Archive for Resources

Getting out – Part 2

So your time as a military family is drawing to a close. As was suggested in the first part of this series, you’ve bulked up your emergency fund, paid down your unsecured debt as best you could, considered additional sources of income, dusted off and updated your resume, and done what you could to increase your job skills. Excellent work! Now it’s time to consider a few details that are often overlooked in the transition out of military life. I like mnemonics so we’re going to stick with the ‘vowels of transition’ here: A, E, I, O, U…and sometimes Y.

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Homeschooling in the Military

Homeschooling is quickly becoming a viable alternative for many military families. Additionally, homeschooling is becoming more ‘mainstream’ in the civilian world, adding to its viability as an option for military families. Military families move an average of once every 2 to 3 years, often in the middle of a school year, and that instability is what compels many military families to opt for schooling their children at home.

Take a walk down the aisles at either your local library or your local bookstore and the section on education and homeschooling can be a bit overwhelming. So where do you begin? Here are some suggestions and resources to help get you started.

First, you need to consider why it is your family is choosing to homeschool. When we made our decision to start homeschooling, the first thing I did (because I am a big list maker/writer-downer/journaler) is to write out not only my reasons WHY we were choosing to homeschool as well as a few goals. Our list of goals is actually quite fluid, changing not only from year to year, but also subject to subject and even unit to unit. You’ll find that your goals will actually help you choose what path to take with regard to curricula.

In addition to your reasons and goals for homeschooling, you need to look into your state and local homeschooling requirements. Some states regulate homeschooling more stringently than others. The Homeschooling Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org) is a wonderful resource for this information. You do not need to become a member of HSLDA – though I would recommend it – in order to access this information on their website. You can also look up your state’s department of education and search for homeschooling laws and policies. Following the state’s guidelines for homeschooling is very important and should be one of your first steps.

Now it’s time to look at curriculum. Once I had a good idea of our goals, I sat down and really thought about the ways in which my children learn best. I have one child that absolutely loves to read and often times needs to be reminded to pull her nose out of whatever book it is that she is buried in to join the rest of the world. Because of that, I knew that whatever curricula we chose should rely heavily on literature and give her ample opportunities to read as part of her learning. My other child is much more of a kinesthetic learner, preferring to “do it” as opposed to simply reading about it. Therefore the curricula we chose for him needed to have plenty of hands-on learning.

From there, I started researching curriculum. I researched not only by reading books about curricula but also by talking to other homeschooling parents and asking them what worked for them and why it worked. This part of the process can be incredibly overwhelming as there are literally hundreds of choices for each subject. Do not let yourself become overwhelmed! Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint race. Do your best to find what works for your child(ren) but also give yourself the leeway to change curriculum if need be. Case in point: we started off with what I thought would be a fantastic language curriculum only to get about halfway through the year and then realize that it was horribly dry and boring. So we switched! I purchased the curriculum used and was able to sell it for about what I paid for it so I really wasn’t out much money and we found something that worked much better for us.

Your local library should have books on homeschooling as do most mainstream bookstores; and there is always the internet. My top recommendations for resources are the following:

1. The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Baue

2. 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy

3. The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition by Jim Trelease

There are hundreds and hundreds of methods and curriculum options out there. Some people prefer to go with an all-encompassing curriculum choice, such as Sonlight or Abeka. Some people prefer to piece things together, choosing different publishers for language, math, history, science, etc. And some people eschew the idea of structured school all together and, instead, opt for a more relaxed approach to education and learning via the ‘unschooling’ route. Every family is different. Every circumstance is different. The key is knowing both your children’s learning styles and what your goals are for them. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint!

 

Image Credit: Abandoned Art School 66 by xshamethestrongx, on Flickr

Help Wounded Warrior Project

Living life to the fullest–despite traumatic brain injuries or loss of limb–that’s what Wounded Warrior Project is about. As of last fall, the Department of Defense reported 1,288 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn servicemembers with major traumatic amputations. Harder to diagnose but perhaps more prevalent is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Also of great concern is the “invisible” injury of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Our wounded warriors return home and find it difficult to walk, to climb the stairs to their bedrooms, to hug their children. Those with less visible injuries may also suffer from crippling headaches, erratic behavior, depression, and lack of focus. These heroes may have difficulty returning to a normal home and work life.

