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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ever Have One of Those Weeks???

The never ending.....never completed.....To Do List????

I just came across this on my desk and it made me smile.  I still don't have everything done on this list....but, since I was running out of room on top for my "title",  I just started a new one and moved everything that still needed to be done onto that one!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sugar Creek Gang

I occasionally call my kids the "R______(fill in my last name here) Gang".  But, I don't mean it in the sense of the word "gang" that is the usual connotation these days.

I mean it in the older sense of the word.....think the Apple Dumpling Gang or Spanky and the Gang.

The Sugar Creek Gang uses that same mind set in the use of the word "Gang".

This is a great audio book series that is being distributed by Beloved Books.

The audio recordings are based on the books by Paul Hutchens, and they are narrated and brought to life by Paul Ramseyer.

I grew up in Minnesota listening to KTIS, which is the Christian radio station that broadcasts from Northwestern College in St. Paul....which is where these audio recordings first aired.  As I listened to these with the kids, I am sure that I heard at least some of these stories when I was a kid.  I know I recognized Paul Ramseyers voice.

They have an innocent, "aww-shucks" kind of feeling to them.  Many times I kept picturing Beaver Cleaver and his friends and the way they spoke during the adventures.  (You younger folks won't get that reference, but I am sure anyone around my age or older knows exactly what I am talking about.  Whenever I talk about the possibility of one of the kids friends being an "Eddie Haskell"....they just don't get it!)

These are great adventures for you to listen to with your kids.  When I first mentioned them to the kids....I got a few eye rolls and even a few ""

But, in my sweet, homeschool mom kind of way, I said, "Too bad....find a comfy spot and be quiet."...or something like that.

All it took for A-man to get on board was for me to read the titles of the stories to him.  This is just for Volume 1.

The Swamp Robber

The Killer Bear

The Winter Rescue

The Lost Campers

Chicago Adventure

The Secret Hideout

See what I mean?  What little kid/adventurer wouldn't want to hear those stories?  Remember there are a total of 6 volumes of these stories.

I was a little nervous about attention span issues, because each story is about 2 hours long. But, it actually didn't turn into a big problem. We never listened to a whole story at once. Usually we listened to about half and came back another day for the "exciting conclusion".  (Doesn't that make you want to use your narrator voice?)

These stories are innocent, but not unrealistic.  I mean, there is a boy that has a drunk for a father and some of the "gang" aren't Christians.  It is real....but still manages to be wholesome....if that makes any sense.

This is totally going to come with us on the next road trip.  It will be perfect and will keep everyone's  attention.  And, won't be making the parents cringe with the disrepectful stuff ath we have heard from other audio books (think Junie B. Jones).  Just innocent, old fashioned story telling.

I guess that is my favorite part.  It really harkens back to another day and age....when boys were boys and had gang meetings in the woods by their house....went fishing at the into "scrapes".....but were home by suppertime.   When building character, telling the truth, having manners and believing in God......were good, honorable things.  Wholesome goodness.

Do you want to get a taste of the Sugar Creek Gang?  Try listening to the first story in the series to see what you think?  Click for the Swamp Robber. (It's a good one.)  It is free.

Beloved Books also has some other interesting books and CD titles available.

The Little Britches series.

G.A. Henty Audio stories.

All-Of-A-Kind-Family series.

Elizabeth Enright stories.

They all look like more old fashioned, wholesome, innocent....but definitely not boring stories.

(I know.  Did little boys really stay clean and combed like this? )

When you are ready to just try these on out for yourself for road trips, quiet time (like us), or bedtime stories.  (We have talked about using them as our bedtime stories...but some people are afraid of falling asleep and missing out on the, for now, we are sticking to broad daylight listening.)  The normal price for  each of the volumes for $54.95....or the complete 72 disc set for $279.70....with free media shipping rates.

But, I get to pretend I am one of those big time bloggers and offer a coupon code for JUST my readers!!!

If you put in SHUT-THE-FRIDGE-20 at check will get 20% off.  That brings the price down to about $44 or so....if I did the math correctly...which we know may or may not be my strong suit.

It would be a great Christmas gift for grandkids....especially if you used to listen to this or stories like this when you were a youngster....or for anyone who makes a lot of road trips.

See what other folks on the TOS Review Crew thought of the Sugar Creek Gang.

Disclaimer:  We received Volume 1 of the Sugar Creek Gang series for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Samson's Classroom

I don't know about you, but when I hear the name, Samson.  I think of Samson and Delilah from the Bible.  You know....strong guy.....with great hair....weakness for a bad girl....gets his hair cut off....loses the girl.....destroys the temple. 

