stuff, how do we use this spreadsheet.¬† The first thing you need to do is make a COPY of my spreadsheet. I frequently get edit requests for the master spreadsheet from people who miss that step, and then you have to wait until I see the email and respond to it… and I will tell you to make a copy ūüėõ¬† So save yourself some time and don’t skip that step! Ok, here’s the link to the Google Sheet- MTH Reimbursement Tracker.¬† If you’re going to head off on your own, thanks for joining us and best of luck!¬† For everyone else, you can stick with me and I’ll give you a step by step of how to use it ūüôā¬† Let’s start with how to make your own copy.¬† To do this you go to File->Make a copy…

After you do that a box will pop up asking for a name for this document.¬† At first I was going to try to make this easy to use the same spreadsheet for multiple children, but it was complicated enough as it was.¬† You will need to make a separate copy for each MyTechHigh student you want to use this for – so name your spreadsheet accordingly!¬† I also recommend adding the school year so that you don’t get them mixed up in future years.

Once you click OK your copy will pop up and you’re ready to begin filling it out.¬† I’ve tried to lock as many of the ranges that you shouldn’t be changing as possible so you don’t accidentally mess up something that you won’t be able to fix.¬† You will want to start by filling out the current school year, the student’s name, their current grade, and checking whether they are a returning student.¬† Don’t worry about the Reimbursement Sheet inputs for now, we’ll talk about those later.

You’ll notice as you enter in the fields that the numbers at the bottom will start to populate with your technology allowance.¬† This will also help generate some of the fields that will make sure you choose the right course types.¬† You’re now ready to start filling in your schedule.¬† For each period select which type of course your student has (Custom, 3rd Party, MTH Direct, Kindergarten or None) and you can enter in your course description.¬† To the right of the course description I have a character counter too, just to help you when you’re writing your descriptions to make sure they’re the right length.¬† The course description isn’t necessary, but I like having it there so that as I’m looking at my expenses I can remember what I have in my course description to make sure that I’m submitting things that are going to fit within those parameters.¬† You can also just put vague notes as far as your curriculum there for your own reference.¬† It’s completely up to you, you can even leave it blank, it has just helped me in the past to remember what I’m actually planning to do.

When you select the course type you’ll notice that more numbers start to appear.¬† In the column labeled “MTH Funds” you will see your maximum allowance for that period based on the course type you selected.¬† The total tells you the maximum allowance based on the courses you have. Make sure you select whether you’re doing Science or History so that the information gets filled in properly as well.¬† Here’s what my son’s would look like with his schedule for this year –

The next part is the spending totals.¬† You don’t need to worry about changing anything here.¬† This section will update as you enter in your expenses and will tell you how much you have left to spend in each category.¬† The next section is where you will enter your actual expenses.¬† As you purchase items during the year enter a description of the item or items on your receipt, the total and then select the period description.¬† Don’t put an X mark next to the items until after you’ve submitted the receipt to MyTechHigh for reimbursement, you’ll see why in a minute.¬† Here’s what my son’s looked like for this year when I put in all of his expenses –

You might have noticed that even though I was over for his custom core and tech the total at the bottom of spending total is 0 – that’s because if you submit for too much they will only reimburse you for what you have allowance for.¬† Also, if you were over in some categories but had extra in others it would only calculate the extra in the others since you can’t borrow from different periods to make up for deficits in others.¬† You’ll also notice that I split his Thanksgiving Point membership into two line items so that I could be reimbursed for $180 as his custom built science and $100 from his technology allowance.¬† I would recommend as you input expenses on these sheets that you take pictures or save copies of your receipts in a single folder on your computer, phone or Google Drive so that you can easily find them when you’re ready to submit.

In and of itself I feel like this is a super handy way to keep track of what you’ve spent for each period and know what you have left to spend, but I decided to take it a step further.¬† This spreadsheet will also generate for you a cover sheet for submitting your expenses.¬† This makes it really easy for the folks at MyTechHigh to quickly review and approve your submission, as well as making it easy for you to know that you have all of the right receipts to submit!¬† If you go back to the top of the page and click on the box next to “Reimbursement Sheet to Generate” you’ll be given a dropdown box of all of the submission categories that you have.¬† Pick whichever one you would like to create a cover sheet for.¬† You can then enter any special notes that you might have about this period that they will need to know at MyTechHigh – however usually I don’t put any additional notes.¬† Then you will want to open up the sheet called “Reimbursement Cover Sheet” by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.

