The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Guide to Living on One Income

Inside: Thinking of becoming a stay-at-home mom? Or maybe you already are one and are looking for ways to save money. Either way, these are 7 simple tips I’ve learned to stretch your dollar while living on income.

The Stay-at-Home Mom's Guide to Living on One Income

Having our entire family home has been a dream of mine for quite some time. But before I was able to start homeschooling and before my husband got a work-from-home job, the first step was for me to become a stay-at-home mom.

But we were used to my income, so in some ways the transition was scary. Even after putting in my notice, we wavered back and forth on whether or not we’d made the right decision.

It’s been a few years now, and looking back, I’m so glad we pushed through our fears and made that leap. it’s been SO WORTH IT, and our initial worries about finances now seem silly.

How do-able is living one income?

Let’s just say it’s WAY less stressful than what I’d thought.

And not because our income is some astronomical sum of money! We’re average. Yet, living on one income hasn’t been impossible. Actually, we don’t even miss my paycheck! (There are actually a lot of expenses that were completely cut from the monthly budget because I quit my job.)

So if becoming a stay-at-home mom is something that’s on your heart, it’s definitely worth looking into!

7 Tips for Living on One Income

If you’d rather watch it in video-form, check it out on our YouTube channel!

Set a Budget

This is probably the #1 tip on all the lists. And while it may seem obvious, it’s something I resisted for quite a while. OR we’d set a budget to just completely ignore it.

We’re still ironing out details of our budget and tweaking where necessary, but the main point is to:

  1. know your set bills and then
  2. prioritize your other expenses and goals within what’s left over.

And then stick to it! (More on that in a minute.)

Setting a budget and sticking to it is an important part of living on one income.

Cut Back Where You Can

What big or set expenses do you have that you could cut back on?

For example, when I first became a stay-at-home mom, we sold my husband’s car. The car itself was paid for, but selling it meant that we not only got a few thousand dollars to put into savings but also that our monthly insurance bill was cut down significantly. It was a way for us to ease into the transition of having only one income.

So where could you cut?

Cell phones? We switched carriers. Medical insurance? Shop around, and see what you can find. Cable? Drop the TV services but keep the internet, and use a service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime (use that link to check out their 30-day free trial).

There are lots of ways to cut back and save.

Learn to be Price Savvy

Beyond those set expenses, you can stretch your dollar on those day-to-day purchases too.

Every penny counts when you're living on income!

Growing up, I never understood how my mom knew the price of everything, everywhere. But she always knew where an item could be found for the lowest price. We could be in Walmart, but she’d shrug and say, “meh, I can get it for cheaper at…”

Now I understand. As a mother managing a home, it’s wise to know how to always get the best bang for your buck.

It should be said: this is a process. When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I NEVER did this. We bought pretty much everything at ALDI and Walmart. Period.

But now, I know we can get certain things cheaper by buying them in bulk on Amazon and having them delivered to our door. And we can find natural cleaning products, hygiene items, and other household-related stuff for great prices on Grove.

It takes time and may seem insignificant. Like why does an 80 cent difference matter? But all those dollars and cents add up throughout the month and the year. It may be extra gas money, a student loan bill, some extra cash for savings, or it could even go toward paying off your home faster.

It just depends on where you make your money go.

Shop Used

What was I even doing before Once Upon a Child?

With 4 kids, we CANNOT be buying everything brand new. Sure, I also shop sales and clearance. But buying at stores like Once Upon a Child means paying yard sale prices while getting name-brand items (sometimes with the tags still on them)!

Speaking of yard sales, our family loves those too! It just takes a little more work to find the things you actually need.

WORD OF CAUTION: resist the urge to buy all the things just because you found them for a “good deal.” I have been SO GUILTY of this! It’s rewarding in the moment, but a little less satisfying when you get it all home and realize you just added more clutter to your life instead of saving on the family budget.

Reward Your Brain Without Splurging

On that train of thought (while also doubling back to the whole “staying on budget” thing I mentioned above), your brain totally benefits from positive rewards. And while splurging and excessive spending is not-so-great for the budget, there IS a way to get that reward without going broke (and while actually helping you reach your financial goals).

For more on that, check out this post:

My Best Tip for Staying on Budget while Living on One Income

Meal Plan

Meal planning can save SO MUCH MONEY in the monthly budget. I can’t even begin to tell you how much funds and time we wasted before I started planning our meals.

If you’re looking for a simple way to plan your family’s meals (and a sample plan), you can check out my post on how I meal plan here:

Simple Family Meal Planning

Use Those Leftovers

it had to be said. In the same vein as meal planning, using leftovers has really saved us money and kept us from wasting so much food. Does some stuff still go uneaten? Yepp. But not NEARLY as much as what we used to waste.

On average, our leftovers can supply about 80% of our family’s lunches and one dinner every week. Of course, I learned from my mom when it comes to cooking for an army. So if you don’t make as much food as I do, it won’t go quite as far. But even one dinner a week would be worth it!