I have always pictured Samson as a sort of Bible times Fabio....(helps me when I have a picture in my head.)

But, I digress, this is not a post about Samson/Fabio.

It is a post about....

Samson, the dog who wears a sweatsuit.

This is an on-line program with games called, Samson's Classroom.

He helps your kids learn their.....

No numbers.

This is a fun game/program.

It uses games to teach all these things.  It is funny.  Sneaky, clever, silly.

But, through all the fun and games helps you master 224 sight words and over 7,000 spelling words.  Although, I can type in our actual spelling lists for them to use also.  I did both.  When I wanted S-girl to work on some specific sight words, I entered my own list for her to work on.  For A-man, I have just been using the built in word lists.

Take a look at what some of  what Samson has to offer.

The problem is, A-man sometimes gets things wrong just to see the funny stuff that happens to Samson.

S-girl is such a good, little, rule follower (like her mother) that she never gets things wrong on purpose.  She just stands over A-man's shoulder and enjoys the fruits of his incorrect labors!

There is a spider game that I tried and failed at miserably.  You are suppose to have Samson run around and gather up the letters to use to spell your words.  You use the left and right arrows to make him move.  I was never able to get far at all without the spider catching me and rolling me up in his web.  S-girl had the same problem as me.  A-man, on the other hand, after a few times of being caught was able to successfully evade the big, ugly spider.

The good news for S-girl and I is that once you are caught, the spider leaves and doesn't come Samson gets out of the web and just continues to gather letters.  I found it much more peaceful to just let myself get caught and move on.

There are karate games....where Samson uses all kinds of cool weapons (nunchucks, anyone?) in addition to his hands to break through boards if you get words correct.  If you get it wrong, he smacks his head or his hand into the board.....unsuccessfully.  We find this waaaaaay too funny.  Once again, guess who will sometimes get things wrong just so he can have a good laugh?

He thinks it is really cool that he is working towards his black belt!

This is an entertaining program for sure.  It does seem to be teaching the kids.  There are even worksheets and lesson plans that you can print out to have the kids have a more hands-on approach and less "screen time".  I am not a huge fan of a lot of computer games....even the educational ones.  But, I have to admit, I had a hard time hating this one.  They surprised me and made me laugh too many times for me to feel negatively about them.....even if it is computer school!

I am a little worried that A-man gets things wrong on purpose.....but, A-man is....ummmm.....entertaining.

It is cute.  It is fun.  The Reading Comprehension section is a little too hard for S-girl right now as she really is a beginning reader....but, it will be there when she is ready.

This is a program that I haven't just watched the kids play.  I do it too.....(okay, I like to see what Samson will do next too)....even if he looks like this....

and not like....

(Doesn't it feel like he is looking right at you???)

You can try Samson's Classroom out a few ways.  Have your kids try out some of their games for free without committing to a thing.  Or, if my glowing recommendation gave you the courage to jump right in.....A single membership is $30 per year....or, what we have, the Family Membership, is just $50 for 4 kids, per year.

See what the other TOS Crew members thought of Samsons Classroom with Samson, the dog....not Samson/Fabio.

Disclaimer:  We received access to Samson's Classroom for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reading Rule(r)s!!!

This is a review that will be short and sweet.  We will see if I am actually capable of that, right, Karen?

We got a chance to try out the Eye Level Reading Rulers by Crossbow Education.

See their logo?  Here is their explanation for it:

"Why Crossbow?" Well, we do believe that our stuff hits the target, but more than that, we're Christians. We believe that the symbols of the Cross and the Rainbow stand for the most powerful, life-changing truths on this earth: broadly, "Jesus died in my place, (for my sins)", and "God keeps His promises". We endeavour to maintain a Christian ethos in the way we run our company, and we hope you find this reflected in the quality of our products and the level of our service.

Isn't that cool?  Anyway, Crossbow Education is one of the leaders in tools and teaching aids for people with dyslexia or visual stress.  None of my kids have dyslexia....but A-girl definitely has visual stress when she has large amounts of reading.

She has trouble tracking words, and sometimes she has to work so hard to keep focused that she gives herself headaches.....and ends up remembering little to nothing of what she has just "read".

A-girl has used a similar tool before with some success.....but the Reading Rulers with their variety of colors available worked great for her.

The Eye Level Reading Rulers are just what they sound like.