That’s where Wounded Warrior Project steps in:

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) takes a holistic approach when serving warriors and their families to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Through a high-touch and interactive approach, WWP hopes to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.

Read more about how Wounded Warrior Project succeeds in its mission.

I am partnering with Brawny® to spread the word about how you can help these Wounded Warriors. Brawny is making a direct donation of $250,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® to benefit Wounded Warriors and their families. From May 1 through December 31, 2012, the maker of Brawny® paper towels will also donate $1 up to an additional $250,000 for every individual who joins us and shares their thanks for our nation’s heroes on the Brawny® Towels Facebook page (www.facebook.com/brawnytowels).

Help Brawny® reach their goal of $500,000 for Wounded Warrior Project by Veterans Day — they are just 2,874 likes away!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Brawny® Towels. All opinions are my own.

Unpacking the boxes

We’ve moved five times in our 13 years of military life. Some moves were easier than others. This last one was rotten. We were coming from a place we LOVED and had been for six years to a place we weren’t so sure of. Leaving our home of six years was rough. Saying goodbye to people with whom we had weathered a deployment, multiple TDYs, a few personal crises, and life was rough. Our children had never really known anywhere other than that location, having moved there when they were 3 and 1, respectively.

Ten months later, we’re still settling in. It doesn’t feel like home and I’m not sure it ever will. We went back to visit friends at our old duty station and a friend of mine gave me the book, “After the Boxes are Unpacked” by Susan Miller. It’s a Christian book but even if you are not a Christian, this book holds some wonderful insights and encouragement into the whole “bloom where you’re planted” mindset.

The book is divided into three parts: “Let Go”, “Start Over”, and “Move Ahead”. Each section and each chapter includes stories about people – mostly women – who have dealt with the trauma that is moving. While this book is not aimed at military spouses (the author’s husband is in the hotel industry), many of the situations are similar to what we, as military spouses, face.

There is a lot of validation in the “Let Go” section. The author recognizes that moving is one of the most traumatic experiences a person endures in life and that it takes time, and EFFORT, to make it through that trauma. Miller delves into the psychology behind the trauma, identifying why it affects us the way it does and how we can counter the effects of leaving all that we know behind.

In the “Start Over” section, Miller encourages the reader to take baby steps toward settling in. For us as military spouses, those baby steps might not happen as slowly as Miller sets out in her book – we all know our time in any one location is quite limited so we tend to hit the ‘fast-forward’ button on that process. She addresses the loneliness factor – something I’m sure most of us have dealt with, even in the best of duty locations. And she offers practical advice on how to strengthen your marriage in the midst of all of the chaos that is a move. I don’t know about you but my marriage can suffer under the strain of all of my emotions following a move, combined with the fact that my husband is now my sole social outlet until I find friends in our new location. It’s tough for him to handle all of that on top of settling into a new work environment.

“Moving Ahead” encourages the reader to look not for ‘happiness’ in their circumstances but contentment instead. Happiness is fleeting but contentment endures. Miller points out that a move is a chance to shed the things that had been weighing us down at our last duty station and focus on the things that make us shine. Toward the end, Miller offers up twenty additional tips from women who have moved. Most are applicable to military spouses but I’m curious to know what tips you would offer if you had been asked to contribute to this book? How would you encourage a military spouse who is in the middle of a PCS or just settling in to her new location?

You can find the book on Amazon.

 

Saving Money in the Military

While I am on a brief maternity leave, I am featuring guest posts, like this informative post from Michelle Dudas, author of www.militarywivessaving.com.

The recent near-shut down of the government highlighted the need for families to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.  Although active duty service members have good job security, pay checks and reimbursements sometimes go missing.  Everything is fixed eventually but in the meantime it is good to have an “emergency fund”.  And in this economy, many military families are budgeting for groceries and paying bills each month on one income – from Uncle Sam.

Unless you are debt free and don’t use credit cards, you may be struggling to find a way to pay for that pricey car repair, unexpectedly high utility bill, or even your kids’ school supplies. Here are some tips to help ease the crunch and put more money back into your bank account.

Shop at the Commissary and Exchange
One of the great perks that military spouses have is getting great discounts on brand-name items at their base Exchange, tax-free. Plus, if you compare apples to apples, the Exchange has lower prices than their off-post competitors. Even if you do find a cheaper price at a retailer off-base, take the ad into your Exchange and they will price match! And as for grocery shopping, shopping at the Commissary actually saves you about 30% or more than the local grocery stores! You can read more about savings at your Commissary by visiting Commissaries.com.