Are you considering becoming a stay-at-home mom? Comment below or shoot me an email (audriana@smithpartyof6.com) to tell me your biggest concern. I’d love to hear from you and help where I can!

Until next time,

Audriana

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Benefits of Homeschooling | Top Reasons Why We Chose Homeschool

Inside: Some of the top benefits of homeschooling that led to our family’s choice in favor of home education. AND some of the cons of homeschooling to consider.

The Benefits of Homeschooling (and the Challenges) : Pros and Cons of Homeschooling Your Kids

Maybe your family is considering homeschooling or maybe someone you know is, and you want to know more. Either way, this post should highlight some of the reasons why homeschooling may be a good option. (And some of the challenges of homeschooling to consider.)

What are the benefits of homeschooling?

Let’s start with the pros. Every single one of these factored into our family’s decision to homeschool. (For an infographic summary, scroll to the bottom of the post!)

It’s Just the Right Fit

This may not be a special “benefit” per se. But it’s a huge factor in deciding whether or not homeschool is right for your family.

Before I ever considered any of the other things on this list, there was that little nudge in my chest and “what if” in my mind. At the time, none of my kids were school-aged, and I didn’t know any other homeschool families. I had never been homeschooled, and actually, the thought held a bit of a stigma in my family.

And yet, it was there. That feeling telling me I should go for it. That this would be the best option for our family.

There were so. many. obstacles! But the draw toward homeschooling remained. A few years later, every obstacle has been overcome, and I’m thankful for that desire of my heart that just wouldn’t quit tugging.

More time together as a family

Togetherness -- The Benefits of Homeschooling

When you close your eyes and picture the ideal life for your family, what does it look like?

From very early in my relationship with my husband, Chris, when I pictured our family years down the road, one thing always stood out to me: togetherness. I dreamt of days spent as a unit, strengthening our family bonds, learning together, and growing together.

So having all of the kids home (and my husband too since he’s recently become a work-at-home dad) means that we’re just that much closer to our ideal life.

More Opportunities for training Them Up

More time together means they get their character building at home, with us. It means every day is full of opportunities for training our children up in the way they should go.

Sure, it’s not like we NEVER saw them when they were at public school. But now, I get more one-on-one time with them and get to be an active part in their learning. It also means I get to watch them work. I get to see their biggest struggles and frustrations and hang-ups. I get to see them at their best and their worst.

And I get to be the one helping them to sift through all of it as well as the cheerleader to speak into them and build them up.

You Set your Calendar

TRAVEL.

This is another HUGE benefit of homeschooling. We get to decide exactly what our calendar looks like instead of having it dictated by the public school system. We can go where we want, when we want, and never miss a beat in our studies.

For example, we’re going to the beach in September. Normally, the kids would be back in school by then. But now, I’ve worked our schedule around our trip so that we’ll be free to just relax and have fun with family for the week.

Beyond just travel, setting our calendar means we can have breaks when it makes sense for our family. We’ve opted for year-round homeschooling for now with short breaks in between.

Always Learning, Everywhere

This just fits more with our philosophy on education. It goes right along with the reason why we’ve chosen year-round homeschooling. To us, learning isn’t relegated to time at a desk or at a certain time of year. It’s hands-on, all the time.

We love trips to COSI -- The Benefits of Homeschooling

So with homeschooling, no matter where we are, we can be learning. Whether it’s at home, the farmer’s market, the post office, the bank, on a special day trip or on vacation. We’re always learning, everywhere. (And since I’m the teacher, I can look for ways that our life flows seamlessly in with our curriculum!)

options for richer Learning Experiences

And BECAUSE we’re always learning, everywhere… it makes for a richer learning experience.

I will say that we had a great experience with public school. My kids were blessed to have teachers that were truly great and tried to find ways to deepen their learning and understanding.

But homeschool tends to lend itself to these types of experiences more naturally. We’re able to have more field trips, get outside to study nature more, and learn through our everyday lives in a way that just doesn’t happen with public school.

Daily Schedule Fits the Flow of Your Family

Setting our daily schedule means plenty of time for sleep, play, chores, and what’s important to us. There’s no rush to do things on someone else’s time (and I won’t miss sitting in the parking lot for an hour every day at pickup time).

Choice of What Your Children Learn

The Good & the Beautiful Pre K -- The Benefits of Homeschooling

Speaking of what’s important to our family, the choice to homeschool means that we’re able to choose what materials we use for instruction. We can emphasize what’s most important to us and aligns with our values.

That doesn’t mean keeping our children from hard truth. For us, it actually means giving them the full truth.

Number 1: by not separating what we’re learning from God, and
Number 2: by making sure that history is represented accurately. (In public school, it’s often given through rose-colored glasses that paint certain historical figures as heroes even though they were flawed and human.)

In the world, not of it

Flowing right along with the reason above, homeschooling allows parents to be the main source pouring into their children instead of the “world” filling them up.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t shield their minds from knowing evil exists and understanding what it looks like. However, that doesn’t mean I want the values of the world to shape my children’s foundations.