They look like this:

We got to try out their 10 pack which has 10 different colors.  The one above is celery.  You can see that they have a little sliver of a clear portion (by my hand) and then a colored portion.  The idea is that you slide these along as you read and it will make it easier for your eyes to follow and keep track of what you are reading.  You use the wider strip for paragraphs and the skinnier one to help with single lines or sentences.  There is a shiny side and matte side....see what works best for you.

A-girl used these the most of anyone, so I asked her to write a little about what she thought of the Eye Level Reading Ruler.

I used magenta and pink the most because those were the colors that worked for me.  I did try all the other colors....which I recommend....before you decide on just one.  They really helped me with any book I was reading because they just fit on the page no matter the size of the book.  Even if you don't like reading, it will jive up your reading. 

I actually asked L-girl to use this for right now, because, we are pretty sure she needs glasses, but we haven't gotten her into the eye doctor yet to confirm our self diagnosis.  We have just noticed that she is squinting more and that her reading comprehension and abilities have decreased.

It has really helped.  We will still be taking her in for what, I am sure, (thanks to her genetic pool) is the inevitable prescription for eye glasses....but it has really helped her not strain her eyes in the meantime.

Ava's favorite colors, like she said were the magenta and pink rulers.

L-girl liked the celery the best.

A-girl has used hers so much that she did get a small scratch on the surface of her ruler.  Probably because she uses it as a bookmark.  The company recommends putting them in a plastic bag to protect them from scratching....but, we thought that was too much of a hassle to really, we will just get replacements, as necessary, for her.

I have seen a huge difference in both of the girls reading ....I don't I want to say "abilities"?  I have for sure noticed a spike in their comprehension since they have been using these. I have also noticed that A-girl does NOT get stressed out about the amount of reading I assign her in school.  The Eye Level Reading Ruler is well worth the investment....and something we will keep on using after the review.

You can get the Reading Rulers in packs of 5, 10 or 30.  The pack of ten, which we used is $16.95. 

You have the option of ordering them all in the same colors, or their most popular colors.  I would recommend getting the variety pack first and just experimenting to see which one or ones works best and then stocking up on them. 

The fact that they are just 6 inches long makes it convenient to carry them around and they are also discreet, in case you don't want anybody to see you using them....but, on the flip side....their size also makes them easy to lose.  So, you may want to stock up on your favorite colors.

Crossbow has a lot of other products, so, if you have someone that has visual stress or dyslexia, go take a look around.  I think if I was still working in an office, I would invest in one of the  the computer screen glare thingies.

See what other TOS reviewers thought of Reading Rulers.

Disclaimer:  We received the 10 pack of Reading Rulers for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A-Man is Ummmm....Entertaining.....

Today's post will be a bit of random stuff all related to A-man and  his special ways of keeping our family entertained.

He has kept his teeth in his head a lot longer than I thought he would.....if you know what I mean?  Actually, his top teeth have been quite stubborn and we were a bit worried they would never fall out.

Once he got one of them loosened.....he was sort of trying not to lose it....since it succeeded in getting him lots of attention.  Most especially the squealing, "gross!" from his sisters and various other females of his acquaintance.

Can't you just see the glee in his face!

He tried this old trick....

...but then chickened out.

It finally gave up after a good, looooong fight.....and fell out.....while he was drinking a glass of water.

Then, A-man carefully carried his tooth upstairs and put it on his dresser so he would be ready to put it under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy later that night.

Here is a copy of the letter he left her.

He cracks me up.  He was soooooo careful walking it upstairs.....oh, well.

This is the way this boy does school.  Not for the whole day....but at least a few times a day I will glance over and see this!

(I assume this is his "thinking" pose....since I am pretty sure that you cannot write with your hands holding your weight because your feet are hooked on the back of the chair!)

Or this....plain old standing.....

Apparently actually sitting in chairs to waaaay too boring for this guy.  Can  I just say I am glad we homeschool?  He would be in such trouble in public school!

And here is a recent example of one of his school projects.  He was asked to draw a picture of Noah and the ark...and some pairs of animals.

Let me explain a bit to you. The guys with the long necks are giraffes.  Next to and above them are the of which is holding on to Noah.  Along the bottom, we have turtles, and lions.  There are bumblebees just above the turtles.  Now above the bees you have things that look like 9s, Ps, Ds, and Bs.....lower case.....these are next to and around the birds in the sky.

Here.....look again, so you don't have to keep scrolling up.

Know what they are?  Those are.....Hummingbirds......get it?

Now, this next item....I didn't even notice right away.  See the little guy floating in the water on the left....right about where it says Teacher Check?  Any guesses?

That, my friends, is a unicorn....that was late....and, missed the boat.

And to finish up....remember our beloved Scruble Cube?