This will open a completed reimbursement cover sheet for you which will include the student’s name, which course the submission is for, a list of all of the items and their costs, and the total amount you are requesting to be reimbursed.¬† You don’t need to do anything with this sheet except save it as a PDF, or copy the data into Word – whatever you want to do in order to submit it.¬† If you make multiple submissions you can have items previously submitted removed by placing an “x” next to the items that have been reimbursed on the expenses list on the first sheet.¬† When I go to submit I will save my cover sheet as a PDF and then use Adobe Acrobat Pro to combine that cover sheet with the uploaded receipts that match it so that I have a single pdf file to submit for each period.¬† You can do essentially the same thing by selecting all the text in the cover sheet spreadsheet and copying it into a Word document (or Google Docs or whatever your word processing software of choice is) and inputting your receipts on subsequent pages before saving as a PDF.¬† Here’s a sample of what that cover sheet would look like –

And that’s it!¬† Hopefully this helps you to better keep track of your MyTechHigh expenses and budget in the coming years!¬† If you notice anything that I’ve missed please comment below so that I can get it fixed!¬† If this is useful to you consider making a donation to my site, or making a purchase through one of my affiliate links to help me keep this site going.¬† Happy Homeschooling ūüôā

Here’s a link to the spreadsheet again, just so you don’t have to hunt through the article to find it – MyTechHigh Reimbursement Tracker.

Side note: Everything above shows actual items I’ve been reimbursed for and course descriptions I’ve had approved.¬† Feel free to use the descriptions and purchase list for inspiration for your own child’s schedule.¬† I’m planning on posting reviews of some of the things that we’ve loved in the future but I’ll put in a plug for the one thing that we’ve REALLY loved this year which is our Kiwi Crate¬†– it’s been SO much fun for all of my kids and they’ve learned a ton from them.¬† I thought I was going to like the Kiwi Crate but it’s been so much better than I’d expected.¬† If you use my referral link you get $10 off of your subscription ūüôā

Travelling Media with Kids

I’ve been asked several times how our family sets up tech in our van when we’re on long trips.  We’ve come up with a pretty awesome solution that keeps the kids very happy for the long trips, without fighting, and without spending a fortune.  

So what we’ve done is purchased Kindle Fire Tablets (http://amzn.to/2taMVqj) for each of our kids.  The Kindle Fires are relatively inexpensive (around $50 a piece) particularly when compared with say Apple iPads ($250 – on the low end).  It’s SO nice because each child has their own device and doesn’t have to cooperate with anyone else or watch what anyone else is watching.  Oh, and did I mention that the device they have is not *my* device, so I can still navigate/listen to my book/play Pokemon Go?  Everyone wins ūüôā  We really like the kids cases that have the handles – they’re cheaper than the ones that Amazon manufactures, they’re more functional, and I think they protect the kindles better.  We haven’t had any problems with damage to our kindles inside these cases – except when our kids have poured sticky things in the ports (you can only do so much right?).  Here’s a link to one of the cases we’ve liked, but there are similar ones available through a lot of different sellers –  http://amzn.to/2v9Ugrm

The Fire tablets don’t hold a ton of media on them (although you can upgrade with micro SD cards very easily), but what we’ve done is purchase a portable hard drive that also acts as a wi-fi hotspot within the car – like this one by Seagate Media that will hold up to 2 Terabytes of movies – http://amzn.to/2taIOdQ!  We’ve put all of our movies on there and all the kids can access whatever movies/TV shows they want – and we don’t have to worry about whether they have *the* show they want already on their device.  It is also great if the boys want to play Minecraft together – they can use the wi-fi to play local games together (they don’t have internet access obviously, but we don’t let them play online anyways).

We’ve also gotten these headphones for our kids and been happy with them – http://amzn.to/2t0YgxH .  They’re comfortable and don’t have pieces on them that are easy to break.  Plus the kids look super adorable with animal headbands ūüėČ  I’m not convinced that the volume goes up as high as they really need to overpower the road noises, but my younger two haven’t complained yet so for now we’ll keep doing what we’re doing ūüėČ

So, that’s how we keep our kids occupied on long car rides.  We’ve set the rule in our household that the kids don’t get electronics for car rides that are under 30 minutes (you’d be surprised at just how many 29 minute car rides we’ve gone on ūüėČ ) and this whole set up was MUCH cheaper than installing a DVD player in our car – and we get a lot of use out of everything outside the car too!  I hope someone finds this useful!

What’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?

When I was a little girl I remember every year being excited to sit on Santa’s lap, tell him what a good girl I’d been and ask for something special for Christmas. ¬†I loved watching¬†Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and¬†How the Grinch Stole Christmas. ¬†My parents didn’t make a huge deal of Santa but he was still an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. ¬†When I was in fourth grade my friends started to tell me that Santa Claus wasn’t real, that it was just my parents who bought the gifts. ¬†In all honesty, I think I knew logically by then that was true, but it didn’t bother me too much. ¬†I still loved the idea of Santa Claus and chose to keep believing anyways because he was part of the magic of my Christmases and I didn’t want to give it up.

Now, a full two decades later I find myself on the other side of the Santa Claus celebration.  Instead of believing in Santa Claus РI am Santa Claus for my three sweet children.  I love that part of Christmas where I now have the chance to prepare surprises for Christmas morning for which I will not take credit.  I love trying to find something that will make my kids eyes light up on Christmas morning and bring joy into their hearts.  Even though I want their Christmas to be Christ-centered, I feel like the tradition of Santa Claus can turn their minds, and mine to the Savior.