No Bullying

Sure, we have some spats between siblings, but I don’t have to worry about my children facing true bullying situations (that could cause lasting scars) in their formative years.

This wasn’t our #1 reason. For the most part, my kids got along with their classmates. But as their mom, it’s nice to know that these years will be focused on edifying them and building their confidence.

No Homework

Because really, it’s all “home” work.

Your Child Sets the Pace

Doing Homeschool Work -- Pros vs cons of homeschooling

Whether they’re tortoises or hares, it doesn’t matter. Their education is tailored completely to them, so you can go the speed they need.

So if something clicks easily with my children, we can zip through it more quickly. And if something takes a little longer to sink in, we can really spend time getting it down pat before we move on. It all depends on them.

Tailoring their Education to their Specific Needs

Like I mentioned, their education is tailored to them. Not just in terms of the pace but even down to how they best learn and what they learn as they get older.

My oldest son loves STEM. Any career he’s ever chosen has been related to either science, technology, engineering or math. Right now, he’s all about becoming a mechanical engineer.

Of course, he’s 6. So that could easily change over time.

BUT I love to incorporate what interests them most. So around here, we enjoy ordering STEM projects from KiwiCo. (You can check them out and earn a $10 credit by using this link!) As he gets older, if he’s still interested in STEM, we’ll look at more focused curriculum to get him wherever he wants to go.

Really when it comes to tailoring, the sky’s the limit.

Have a child with ADHD or SPD or something else that needs extra attention or that means they learn differently? Homeschooling makes it easier to teach your child in the way that suits them best.

Consistency from Year to Year

Since my kids will now have one teacher (me) from year to year, their education will be more streamlined.

In public school, there’s lots of review to make sure everyone is on the same page. But that’s just not necessary with homeschool. Of course, they’ll need refreshers to remember everything that’s taught. But for the most part, after a break you start where that child left off. No need to get an entire classroom up to speed or to cover things that may not have been taught by the previous teacher.

The Cons of Homeschooling

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There are challenges that come with homeschooling. Here are the big ones to consider.

YOU are Responsible for Your Child’s Education

Homeschool Planning -- Pros and cons of homeschooling

It’s all on you.

You may have a very supportive family and husband and church. But when it comes down to it (depending on your family) you will likely be the main one in the control seat for what happens with your child’s education.

That means you have to be organized and able to stay on track.

There are other more relaxed styles of homeschooling like unschooling, that may make that thought less stressful. But in all honesty, I haven’t looked much into them. For more on unschooling, check out this post from TheHomeSchoolMom.

Family Stress

Homeschooling can add extra stress to your family because of the reason mentioned above, the one below, and just because teaching kids can get stressful. The situation may bring out the worst in you and your kids from time to time. SO it’s something to consider.

Togetherness Overload

While I’m looking forward to all the time we’ll be spending together, that may not be your dream for your family. If the thought of spending time with your kids nearly 24/7 is too much, homeschooling may not be a good fit.

Kids May Test Their Boundaries

Like I mentioned, when you teach kids, it can bring out the worst. If and when you start homeschooling, your children may begin to test their boundaries.

This isn’t like public school with a teacher they only know inside the classroom. This is their mom teaching them. Which means they may try to see how committed you are, how serious this whole homeschooling thing is, and how much they can get away with.

But knowing this ahead of time helps us to be more prepared when the whining starts.

It Could Get Expensive

If you’ve ever looked into homeschool curriculum, then you already know it can get pricey. Especially if you’re homeschooling multiple children. So the cost is definitely something to consider.

But there are affordable options out there.

The Good & the Beautiful Level K -- The Benefits of Homeschooling

You can find budget-friendly and even free curriculum. You just may have to piece them together.

That’s why I LOVE the Good and the Beautiful. It’s incredibly inexpensive (some of it is even offered as a free download online) but amazing quality. No piecing together, which saves me time. Plus it aligns with our values. You can check it out here. (And at this time, I’m NOT an affiliate for them in any way. I’m not getting paid to tell you about them. The curriculum is just awesome and incredibly beautiful.)

You Need to Be More Intentional About Socialization

It’s usually the first thing that comes to mind when people mention homeschooling.

But what about socialization?
Do you want your kids to be socially awkward?
Shouldn’t they be around other kids?

But there are plenty of ways for kids to socialize other than within the public school system. As the parent, this just means you need to be more intentional about creating those opportunities or taking part in pre-existing ones (like a co-op).

No Public School SPorts (in some places)

There are some areas that still allow children to play sports for public school even if they’re homeschooled. However, many places don’t allow it.

Of course, there are other options like rec leagues and private sports.

Pros & Cons of Homeschooling | Is homeschooling right for your family?

Do The Benefits of Homeschooling Outweigh the Challenges?

It really comes down to what’s best for your family. I truly don’t believe that homeschooling is for everyone. But if those benefits resonate with you and the challenges are more like obstacles you can overcome, homeschooling is definitely worth considering!