Become a Couponer
Already shop at the Exchange and Commissary? Do you use coupons? If not, you may want to rethink why you’re not using them. With Commissary prices so low compared to competitors, you can score dirt-cheap deals, or even free stuff, just by using coupons! The Commissary actually encourages the use of coupons, with their relationship with large companies such as Kraft and Unilever, just to name a few. These two companies work with the commissary and create coupons exclusive to military only {these coupons will state “military store only” on them}. Some Commissaries even have retailers sit up front and pass out their coupons, hoping you will use them! You can even use coupons at the Exchange as well – in fact, the Exchange allows you to “stack” your coupons {unlike the Commissary where it’s one coupon per item} for even more savings! On the AAFES Facebook page, they have a tab dedicated especially to their own in-store coupons, which they allow you to combine with a manufacturers coupon! You can read more about the Commissaries coupon policy Here, and you can check out the AAFES coupon policy Here.

Visit Frugal Blogs
Type in “frugal blogs” in Google, and you’ll get over one million results. Frugal blogs have gained enormous popularity in just the last few years, thanks to the downturn of the economy. Suddenly, it’s as if frugal living is the hip thing to do! There are blogs that cater to free things to ones that cater to discounted savings on top designer items. Some of my favorite blogs have coupon matchups with the weekly sales circulars, detailing what coupons I need and where I can find them. You can even get the coupon matchups for the Commissary and AAFES at my blog, MilitaryWivesSaving.com. Take notes on what stores have “free” products after store rewards and coupons, and print out the stores coupon policy in case you have issues when you present your coupons.

Make a List

It’s important to make a list of the things you need when you go shopping, otherwise, your chances of overspending are higher than they are when you buy what’s on your list. Making a list will help keep you on track, plus, it will save you time. Divide your list up between cold and dry items, and if you really know your way around a store, jot down the aisle number next to the item you need. And, before you head out to the store, be sure to “shop” in your pantry to make sure you don’t end up buying what you already have.

Have a Budget

Create a spreadsheet with Excel, or keep a notebook of your monthly budget. Start with your take-home pay each month, and then write down each bill you have to pay. If you get paid twice a month, jot down the bills you can pay with each paycheck. Once you have the bills squared away, allot yourself a monthly grocery allowance. It may even be worth it to withdraw that amount you have allowed yourself and put it on a pre-paid card, that way, you know you won’t be able to overspend when you go shopping.

Military Discounts
This is definitely one perk of military life that you’ll want to take advantage of. Several stores and restaurants offer military discounts, such as Lowe’s and the Home Depot {10% off purchases}, and even some car dealerships offer incentives as well, such as GM’s Military Discount. It doesn’t stop there, however. Some insurance companies offer military discounts, too, such as Geico and USAA. Do some research online to see if your favorite store offers a military discount, and even email them or give them a call. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Childcare Discounts

With monetary assistance from NACCRRA {the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies}, you’ll be able to save significantly on daycare expenses. Look into their military program at their website Here, and find out if your daycare is partnered with NACCRRA, or call 1-800-424-2246. They do participate with on-post childcare, however, you may want to have a backup, as there can be a waitlist for on-post care. For married soldiers, the spouse must be working, looking for work, or attending school in order to be eligible for this program.

Collecting Unemployment
If you are a working military spouse and your husband has received orders to transfer to another duty station, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits because your decision to leave your job was not any fault of your own. You will need to check with your state’s unemployment agency to see if you may qualify. You’ll also need to apply and fill out a lengthy questionnaire as to why you quit and attach a copy of your notice-to-quit and spouses orders. If you are approved, depending on your states unemployment guidelines, you will need to show proof that you are looking for work each week.

About the Author:

Michelle Dudas is a military spouse and SAHM, as well as the author of www.militarywivessaving.com, where she helps her fellow military spouses save money and get the most bang for their buck. Before deciding to be a SAHM, she worked in the banking industry for over 10 years, where she worked as a loan officer and quality control coach.

Photo by o5com

Bag It Forward for Children of National Guard Soldiers

Elmer's Bag It ForwardWould you Bag It Forward with me and help school children throughout the country?