However, I have been troubled by the first question that my kids are asked this season by almost every adult they see at this time of the year, “What’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?” ¬†Since I’ve already claimed that I really do love the tradition of Santa Claus so much, how can this bother me? ¬†It’s an innocent question and it is fun to see the things that kids are excited about for Christmas morning. ¬† But I feel like it places too much emphasis on the wrong part of Christmas for young minds.

Earlier this week a friend posted this article by Jen Hatmaker called The Christmas Conundrum. ¬†In it she describes her experience as a pre-teenager being totally disillusioned by finding out that the presents she received on Christmas morning weren’t what she expected, and how it ruined her whole Christmas. ¬†She goes on to say how sad it is that her¬†Christmas was completely defined by material things with no actual thought of the real meaning of the season – the birth of Christ.

I don’t think we’ll be going to her extreme of cutting out Santa from Christmas entirely, but I do want to help my kids from a young age be more aware of the real meaning of Christmas, rather than the consumerism aspects. ¬†While I like knowing what my kids want for Christmas I’ve never had them sit down and make Christmas lists, or badgered them for what they want most. ¬†We’ve gone to visit Santa Claus (although with very little success getting our boys to sit on his lap so far) and we’ll talk a little about things they might like, but I really try to focus on other parts of Christmas. ¬†I try to find ways to read Christmas stories¬†with them, or sing songs, or serve others, rather than expending too much of their energy on what they want to get from Christmas. ¬†In addition to taking the focus away from Christ, I think focusing on what you’re hoping to get sets kids up for disappointment. ¬†If you have high hopes of getting the 5 things on your Christmas list and you only get 4 of them then you’ll be sad. ¬†But if your focus is on other things than yourself then anything you get is just a sweet surprise.¬† I would like to suggest some alternate questions that we could pose to young children that would help bring the focus back to our Savior and less on Santa Claus.

  1. What are you going to give this year for Christmas?¬†I will never forget listening to this inspired talk by President Monson back in 1995 called Christmas Gifts, Christmas Blessings¬†which he gave at the Christmas Devotional that year. ¬†He suggested rather than asking what someone¬†got for Christmas we should ask what they¬†gave for Christmas. ¬†Quite often we put a lot of thought into what we’re giving different people for Christmas and it’s much more exciting to focus on how we’re hoping to make someone else’s life brighter. ¬†I think if we try to ask this question to kids it will help them to want to do things for other people and be a little more selfless rather than selfish.
  2. Do you love the Christmas music at this time of year?  What song is your favorite? Yes, you might still get answers that are more about presents and snow and jingle bells, but the music at Christmas time is inspiring to the soul.  There is a joy in that music that helps bring in the spirit of the season better than almost anything else.  You can even take that chance as an opportunity to share your favorite Christmas song too, maybe one that bears a small testimony of the Savior.
  3. Who are you spending Christmas with? I’ve heard people say before that the meaning of Christmas isn’t to be with family, but I think that’s baloney. ¬†Our Savior died so that we can be with our families forever, so what more fitting way to celebrate His birth than by spending time strengthening those family relationships? ¬†Children will get excited at the thought of grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or even just having a day or two extra at home with their mom or dad off work.
  4. What is your favorite part of Christmas? I’m sure many children will respond with an answer of Santa Claus or presents, but it opens the door for you to include your favorite part of Christmas too. ¬†Whether that’s serving others, or the love people show at this time of year, or Christmas music. ¬†Even if their initial answer isn’t part of the real meaning of Christmas I think it’s a good way to at least suggest to their minds that there’s more to this season than just presents under a tree or in a stocking.
  5. Does your family have any Christmas traditions that you love? ¬†When I was growing up my family had the tradition that on Christmas Eve we would all get a new pair of Christmas pajamas that we would wear to bed that night and then we’d stay in them all day on Christmas. ¬†For whatever reason that always seemed like such a treat to me when I was younger, and that day spent at home, with my family, in our PJs is still one of my favorite memories of Christmas time.

It takes a little creativity, but I think we can find ways to help our kids turn their focus from Santa to Christ. ¬†I’ll try to post some more traditions and suggestions to help your family’s Christmas be more Christ-centered this year. ¬†But for now I’ll leave you with this one challenge – as you try to engage the kids you see in talks about Christmas, will you try to find ways to bring their focus away from Santa and towards our Savior?


What other questions could we be asking our kids instead of Santa questions? ¬†I’d love to hear your suggestions! ¬†Leave them in the comments below ūüôā

Life with Three Kids

LHM_6549 kids

Picture by Lavon Maiersperger. Aren’t they cute??