Is your family thinking about homeschooling? Was this post helpful? What did I miss? Drop a comment below!

Until next time,

Audriana

New here? Learn more about our family here!

Heavy Work Activities to Help Your Child Calm Down and Focus

Inside: A list of our favorite heavy work activities and why you should use them to calm and focus your child

Calming Heavy Work Activities for Your Little One (that also help you be a more FUN mom!)

It’s one of those days.

You know the ones when the kids seem to be stuck in a permanent “play mode”? Like that little lever in their brain just won’t switch off (or even just turn down a little)?

While I’m all for kids being kids and enjoying play, there’s also a time for calm. Like when you really need to go to the grocery store, but you can’t imagine what that would be like considering the volume and chaos level inside your home at the moment. Or when the kids are supposed to be cleaning up and getting ready for quiet time, but instead their attention continues to be diverted by more (chaotic) play.

That’s when this mom pulls out the laundry basket and some thick books off our living room shelf.

It’s time for some heavy work.

What is “Heavy Work?”

It may sound like some form of prison punishment, but it actually comes in the form of play.

Heavy work activities push or pull against the body and are usually used to help kids who have trouble with sensory processing. They ground the body and put out excess energy (OR energize the body more, depending on which type you do).

Digging in the garden -- Heavy Work Activities
Digging, for example, is a calming heavy work activity.

How do heavy Work Activities Help?

Heavy work aids a sense called proprioception, which is basically self-awareness. If you’re finding that your little one:

  • is all over the place
  • makes wild motions while playing
  • often gets in other people’s personal space while playing
  • plays roughly even when the other person doesn’t want to
  • has a hard time coming down from this high-energy play
  • seems to have little control over their volume,

certain heavy work activities could help him/her become more regulated and aware of their body.

NOTE: Kids do need a level of play that allows them to get their wiggles out. So when our kids do the things listed above, it communicates to us as their parents that they need to get out pent up energy. That’s another reason why heavy work activities are great. They allow kids to get what they need in a way that’s acceptable.
If we don’t them a positive way to do something (heavy work), they’ll often stumble upon a negative way (chaotic play). If we let them stick with the negative way for too long, it forms a habit/pattern and becomes that much harder to break as we try to redirect them in a more positive direction.

Like I mentioned before, there are different forms of heavy work. Some help bring their systems down while other activities may charge them up (best for kids who are particularly low). In my home, we don’t need any help with high energy. Instead, we need to bring it down.

Hyperactive child -- Heavy Work Activities
Way down.

Are They Only Used to Regulate Sensory Issues?

Occupational therapists often recommend heavy work activities to children with sensory processing disorder. But heavy work can also be great for any child who maybe just has some extra pent up energy or who is having a hard time focusing.

We first found heavy work activities while one of my children was referred by our pediatrician to see an occupational therapist for a month. While my child doesn’t have sensory processing disorder, the occupational therapist felt that these activities could help regulate some of the behaviors we were struggling with at home.

So even if your child has no diagnosed sensory issues, heavy work activities can still be extremely beneficial.

Pushing a full basket -- Heavy Work Activities
Pushing a basket of blankets across carpet is one way to help kids get their wiggles out while indoors.

PLUS unlike medication, these are natural ways to help your child regulate behavior. No harmful side effects here.

Some of Our Favorite Heavy Work Activities

Again, this list is based off what works for my high-energy kids. You won’t see things like running and jumping on this list (although they do those things too, just not during heavy work time) because those activities tend to act as uppers. That’s the opposite of what I want. If your kids are high energy, you know what I mean!

Instead, these are the activities that help expel extra energy while grounding their nervous systems so they can calm down and focus.

Outdoor Play

  • Carry a bucket of water or sand
  • Dig in a sand box, using scoopers & hunting for buried toys
  • Pour sand or water back and forth between two or more containers
  • Do a back yard obstacle course
  • Push a wheelbarrow around the yard (fill it if your child needs it)
Pouring water -- Heavy Work Activities

Indoor Play

  • Animal walks (bear crawl, crab walks, duck walks, etc.). Tell them to be slowwwww bears or slow ducks. Keeping it rhythmic and slow-paced will help their bodies settle. Being silly and going through the activity quickly, on the other hand, will likely rile them up…
  • Wheelbarrow walking. Side note: I tried to have my two oldest kiddos do this together (they’re super close in size), but that was definitely a no-go. It actually made them more hyper! So we now always do this activity with an adult/child pairing.
  • Build a low fort, then army crawl under it
  • Load a laundry basket with toys or books, push it across the floor, unload it. Then repeat!
  • Carry a stack of books from one room to another (holding them against the chest)
  • Hand pushing game (adult and child place hands together and push back and forth)
  • Doing push-ups against a wall
  • Pushing an exercise ball against a wall or against an adult who is pushing back
  • Squish, knead, and shape play-doh. Pro tip: Use homemade aromatherapy play-doh with essential oils like this one from the Vintage Modern Wife.
Hand Pushing Game -- Heavy Work Activities
Pushing on your child’s hands while they push back is a great way to release excess energy without chaos.

