7 Ways to Prepare for High School at Home

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For many homeschooling moms, high school just sends them running.  Many fear that they aren't equipped to teach high school from home, but from my experience the saying ‘knowledge is power' is true for this situation as well.

We have graduated two of our children using the Charlotte Mason method all the way through high school. Although neither of our children have decided to continue to college, they both knew exactly what they desire to do before graduating and were equipped to follow the path that they both desired.

Isn't that the key to the homeschool journey?  Equipping our children for their future?

Here are the things that I found crucial in teaching high school from home and having confident graduates that entered the adult world, still wanting to learn and follow their unique path.

7 Ways to Prepare for High School at Home

  1. Learn about Your State's Requirements for a Diploma – I would recommend knowing what your state requires for a diploma when your child is in middle school. To do high school at home correctly, you need to have a well laid out plan for how they will earn their diploma. Once you know exactly what is required, you can write down a 4 year plan (or less) to reaching that goal but putting down the courses needed in the year that you plan on teaching it.
  2. Talk to Your High School About Their Interest – We start talking to our children early about their strengths, their gifts and their interest.  We have found that their strengths and gifts were exactly what was needed to accomplish their interest.  We tried hard to allow our children to decide on their own, but offered suggestions of areas that their strengths and gifts fit, allowing them to see that life after graduation isn't just a box of chocolate but an opportunity to do great things with the right focused and determination. Parents are the world's greatest life coaches, but they need to be at the practices to impact the game.
  3. Know if Your Child is College Bound – Assuming your child wants to go to college can be a waste of time and energy.  The other can be true as well, if you don't desire your child to go because of resources.   Talking about this early in their high school and having an open discussions about the pros and cons, the possibilities and what needs to happen if they do or they don't is really important for their direction in life.  It helps them learn the necessary steps to making good choices that can impact their life forever, like marriage, a house and even a career.
  4. Does Duel Enrollment Fit Your Needs – If you know that you child is college bound or if you need help teaching them advance math, or other subjects out of your ability, consider Duel Enrollment at a local college. How this works is that as early as 11th grade, you child can attend a local college taking their high school classes, while earning credit for their high school diploma and their college diploma. This could be a great experience for those that aren't sure about the college decision, as well as an advance student that needs a little challenge in life. This option is growing in popularity within the homeschool community because it saves a lot of time and money.
  5. Consider Electives that Will Help Their Plans – If your child already knows what they will likely do after graduation, planning their electives to benefit their future is the best thing you can do for them.  Our daughter wasn't sure what she wanted to do after graduation because her only desire was to be a wife and mother.  I believe it is very important to not only redeem your time but use the gifts each person was gifted. So, her electives were based off her gifts (music) and her interest (photography and writing).  Toward the end of her Senior year in high school, she decided to use her gifts to learn blogging, since it would be something she could still do as a wife and mother.  All of her high school prepared her for the important elements for what she is doing and what she doesn't know, she learns online or at conferences.
  6. Consider Life Skills as Important as Academics – If you go shopping and have a cashier under 22 years of age (sometimes older) and they aren't able to give you change because something went wrong with the register, you will understand why I'm pointing out what use to be obvious… Life skills are important!  Be certain that your high school understands not only how to make change, but the value of a dollar, how to bargain shop online and in stores, how to use eBay, Amazon and Craigslist, how to open a checking and savings account, how to balance a check book, how to understand credit cards and interest, how to invest and how to grocery shop.  Additional skills to fix things around the house and vehicle are just additional life skills that will help them financially down the road.
  7. Mistakes are a Part of Life – Remember being in high school and the choices you made.  Realizing that our children are human and will make mistakes are really important for them and you. My husband and I decided a long time ago that we wanted our children to learn from our own mistakes, then find out for themselves while under our own roof, since no one really learns from other's mistakes.  As soon as our children had licenses, we gave them our debit card and told them to make a list for groceries and go shopping for us. We told them what we normally spend on groceries and sent them off.  Knowing that I had taught them about price comparison and how to menu plan, gave me the confidence to do this. Most importantly, it taught them that we trusted them with our own money, with their decisions and when they made a mistake it cost us far less then what it cost others who have to bail their children out of a horrible bounced checks and over the limits on credit cards.