Since having Maeli 6 weeks ago I’ve been frequently asked what it’s like to have 3 kids. ¬†This was my day today-

Woke up to get Sam ready for school. Laid out all his clothes and then went to get myself ready. Came back 10 minutes later to find Sam still with no pants on just wandering about his room. Get him dressed. Downstairs for breakfast. Sam wants a smoothie and oatmeal. While I”m making his food, Danny wanders downstairs and says he’s going to stay with Eric while I go to my doctor’s appointment. Just as I’m about to walk out the door he changes his mind and wants to come with me. Run through the house to find him some pants, a fresh diaper, shoes and a coat. Put all three kids in the car, race to the bus stop – we’re too late. Also, the van is almost out of gas and I don’t have my wallet. Run back to the house, get my wallet and some other things I’d forgotten. ¬†Get back out to the car and Maeli is screaming because she hates being in the car when it’s not moving.

Take Sam to school, drop him off just minutes before the bell rings. Head over to Smith’s to fill the van with gas. While pumping notification on my phone pops up that my doctor’s appointment is in 10 minutes – I’m at least 15 minutes away. Finish fueling, hop in the van. ¬†Maeli is screaming again. ¬†Drive to the doctor’s. ¬†Arrive about 15 minutes late. ¬†Have my appointment – everything looks great and I’ve lost 18 lbs since the beginning of the year! Best. diet. ever. ūüėČ Finish at the doctor’s, Danny keeps asking why they were shining a light on my bum.

Go out to the van and fight to get Danny into his carseat again. Waffle for a little bit and finally decide to be brave and finally take some returns from Christmas back to Macy’s (by some I mean about $200 worth of clothes from Black Friday sales). Danny won’t go through the door I open and insists on opening his own different door. Sales lady comes out to help him and looks at me like I’m being neglectful or mean. Go to take the returns back and find out that I have to take the specific items to their department. I only have items from 2 departments, but still, not the easiest to work with. Make my returns. As we’re leaving Danny insists that we go get french fries. I decide to make that deal with the devil… I mean, my son… and we head out to the car without too much more problem. Hit up Burger King on the way home and get a large order of fries. As soon as we’re through the drive thru he starts saying “no! I want a soda too!” Too late kid. Then the plea is for ice cream. *sigh* Finally about half way up the mountain he’s figured out that he’s not getting anything extra and asks for the french fries. Give him the french fries. Reaction? “No, lots of!” Good heavens! Tell him to suck it up.

Get home. Realize that Danny’s still in his PJs with his cowboy boots on. His sweatpants have made their way up to his knees. He looks like an orphan. This is how we’ve been out in public all morning – awesome. Also find that Sam drank about 3 sips of his smoothie. Danny proceeds to carry the smoothie around the house. Tell him to take it back to the table. He goes back… but then decides to walk around the kitchen with it. Slips on the floor and gets smoothie all over the floor, the back window and the curtains. Exactly what I was trying to avoid.

It’s time to go pick up Sam. Decide it’s a nice enough day that we can walk to the park. Leave Maeli with Eric and let Danny ride Sam’s bike to the park. ¬†Carry Danny’s bike so we don’t have the problem of Sam not having a bike. ¬†Get to the park just in time to see Sam get off the bus. ¬†Confiscate Sam’s bike from Danny so that Sam can ride it. ¬†Give Danny his bike. ¬†Huge fit. ¬†Tell Danny I’m going to ride his bike instead. ¬†Go back and forth between me threatening to ride the bike, Danny riding the bike, Danny walking the bike, Danny throwing a fit for about a block. ¬†Finally Danny decides to ride the bike. ¬†The boys want to go to the scenic overlook on the way home. ¬†Danny insists on riding in the mud close to the edge of the dropoff – just to give me gray hairs. ¬†Get home.

Tell the boys we’re going in for lunch. ¬†Danny is adamant that he’s still riding his bike. ¬†Threaten to put the bike in timeout. ¬†Argue with Danny. ¬†Danny keeps faking me out that he’s coming in, and then whines again. ¬†Danny falls off bike and is very mildly hurt. ¬†Carry bike into garage while Danny is still sad about the bike. ¬†Have lunch.

Get the last few forms to finish off our taxes. ¬†Let the boys play on the tablets while finishing filing taxes. ¬†Taxes filed – WOOT! ¬†Realize it is now 4pm and still need to go to the grocery store. ¬†Take another hour to finalize list, and decide that Danny is coming to the store and Maeli and Sam are staying with Eric. ¬†Move carseats so we can take the Corolla instead of the van. ¬†Danny fights over whether I buckle him or if he buckles himself (he says he wants to do it but won’t). ¬†Run in for something I forgot. ¬†Come back out and Danny is furious that he can’t reach his door handle. ¬†Re-engage child lock on his door. ¬†Drive as far as the park with him mad at me. ¬†Put state returns in mail box and get mail. ¬†Got the CD of proofs from our recent family photos – yay!!