Money is tight everywhere and people are struggling to ensure their kids have opportunities and the families of our soldiers are no exception. Most of our National Guard serves part time until activated for deployment. These soldiers work full time jobs besides their one weekend a month, two weeks a year training obligations. However, like too many other Americans, some of these soldiers have lost their full-time jobs in the latest economic downturn.

There are laws to protect our servicemembers but it is possible that the frequent deployments and training commitments have made some of these soldiers first on the list to go at their workplaces.

Most families do not want their soldier to spend time away from the family but for some, active duty becomes the most economically safe option. Just imagine looking forward to a deployment just so your family has a steady paycheck!

There are a number of agencies and volunteer groups that try to fill in the gaps of the needs of our servicemembers and their families. For example, Operation Homefront’s Backpack Brigade supplies backpacks full of supplies to eligible military families every year.

Elmer’s selected me as a paid Bag It Forward ambassador and gave me a $100 gift card to Walmart to purchase school supplies for my daughter and for a family in need. I was thrilled to be able to donate the full amount to the back-to-school supply drive for the enlisted soldiers’ families in my husband’s National Guard unit. Some of the members of my local moms’ group chipped in with more backpacks and supplies, too.

After the video, find out about how you can Bag It Forward and earn a $10 donation for Adopt-A-Classroom. Elmer’s will donate up to $10,000 to Adopt-A-Classroom to aid their mission to increase opportunity for student success by empowering teachers with community partners and funds to purchase resources for the classroom. You can help end teacher-funded classrooms with just a blog post or facebook note!


Elmer’s will donate up to $10,000 to Adopt-A-Classroom with your participation. Join now!

ELMER’S VIRTUAL BAG IT FORWARD RULES

  • Copy and paste these rules into your blog post or facebook “note” (look on yourr left sidebar).
  • In you blog post or facebook note, give a “virtual bag of school supplies” to other bloggers or facebook friends by linking to them or “tagging” them in your note.
  • Link back to the person who gave you a bag of school supplies.
  • Let each person you are giving a virtual bag of school supplies know you have given them a bag.
  • Leave your link in the Elmer’s Virtual Bag It Forward comment section. You can also find the official rules of this virtual #bagitforward program there. (http://bagitforward.org/donate-a-bag/)
  • Elmer’s is donating $10 for each blog participating in the Virtual Bag It Forward Donation to Adopt-A-Classroom (up to total of $10,000 for blog posts written by September 10, 2010).
  • Please note that only one blog post per blog url will count towards the donation.

Valentines for Veterans 2010 to Benefit Sew Much Comfort

valentines4vetsOur veterans have done so much for our country.  They give of their time, energy, and talents and sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice.  These men and women travel far from their loved ones, not just to fight wars, but to build roads and repair sewers, to rescue victims of natural disasters…to stand strong for those who are unable to defend themselves.

My husband is a veteran of the war in Iraq.  He has served as an Active Duty Field Artillery officer and currently commands a National Guard Battery.  I am incredibly proud of him and all of those who have served with, before, and after him.  I am also so very grateful that he came home to us–to me and his infant daughter–and that he has had the opportunity to see her grow and to add our son to our family.

Some of our veterans have not returned home.  And some who have returned home are severely injured, with long paths to recovery.  Hospitalization and extensive therapy are trying under the best of circumstances.

During National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week (February 7-13), you can make a small token of your appreciation for these brave soldiers.  Valentines for Veterans can help boost morale and send the message that we are thinking of those who serve.

With my playgroup, I made some Valentines and I am bringing them to my nearest VA Hospital.

As part of a project with Bloganthropy, I am posting about this effort to earn a donation of clothing for Sew Much Comfort from Dollar Days.

Sew Much Comfort provides adaptive clothing at no cost to support the unique needs of our injured service members from all branches of the military and national guard. This clothing fits around medical devices and prosthetics and gives the service member and medical personnel ready access to injured areas. The adapted clothing allows injured service members to have their clothing appear the same as normal civilian attire; an attribute which helps facilitate a more natural and comfortable recovery. Without adaptive clothing the only option for the service member is a hospital gown.

Through the volunteer efforts of seamstresses and donations of money, clothing and fabric, Sew Much Comfort has been able to provide over 75,000 pieces of adaptive clothing and comfort.