A few weeks after our second child graduated, I had went to a local store and realized that he never returned my debit card in my wallet. The elderly customer in front of me was still putting things back into her purse, when the cashier asked me how I was today. I replied, “I was doing good until I realized that my son still has my debt card.”  The elderly customer turned to me and said, “And you trusted him!”  A little shocked and taken back by her response, I replied, “Why yes!  He has proven my trust since he was 17. Why wouldn't I?”  She turned to walk away and said, “Well, that is your mistake!”

I didn't say this to her, but I'm going to say this to you… “Her lack of trust with her own children is her mistake, but my trust is my children is not a mistake, but my reward for the investment I put into my children's education.”  There were a few times they went over our budget by $50 or so, but it didn't harm us and it showed them the importance of grocery list and meal planning.  You can't buy that kind of education, you can only life it!


7 Ways to Transition Your Homeschool into Middle School

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As our children grow, our confidence in homeschooling them begins to shaken.  There is a shift that happens at the end of elementary and that shift is adolescences.  A few things happens to a child during this time beyond the changes in hormones that most parents overlook or take for granted in their education. As a Charlotte Mason educator, my goal is to acknowledge them as a person and to educate life to them.

From my own experience of raising three child to this stage of life, I have found this to be true:

  • They become self conscious of themselves (we understand this because of the hormone shift) and their self-confidence can be affected.
  • They come into the age of debate and unchecked can become rebellion
  • They seem clumsy, which can be explained with their shaking self-confidence
  • They begin to question everything that they have learned up to this point
  • They start craving independence

When I realized this with my first child and saw its pattern start with my second child, I knew I needed a transition during what most call the middle school grades, for this part of their education for life. These tips are from my own experience and I found them to be so effective that I wanted to share them with you!

7 Ways to Transition Your Homeschool into Middle School

  1. Focus More on Independent Work – The best place to get your middle school child familiar with independence is with their own education. Taking ownership over their assignments, not necessarily with their syllabus, although having some input from there is not a bad idea either. Preparing your year in advance will help you enable your middle school child to be more independent in their homeschool and will help with the transition for your homeschool and for their own growth.
  2. Provide Their Own Learning Space – Having a space that they can call their own is important, but only if they have proven themselves faithful in attentiveness and finished work in the time it should take them to finish it.  Once my children have reached this age and level of accountability, they are able to work in their bedroom, at a desk, with their doors open.  I check on them often and have found my middle school son swinging an imaginary golf club (his goal now is to be in the PGA, so it wasn't all bad, right) and sometimes drawing.  During this transition, it is important to stay visible to them, until they have formed the habit to be faithful in their work.
  3. Implement Accountability – Although independent work is a focus for our homeschool in middle school that doesn't mean that my children are free to choose everything about their schooling. As I just mentioned about the learning space, I needed to hold them accountable to doing their lessons and check on them often. In addition, I would call out from another room, asking them what they were working on at that time. If progress wasn't made, they may have lost their ability to work in their own space and needed to finish near me. In addition, I would check their work daily and be sure they finished what was required.
  4. Increase Lesson Time – We always used short lessons as a Charlotte Mason homeschooling family, however during these years, we increase this to prepare for the extra work required in high school and in life. What normally would only be a 15 minute lesson could easily become a 25 minute lesson or longer depending on the subject. However, we never went longer than 35 minutes during these grades unless it was a field trip or nature walk.
  5. Implement Opportunities for Debate – If you have raised a child to their preteens or know someone who has, you will understand this important tip for opportunities for debate. If you do not implement debate in your homeschool, you will find it in your parenting because something shifts inside a child's brain at this time and they seem to need to debate daily.  Many chose debate clubs, but our family used essays with no correct answers.  This allowed me to get into the head of my child, without a debate between us. We used all kinds of things to offer writing practice through debating questions and even the struggling writer will enjoy this exercise because they enjoy telling you ‘the facts' according to them.
  6. Strengthen Their Faith – Knowing the need for debate and the natural questioning of all the things they believed to be true and now the strong desire to know for themselves it is true, we combine debate with our faith.  Why do we believe something? Why is Creation true to us? Why do we disagree with evolution? This has been a powerful tool for raising our children to be strong in their faith of God and Creation, as well as the founding of our nation.
  7. Dedicated Focus on Gaps – The last thing any homeschool mom wants to happen is starting high school with gaps.  Sometimes it happens!  Using the middle school years to first identify and then focus on filling the gaps necessary for learning (not facts, but skills) should be very important to your transition in your homeschool middle school. If your child is still behind in their reading level, a good portion of their day should involve reading. My son's book list were huge during these years but this is where we saw the most growth.  If they are struggling with spelling or writing, give the a lot of opportunity to be working on these.  If they struggle in math, find ways to incorporate math in their playtime.  These are the years that if you aren't able to get them over the important things of reading, writing and math that you should be investing in a tudor to help the be accomplished in these most important areas.