Drive to Smith’s with Danny mad for most of the way. ¬†Park in the parking lot. ¬†Danny fell asleep – crap. ¬†Unbuckle him and stand him up outside the car. ¬†He’s still mostly asleep. ¬†It’s pretty funny to see. ¬†Make him walk into the store half-asleep. ¬†There are no more shopping carts with cars. ¬†Let him grab a small cart and walk towards the other entrance to check if there’s a car cart there. ¬†Try to direct Danny’s cart. ¬† Danny is mad that I would dare touch his cart. ¬†Stop at the pharmacy to get a prescription. ¬†Continue to other entrance still praying there’s a car cart – there isn’t. ¬†Boo. ¬†Go through the store with Danny with a little shopping cart and me with a big one. ¬†Feel like a broken record. ¬†“Danny, stay near me. ¬†Watch out for other people. ¬†No we’re turning down this aisle.” ¬†Have lots of coupons and random items on the list. ¬†Takes longer than usual. ¬†Heading towards checkout and realize it’s after 6:30pm and we haven’t had dinner yet. ¬†Grab a rotisserie chicken for dinner. ¬†Checkout. ¬†Danny keeps trying to go through cashier’s station. ¬†Find out he wants stickers. ¬†He gets some. ¬†Puts one right on the top of my leg. ¬†Decide not to fight it.

Out to the parking lot. ¬†More pleas for Danny to stay near me. ¬†Put all the groceries in the car. ¬†Danny still has his cart and is spinning in circles, just to give me a panic attack. ¬†Get groceries into car – probably have smashed things that don’t want to be smashed but mostly want to get finished so Danny isn’t in the parking lot anymore. ¬†Remember there are plastic bags in the trunk. ¬†Take them back to the store when we return the carts – win! ¬†Out to the car again. ¬†Danny fights over buckles again. ¬†Drive home.

It’s after 7pm. ¬†Send Sam to get ready for bed. ¬†Bring groceries in. ¬†Try to get perishables put away before dinner. ¬†Maeli is hungry. ¬†Sit down to feed her. Turn dinner prep over to Eric. ¬†Eric finds missed perishables – doh! ¬†Maeli’s done eating. ¬†Eat food quickly while she swings. ¬†Finish just before she starts to be mad. ¬†Hold her while continuing to referee boys. ¬†Eric has an important business call. ¬†Trying to keep the boys volume down while holding Maeli and trying to get them to finish their food. ¬†Eric retreats from his downstairs office up to the master bedroom – we failed. ¬†Boys finish eating.

Sam gets a story for bedtime. ¬†Read it to the kids while Maeli is angry at me. ¬†Finish the story. ¬†Danny wants another. ¬†Send him up to pick one out. ¬†Try to make Maeli happier. ¬†Realize Danny’s been gone for awhile and that Eric is still upstairs on his call. ¬†Dash upstairs. Find Eric reading the story to Danny. ¬†Danny came in just as Eric’s call finished – phew. ¬†Time for scriptures. ¬†Sam reads 3 verses on his own – his reading is getting pretty impressive! ¬†Read the rest of the chapter aloud. ¬†Eric has put Maeli to sleep – hooray! ¬†It’s Danny’s turn to pray. ¬†Debate with him about whether he’s praying or not. ¬†Danny finally prays… or something. ¬†Prayer involves lots of random stories about imaginary friends. ¬†Decide to go with it and just say amen.

Time for Sam’s pre-bed game. ¬†Sam plays one level with Eric and then up to bed. ¬†Go lay down with him. ¬†He wants to play a couple levels with me. ¬†Start the levels. ¬†After the first level Danny comes in, throws lightswitch rave. ¬†Finally disable wall switch by pulling cord on the light from the fan. ¬†Take that Danny. ¬†Boys get rowdy. ¬†Threaten remove Danny. ¬†Boys settle down and snuggle for 8 seconds. ¬†Danny is getting rowdy again. ¬†Take him downstairs much to the dismay of both boys. Eric’s turn to snuggle Sam. ¬†Danny follows with promises of piety. ¬†They finish snuggling. ¬†Danny comes downstairs with Eric.

Maeli’s mad again. ¬†Give Danny the option of snuggling with Mom or Dad while watching Olympics – Dad is chosen. ¬†Strap Maeli into BabyBjorn – still mad. ¬†Take her out. ¬†Change her diaper – it’s slightly wet. ¬†Feed her a little more. ¬†Back into the BabyBjorn. ¬†Still mad, but less so. ¬†Watch Olympics for about 30 minutes. ¬†Eric decides it’s time for him to go to bed. ¬†Eric takes Danny up to bed with him. ¬†Watch some Men’s Figure Skating. ¬†Maeli asleep-ish. ¬†Eat a snack. ¬†Write this post. ¬†Time to collapse into bed.

