Podcast Round-Up: Homeschool Mom Edition

If you know me in real life, you probably already know that I like to listen to podcasts quite a lot! I don’t listen to the radio much except when I am in the car, and even then, I will frequently choose an audio book the kids and I can enjoy together instead. I enjoy podcasts because I can listen and learn while getting other things done, like the laundry or dishes or meal planning. And I love that the podcast world is so big and broad these days that you can probably find a podcast on just about any niche interest you have! I started out listening to knitting and crochet podcasts, actually. Yes, people actually sit down and record themselves discussing their craft projects, and yes, it is actually really enjoyable to listen, at least if you are into the craft! But now that I don’t spend as much time playing with yarn as I do reading to small children, my podcast genre focus has shifted a bit.

Since I have a lot going on with our move from Illinois to Tennessee, as well as some Virtual Assistant work I just took on unexpectedly, I am going to be posting a little less for the next week or two. I thought it might be fun to do a quick series on some of my current favorite podcasts in a few different areas of interest. First, we have the Homeschool Mom Podcast Round-Up! These podcasts (listed in no particular order!) are mostly geared toward equipping and encouraging homeschooling parents, but I think some of them would be enjoyable listens for any mom, even if you don’t happen to homeschool or your kids are too young (or too old) for school!

Cultivating the Lovely with MacKenzie Monroe

Your Morning Basket with Pam Barnhill

Wild + Free with Ainsley Arment and Tina Ingold

Homeschool Solutions Show with Pam Barnhill

Homeschool Sanity Show with Dr. Melanie Wilson

Homeschool Snapshots with Pam Barnhill

Simplified Organization Audio Blog with Mystie Winkler

So, there you go! Some of my favorite recommendations for homeschool mom podcasts! What is your favorite, either from this list, or one that I did not mention?

Embracing Real Life and Routines in the Midst of Transition

It looks like we are back in school. But we are taking it one day at a time. Because this living in two houses in two different states is not for the faint of heart! And I will admit, I have felt pretty faint of heart a lot lately! But sometime last week I decided that it was time to get back to some semblance of a normal routine, even if we could not stick to it all the time. Ever since we put our Illinois house on the market we sort of dropped our routine because of extra cleaning and packing, showing the house unexpectedly, and extra trips back and forth between Tennessee and Illinois. But the chaos has taken its toll on us all, and I could tell that the kids would especially benefit from more structured days again.

So this weekend, we unpacked the school books and supplies and loaded them into their new home in the dining room at our rental house. My husband went out and bought a new bookshelf especially for our growing collection of children’s literature. We reassembled the desk we had brought down from Illinois. (That thing has been through a few moves already, but it still is serving us well!) I posted a simple daily routine on a small whiteboard above the dining room fireplace, and planned out enough school work to get us through a few days, at least. Then on Monday morning, we started back where we had left off last time we had school.

It wasn’t pretty. My son was sulky and obstinate, refusing to narrate the Bible lesson and complaining about every little lesson as if it were pure torture. A simple math problem, only 2 questions in, brought on tears and frustration. My daughter was cranky after a rough night of waking up several times due to cutting a new molar. She was distracting to the max! We are using a folding table and chairs as our dining room table because the real one is still at the other house. We don’t have any shiny new school supplies because, honestly, we have plenty of old stuff that still works. I have not had time to put together new memory work for our morning time binders, so we just reviewed the old stuff from earlier in the summer. But we pushed through. I kept my expectations low, and I managed not to lose my temper completely.

Thankfully, everything went more smoothly the second day, in spite of much grumbling and complaining from my student before beginning lessons. I had found some cd’s when unpacking yesterday, and started some classical music playing softly on the computer. Also found while unpacking were some coloring books, stickers and old crayons for keeping the toddler busy. My son stayed on task without sulking or arguing. He narrated our lesson from 50 Famous Stories beautifully. Math was pleasant and tear-free. And so was the toddler, for the most part. Things were not perfect, but the morning was much better than the one before. And the only time I was really hard pressed not to lose my cool was after lessons were done and the kids were getting Kinetic Sand all over my freshly mopped floor. (Seriously, I love to play with the stuff myself, but why does it have to make such a mess!? And yes, maybe it was my own fault for letting them play with it if I didn’t want the floor getting dirty just then. #momfail)

The thing about homeschooling is that it isn’t always pretty because it is real life. And real life is not picture perfect. Every moment is not Pinterest-worthy. The house gets messy because people are living in it 24/7. The children are unruly and need disciplined because, hello, they are children! I get frustrated when my expectations are too high, or when I make unrealistic plans for the day, because I am human. But you know what? That is also the beauty of it all. We are real. We are flawed. We make messes and mistakes. And then we give grace and forgive each other and wipe up the tears and the spills and move on. And it is beautiful. Because, like blogger Bekah Jane Pogue says #realisthenewperfect so I am choosing to embrace this real life, rather than wishing for some other life that isn’t.