I understand that this list may not be the tips that you expected, but trust me when I tell you that these are the best things to put into your curriculum for these ages. You will be blessed with more than you know and your children will be reading for high school and the life afterwards.


7 Ways to Homeschool a Child that Hates School

Most families has at least one child who hates school at some level.  I know that I did!  My second child struggled with learning to read and because of that his self-confidence struggled and his attitude was challenging on some days.  I knew my son was smart and capable of overcoming his challenges but I needed to work on what stood in the way of his learning and joy of learning and that was… his self-confidence.

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Those who hate school often times are the ones that are dealing with the lack of confidence because of a learning struggle.
At the time of this struggle, I wasn't finding a lot of help except for this poor advice…”Just wait until next year, he may not be ready to learn and may need more time.”

Please listen to me, this was NOT the right advice and my son struggled because of me listening to this advice. These tips that I'm about to share with you are what did work and each of these proved important to his need of building his confidence and trusting that he was able to learn. Today he is graduated and has more self-confidence than I ever dreamed he would have and yes, I just about cried typing that one!

7 Ways to Homeschool a Child that Hates School

  1. Be Patient – This is not one of my strong points, trust me.  However, it was so important for me to stay patient with every lesson, because if I wasn't, his self-confidence crumbled to the foundation and it took weeks to rebuild. During this time, we stayed into books that were easy readers, way below where others his age was reading.  My goal for this stage was for me to build his confidence and that came with him hearing himself read as fast as his older sister, who was a skilled reader.  His perfectionistic mind has always been this way, so why wouldn't it fall into his school work?  After several months of just reading easy readers his skill got to the point where he was reading quick. I then moved up to the next level, until he was reading at his level and always reading aloud because this is where he struggled with his self-confidence. As I mentioned before, waiting later wasn't wise for either of us. It made me impatient because of his age and it made him have less confidence because of his age. So I would advice, ‘instead of waiting, put your full focus on practice in the area where they can perform and then once they do it well, increase the difficulty.'  You will see so much progress doing it this way and patience will be easier for the both of you.
  2. Find Their Interest – When I started seeing that my son was always looking for creatures, I invested in field guides for us to learn more about what he was finding in our yard.  In addition, we would visit the library and bring home a stack of books on the animals that he was wanting to learn about. During this time, we were only reading easy readers and he ‘believed' that he couldn't read. However, after he would find the creature in the field guide, on his own, and would sit with this book, he was able to retell me about the habitat, their diet and where they lived. I was shocked! He could read and read so well that he was comprehending at a higher level than his age.  His lessons became all about animals! Our geography was based off animals. He learned about people who studies animals.
  3. Plan Educational Field Trips – My son was interested in weapons and battles, so he would read a lot about these in books.  We live in a historically rich area, so we would do a lot of educational field trips because he proved to retain more through audio learning than through books. What amazed me is that after we did a field trip, his interest was captured and then I could introduce a book and he would do well with it.  Finding what opportunities are around you is really important and a great way to break up the mundane of homeschooling, especially for a child who hates school.
  4. Implement Nature Walks – As a Charlotte Mason home educator, we just loved doing nature walks.  My son who hated school and dreaded Mondays because of it, was thrilled for a nature walk. It didn't take long for him to become our teacher. I remember times when he did a presentation of a garner snake with some of our friend at their house. He was so proud of himself being a teacher. Another time, he was giving ‘how to catch a snake' to his siblings, with me sitting watching them. In addition to the nature walks, we would do journaling of what they found. My son always drew in his free time and still draws today!
  5. Do Oral Work for Some Subjects – My son hated writing because he struggled with spelling with his obvious challenge with reading.  Doing oral work accomplished several things for us: it gave me the knowledge that he was retaining and it gave him the confidence to know that he was really smart and just needed more focused practice where he struggled so he could get better. Spelling can be done orally while they are learning the word and then a test can be done written to see how they do, but only after the oral test has great results.
  6. Practice Writing in Disguise – If I told my son to write about an animal in his journal, he was thrilled to do it. However, he hated to write.  If he wrote to his cousin, he was enjoying it but he didn't want to write about his field trip that he shared in the letter. He would be happy to help me write my grocery list, but writing spelling words were torture for him.
  7. Invest in Educational Resources – Learning is different for a lot of people and finding out how each child learns best can help you find good education resources to make learning fun, even for a child who hates school. We used a lot of unabridged books on tape or CD, we used animal shows and Liberty Kids or Jonathan Parks to teach them things that most people only use books to teach. We would watch videos on battles or people.