Well, someone left it on the floor....then someone else tripped over it....and it exploded...all over the place.

Thanks to A-man.....the Scruble Cube was able to share some last words.....

I am sorry....but, I think you have just got to love this kid, don't you???

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Like all bloggers out there, I love to get comments.  I don't get a lot....but, I am happy with what I get.  But, lately, (in my world, that means the last few months), I haven't been seeing or getting too many comments.

I switched from the regular blogspot comments, a long time ago, to Disqus because that is what my sister, Kandi, used.  (Reverse peer pressure....she is my younger sister!)

Anyway, a while back, Disqus went through some kind of upgrade.  I think this is where the problem started.  I thought I had upgraded along with it....(there was some weird conversation going on between Marilyn Monroe and James who knows!)....but.....ever since then.....things have not worked right.

People have told me that they can't comment on my blog anymore.

I can't go to my blog and reply to (or even see) the comments that do come through.

I do get some comments, but I can only see them/read them in my e-mail and I have no way of replying to them that way.

So, first of all, if you have commented and thought I was ignoring you....I am sorry....I'm not, I am just technologically challenged.

If any of you more technologically advanced people know what my problem is....or what the problem is with Disqus.....or a better tool to use for commenting.....PLEASE.....let me know....if Disqus lets you!

Deep Blue Bible

Who knew that you could review something like the Bible?  Not me.

But, it has been fun.

We have quite a few Bibles already floating around our house.  But, it was nice to get a Bible designed for kids.  And, I really liked that it was in Common much easier to understand...even easier than my New International Version.

The Bible is published by Abingdon Press and is called the Deep Blue Bible.

I made L-girl and A-man share the Bible (since it has a target audience of about age 7-12)....but though they both wanted it all to themselves.  The campaigning started out quite civil with both sides presenting their case as to why they should be the one that got the new Bible.  I am sad to say that the fighting ending in a very "non-Christian" way.

So, now they have shared custody of it....although I think L-girl came out on top in the amount of usage.  A-man is easily distracted.  Eye-rolling smile

The Bible we got has a flexible cover....not a paperback cover, which I like....hard cover books and Bibles always seem to fall apart at our house and paperback covers get ripped off, never to be found again.  This one has held up well.

So, onto the actual book.

Amazingly, I didn't have any trouble with the content of this book, AND, I actually agreed with everything the authors had to say!  Rolling on the floor laughing  Ha!

Obviously, the basic content of the Bible is the same....although the Common English is really a great, easy to understand version.

The ways that this Bible is set apart from other kids Bibles is the little thingies scattered throughout.

Like the "Did You Know?" trivia tidbits.

They also have little.....hmmmm.....personal challenges....or thinking assignments throughout....I mean other than the personal challenges that the Bible assigns to us anyway.

There are the Umbrellas.....


Life Preservers.....

And, there are sailboats......

So, what do all those "nautical/don't get wet" metaphors mean?

I asked L-girl to clarify them for me, and here are her responses:

The Umbrellas are notes that give help for different times and that explain that unhappy emotions aren't good for us. 

The Lighthouses are notes that help us grow into a rock solid faith with God right there in our lives.

The Life Preservers are notes that give us answers to tough questions and things that may be hard to understand in the Bible.

The Sailboats are notes to help us grow strong with God by pointing out good traits in our lives.

My personal favorite part of this particular Bible is the "I Wonder What To Do When...." section at the back.

See?  You can look up verses and passages that will help you when you are afraid, or depressed, or feeling guilty.  There are different sections for the Umbrellas, Lighthouses, Sailboats, and Life Preservers too.

The other thing that this Bible has is "I Bet You Can..."  reading challenges. 

This particular one is Ezekiel 43: 1-27 and the "bet" is that you can read it in 8 minutes.  L-girl is very competitive...even with herself.  She has done some of them already, but, I can see her going through the back of the book where all of these challenges are listed, getting the timer and just checking them off as she beats the clock.

One of the last unique parts of this Bible are the "Gods Thoughts....My Thoughts" sections.

These require some thinking, and are really what I would call devotionals.  Like the one called, "How Do We Follow God Today? which is based on Numbers 9:15-23.  There are a few paragraphs about the story from the Bible, ans then little examples of where the Bible has given us clear examples of what we should do....don't lie....don't kind and compassionate.  Then, it goes on to tell them that each specific situation they may face won't be talked about in the Bible, but that we can still use it to guide and direct us.  Each one of these Gods Thoughts My Thoughts sections ends with some questions to think about and answer honestly. 