Chore-Based

  • Carry groceries
  • Vacuum
  • Sweep with a broom
  • Mop the floor
  • Wipe down your spot at the table
  • Rip cardboard & mail for recycling

Oral-Related

  • Chewing gum (if your child is old enough)
  • Munching peanuts, baked chips, or other crunchy snacks
Crunchy Snacks -- Heavy Work Activities
Crunchy snacks are perfect for helping our kids focus during family game night.

Every child is different, so these may or may not be the answer for you. But it’s a place to start!

For a full list of our favorite heavy work activities and a special worksheet to help you get started (more about that below), subscribe here:

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Incorporating Heavy Work Into Your Day

Now that you know the why and the what, there’s the question of how. While it may seem daunting to imagine, incorporating heavy work throughout the day isn’t a difficult task.

We do heavy work activities 4 or 5 times a day. It doesn’t have to be any crazy carved out amount of time. We just do a couple items off the list every few hours. But there are ways to make it flow seamlessly in your day.

For example, as a chore, my children are responsible for wiping their spot at the table (and their chair) after each meal. So not only does it help me by allowing them to take responsibility for their own mess, but it’s also a heavy work activity that requires a little bit of energy, helping them calm down.

If you need some ideas on how you can fit these activities into your day, subscribe below to download the free Sensory Diet Cheat Sheet.

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ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER? Head over to the free resource library to download the packet!

The Effect On Me

The surprising change that’s been just as beneficial as the shift in their energy has been the shift in mine.

Granted, we haven’t stuck perfectly to our sensory diet by any stretch of the imagination. But even knowing how their bodies work and what helps has changed the way I view their behavior when they’re wired.

Knowing what heavy work can do has given me just one more set of tools in my back pocket. On tough days when I’m feeling frustrated at the hyperactivity, I’m reminded of what I know works. And suddenly I’m thinking up creative ways we could play to get their wiggles out and expel some of that extra zing.

So in that moment, I get to CHOOSE to shift my mood (from frustrated mom to playful mom), and change our whole day.

Playful Mom -- Heavy Work Activities

If it’s something you’re struggling with, it’s worth a shot.

Why does your home need more focus and calm? Have you tried heavy work and seen positive effects in your family? Drop a comment below!

Until next time,

Audriana

New here? Learn more about our family and this blog on this page.

Daily Routines for Kids | Simple Morning and Nightly Routines They Can Do with Minimal Help

Inside: Help your kids get into simple morning and evening routines

Simplify your day with easy routines for kids. Both morning and night routines to help your kids develop healthy habits. PLUS a simple way to help them be more independent in the morning and at night.

It’s all fun and games until I’m running around like a headless chicken, wishing past me had made life easier on present me. Wishing my kids remembered to put their pants in the hamper without a reminder every morning. Wishing I had an extra set of hands and an army general barking orders so I didn’t have to.

Sometimes I’m a slow learner (or maybe just hard-headed). There’s something about the idea of a set routine that makes me want to rebel, even though I know I need it.

But it became obvious that set, easy-to-follow morning and nightly routines weren’t just things that I needed. My kids needed them even more.

When I gave them structured routines (and made them self-directed), it made life so much simpler.

Our Morning & Nightly Routines

Without a simple flow to follow, our mornings can get hectic, and our nights are lacking. Kids (at least mine) truly operate best when they know what to expect. And I’m the most productive when I have a set time for getting important things done.

Work Schedule -- Morning and Nightly Routines for the Family

So here’s what we do.

Morning

What we need from our morning routine:

  • peaceful
  • productive
  • easy to follow

For Me

The best course of action for me is waking up early. I know it’s not for everyone. Some days, it’s not even for me. But the mornings when I get up sometime between 4:30 and 5:30 are the mornings that go the smoothest and when I feel the most accomplished.

When I can, I like to head straight downstairs, drink a bottle of water, throw some laundry into the washer, get my essential oils going in the diffuser, and have Bible time. Doing those 4 things right off the bat start my day on the right foot.

Reading the Bible in the Morning -- Morning Routines

Next I shower and get myself dressed and ready. If I stay in pajamas or just throw on some sweats, I’m more likely to have a lazy day. Even though that’s needed sometimes, on the typical day, it’s best for me to get myself together.

For the Kids

After that, I wake up the kids and help them get ready/keep them on track.

When everyone is fully ready, we head downstairs together, and I make breakfast.

HOWEVER, this part of our routine will be changing as our time with public school comes to an end.

NOW I’ll head downstairs after getting the baby ready and fix breakfast while everyone else finishes getting ready and doing their morning chores (mainly making their beds, putting clothes in the hamper, and tidying up anything out of place). While chores are happening, I’ll play some worship music in the background to get their day started right.