I will never forget when my son was in 7th grade and I purchased a series of books for him because they were set in the Medieval times. It didn't take him long to come to me and tell me, “These are the best books that I have ever read!”  I thought I was going to cry a bucket of tears right then because it was the first time THIS child enjoyed a book that wasn't about animals.

It was that year that I started to see more confidence build in him and his attitude about homeschooling change.  He quickly became an independent learner and went on to teach himself golf, fishing and many other things.  So you can homeschool a child that hates school and turn them into a lover of learning… but first find the ‘why' and then use these tips to win them over!

If you liked this post, you may also like 7 Ways the Charlotte Mason Way Can Simplify Your Homeschool

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7 Ways to Prepare for Preschool at Home

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In my fifteen years of homeschooling, my biggest challenge has always been keeping the toddlers and preschoolers busy while I homeschooled the older children.  If you have more than one child, you can relate but may still need help learning what to do with this sweet children.

My solution was preschool at home.

Please do not think that I mean you need to carve out more time in your day to educate one more child, because I don't mean that at all. What I mean is prepare for activities that will keep them busy for 15 minutes at a time, while you work with your older children. This has been crucial for my younger two boys, who are much younger than my older two (Literally 6 years between my second and third child, and 7 1/2 years from my third to my fourth).

What child do you know that doesn't want to be just like their older sibling?  Tapping into this natural desire, while being creative in your preparing for preschool at home will be the best time you have ever spent in planning for your school year. Trust me!

7 Ways to Prepare for Preschool at Home

  1. Organize Toys in Bins – This has been something that I have done for over 12 years and it is the best way to stay on top of the children's things. However, the benefit of short lessons and focused toys has been key to our homeschooling with toddlers and preschoolers.  While I'm working on a short lesson with my children, I can pull down the animal bin and creative play normally last during that time. I can train my young child to pick up toys, as the older children work independently for the next short lesson. Before I start the next time with my older children, I can help my youngest pull out the next toy bin of his interest.  This really works!
  2. Create a Learning Center for Learning Boxes – I love creating learning boxes for my preschool ages.  He loves it when I say it is time for a learning activity; often times he ask to do an activity in the evening with me.  Having all my learning boxes in one center helps me to stay organized and easy to do in a no time, since the learning box is already created.
  3. Purchase Age Appropriate Puzzles – I love Melissa & Doug puzzles for preschool ages. My children has always worked on puzzles, but my youngest started before he was one because he demonstrated excellent hand eye coordination. Puzzles are great for analytical thinking and matching.  Investing in puzzles that are easy enough for a toddler or preschooler to do on their own is key. Visit your local library to see how your children do with the different puzzles and then look at yard sales and used sales.
  4. Purchase Art Supplies – Age appropriate art supplies is so important for little ones!  I love having all of my supplies in one local area and I encourage my preschooler to be creative often. Some of these items include: Play Doh and tools; beginners scissors with paper; pipe cleaners and beads; journal and coloring pencils and paint.
  5. Create a List of Habits to Build – I love the Charlotte Mason way for this very focus of building habits in children as part of their education. I love having a list of character I would want my preschool to master during that school year, like: first time obedience; attentiveness; forgiveness; tidiness; helpfulness; independent playing.   Having a list of what I desire for my preschooler is my way of staying focused during the year, not making him feel like he is a disruption to our homeschooling, but that he has his lessons to learn as well.
  6. Create a List of Skills to Master – I love to have my children know what they have learned in one year and take the time to celebrate their accomplishments. My preschoolers start the year with a list of skills they need to master by working on through the year, some of them are: making their bed, taking care of dirty clothes, setting the table, taking care of the pet, keeping their toys in their place; riding their bike, learning the alphabet and numbers, memorizing scriptures for character.
  7. Create a List of Educational Shows, Websites and Apps – For those time, when I need a little more than 15 minutes to cover a lesson with my older children, I fall back on educational shows, websites and apps for the Kindle Fire.  I know that with these things, my preschooler is learning something good, and I have the 30 minutes I need to work with a child that needs my full attention.