And in that spirit, here are some photos of our second day of school in all of its real, untidy, but peaceful and productive glory!

10 Tips for Consignment Sale Shopping Success

Last weekend I talked about why I love shopping consignment sales to help save money on my children’s clothing. But I admit that the first time I went to a sale, I was not sure what to expect and did not know quite how to make the most of my time and money while there. Now that I have a bit more experience, I thought I would share some tips and tricks I have learned to help you have consignment sale shopping success!

1. Have a specific shopping list complete with size information for each person for whom you are shopping. This is where having a copy of my Kids Capsule Wardrobe Checklist will come in really handy! Most consignment sales are pretty huge and can be very overwhelming if you do not have specific items in mind as you shop. Keeping track of what you need to look for helps you avoid getting distracted by all the other “shiny objects” in the room so you can stay within your budget.

2. Leave the kids at home. Seriously, you do not need or want to be trying to corral your children while sifting through racks of clothes or searching piles of toys. And you certainly don’t need them begging for unnecessary toys and books that are not on your to-buy list! Plus, many venues do not even allow children at the sale, especially pre-sale time slots. So, save yourself the trouble and enlist your husband, mother, a friend or even hire a babysitter to watch the kids. Trust me. You will thank me later!

3. Find out what time you can shop the discount sale, and take advantage of better bargains. Most consignment sales will have one or more time periods for discounted prices, often up to 50% off marked prices! And if you are a volunteer or a consignor, you can usually get in to shop these discounts before the general public.

4. Grab everything you think you might want to buy, then sort through your items and make decisions later. Since just about everything at a consignment sale is the only one of that item in that size, the good stuff will go fast! And in a large venue, you probably will only have time and energy to go over each section of the racks one time. So if you like the looks of something, put it in your cart, tote or whatever you have to carry your loot, then you can go back and sort through everything to decide what you will keep and what to put back.

5. Double, maybe even triple check items for stains, holes, and correct sizing. This is the sorting process I just talked about. Not only do you need to go through every item to make sure it is something you want to buy, but you need to double check for any flaws that might have been missed before the sale began. Most consignors are honest and don’t intend to try and pass off badly stained or torn clothing, but everybody makes mistakes and things get missed. Also, sometimes items get mislabeled by mistake. At my first sale, I bought a cute seersucker sunsuit for my little gal, only to find the actual size on the tag inside the outfit was much smaller than what the outer label had claimed. Again, I am sure it was just a mistake, but it was money wasted on my part. This is also the time to go over your shopping list and see what items you have filled and what you might still need to look for.

6. Volunteer or be a consigner to get in on pre-sales and early discounts. I alluded to this before,
ut it truly pays to do more than just shop! Consignment sales could not happen without the hours put in by volunteers who help sort items, run checkout and tear down after the sale. The people who run these sales reward volunteers with special passes to pre-sales and early discounts. If you are able to give a couple of hours, it will be worth your effort because you get a chance at the best items and bargains of the whole sale! Consignors also get in on early discounts and pre-sales! Plus, you get rid of unneeded items and earn a little money on the side! As I mentioned in my last post, I have been able to earn enough back from consigning to cover the cost of what I bought the last two sales! More tips on being a consignor to come…

7. Know what kind of payment is accepted before you go. Some sales may only accept cash or credit. Others take checks but not credit. Be sure to double check with the sale website or Facebook page to know what kind of payment you need to have with you. It would really stink to get all the way to checkout and come up short because you did not have the right thing to pay for your purchases!

8. Shop early if you are looking for big ticket items like furniture. Kids’ consignment sales usually have much, much more than just clothing and shoes. Toys, strollers, cloth diapers, baby carriers, nursery or playroom furniture….you can find it all at consignment sales! If you are looking for something specific that is a bigger ticket item or is in high demand, you will not want to wait until discount night to look for it. This is where being a volunteer or consignor will come in handy because you will want to shop the pre-sale to grab the good stuff before it’s gone!