Kids' Morning Routine Cards -- Morning and Nightly Routines

After breakfast, I’ll do a quick clean-up. Then we’ll jump right in to our homeschooling schedule, which starts with worship, calendar, and Bible before digging into our morning basket then our curriculum.

Night

What we need from our nighttime routine:

  • a good wrap-up to our day
  • calming
  • easy to follow

For the Kids

In the evenings after we spend some time together as a family, we let the kids sink into some wind-down activities while they each have their turn taking a bath. Of course, at this point, they also put on jammies, comb their hair, and brush their teeth.

Brushing Teeth -- Morning and Nighttime Routine

When everyone has had a bath, they all do a sweep of the house, making sure any toys and books they’ve had out are put away.

Before bed, everyone has to go potty. Then we snuggle in for a story, sing “Jesus Loves Me” together, talk to God, do kisses and hugs, and they’re off to sleep. (Other than our baby Aspen, who stays up with me for a while.)

Of course, all of that is best-case-scenario. There are nights when there’s a glitch in the system, and someone has trouble going to bed. But generally speaking, that’s the routine.

For Me

During all of the kids’ nightly kerfuffle, I’m either giving them the baths OR Chris is doing baths while I clean up the kitchen/do dishes from dinner. Hubby and I also do a quick nightly cleanup where we throw away any trash and pick up any loose ends.

After the kids are in bed, Chris and I have some unwind time. We usually veg out on some YouTube videos, play a game, or just hang out for a while.

Instagram Photo -- Nightly Routine
One of our very first Instagram photos together

I finish my night with working on blog posts, writing emails, editing YouTube videos, creating printables and all of the other things that go into running this site and our channel. I love to go to sleep early (we’re talking like 8 pm), BUT I usually try to stay up until around 9 or 10 to get a nice work session in.

Routines & Learned Responsibility

Those routines are just what work best for us. Regardless, figure out what that flow looks like for YOUR family.

The main point is to get routines down and help your kids learn them. Doing so means your children learn another layer of responsibility and maturity. Plus you’re setting them up for a lifetime of positive and healthy routines.

I also found that letting my kids be in control of their own routine gave them a sense of accomplishment and lessened the amount of early morning/nightly whining that was usually involved in our day.

Psst…This post on giving kids responsibility, ties right in with the idea of helping them learn to follow their routines on their own.

BUT how can you help them get into that flow?

Keeping it All Straight (Without Constant Prompting)

Even if your child is too young to read, they’ll likely do well with visual cues. That’s why I created cue cards for my kids, along with a checklist to boost that sense of accomplishment as they mark off each task.

And I want to share them with you.

Morning & Nightly Routines for Kids -- Free Printables Pack

If you’d like these printables for free, you can download them by subscribing below.

Subscribing also means you get the password to our free resource library which houses any printable or other resource that I create!

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ALREADY SUBSCRIBED? Head over to the free resource library to download the morning & nighttime routines packet!

What does your family do in the morning and before bed? Do you see anything I could tweak to make our processes even better? Leave a comment below!

Until next time,

Audriana

5 Ways to Teach Uppercase and Lowercase Letters | Letter Recognition Games

Inside: How my 2-year-old learned the distinction between uppercase and lowercase letters

How to Teach Uppercase and Lowercase Letters to Your Toddler

Psst… DISCLOSURE: Some of the links in this post are through Amazon affiliates. That just means, at NO additional cost to you, Amazon gives me a small portion of the sale if you decide to click a link and make a purchase.

Letter recognition is the foundation for all future language arts endeavors with our little ones. So why not start building and reinforcing that foundation early on? It’s actually easier than we may think for our kiddos to make that mental leap.

Rather watch a video? Check out this one:

5 Ways to Teach Uppercase & Lowercase Letters

We started teaching Arwyn in a more structured format when she was just 2 years old. But even before that, she was introduced to letters. Here are 5 tried and tested methods for teaching uppercase and lowercase letter recognition and differentiation to small children.

1. Dave & Ava

Before I ever started teaching Arwyn at home, we loved Dave & Ava’s YouTube channel. Their tagline is “rediscover nursery rhymes,” but they also have a lot of learning songs and even some fun apps for letters, numbers, etc. The bright colors and fun designs really bring their videos to life.

We stumbled upon their alphabet song one day, and Arwyn was hooked. We watched it EVERY. DAY. along with their phonics song.

So before we began anything else, Arwyn could sing her ABC’s, recognized some of the letters, and also knew a few random letter sounds.

To visit Dave & Ava’s channel, click here.

Not big on screens? I get it! Even just introducing a few of the songs and then singing them with your child on a regular basis while pointing to the letters in a book or on a poster will be beneficial!

2. Letter Crafts

Letter Crafts -- Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

Early on in our homeschool year, we began working on little letter crafts. We started with “A is for alligator” and kept rolling from there!

Check back soon for a post with letter craft ideas and templates!