Again, all of these sections (Gods Thoughts....Umbrellas, etc.) have a portion in the back of the book, so they are easy to find....especially if you are struggling with a specific issue in your childs life.  Are they feeling harassed at school?  There is a section for that.  Are they wondering why animals were sacrificed?  There is a section to help answer that question.  Are they stressed out?  There is a section of Bible verses for that.  (Honestly....I could see myself using this Bible sometimes just for those easy to find things.)

This Bible would be a great gift to give to a child and just let them explore on their own.  My church gives away Bibles once the kids hit 3rd grade....this would be the perfect Bible for that....because it isn't a babyish kids Bible.

This Bible would also be an awesome one for you to explore with your children.  Like I said, I really liked the Common English and I loved the reference area at the end that was in wording that I get...."stressed out"...."feeling harassed"...."feeling ungrateful".  I get those.  I can relate to those.  I need encouragement about those things.

This would even be a good gift for someone who already has a Bible.  I mean it when I say this Bible is really easy to understand...and, I would consider buying it for the reference section at the back alone.

You can get a copy of the Deep Blue Kids Bible from a couple of places. But, the cheapest places I found were Cokesbury who has it for $17.00 right now (as I write this) and at Amazon for $17.91. 

See what others on the TOS Review Crew thought about Abingdon Press' Deep Blue Kids Bible.

Disclaimer:  We received a copy of the Deep Blue Kids Bible for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


As a mother of six, that is a lot of money.

I do remember a brief time in my life, when I was single....working a great job.....paid cheap rent for a basement apartment...... A time when I would drop that much at Target on a cute cart-full of little things and didn't bat an eyelash.

But, in general, that is still a lot of money to me.

So, let me ask you this question.

How much would I have to pay you to take a look at me....naked?

Did you get that?

I am paying look at me.....naked. 

Thinking smile

Okay, are you done thinking?

I can't believe I am about to type this sentence. 

I just paid $142.85 for a Physicians Assistant to look at me....naked.

It wasn't even the doctor.

I don't understand my insurance anymore.

Back in the good old days of healthcare in Minnesota.....maybe even the good old days before Obamacare (I don't really understand that either) yearly visits to the dermatologist were considered preventative and were covered 100% as long as I went to someone within my "network".

I hadn't been to the dermatologist in 3 years, since we moved.  I had been putting it off because, quite frankly, I hate the healthcare options available here in Georgia.

But, in case you haven't seen me in real life, I am very pale....and have lots of freckles and moles that can turn into nastiness if left unwatched.

So, I finally (3 years later) put on my big girl panties and scheduled an appointment.  Since I haven't had the best luck with doctors down here, and have been surprised numerous times by the amount we owe when the bill came.  I called my insurance company directly and asked them to tell me who to go see.....thinking it would be cheaper that way.

So, they gave me a name, I called.

Now, here is where my first red flag went up and I didn't pay attention to it.

They had an opening the very next day.  In Minnesota, I always had at least a month wait to get in.

From the point I hit the ripped up welcome mat on the way in, it was horrible....and I wasn't even naked yet.

The front desk receptionist was rude and had a nasty attitude.  I got the feeling that she felt she was doing us "little people" a favor by being in our presence and allowing us to see her providers. 

As I was waiting in line, I heard her tell the pharmaceutical rep that the doctor was gone for the day.  Hmmm.....I thought that was who I was seeing. 

For the record, I do not mind Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants....our primary care guy in Minnesota was a wonderful Nurse Practitioner.  What I do mind is telling me on the phone my appointment is with the doctor and showing up to find out it is with someone else.  Bait and switch.

Oh, well.  I was here now.  Then I proceeded to fill out the extensive paperwork provided (really, I don't see how many of those questions relate to my skin).  As a former Executive Assistant and the one in charge of creating forms for the clinic I worked at, I was appalled at the forms that they handed me.....copies of copies of copies....if you know what I mean.  It was blurry and crooked.

Again, back to the rude receptionist.  I went up to hand in my paperwork and get my insurance card back.  I was tall enough to see that she was on the phone, so I just stood there waiting.  While I was waiting, another gentleman from the waiting room came up and said something like, "Excuse me...but my son has been waiting over 30 minutes for his appointment."

Now, this man was quite short....and the receptionist was sitting behind the computer screen.  He obviously could not see that she was on the phone.

She took the phone away from her ear and super rudely (picture one of those rude New Yorkers in the movies) said, "I am on the phone!"....accompanied by an eye roll and head shake that sent her big hoop earrings bouncing around on her shoulders.

He and I shared a look and he whispered to me, "Be with you in a minute, sir."