How YOU can help:

  • You can make Valentines for Veterans, too! Locate your nearest VA hospital and call to make sure they can accept your Valentines.  Canada also salutes its vets during this week and has some tips on making Valentines for Vets.
  • Comment: Dollar Days will donate $50 retail value in clothing for this post, plus $50 more if I receive at least 10 comments.  The total donation will be well over $1000 worth of clothing.  So, please comment!  A list of other posts will be posted on Bloganthropy this week.
  • Donate to Sew Much Comfort: Sew Much Comfort provides adaptive clothing free of charge to wounded veterans and is able to do so through generous donations and volunteer hours. Financial donations are always helpful and there is also a list of needed clothing and fabric.  Sew Much Comfort specifically would love to receive t-shirts, long sleeve t-shirt or sweat shirts with logos of local sports teams in any area of the United States (size large is most needed). The wounded soldiers love having sport themed clothing but it is hard to get unless you live in that state.
  • Volunteer with Sew Much Comfort: Sew Much Comfort relies on its 1600+ volunteer seamstresses to make clothing for wounded soldiers–and they can always use another pair of hands. If you know your way around a sewing machine, find out more about volunteering here.

Call for Blogger Volunteers

bloganthropyMy good friend, Debbie, and I have launched a new project, Bloganthropy (non-profit, 5013c pending).  Bloganthropy combines the power of social media with the resources of corporate giving.

The organization will support the volunteer projects of our fellow bloggers, publish posts about social media and non-profits, and implement 6-12 Bloganthropy charitable projects a year.

We’re currently looking for volunteer bloggers to make Valentines for Veterans and help earn a donation of clothing for Sew Much ComfortClick here to read more details and volunteer!

And while you are there, please take the Bloganthropy Pledge–promising to use your social media influence to support your charitable causes!

A Prize for Military Supporters (USO Donation in Your Honor, The Sandbox, and a Bracelet)

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USO PatchI have a great time participating in the Bloggy Giveaways, and the last few times, I’ve given a military book. Frankly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of contest entrants who popped over to enter either for themselves, or for those they know who are in need of some moral support.

This time, I was trying to think of something that was military related but would have a broader audience.

So, here’s the prize–a military supporter pack:

To enter, leave me a comment by 11:59 PM, Friday April 25th about how you show support for our troops–or leave a supportive message for our troops! Put your e-mail in the e-mail field and I’ll be able to reach you but it won’t be publicly visible. I’ll ship to any US, Canadian, or US Military address.



If you’d like to enter more contests, check out
The Bloggy Giveaways Carnival, this contest post is part of that carnival!

On my personal blog, I’m giving away a copy of Deceptively Delicious.

Also, we have lots of contests on Mamanista, my baby gear review blog.

Modest Needs Charity for That Little Extra Boost

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change happensHere’s an interesting concept: Modest Needs.

Once upon a time, so the story goes, neighbors took care of each other. They were often in the best position to determine who really needed help, and what sort of help they actually needed. Then the Depression came along and it was like a case of national bad luck–almost everyone, it seemed, needed help. So, the government stepped in with its relief, recovery, and reform. Along the way they instituted safety nets that are the sacred cows of liberals and the demons of conservatives.

But I’m not here to talk politics.

I’m here to mention something interesting I noticed in the BlogHer Ad on my sidebar–a charity that has a new take on the idea of neighborhood hat passing. If you are an ordinarily self-supporting household who just had a spot of bad luck, you can apply for a modest needs grant. Once you get back on your feet, it is easy to return the favor by becoming a donor yourself.

If you have some extra money and would like to choose exactly what sort of need to fund, you can use modest needs to find a deserving person or family. You purchase points and then use your points to fund needs. Your money is pooled with others, so every little bit really does help. You can make a one-time donation or set up a recurring donation, which will be doubled by a matching grant.

Modest Needs does due diligence and pays the requested bills directly–so you can rest assured the money is actually going where it is supposed to go. And you’ll be able to receive testimonials from the needs you’ve helped to fund.

So, if you can’t pay the heating bill this month because you were put on bed rest, or you have some extra cash and would like to help out someone in need, check out Modest Needs.

Anyway, I saw that on my sidebar and I thought about how generous all my readers are and how some of them occasionally are in need of a little financial assistance.

Photo Credit: Change Happens