In the end, my preschooler feels as though they are being schooled and just as important as the older children.  They are learning important things perfect for their age.  It creates the atmosphere of education that I desire for our home and in the end, my little guy is happier for the time I put into preparing for preschool at home.



7 Ways to Prepare as a Homeschool Mom

Have you ever heard you or your homeschooling friends talk about what they are doing to prepare for being the homeschool mom?  Not likely, because it is more fun to think about different books, a perfect schedule for your child to be the perfect student and more importantly, putting the defeats of last year behind you.

From my 15 years of homeschooling, I found that the years that are my best years are the ones that I put time into preparing myself as a homeschool mom.

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7 Ways to Prepare as a Homeschool Mom

      1. Pray for Wisdom – Each of my children are unique in their learning styles and needs.  Although I think I know my children best, I realize that their Creator knows them far better than I do.  Seeking wisdom from God about the needs and direction for my children is something that if I fail to do first, my year crumbles before Christmas. (I can almost hear you saying how true this is for you, too)  When I seek God's wisdom for my children, it is amazing the progress one year proves to see in even my struggling learners.
      2. Invest in Resources to Help You be Your Best – I laugh so much when I hear about ‘how much patience I must have to homeschool'. Just ask my children about my level of patience. As their teacher in every aspect of life, I need to invest in my learning almost more than I do theirs because my shortcomings will become theirs, but my enjoyments will oftentimes become theirs as well. When I invest in resources of how to help me be my best in all my areas of life, I grow as a person, a wife, a mother and a teacher. The Build Your Bundle sale is only a limited time sale, but it has some great resources like what I'm talking about investing in to prepare as a homeschool mom.
      3. Organize Your Day with a Routine – If you are like the old me, you may write out your day to the minute and what you expect from each of your children and yourself. Get real, like I did! My children are people and our home isn't perfect, so creating a schedule like that is only setting yourself up for failure and disappointment because you can't reach what you thought would be great. Instead of that, organize your day with a routine, without putting times on the schedule. Focus on what you want accomplish and what makes sense to the flow of your home to do right after that first thing is done. A working routine is magical to a family, especially those with younger children because they thrive on routines. This means you will be more prepared for the distractions that are only bumps in your day, instead of your whole day being ruined because the clock says you missed things.
      4. Set Boundaries that Will Ruin Your Day –  I have often times found myself having a hard time getting out of the routines of summer, like sleeping later, talking on the phone in the morning or getting on the internet. When I set boundaries in place and have accountability, I'm amazed how prepared I am and how amazing our homeschool year goes.
      5. Identify Your Obstacles – You know your home and each home has obstacles.  If you take time preparing for these obstacles, you will be able to conquer what could easily ruin your whole homeschool day or cause more issues than you can handle in your homeschool. Some obstacles that I found when preparing are: hungry before lunch time; interruptions from younger children; attitudes from school aged children; lack of attention and bad days for mom.  Once I identified these obstacles, I was able to find solutions and implement them with success.  I started making healthy meals for breakfast and we were able to make it to lunch.  I taught my younger children the interrupt rule in the summer so they knew it by the start of school.  If my children showed an attitude with their assignment, I gave them more to do in their free time and they had Daddy to deal with in the evening.  I removed the distractions that were causing the lack of attention, used a timer to ensure shorter lessons and started praising my children a lot more. Some days I just needed to be a mom, not a teacher and because I needed to be both on days when I struggled to be nice to anyone, I would use resources that I purchased for teacher's day off.  They would watch educational DVDs, while I just sat beside them, learning along side them and other days we just headed to the park for a nature walk.
      6. Designate Chores for Your Child – I teach my children at a young age to help with chores around the house.  I hear of moms with children nearing their teens that do not do much around the house and I'm not surprised when she is stressed, tired and depressed.  Each child can be doing something to eliminate some of the chores around the house. Prepare designated chores for the children, so you can put your attention on things that they can't do, like….
      7. Plan Your Meals – It is a lot of work to plan your meals for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner.  However, this is one of the best investments you can do to prepare as a homeschool mom. In addition to planning, you also need to do a grocery list, shop and prepare the meals. Using a slow cooker and rice cooker is essential to my home schooling success and until my children are older, this is something that I do on my own, with a little assistance at meal times.