I’m sure that sounds super negative, it really wasn’t a terrible day. ¬†I got lots done! ¬†I went to the doctor’s, made some returns that have been hanging over my head for a long time, filed our taxes, made a huge grocery run, got our meal plans figured out for the next week and wrote in my blog! ¬†And all that on top of my normal basic tasks – getting kids to school, feeding everyone, getting kids to bed. ¬†Honestly, it was a pretty successful day. ¬†But I’m definitely tired, tomorrow will be much less ambitious for sure ūüôā ¬†So, that’s sorta what it’s like to have 3 kids.

Mooooother I love you, Moooooother I doooo

me and brittsters

Me and my mom curling our hair while camping. What high maintenance girls we must be!

Today is Mother’s Day and across the world Primary children will be getting up in sacrament meeting to sing a song to their mother’s in honor of the day. In our family we have a joke about my mom’s least favorite Mother’s Day Primary Song – Mother, I Love You. ¬†If you’ve never heard this song performed by a chorus of primary children you may not understand why she has such a loathing for this song – the lyrics are really sweet and who wouldn’t love ANY song sung by their children to them on Mother’s Day?! ¬†But something about the timing of the song, and the opening few measures, the sound is reminiscent of a whining child who is slowly plodding through and fighting doing their morning chores. ¬†While that may be an appropriate depiction of motherhood, it’s hardly the one most desired for remembrance on Mother’s Day.

Fortunately in our ward this year they’ve chosen a different song to honor mothers. ¬†This will be my first Mother’s Day when I will actually have a child old enough to sing with the Primary children for Mother’s Day, and I’m stoked! ¬†When I first heard the song choice, while I was relieved it wasn’t the aforementioned song, I was a bit confused. ¬†The song that our music director had chosen is Love is Spoken Here, and while it’s a beautiful song, it had never struck me as a particularly Mother’s Day-y song. ¬†However as I listened to our primary kids sing it, tears welled up in my eyes as it made me think of my own mother. ¬†For those of you who don’t know this song the words to the first verse are below –

I see my mother kneeling with our family each day

I hear the words she whispers as she bows her head to pray

Her plea to the Father quiets all my fears

And I am thankful, love is spoken here.

I wish I had a digital picture I could post, but I have a very vivid picture in my own mind of my mother kneeling by her bed daily in prayer. ¬†It’s probably one of the most recurring and constant memories of my growing up years to see her there. ¬†Almost daily I would walk into her room to ask her where my homework was, or what we were having for dinner or to come kill a spider in my room – and there she was in silent prayer at the side of her bed. ¬†I know that my mom has a very close prayerful relationship with our Heavenly Father.

As I heard the words “Her plea to the Father quiets all my fears” I thought that even though I no longer live with my mom and don’t have that visual reminder, I know that she is still there by her bedside and praying for me. ¬†I thought of some of the things I am facing right now that are a little bit daunting. ¬†When I thought about it, I knew that my mom is praying for me to be able to get through the trials I have before me, and I truly did suddenly have all my fears quieted. ¬†Whatever I may have to face, I know that my mom is there, pleading on my behalf with the Lord. ¬†What a wonderful feeling of peace that gives me.

The last line doesn’t quite seem like it goes with the rest of the song. ¬†The song is tells a story of prayer, but then at the end the author says they are thankful that love is spoken in their home. ¬†The word love isn’t even mentioned in the song before that. ¬†However, I think that’s a powerful message right there. ¬†Even without saying the words “I love you” to her child, the mother in this song has communicated love more effectively than any words could. ¬†My mother spoke her love for us with actions as much as with words. ¬†How could I doubt that my mother loved me when she spent her time talking to the Lord to know how best to raise me and love me and do all that was best for me? ¬†I think the message of the song is that the best kind of love comes through teaming up with the Lord to provide the best care possible for your children.

I feel so very blessed to have the wonderful mother that I do.  Her example of prayer and faith has been a beacon to me throughout my life, and will continue to be so into the future.  I love you so much Mommy, and I hope that I can be as good of an example of faith and love to my children as you have been to me.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

How He Loved Them

For Christmas this last year my family went back to my parents’ place to celebrate the holiday with my family. ¬†We were there for the Sunday before Christmas and got to listen to the bishop give a few thoughts on the holiday. ¬†He told a story of his family from when he was a young father. ¬†It was getting close to Easter and he and his wife had decided to read through the scriptures about the days leading up to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion with their children in preparation for the holiday. ¬†On the night they were ready to read the last part of the story, where Christ is crucified, his wife had to work that evening and he was trying to wrangle the kids while reading these scriptures to them. ¬†As he was getting to the part about the crucifixion he looked up and saw that his oldest daughter, who was only about 5, was crying. ¬†He asked what was wrong, thinking that probably she’d been hit by a sibling or something of that nature. ¬†She responded, “Daddy, why did they kill Jesus?” ¬†The father paused for a moment trying to come up with the right answer that a young child would understand. ¬†He thought about the political situation in Jerusalem at the time and couldn’t figure out how to explain this in terms his daughter would understand. ¬†Finally he turned back to his daughter and asked, “What do ¬†you think?” ¬†She responded, “They must not have known how much He loved them.”

