This is the Future

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Parenting tips, challenges, and how to train up your kid to be a geek.

Response to Geekdad’s “We’ve been doing it wrong” post

Recently on Geekdad blog, a contributor wrote about how impossible it seemed to only spend 3-4,000 dollars per year for each child.  The previous recommendation has been 10,000, and even that price seemed too low for this writer.

However, being a mathematician plus passionate about frugal living, my brain started immediately crunching the numbers.  Is it possible to do 4000 dollars a year per child?  What about 10,000?

As a mother myself, I know the cost of children can be high, but mostly of you choose it to be high.  That first year of being a parent can be quite spendy, because you do all the research and “have” to buy that 1,000 dollar crib and the 500 dollar stroller and you have the get the best daycare at 1500 bucks a month.  I’m here to encourage new parents and seasoned parents alike, I do believe it IS possible to raise a child using 3-4,000 dollars a year.

Let’s quickly look at some numbers.  For the first year, there are all sorts of things possible to buy, and not all of them useful or necessarily.  So let’s price the top things a parent needs for a baby in their first year.

Carseat:60 bucks on amazon, good safety ratings.

Pack n Play: 110 full price (but can be found cheaper at consignment shops)

Also note that one can get away with just a pack n play.  It can be used as a bassinet, then a crib later on.  I slept in a pack n play until 2 years old, so if low on funds, a bassinet, crib, AND pack n play is unnecessary.

Diapers/Wipes: 75/month, but can be way cheaper if cloth diapering, though I don’t know the exact numbers

Clothing: Nice/New baby clothing can be found all the time at thrift stores.  And if you get some from friends, the cost for clothing in the first year could be as low as 100 bucks for the entire year.

Stroller: 50 bucks easy on amazon

Baby food: 30 bucks a month approx if you make your own.  50-60 if you buy in bulk and go for the cheaper routes.

Formula: This one is tricky, it can be about 100 bucks/month depending on how much your little one eats, which is why if you can breastfeed it’s free!  But if you need to do formula, there are cheaper ones and even applying for WIC if needed.

Daycare: If you seriously want to make that 3,000-4,000 mark, daycare is NOT the way to go.  Many people I know basically work for daycare, i.e., their entire salary goes to daycare.  If you really want to save money (and daycare is expensive in your area), have one spouse stay at home and possibly work part time in order to avoid daycare.  I know this isn’t always possible, so bear with me on the numbers.  Certainly 10,000 per kid per year is possible on part time daycare or cheaper daycare, but 4,000 per kid per year would be very difficult to achieve in this case.

Car: If you don’t have a kid friendly car, then sell your current one and buy a used car on Craigslist in cash for the same or less than what your current car is.  This IS possible, because we’ve done it.  We have two cars and zero car payments.

House: You might think you need to buy a new house right when you have a kid, but if it’s going to make money tight, it is possible to live in a small apartment or house for the first couple years until you save the money to make a good down payment.

Toys: Once again, thrift stores can boast great toys for cheap.  My son will play will his 8 dollar playground ball all day long.  And talk to friends/neighbors, go to garage sales to find the bigger stuff, because often it’s cheap and barely used.  So we’ll go 100 bucks for toys total, if you are wanting to be extra frugal.

Health Insurance:  This will cost, of course, but you are probably paying less than 100/month for insurance for your child.

Crunching the numbers leaves us at about: 4080 dollars/year.

It is actually possible to do 4,000/year if you are choosing to be frugal, choosing to not buy the “best” stroller on the market.  I added formula (1200/year) in this mix too, which could easily be cut out if one can nurse for a whole year (I commend you if you can, I made it to 6 months!).

And of course, us parents can cut out many other things in our lives to make having children more affordable!  Check out my other blog posts about saving money. If you do want to spend more money on your children than 4,000/year, then you can certainly do so.  But it’s not so impossible as one may think!


Public vs. Private vs Homeschool vs Online vs etc

Often times, when parents and educators talk about the type of school they are involved in, whether it be public, private, homeschool or other, we project an attitude that our way is the only way.  It’s only human nature to do so.

The problem with this, is not one type of schooling/education works for every single child.  I went to public school all my life, then a private Christian college for my math degree.  My husband did public school and college.  His brothers have done homeschool/running start.  I’ve taught a homeschool class, I’ve also substitute taught in public school and student taught in public school.  I’ve tutored a public school student, I’ve tutored an online school/running student.  I’ve tutored a private Catholic school student.

I have experienced almost every type of school whether I am a student, teacher or tutor.  But even with this experience, I cannot determine what is best for your child.  Only you can do that.

Each type of school offers different things, depending on the town you live in, the resources you have, the experiences you show for.  For some, public school is the only viable option.  Maybe both parents work.  Maybe it’s not possible to afford private school.  So, you make the best with what you have. Maybe your public school is thriving and the students are academically minded.  Maybe your school offers many extracurricular activities such as robot art (my friend volunteered for such an activity), or Spanish club.