You will quickly see that these seven ways to prepare as a homeschool mom will be so important that you will almost always do these things first, before you have even started to purchase things for your children. When you do this, you will see the fruits of this time spent and the rewards will be priceless for your homeschool year.



7 Ways to Save on Homeschool Resources

Homeschooling families love to learn how to save money because they are usually a one income family and need to be resourceful as possible.  Finding frugal ways to save on homeschool resources is important to us, so I wanted to share this tips for the homeschool mom to learn from where I have saved over the 15 years of my homeschooling journey, as I learned to stay within a budget for our homeschool needs.

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7 Ways to Save on Homeschool Resources

  1. Use eBooks for the Things that You Can – When I first started to homeschool, I was having to rely on only books, but with eBooks becoming more popular, it is really easy to find resources on Amazon or on  your favorite curriculum website.  Not only does this save on homeschool resources, but it also saves on space and after living in our very small house for 15 years, using eBooks can meet more than one need.
  2. Never Pay Full Price – If you can help it, don't buy anything new of full price.  In the homeschooling community there are so many ways to find used resources that it defeats the need of purchasing new ones. You can save a lot of money when you make the decision to not buy new.
  3. Shop at Used Sales – I have become a lover of used sales and the treasures that I have found visiting my local used books sales has been so worth the research to find them.  Now there are a lot of Facebook groups that sell curriculum for you.
  4. Participate in a Curriculum Swap – I have only participated in one curriculum swap, but it was such a great idea that it made my list of how to save on homeschool resources. Basically, this was done within a homeschool support group and a date was set for you to bring your used curriculum to give to others for free. In exchange, you got to visit the other tables and take home your own free resources from their pile.
  5. Join the Mailing List of Your Favorite Curriculum – I have found that being on the mailing list of some of my favorite companies has allowed me to buy new while saving up to 50% off.  Sometimes, I have saved hundreds of dollars by just waiting until mid to late September for the items that I really wanted, but couldn't find used and wasn't willing to pay full price.  Getting the emails of these companies of their fall sales and clearances has been so helpful because I would often times forget to check their site and then I missed the savings that I was depending on getting, which really puts a wrench in my planning… and our budget.
  6. Purchase Resources with a Friend – I remember one year my friend and I really wanted to use a curriculum that neither of us could afford.  So, we had an idea that paid off and worked really well, since we went to church together.  We split the cost evenly between us. Then I would use it for one week and take it to church for her to use the next week. It worked beautifully because it wasn't something that we needed everyday, since both of us used it as an enhancement. When we finished the year, we sold it at a used sale and split the profit.
  7. Use More Non-consumable Resources – This one thing has saved me hundreds, if not thousands over the year, because I only purchased it once and used it for all of my children.  This is why I encourage people to stick to one thing, for instance your math curriculum or your spelling curriculum, because these non-consumable items will save you a lot of money over the years. The more children you have the more you will save.

These tips to save on homeschool resources does take some planning and time to implement, but so worth the investment.  My husband has been amazed that as the years have gone on, my budget for our homeschool year has gone down so much and he no longer has to put away so much to ensure we have the cash to purchase for our homeschool.