November 5, 2013

Where has all my MONEY gone?

My oldest son, is 15. This summer he developed a most obnoxious habit. It had actually been forming for years but it was this year that it hit its stride in him. It was the incessant uttering of the dreaded phrase, "I don't know."

Are you going to have breakfast?
I don't know.
How was your day?
I don't know.
Are your shoes in your room?
I don't know.
Did you take a shower yesterday?
I don't know.
Are you excited to go camping?
I don't know.

So with his Dad and I about to pull our hair out, my husband decided to stop the lectures about the annoying, dismissive phrase and take action. He got up from the dinner table, found a pint size mason jar, pulled far too much tape off the roll of masking tape, wrapped it around the jar a few times, took a Sharpie marker, and inscribed the words,

One quarter at a time, that jar began to fill-up and our son who is a "saver" not a "spender"  was starting to lose his cool. For every "I don't know" he said, he had to drop a quarter in the jar. At first it was funny to him, but once he was having to make change from his dollar bills, the game was no longer fun! We would joke that once he gave us enough money, we were going on a date. So at the sound of quarters dropping in his Dad and I would shout out, "Date Night" or "Cha Ching!"
It took our teen the length of the summer to completely break the habit. On a side note, watching him tongue tied, trying to formulate a sentence with substance was very fulfilling. And eventually, those answers became more natural and the "I don't know" phrase was gone. In the end, we gave him back all his money and told him how proud we were of him and that he had earned it. Although, as I recall, his Dad did take a dollar, which I believe he called a tax, and used it to buy an energy drink. Nonetheless, the strategy was very effective and the lesson was learned.
Every day this summer my son's mason jar sat on the kitchen counter. I would read the words often, and found irony in wondering the same thing about where all my money has gone! Although, similarly, we both knew the answer to that question.

Recently, someone in my life made the assumption that I stay home and get to teach my kids because my husband has a really good paying job. Haaaaa!!!! To which I say, I Wish!!

The truth of the matter is, we made the decision to do this, knowing full well, we couldn't afford it. The sacrifices we have made for me to be a stay-at-home mom and survive on a single income, plus pay for homeschooling is lengthy. It was a burden God placed on our hearts as parents and we knew it was what we had to do. So, I quit looking for a job and started planning a school year.

When we told my in-laws, about the decision to homeschool, my Mother-In-Law was aghast and said, "Traci, you were so close to having 3 of your boys in full day school and just having the baby at home. When are you ever going to have time for yourself and get to craft and sew?" I hadn't even thought of that yet, but realized in that instance, she was right. 

No more late mornings watching the Today Show with my coffee and snugly baby.
No more afternoons full of crafting and holiday gift making.
No more evenings of helping kids with homework and then having the night to do whatever.

Now my days would be devoted to teaching and nights would be for planning. But as quickly as those thoughts went through my mind, the thought came to me that I would have years to do what I wanted, but only a window to nurture my boys into adulthood.

And so, here we are, year number two, and still making it work. We don't have the extras that many families have, and we are just fine with that. We scrimp and we save and we rely on an amazing God who is good to us and never lets us fall. Our bottom line in our family budget, is never balanced and yet we always make it. We don't do vacations, we NEVER eat out as a family, we don't buy the fun food like juice boxes or fruit snacks or prepackaged meals, we don't use credit cards, we don't have "toys" for recreation, we drive cars that are older but paid for, we don't go to movies, and a Starbucks once every 3 weeks is a splurge!

But don't feel sorry for us! This is a choice. I definitely don't always love it, but 99% of the time, I'm happy as a lark. I have all I need, and I get to give all I have. I pour my heart into the boys I brought into this world every single day. One day, when they have moved out and the next phase of my life begins, I can go back to work and we can have a more financially carefree lifestyle. I can spend my evenings crocheting, and sewing, and crafting until I can't craft anymore. We can vacation, buy new cloths, eat out every week, and enjoy some Starbucks!

For now,  I will sacrifice all those comforts for the joy that fills this house. I still can't believe that I get to spend everyday loving on my boys and never have to rely on a broken school system to teach them, or a daycare to comfort them. It is the biggest blessing in my life and I thank God everyday that He continues to make it possible.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
(Prov. 3:5-6, NKJV)

I have picked up a lot of tricks to save money
 homeschooling from these amazing moms!
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