Some of you may already know that the bishop in my parents home ward, is my dad. ¬†The little girl in this story was me. ¬†Although I didn’t know this story when my dad told it, the question is one I have pondered apparently for more years than I realized. ¬†How could anyone kill our Savior? ¬†I still believe that the only real explanation is that they must not have known how much He loved them. ¬†Somehow they missed the fact that this man had suffered for every pain, sin and sorrow that these people would endure only hours before they took Him, beat Him and nailed Him to a cross. ¬†If they could have comprehended, even to the smallest degree, how deeply and personally He loved them they couldn’t have done what they did. ¬†And yet Christ’s attitude as they gathered around Him to mock Him was “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” ¬†What perfect love He has for each of us. ¬†In a situation that would make any reasonable person say “Seriously?! ¬†I did¬†all this for you, and¬†this¬†¬†is the thanks I get?” He turns and says, “Look, they don’t get it. ¬†It’s sitting right in front of their faces and they just don’t get it. ¬†Please don’t hold them accountable for this.” ¬†Furthermore, Christ, being the only one who could tell the Father who to forgive, as the One who had taken all sins upon Himself, rather than making a simple request He tells Heavenly Father – forgive them. ¬†While they were yet in the act of killing Him, he frankly forgave them.

Last night I was putting Sam to bed and as we were discussing his behavior that day he started to throw a huge fit about the privileges he would be losing as a result of the things he had done. ¬†As I was sitting there I was just begging him inside, “Don’t you get it? ¬†I want so desperately for you to be happy. ¬†I helped make that little body you’re flinging around. ¬†Your father and I spend our waking hours working to provide you with food, shelter, clothing, activities, education, and love. ¬†I would love to give you everything I can so you can grow up to be happy and healthy. ¬†I wouldn’t even give you these rules and expectations if it weren’t truly for your own happiness.” ¬†Afterwards I thought, is this how Christ looks at us? ¬†Trying to tell us, “Look, everything I have done I have done for you. ¬†I’ve created this earth, and helped create you. ¬†I want you to have all that I have. ¬†I’ve put everything in front of you, all you have to do is keep these few commandments, be kind to each other, learn to be righteous, and it can all be yours.” ¬†Does He look down at us refusing to follow His plan and just shake His head and think “Don’t you get it? ¬†You’re pounding your head against a wall and causing your own unhappiness. ¬†Please, let go of these things and follow me and be happy.”

So today I want to challenge each of us, to get it. ¬†Do you realize how much your Savior loves you? ¬†Does that love guide your actions? ¬†And then I want to further challenge – have you shared this love with those around you? ¬†Are there those around you who are kept apart from a relationship with Christ and His love only because we haven’t shared it with them? ¬†I wonder, if more people understood the love of their Savior would we have the violence and hatred and wars that plague our world today? ¬†We read in 3 Nephi about the people who live in absolute peace for 300 years. ¬†While this peace lasts for less than a page of the 500+ page book, the period of time it describes is about a quarter of the time period of the whole record. ¬†Could it be that once the people had met Christ and understood fully how He loved them that nothing else was as important? All the petty strifes of life fell away and they cared about each other better and lived happily and in peace.

I want to bear my testimony, that I know that our Savior loves each of us, deeply, and personally. ¬†His greatest desire is for our happiness and we can achieve that happiness by following His commandments. ¬†Please, if you haven’t felt the love of our Savior pray to feel it, ask for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of that love and hold on to it tightly. ¬†I know that the gospel that He taught is true and if you live it you will be happy.

The Career of Motherhood

On Wednesday Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, made a comment on CNN about Ann Romney saying that she “has actually never worked a day in her life,” referring to the fact that Ann has spent her adult life as a stay-at-home mom rather than as an employee of another corporation. ¬†While the Obama campaign has indicated that Ms. Rosen’s comments do not reflect the position of their campaign I felt the need to address this line of thinking in general in the world. It’s something that was on my mind before this came up and I had considered writing this post anyways, but now I have a very good excuse to not procrastinate doing so ūüôā

First, you ought to know my work history. ¬†I graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics with a minor in Computers and the Humanities. ¬†In my life I have worked as a babysitter, software quality assurance tester, accounting clerk, department store customer service representative, theater technician (spotlight operator, stage hand and stage manager), web developer, and stay-at-home mom. ¬†Most of those jobs would be considered part time jobs that I held through high school and college. ¬†When I was a theater technician I was part of a touring theater group and most days would consist of waking up early (generally 7am-ish), driving to a theater, moderate manual labor all day (unloading/loading a truck full of theater equipment, setting up props, speakers, lights etc), doing a show, loading the equipment back up and finally leaving the theater late at night (generally 11pm-ish), going home to a host home and doing it all again the next day. ¬†As a web developer I held a traditional 9-5 salaried position with a local advertising agency which I commuted to on the bus, and came home to make dinner, drive it across town to my husband and only get home in time to go to bed before doing it again the next day. ¬†Suffice it to say, no one could say that I’ve “never worked a day in my life.” ¬†However, of all the jobs I’ve held, being a stay-at-home mom FAR surpasses any of my previous positions in difficulty and general amount of work that I do.

