Annual Memberships – Are They Worth It?

It seems there are annual memberships for everywhere lately. The Zoo, local Museums, even state parks have annual park passes. Sure, these things are advertised as paying for themselves in so many visits, but are they beneficial if you don’t know how many times you will be able to go each year?

My experience has found there is no blanket answer for this, lol. We tried this for our zoo and unfortunately didn’t have a chance to go more than once before it expired. We enjoyed ourselves, don’t get me wrong, but the animals didn’t change and there was only so much we could see multiple times.

Now, on the other hand, we paid for our membership to a natural history museum about six times over! They had some traveling exhibits that came through for limited times, and they even switch out their long standing exhibits about once (sometimes twice) a year. They have an IMAX theater where we got a discount thanks to our membership. We were also able to get “reciprocal” benefits at other museums that are a part of this particular network.

What about you…have you found any annual memberships that are simply too good to pass up?

Homeschooling without Religion

In homeschooling circles, be it in real life or online, you will always find homeschool families trying to homeschool in a way that best fits in with their religious beliefs. There are tons of Christian based homeschool curricula choices out there. There  are Jewish homeschool programs, Muslim homeschoolers and even Pagan homeschooling options.

But what if you run an Atheist homeschool?

Chances are you have felt shunned and may have even kept the fact that you were an atheist quiet. So many people seem accepting of those with different spiritual beliefs than theirs, but become judgmental when they hear that there is NO religion at all.

My advice is keep your head up. Keep looking for those homeschool groups that truly are all-inclusive. And don’t forget about the online resources out there. Even if it’s only on the Internet; support, advice and comfort are valuable in all forms!

Reading – Enjoying it AND Comprehending it

My husband and I are both avid readers. Our idea of “quality time together” is both of us spending our evening immersed in a book…but doing so in the same room. Together. Lol. We just assumed, cause that’s what parents do, that when we had kids they would be avid readers too. How could they not, especially if they had us as examples?

We have two boys and while my seventh grader enjoys reading, my second grader is struggling. He wants to read, but just doesn’t have the reading comprehension thing down yet. That’s huge, and not something we really thought about. I mean, I don’t suppose I would want to spend a lot of time reading something, only to look up and go “I have no idea what I just read.”

He works on it daily, and thanks to getting interested in audio books and having an appreciation for storytelling, he just might make it to “avid reader” status before long!

Get Up and Get Out

It seems like every time I turn on the news someone else is shouting about the obesity epidemic in America. And you know what? They’re right. When I was a kid, we didn’t worry so much about it, but we were a lot more active then (and we didn’t have PS3s, the Internet or any of the other things that make kids stay inside day in and day out). The simplest way you can combat a weight problem in your child is to get him or her up and out. Outdoor activities, whether that’s climbing a tree, riding a bike or just hiking in a local park, can really do the trick for kids struggling with weight problems. Of course, a healthy diet and limited access to soda, sugar and unhealthy snacks will also help.

Pets and Kids with Allergies

We struggle all year long with allergies. Both myself and our youngest son have pretty serious allergies (my oldest takes after my husband, thankfully). That made the choice to get a pet a tough decision. On the one hand, I really wanted our kids to get the benefits that only come from loving a pet. On the other, I really didn’t want to deal with the additional allergy problems. We settled both by opting for a pet that my son and I seem to be the least allergic to, and making sure we vacuum, sweep and mop on a regular basis. It hasn’t been a cake walk, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Has an allergy, or medical issue, prevented anyone from becoming a pet owner? How did you handle that with your wee ones?

Hit the Little Sites Too

If your family is anything like ours, you try to build in as much education as you can with family trips, or as we like to call it roadschooling. We hit major historic sites all the time, but it took us a little longer to clue in that there were smaller ones along the way that were just as good (and sometimes better!). When you hit the little, lesser-known historical sites, you can often benefit from fewer people being around – you might even have it mostly to yourself. You can also get to know a bit of little-known history about the area or even the nation depending on where you go, which can really be a point of pride for your little ones.

Camping and Kids – We Took Ours Outdoors

At first glance, you might not think our homeschooling family was comprised of avid campers. We have a couple of asthmatics in the group (including our second grader) and a couple with serious allergies (the second grader again). That doesn’t usually make for happy camping, but we’ve found that with a bit of planning, we can let our kids enjoy the great outdoors too. We try to camp in the spring and fall, when the temps aren’t too high. We also shoot for sites with electricity in case we have to use our youngest son’s nebulizer. Even with all of that, it’s been an amazing experience and the kids are certainly better off for it! Me on the other hand? I enjoy seeing my kids outside and having fun. I don’t dislike being outdoors…but my idea of “roughing it” is a Motel 6 instead of a Marriott! 😉

Traveling Opens Young Eyes

You might not think that traveling will do your younger kids that much good. After all, they’re only going to sit in the back asking, “Are we there yet?” and demanding to go to the bathroom, right? Actually, we’ve found that traveling can be a really good way to introduce a lot of different subjects to our boys. Our oldest son gets a lot out of the destinations, but both our second and seventh graders get a lot out of the trips themselves. We try to make sure we travel in areas where the geography varies a good bit and stop at overlooks to investigate the surroundings – we’ve introduced subjects like botany and geology that way. So, even though we are away from home, we are still adding educational opportunities while we are traveling, which we call Roadschooling!

Introducing Your Second Grader to Typing

Typing is definitively the communication form of the future (and today, really). In fact, it’s probably more important that our kids know how to type than to write in cursive (see the removal of cursive from many schools as proof). When should you start introducing typing to your kids, though? Second grade is a great time to do this. We’ve actually found quite a few free typing programs that have a younger slant to them to help them learn how to position their fingers on the keyboard and at least start learning to touch-type. One of these free sites had keyboarding games, which made learning how to type even more fun! Waiting too long encourages bad habits though, so we’ve definitely tried to get a head start. So many adults still use the “hunt and peck” method, but we want to make sure if they are going to be spending a lot of time typing, that they are typing quickly and accurately.

Does Your Second Grader Need an MP3 Player?

Technology has evolved by leaps and bounds. What once was incredibly expensive has now become relatively affordable. If your second grader has been bugging you about a way to listen to his or her own music, you might be considering an MP3 player. We did. We thought about it long and hard. There were some definite pros and cons to both. I mean, really, what business does a second grader have with that kind of technology?

Actually, it works out very well. There’s all kinds of things that you can add to that handy little gadget, and music is only one of them. You can find some great kid-centric podcasts out there, as well as audio books (they’re good for getting non-readers at least interested in books).

What about your younger wee ones? Have they asked for gadgets like MP3 players; and if so did you get one for them? 🙂