3. Letter Tree

Letter Tree Printable -- Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

I’ve found that simple homemade activities that are fun and game-like work super well for teaching letter recognition. Arwyn loves to use this letter tree! We pretend that our letters are fruit and match our lowercase fruit (bottle lids that I’ve written lowercase letters on with a Sharpie) with our uppercase fruit on the tree.

If you’d like to use our tree, you can get it for free by subscribing below!

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4. Letter Acorns

These sweet letter acorns were a Christmas gift from one of Arwyn’s pappaws, and we love them!

Letter acorns -- uppercase and lowercase letters

The uppercase letter is written on the front of the acorn, and the lowercase is printed inside the lid. She has fun finding matches.

Plus they each also have a fun plastic/rubber figure that starts with the letter’s sound and can hide inside the acorn.

You can find them on Amazon here:

5. The Good & the Beautiful Pre-K

Finally, in January we started the Good & the Beautiful PreK program, and I COULD NOT be more pleased with it. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting her to be this far along already, but this curriculum is amazing.

I AM NOT being paid to say this. I bought the curriculum myself. I have no reason to recommend this course other than pure results. Arwyn is excited to do her schoolwork every day, and it has helped her come so far!

The Good & the Beautiful PreK -- Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

Not only does she recognize both uppercase and lowercase variations of each letter but she also knows which one is which AND the sounds for about 90% of her letters. Plus she’s tracing them–something I really didn’t expect her to be doing this early.

The Good & the Beautiful is really language intensive. Because of that, they really focus on laying these early foundations well. I definitely recommend it when your child is ready.