In these cases, public school can be fantastic for your child, giving them boundless opportunities to explore different subjects and interact with many different people.

However, not everybody experiences this for public school.  For some, like I was, living in a small town, we didn’t have opportunities such as these. Sure, we had speech and debate, but there were no programming classes, or math clubs, or honors programs.  For others, they may be bullied in school, or just can’t handle the peer pressure.  Many parents are trying to find other options for their children, as suicide rates go up and our world ratings go down.

If public school is determined to not be for your child, there are other great opportunities.  One of course, is homeschooling.  That is my option for now, since I am passionate about teaching and learning, which homeschooling fulfill these passions.  There is also a vibrant co-op community in my city, which is very encouraging.  Homeschooling can be great for your child if you want to make sure they get a Christian curriculum, without the cost of a private school.  It can also be fantastic for children who may want to work at their own pace, not to be slowed down by the 35 other students in their classroom that can only go at the pace determined by the district.

There are many reasons why you may want to homeschool your children, and with today’s resources, as well as misconceptions waning on homeschool (in particular making oneself “socially awkward”) make it much more feasible than it was 20 years ago.

Even if you are a stay at home mom/dad, not every parent has the ability or patience to homeschool.  Maybe you don’t want your child in the public school system but you can’t imagine yourself teaching your own child.  There are also online schools that are beginning to flourish.  You watch lectures, do the homework, video chat with your teacher, and sometimes go into an online school hub for classes such as LAB or PE.  This can be great for a self-motivating child.  It can also be a way to catch up on subjects that your child may have gotten behind.  I tutored a senior once who was taking online math classes through an online high school, while also taking running start classes at the nearby community college.  She had simply neglected to focus on the math, even though she was good at it and only needed minor instruction.  Combining online school with a tutor can be highly effective, especially for subjects such as math or science.

Now what about private schools?  Some private schools boast academics, while others boast sports, and others boast arts.  I almost went to an art school for high school, because I wanted to pursue violin and orchestra.  However, I also wanted to play high school soccer, and they did not have sports at the school.  So I ended up going to my public high school, all because I wanted to play sports.  Some of my friends admit that private school can be no different than public school, with bullying and peer pressure still present.  It just depends on the individual school itself.  Private school may be great for your child, because often times the parent chooses the school based on the classes, teachers, college prep opportunities.  Because the parents have somewhat of a choice for which private school, they can find one that works for their child.

The point is, whatever you choose for your child for education is your decision alone.  I encourage parents to reevaluate each year, no matter what type of schooling your child does.  Every year is different, especially making the jump from elementary to middle and middle to high.  A child may thrive in public school one year but the next year fail due to peer pressure.  Another child may do extremely well in homeschooling, but may want to join a public high school for more opportunities.  As parents, we have to be open to other types of education.  It can be hard, because often times we look at the other schoolings with disdain or fear.  And whatever your friends or family decide, it’s important to support them in whatever they choose.  We may voice our opinion, but we cannot force our own education experience on other people.  Every child needs their own individualized education and it’s up to the parent to decide what is best.

Summertime: how to encourage learning at any age.

Summertime is a way to take a break from the norm for children and teenagers.  Some of them might get a job or go to camp.  Some of them might go out and play sports with friends all day.  And others might sit down in front of the tv for the next 60 days.

How can we as parents encourage learning throughout the summer?  We don’t want them to lose alot of what they’ve learned, but we also recognize that getting a break from academics can be refreshing.

For primary aged children, there are many fantastic resources throughout the summer for your child.  Check your local library for events, even my small town one has a lego group, a chess group, and even a D&D group.  These library events are often free.

If you don’t mind spending an extra dime to get some learning into your child, the local science museums often have day summer camps or even overnight camps for older children.  These can be fun, great ways for your children to learn new things and do experiments that they might have not had time for in class.

Of course, there is always booklets, summer reading lists, and all kinds of resources that can encourage your child to keep learning through the summer.  I would highly recommend reinforcing math into your child in the summer.  Math is truly one of those subjects that is best if done everyday, even if just a few minutes at a time.  I suggest joining the Khan academy, which your child can learn about many different mathematical and science subjects.

Summer can be a great way to explore new subjects!  Maybe start learning to build robots, or do an invention experiment!  Maybe build a soapbox car!  There are so many fun opportunities for learning.  Your children won’t want to sit down in a desk all day for 8 hours, and I highly discourage that in the summer.

I believe there is a time to sit down and focus on certain subjects, but especially in the summer, learning should be creative.  Give your child a chance to discover things, whether it’s learning to program or learning how to build a rope swing.  If you have to work during the summer, then finding camps, clinics, etc can be a great way for your child to learn while also meeting other kids.

Moral of the story is, don’t let your child sit in front of a computer or tv for the entirety of summer.  Their brain won’t thank you.  Neither will their teachers.