Honestly, I did think about walking away at this point.  I really should have, but I was so proud of myself for finally scheduling this appointment after 3 years.....that my feet didn't move.

Then, the rude receptionist informed me that I had used up all my HRA dollars so I would have to pay for the entire visit out of pocket.  I asked whether my insurance would at least pay a percentage of the visit.  I was told no.

I asked how much it would be.

She hollered over to the other lady sitting on the other side of the office to ask and the answer was hollered back.


Stupidly, I still didn't walk away.  I think I was sort of afraid that they would charge me anyway for being a "no show" for the appointment.

Enter a non-smiling nurse to call me back to the room.  I still tried to be friendly and nice.  (It is a problem I have....I want everyone to like me).

I was told to undress and that the PA would be in shortly.  When the PA breezed in, she was friendly and nice.  But, without going into much detail....she wasn't my doctor in Minnesota.  I wasn't sure if she had really looked over all my nooks and crannies for potential bad moles. 

Here is where the other difference is.  In Minnesota, if something suspicious was found and they wanted to take it off to analyze it.....they took it off....right then and there.  No separate office visit was needed.  Ever.

Guess what I was told?  They do not do removals the same day (yes, this was also snottily said) for the one mole that she wanted to take off, I would have to come back again.

I am not going to.

I can't imagine how much money that would cost.  Office visit plus removal.  No thanks.  Besides, I get enough snotty attitude from my kids, thank you very much.

It was sort of nightmarish from the beginning to end.  I know that I shouldn't take my moles lightly and I will probably see if my regular doctor down here (who isn't horrible) will take it off and have it biopsied.  If not, I am, for now, just going to take a picture of it and keep an eye on it.

Healthcare in Georgia feels like I am in a whole new world....and not in a good way.  The overarching feeling I get whenever we go to the doctor is that they are doing us a favor by seeing us.  That we should be grateful that they have allowed us to darken their doorstep.  There really is no southern hospitality in site.  Other than the fact that I get called, "Honey" or "Sweetie" a bit more than I would like.

I was spoiled in Minnesota.  They have spectacular, innovative health care available.  Although you will run into a few crabby people here and there, most often you will find  "Minnesota Nice" displayed. I think I was spoiled under an HMO system.  I, at least, understood the rules.

I don't get this system we are under now.  I think it is considered a PPO with HRA.  I don't know if it has anything to do with Obamacare or not....but, I do know that we pay a lot more in premiums.....we pay a lot more out of pocket.....and we get far less service and care.....than we did 3 years ago.

So, back to my original question.

How much would I have to pay you to look at me naked?  Keep in mind that I have no money I think I may just keep  myself under wraps for a while.

Embarrased smile

Monday, October 15, 2012

On a Quest....For Wealth

I mean.....really.....who isn't on this same quest....right?

Unfortunately, with the way the economy is seems to be a harder and harder journey to undertake.

Rainman and I have worked through Dave Ramseys Financial Peace classes and implemented some of his strategies fairly successfully in our lives.

It has not been perfect.  We have not been perfect.

But, we are heading in the right direction.

So, earlier this year, when I was looking for a finance/economics course for D-man to take I wasn't sure which direction to go.

Then, a perfect class dropped into my lap via the TOS Review Crew.

WealthQuest for Teens  The tagline for this product is what really sold me on giving it a try.

"Your Teen's Financial Fitness:  Make It Real. Make It Matter, Make It Last"

This program is designed for high school aged kids, 14-19.  But after D-man started it, I knew that I wanted A-girl to work through it also...even though she is only 12.

I like that it isn't a "Get Rich" kind of program....but is a program that, in theory, will help your kids learn to be "as wealthy as they want to be".

This program starts with an on-line video seminar.  You watch the videos and pause it to answer questions in the on-line workbook (Warning: You can't rewind the press pause if you are interrupted or need time to figure out an answer.  If you don't you have to watch the whole segment again!)  We made sure to print ours out.  I wanted to be able to go back in a few years and show the kids what their answers were to some of the questions.

The questions really make the kids examine some of their underlying feelings about money....and people who have it.  Actually, it made me think a bit about my basic perceptions of people who have money too.

This program also came with a e-book for your teenagers and a separate one for the parents.  The parent book sort of explains what your kids will be learning through the seminar and through the accompanying e-book.

(Hey, wait!  Look!  Money does grow on trees!  Ha!)

I made a lot of notes and markings in the parent book.  Most of the things that Jill Suskind, the author of this series stated, I wholeheartedly agreed with. There were a few things that I didn't....but, I will start with the things that I liked about this course.