For more on our first year of homeschool with Arwyn and my thoughts on early preschool at home, check out this video:

~~~

How do you plan to teach your child letter recognition? Seasoned moms: what are some of your tips? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Audriana

New here? Learn more about our family and this blog here.

A Game-Changing Tip for Staying on Budget when You’re on One Income

Inside: My best tip for cutting out spontaneous spending, staying on budget and SAVING while living on one income

How to stay on budget and grow your savings while living on one income

Living on one income is totally possible, even if that income isn’t above average. But doing it well does require a little wisdom and self-control.

This isn’t a post about tips for living on one income . For that, stay tuned over on the YouTube channel. This post is for anyone (like me) who has a hard time cutting extra spending to stay on budget and save up for bigger goals.

Staying On Budget while Living on One Income

I am by no means a financial advisor. But what I AM is a woman who’s been running a home on one income for several years. Sometimes well. Sometimes not so well.

Budget Planning -- Living on One Income

Unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share of experiences that taught me (the hard way) that I wasn’t quite as good at staying on budget as what I thought. Over the years I’ve had to face the cold, hard truth that I actually have a tendency to blow through money like nobody’s business when I’m not careful.

The Little Stuff

Some Chick-fil-a here.
A new outfit for the baby there.
Or how about a new stack of books to strategically stuff into our already-packed shelves?

The majority of the purchases that I make are small enough that I think, “meh, it won’t hurt. No bid deal!” But as you know, when you throw all those purchases that aren’t a “big deal” together, you’ve got a whole new monster on your hands.

Saving Money -- Staying on Budget

We once tallied up our spending from eating out. To our complete shock, in one week, we spent over $300. Yes, read it again. THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS. In one week. That could have gotten me a new dishwasher on sale. Ouch.

The Big Stuff

The other type of purchase (that I make less frequently) is the large but justifiable purchase. I tell myself:

That would make our homeschool better!
Or, that would really help me be a better blogger.
Or, I don’t normally splurge. Maybe it would be okay as long as I don’t do it again for a while.

And all of those things may be the case. But as any mom on a budget knows, you have to prioritize.

(That’s not the tip, by the way.)

Why We Keep Spending

We’ve all been told what to do. But there’s something about that immediate reward that makes splurging a little feel worth it in the short term. (But don’t worry. Later we’ll have a talk about how we “really need to get our spending on track” to make ourselves feel better and more responsible.) So even though we know what we need to do, that doesn’t always help in the moment.

Reward Ourselves -- Living on One Income

What do we do then? How do we counteract that little boost of happiness that we get when we spend?

The Scenario

Let’s say you find yourself wanting some coffee before you head home after your grocery run. You managed to make it out of the house alone, and a quick trip to the local coffee spot would be the cherry on top of a successful shopping trip.

BUT you know you’ve already been kind of loose with you’re spending recently. Sure, you have enough. But there are better things that money COULD be spent on if you’d buckle down.

Coffee at Home -- Staying on Budget, Living on One Income

Psst… DISCLOSURE: Some of the links below may be Amazon affiliate links. That just mean at No additional cost to you, Amazon gives me a small portion of the sale when you click a link and make a purchase.

Here’s what you do. Stop by somewhere peaceful where you can still get a few extra minutes of alone time. Then move the money you would have just spent on coffee from your checking to your savings account.

(And if you really want coffee, start making it at home. I really enjoy doing it with a French press. It feels fancy and sophisticated but costs way less than making a pit stop at my favorite coffee joint.)

Give Your Brain What It Wants

What did the above scenario do? It help you cut spending by rewarding your brain in ways that help your family’s financial goals instead of working against them. Let me explain.

It’s not enough to just resist unhealthy spending habits. You have to replace them with something better that gives you a sense of accomplishment.

And it’s not a false one. You’re truly accomplishing your goals, little by little. Every transfer gets you closer. The more positive choices you make, the more you save. The more you save, the easier it is to be in control of your finances.

A quick note::
Only transfer funds if you were truly willing to make the purchase. The reward isn’t really there if the temptation (or the available cash) wasn’t really there.

Dealing With Bank Stipulations

If your bank limits the amount of transfers you can do in one month, create a note in your phone to keep track of your weekly positive choices. Every time you resist the temptation to purchase something unnecessary, type what it was and the amount into your phone. At the end of each week, transfer the entire amount together. That way, you only have 4-5 transfers per month (which should make the cut for pretty much any bank).

This simple but effective way to handle impulse buys:

  • cuts back on spending
  • helps you save & work toward your financial vision for your family
  • strengthens self-control

What’s your best tip for staying on budget? Share it with others by commenting below!

Until next time,

Audriana

New here? Learn more about our family and this blog here.

Easy Family Meal Planning with the Magnet Method

Inside: a simple family meal planning method that’s making my life 10x easier

Simple Meal Planning for Your Family with the Magnet Method #mealplanning #familymeals #dinnersolutions

It’s 3 pm. About time to start prepping dinner.

I check my current meal planning method (a little chalkboard hanger in our kitchen that I often forget to update). Aaaaand that’s when I realize I should have thrown the chicken into the crockpot at NOON.

But I didn’t.
And it’s still frozen.

It might not be such a big deal, but I’ve already forgotten the same meal twice this week and have ran out of other options. I run to check the cabinets for any meal I can throw together that won’t require meat (since it’s all frozen), but sadly we’re all out of pasta sauce. And our fridge is looking a little bare.

So we order pizza. Or go to Taco Bell. EVEN THOUGH we keep promising to stop eating out so much.

I wish this was a rare occurrence, but sadly, it’s not.

So I’m trying something new.

Why Meal Plan?

Let’s back up a hot second. Because before the cute (but for me, useless) chalkboard method, I DIDN’T MEAL PLAN AT ALL. If you think I sound like a hot mess now, hold my coffee because you haven’t seen anything yet.

I would just wing it. At the grocery store. At meal time. And here’s what would happen:

  • we wasted money on food like nobody’s business
  • some nights, I wouldn’t get dinner on the table until 7
  • we bought too much produce, and it would spoil
  • I’d end up not having everything I needed to make whatever meal I came up with for the day, so I’d have to make mini trips to the store throughout the week
  • did I mention we wasted A LOT of money?

So when I tell you I NEED a meal plan, believe me. I’m sure some people can function without one. My mom is one of those people. But while I like to wing it, I thrive within the structure of a well-thought-out (but flexible) plan.

The Right Fit

Not all meal planning methods are created equal. And what works best for your family may not work for mine.

So while there are lots of moms who do well with a simple chalkboard, that just doesn’t cut it for this procrastinator momma. I need something more fluid that can easily be switched around when things don’t go to plan.

Plus, when I’d sit down to write out the weekly plan, I’d spend way too much time trying to remember our staple meals while also not repeating the same 7 every week.

A Simple Meal Planning Method for families

So what’s the new meal plan method I’m using?

Magnets.

Magnet Meal Planning

How it Works

It sounds so simple because it is.

In this house, we have our staple meals (tried and true that I know everyone will mostly eat), and I occasionally whip up a random recipe to try out.

And that’s the real simplicity of this method. Instead of always writing out what we’ll be eating (and then erasing and rewriting when I inevitably have to switch things around), I now use my own pre-printed meal magnets and just arrange them as I decide what we’ll be eating.

Instead of hanging in a spot of our kitchen where I’m prone to forget it, our new meal plan is on our fridge, directly in my face while I get the kids breakfast, snacks, and lunch, giving me reminders throughout the day leading up to dinner. So it’s way less likely (though not impossible) that our meat will be frozen when it should already be cooking.

Simple Meal Planning Printable Cards

Psst.. DISCLOSURE: some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. That just means if you click on them and make a purchase, I make small portion of the profit (at NO additional cost to you)!

get it for free!

Since I made myself these cards, I thought I’d share them with you too. The printable includes both a blank sheet that you can write your own meal staples on as well as my sheet full of our family’s favorites. To download and print, subscribe below (unsubscribe at any time. It’s NEVER my goal to hold people hostage on my email list if my content isn’t valuable for them):

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ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER? Head over to the free resource library to download the meal planning cards!

You can print it either on cardstock or use plain paper then laminate. Amazon has tiny magnets for the back of your cards here. And the magnetic fridge calendar that I use is this one, also available on Amazon.

Do you meal plan? If so, what’s your current method? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Audriana

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