9. Know what kind of venue you will be in and dress accordingly. I have been blessed to shop a sale in a nice, air-conditioned venue. But I have heard of some that have gone to sales and been either freezing or burning up because of poor climate controls. So if you think you might need it, bring a jacket in the fall and winter, or dress light in summer. And wear comfy shoes. You are going to be on your feet, likely on concrete, for a few hours. You don’t want to be in heels for this job!

10. Give yourself plenty of time to shop, sort and check out. The time you need will, of course, depend on how long your shopping list is, as well as how big the sale venue is and how many shoppers are there when you are. I have found at our local sale, shopping just for clothes for 2 kids, I needed over 2 hours, and 3 is probably more realistic. The first hour and half is spent going through the racks and grabbing items, then sorting and putting back anything I did not end up wanting. Depending on how many shoppers are trying to check out at the same time I am, it has taken at least 30 minutes just to go through checkout. That is the tedious part, but if you go in knowing to expect it (and maybe have a friend to help pass the time, see next tip), you can plan accordingly and just grin and bear it. The wait will be worth it in the end!

BONUS: Team up with a friend or family member. Divide and conquer! If you have a long shopping list or several people to shop for, this could be really helpful. I am betting Grandma would love to help shop for her grandkids, and maybe even find a few special items she wants to buy them for Christmas or birthdays! Or if you and a friend go shop together, even if you each only shop for your own kids, one of you can finish early and get in line for checkout, saving a space for the other while she finishes up her list. Tag-teaming the checkout lane during a really busy time slot can help save time and energy!

So, there you have it! My top tips and tricks for consignment sale shopping success! Would you add anything I missed? Leave a comment below and let me know!

How I Save Money on Kids’ Clothes: Consignment Sales

A few posts back I wrote about how I save money on my kids’ clothes by creating seasonal capsule wardrobes for them. Another of my tried and true methods for not breaking the bank when buying children’s clothing is to buy gently used clothing rather than brand new items. And my current favorite way to do this is by shopping consignment sales! If you have not tried shopping consignment sales, you are missing out, let me tell you!

A few years ago, I really did mot know what all the fuss was about our local kids consignment sale. I figured it was just a glorified garage sale, so I just skipped it. But then one year I decided to just give it a try, both selling and buying. I had such a great experience that I hate the fact that I am missing out on it this fall because of our move! (But you can count on me finding a sale to shop in our new area!) So, why do I love to shop consignment when it comes to kids’ clothes? Let me count the ways!

  1. One night of shopping, and boom! I have finished my clothes shopping for the season. Seriously, I go in there with my handy dandy Kids’ Capsule Wardrobe checklist, sift through the racks to find what I need, and at the end of the night, I have pretty much everything on my list! I have found that it is getting harder to find everything for my boy because he is getting to that age in which there is just less of a selection, at least at the sale I have been shopping. And sometimes I need to buy brand new shoes because the used ones can be pretty roughed up. (But I ALWAYS get shoes on clearance unless I cannot possibly avoid it. They are just overpriced otherwise, in my opinion.)
  2. I can often find cute name brand clothes that I could not normally afford for a fraction of the price. Gap, Gymboree, and even more select boutique style clothes are often easy to find at consignment sales, and they are usually in great shape. I especially like shopping for Christmas and Easter dresses for my little girl because they have usually been worn so few times that they are practically brand new! And at around $2-4 per dress on discount night, I can buy a couple and still not spend half what I would shopping a department store clearance rack!
  3. I shop the discount night to get an even better bargain! Most consignment sales have one or more time slots in which you can get as much as 50% off everything! Some sellers may choose not to give a discount or to offer a lower discount, so that is something to watch for as you check tags before buying. But I try to buy as much that is the lowest discounted price as possible. Often, if you are a volunteer helper at the sale or are a seller, you get an early bird pass to shop the discount sale first and snatch up the beat deals before the general public.
  4. I can also sell our gently used kids items and make back a part, if not all, of the money I spend shopping the sale! This was probably the thing that got me hooked on consignment sales the most. Every time I have sold items, I have been able to make enough to cover the cost of that season’s clothing. Often, I had one or two bigger ticket items along with all the clothes, like my son’s old train table and a barely used stroller. These help make a bigger contribution to the total profits! It is work to label everything and get it set up at the sale, but in my experience it was totally worth the effort. And it was much easier than having a full-on yard sale on my own!