It really could not have come at a better time for our family.  If you read my blog regularly, you know that we have had a few setbacks in our finances and, as a result, my poor house is still waiting various coats of multiple rooms.

The fact that Rainman and my budget has been so tight, has been the topic of much discussion around the house.  Children bemoaning and wailing about how they wish we were rich and why we can't shop at a different grocery store....or take dance lessons.....or go out to eat.

To which I respond with stories of my own childhood when we ate expired food and drank powdered milk.  (By the way, have you watched The Middle lately?  In the episode where Frankie gets laid off, there is a funny bit about them tightening their belts and switching to powdered milk.)

Rainman and I have tried to step away from the mentality that money and the mysteries of handling it is something that grown-ups should only deal with.  It is hard.  You want to be honest with them.  But, you also don't want them  telling everyone at church that their mom cried at the grocery store because she had to leave a full cart of groceries at the checkout because she didn't have any money.  You know?  (By the way, it was a temporary glitch with our debit card....and I didn't have more than about $1.38 in the bottom of my purse.....we aren't really that bad off.)

But, it is a balancing act.  We don't want the kids to think we are dirt poor....or that we will be able to magically pay for any activity or sport that they would like to try.... or new clothes or shoes that happen to be in style.  We aren't either.  We are in the middle.  We are not well off.  We are not poor.

It is hard.

So, when a finance course presented itself....designed for really was like a gift from God.

It has been pretty good.  I am not sure if it has been miraculous....but, I can see a definite change in how they are thinking and talking about money.

Like a recent conversation with D-man.  It started out with the usual, "I can't wait until I can drive."  Which then turned into, "I can't wait until I can own car."  The conversation then veered to me asking when he thought that was going to happen, since I know he has probably saved a total of $10 towards a new car.  (In case you haven't figured it out from this post...Rainman and I will not be buying cars for our children.....unless things drastically change at our household. )

Then D-man went on and started moaning a bit about his lack of funds.  I was ready to open my mouth and start my usual lecture.  But, I literally and figuratively "zipped my lips".  He noticed and asked, "What?  What were you going to say?"  I told him that I wasn't going to say anything that he didn't already I was saving my time and my breath.

He then proceeded to sort of have a conversation with himself that he could get some odd jobs.  That instead of waiting for people to ask him, he could contact some people and offer to do some of their odd jobs.....especially those people he knew that both spouses worked.  He then went on to list people that he should probably talk to....some were people that he has occasionally done small jobs for before....but some he hadn't.  It was a good conversation....where I said very little. (Probably his favorite kind of conversation with me!)

This change in his thinking process I can directly relate to the video seminar.  You are never too young to find some sort of just have to apply yourself.

D-man and A-girl seem to be picking up different things from this course.  D-man is learning that he can make money even though he is 14.  A-girl is learning to save and plan where she wants her money to go.

Ms. Suskind teaches them to have silo which you tell your money what it is going to do.

D-man has empty envelopes ready for when he gets some money.  WealthQuest for Teens mentality is that you don't just put all your money into saving up for that one big purchase....but you spread them out into different you are always working towards all of your goals.  Sort of like how us grown ups do it, isn't it?

Here is what A-girl has....

Beautifully decorated tin cans that actually have money in them.  Different than D-man, huh?

Future  Financial Freedom - 10%
Heal the Word - 10%
Saving for Big Ticket Items - 10%
Learning - 10%
Fun Money - 10%
Necessities - 50%

When she talks about things she wants to do or buy is always in terms of what she has in her silo for that item.  She too has been thinking of ways she can make money and what services she can offer the world.

One  other thing that may be of interest to you, is  that Rainman and I do not give an allowance to the kids.  It is not necessarily because we are opposed to it...but, honestly, because there isn't extra money in the budget for it. 

In Chapter 5 of the parent book, Ms. Suskind made me feel a little bit better about no allowance for my kids.  Here is what she said:

If you give your teen an allowance, but you don't like what they are doing with it, consider this:  Your child might just be practicing bad money habits with the money you are giving them.

They might be learning things like, no matter what, they will get $X every Friday just because they are your kid.  That isn't how it works in real life, is it?

I wish I could get magical money given to me every Friday just for being little old me, don't you?  See why I feel a little better?  At least my kids aren't learning bad money habits from allowance.  Right? I am actually doing them a favor.  Right?  Right?

I am hoping to teach the kids some good financial money management skills before they head out there into the deep water.

Ms. Suskind uses an analogy in the book that I really liked...(especially because my mom cannot swim).