It amazes me how our society doesn’t look at full-time motherhood as “real” work. ¬†I know it may seem that those of us who have chosen to make our family our career just have it easy – getting to stay home and play with kids all day – but anyone who thinks that has obviously never tried it. ¬†As a mother I am on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. ¬†When I worked at my traditional 9-5 job, even though my days were long (starting around 6am and not really getting home until nearly 9pm), when I went to bed at night there wasn’t a baby in my bed who expected to be fed at 2am. ¬†My clients didn’t call me at 3am because they’d had a nightmare and needed some comforting. ¬†Except in rare situations, I had my weekends completely to myself. ¬†As a mom I get excited when I am alone for long enough to go pee without my boys trying to climb on me or get into something. ¬†Every aspect of my life revolves around my children. ¬†Sure I had to grocery shop, cook, do laundry and dishes before I had kids, but now I do those things while carrying around an 18lb child, or trying to referee the two kids so they don’t kill each other while I try to accomplish some task. ¬†Everything I do takes twice as long because these children require my attention at all hours. ¬†There are naps to be taken, joy school, bedtimes, playdates and a host of other activities that weren’t part of my daily life before parenthood.

I know that some people are thinking, “yeah, but the work isn’t very difficult.” ¬†Au contraire mon chere! ¬†One of the most difficult parts about motherhood and running a household is that in all my educational experience leading up to this career choice I didn’t receive much training that actually taught me how to do what I’m doing now. ¬†There wasn’t a single class in college that taught me how to keep a house clean with toddlers in it. ¬†I didn’t get a degree that qualified me for treating fevers or successfully baking bread (a skill I have yet to gain).

The hardest and most frustrating part (in my opinion) is that the work of a mother is never done, and it’s the same work over and over and over again. ¬†I can spend all day working on laundry, getting it cleaned, dried, folded and put away; but at the end of the day we take off the clothes we’re wearing and there’s more laundry to do. ¬†Every 3-5 hours throughout the day it’s time to prepare another meal, convince my kids to eat that meal (which takes far longer than just eating on my own) and then all the dishes that come afterwards. ¬†I change diapers only to have to change them again within a few hours. ¬†As fast as I can pick up all the toys, clothes and other stuff in our house our boys seem to make different messes just as quickly.

For the past several months my status message in GMail has said “I feel accomplished in a day if I complete one thing that won’t be undone by day’s end.” ¬†That pretty well sums up my life. ¬†To me, that’s the biggest difference between my career as a web developer and my career as a mother. ¬†As a web developer I would be presented with lots of problems – broken pages, new pages to build, typos, loading issues etc. ¬†But as soon as I solved the problem, it was done and I could move on to the next problem. ¬†The only reason I would have to revisit the same problem is if I did something to mess it up again, or if it was on a different site. ¬†As a mother I am constantly re-doing the same things, not because I did them wrong the first time, but because they are things that need to be done over and over again.

Even the things that look to others like leisure activities aren’t quite what they seem on the surface. ¬†Yeah I watch a lot of TV, but it’s mostly Super Why or Ni Hao Kai Lan that I put on for my kids so that I can try to get some dishes done without my almost one year old climbing into the dishwasher. ¬†I’m on Facebook a lot, but it’s usually because (like right now) I’m stuck at the computer with a sleeping baby in my lap that refuses to sleep on his own. ¬†I’m relatively active on Pinterest but mostly to find ways to save money, clean better, cook new things, find good educational activities for my children or generally researching how to be a better homemaker. ¬†Playdates look like fun and games, but between getting kids prepared to leave the house, behave appropriately at someone else’s house, and getting them back home (not to mention the disruption to their routine which can be very unwelcome, even with the fun of a playdate in mind) – it’s a lot more effort than you might think.

Please don’t take these comments the wrong way. ¬†I love being a mother. ¬†My life right now is completely devoted to what I consider the most important endeavor I could embark on – raising my children to be good, productive, smart, responsible members of our community. ¬†It requires long hours, patience, organization, creativity, wisdom, endurance and most importantly hard work. ¬†I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I feel so grateful for my wonderful husband who shoulders the burden of providing financially for our family so that I am able to spend my time focused on running our household and raising our children. ¬† But just because I don’t receive a paycheck doesn’t mean what I do is any less work. ¬†Hilary, I daresay that you¬†don’t know what it’s like to have worked a day in your life until you’ve been a stay-at-home mom.