I could go on and tell you a few pointers I have learned about buying and selling at consignment sales, but I think I will save that for another post. For now, I want to hear from you! Have you shopped consignment sales for kids clothing? Did you love it, or hate it? What is the best deal you have snagged shopping consignment?

When you feel like a failure

It has been “one of those days.” I think everybody knows that being a parent is not all sunshine and roses. We all have difficult days when it seems that our best efforts to discipline in love, to stay calm when our kids are tantruming on the floor, simply are not enough. We snap back and punish harshly. We throw a big fat tantrum ourselves. Our children fail on a daily basis, and so do we. And often we get to the end of the day and wonder, does that mean that we are failures, too?

Maybe I am the only one who feels this way, but I doubt it. Because I am responsible for setting the tone in my home, I blame myself for a lot of the kids’ mistakes. After all, they do learn from what they see me doing. If I don’t always respond to them in love, I cannot really expect them to do so very much of the time, can I?

Yet, I also know that Satan loves to heap guilt and shame on my hurting mama heart, causing me to feel defeated and discouraged. His accusing words that I am a failure, that I will never change, that I am ruining my kids, all pile up with so much weight that I can easily feel as if I might as well throw in the towel and give up before I’ve even begun. My tendency to perfectionism does not help. If I cannot do something without messing up, I am prone not to even attempt it at all. What is the point if I know I am just going to fail?

But in motherhood there is no giving up, no choice but to attempt to do better tomorrow than I did today. So what is a beat-down and discouraged mom to do? That is the question I am asking myself tonight. And here are some of the answers that the Holy Spirit is bringing to my weary heart and mind.

1. PRAY

Seems obvious enough, at least if you are a person of faith, right? But other than a quick, “God, help!” right before freaking out over a child disobeying for the 500th time that day, do we really take the time to stop and pray over the matter? I, for one, know that I have not spent enough time truly praying for wisdom and discernment as to how to deal with specific behaviors; nor have I prayed enough over my children, that they would have tender hearts open to my guidance and teaching and to the Holy Spirit’s own work in their lives. Busted! Yeah, I definitely need to pray more.

2. Find my identity in Christ.

Satan’s lies are just that: LIES! In order to combat the negative, defeating thoughts he has planted in my mind and heart, I must fill myself up with TRUTH from Scripture about who I am in Christ. Jesus says I am victorious. He says I am an overcomer. He says I am more than a conqueror. He tells me I am His. He will be faithful to complete the good work He has started in me. When I was in counselling for post-partum depression after my firstborn, my counsellor gave me a list of Scripture references for just this purpose. It had all the statements made in the Bible about the believer’s identity in Christ. I guess it is time for me to dig that out and start doing some intentional Bible memory in this area.

3. Seek godly counsel.

I have a stack of parenting books on the end table beside me. They all deal with topics related to grace-filled discipline and reaching the heart of my children instead of just correcting the outer behavior. I need these words of wisdom from parents who have walked this road before me. I only wish I would have started reading them long ago before some very bad habits got so ingrained in my parenting. But it is not too late to start the change.

I also am thinking about asking some older homeschooling moms for resources and book ideas for some specific attitude and behavior problems we have been having with my oldest. I think we need to really focus in on some character traits that are weak (in both me and him!), even if that means taking a break from our regularly scheduled school books to do so. And since many moms have been through these stages before me, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. I just need to seek out that good advice and take it!

4. Breathe. Relax. Slow down.

The good news is that my children are young yet. They are still moldable and not set in their ways. A lot of the problems we are having are just ages and stages issues. We will get through this. And tomorrow is a clean slate. Sure, we have been through some rough patches lately, but that does not mean we have to let that define our family culture. We are in the midst of a move, a financially tight period, and a lot of change and upheaval is yet to come. It is ok if some things slide for a little while, if the school work gets a little behind or if we eat a little less healthy for a short time or if the kids have a bit more screen time than normal because I need to pack and clean. We can relax and breathe and have a little fun instead of always trying to push through and be perfect in the midst of the stressful time. Just take it one day at a time, I tell myself. Breathe. Smile. Look around and count your blessings. Tomorrow is a new day.

I am not a failure. And neither are you, weary mom. Maybe you had a bad day. It’s ok. Give yourself grace. His mercies are new. Go get some sleep. Pray for yourself and your kids. Find your value in Jesus love. Listen to the voices of truth, not lies. And breathe. We can do this! I’m praying for you. Will you pray for me, too? ❤️