Here is a bit of a paraphrase:

Ever been in a boat with a person who can't swim?  They are nervous, aren't they?  Young adults without money skills are like boaters without swimming skills...that have been thrown a storm....with some sharks.

She goes on to make a comparison to what it is like being in a boat with people that know how to swim and are excited to be out on the water.  They know their limitations and makes wise choices about when and where to swim.

Now, jump back in your mind to the non-swimmers who have been thrown overboard....with sharks...and a storm.


Get it?

She is trying to make a connection between money and financial management.  Teach your kids to swim (be smart about money) ahead of time.  Because there will be times in life that you are thrown overboard....and your kids won't have to follow the crowd and float along clinging to the closet flotation device....or drown like everyone else.....they can calmly swim to another boat....or decide to retire on the island.

Let's face it, today, most people are "drowning" in debt.  I know that none of us want that chain around our kids neck so they will just sink faster.

There were some points in the book that stung a bit.  Like: Money problems, such as credit card debt, stem from a lack of money mastery.  Ouch.

Ms. Suskind is trying to help raise up a generation where there is a New Normal.  Not one full of consumer debt and a life led paycheck to paycheck. 

Ms. Suskind, has worked her way through it that kind of card debt.....never having money for the things she wanted and felt she should have.  There was one part of her personal story that I actually laughed out loud about.  She was telling about her life as an adult.  She had a job. She had a bunch of credit card debt and just didn't understand why she never had money.  She then lists all the things she "tried" to get herself out of this problem.

She listed the usual things; budgeting; not spending any money; and then just giving up because it was too hard, and going shopping (with her credit card).

One of the things she tried was looking for a rich guy. (To her surprise, rich guys weren't terribly attracted to women who didn't manage their money well!)  Who knew????  Surprised smile

Okay, some of the other little gems I found in the Parent Guide.

  • Today's economy is far less forgiving than the one we grew up in.
  • Thinking that your teen doesn't have enough money to require money management skills is like saying, "You can learn to eat well and exercise AFTER you are already healthy."
  • Thinking that schools should take care of this by providing personal finance courses.  Remember, schools already teach nutrition and one-third of US teens are obese.

Ms. Suskind stresses that money management is a journey, or a lifestyle and recommends reading at least one book about money every year for the rest of your life.  I did not want to hear that.  I want to learn it and be done with it, if you know what I mean.

There was one sentiment used repeatedly through the book that I didn't necessarily agree with.  The notion that teens learn best when they are learning together, with other teenagers.  Although, I think this is why she used an all teen cast in the video seminar....because apparently teenagers will listen to other teenagers (even if some of the aren't the greatest actors).

As a homeschool mom, I really don't agree with that mentality.  As a former public school graduate, I don't agree with that mentality.  In many ways, I think I would have learned more at home with my parents.....because there weren't cute boys, clothes, cliques, being afraid to ask questions, and peer pressure to worry about.  In many ways, I am not sure teenagers should ever be around each other....sometimes they don't have the most stellar ideas.  Sarcastic smile

This 6 week course does have detailed  information and good ideas on becoming financial fit....but, really the success of it depends on your teen putting in the time to research things on their own....and really thinking about and being honest in their answers to the workbook questions. 

They really have to think.  They really have to get personal.  They really have to dig deep.

They really have to look at their money and where it is going and decide where they want it to go.  There is one site called Money Trail that is specifically designed to help kids manage their allowance and money. Another site that they recommend using to help track their money is

I haven't used this site, but I do know a few grown ups that also use this site to help them track their own expenses.  It is free.  These kinds of sites make me nervous....but, honestly, so does on-line banking.  Just like Ms. Suskind said....I am still fighting the old school mentality of balancing my checkbook on paper and being private about all things related to money!

Do I recommend this course?  Yes.  Wholeheartedly. 

Homeschooled.  Public schooled.  Private schooled. 

I am happy that I had A-girl go through this course even though she is only 12.  I am actually thinking of having L-girl work through it too.  She is only 10.  I just think the way that they get you to really think and change some of your attitudes about money could be invaluable before you hit your teen years....even if some of the questions about cell phones and things don't apply yet.

If you want to help bring your teenager (or almost teenager)  into the "New Normal" of personal finance, you can have them work through the WealthQuest for Teens course for $39.95.  If the lessons stick with them and will be a $40 well spent!

See what other teens belonging to the TOS Crew thought of WealthQuest for Teens.

Disclaimer:  I received access to the on-line class for WealthQuest for Teens in addition to the student and parent e-book, for free, in exchange for an honest review.