Finishing Strong #74

Wow! I am in awe of all the wonderful posts that were shared in last week’s Finishing Strong link-up. It was so difficult to narrow my choices down to just three to highlight.

I am delighted that families homeschooling middle and high school age students are coming together and finding inspiration in one another. That’s has been the goal of Finishing Strong since its inception. Thank you!!

Finishing Strong #74

Each Wednesday, moms just like you share their best tips, encouragement, advice, and more for teaching older kids at home. Finishing Strong is hosted by me here at EvaVarga along with my friends – Heather from Blog She Wrote, Megan and Susan from Education Possible, and Heidi from Starts at Eight.

Finishing Strong Favorites

Each week, the post shared that received the most clicks is featured on all four host blogs. Here’s the most popular post from last week:

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

What I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Homeschooling High School by Heidi at Starts at Eight

When choosing posts to highlight, I look for posts that are inspiring to me as a homeschool mom with two kids in middle school. I just love that so many of the posts this past week focused on science. As you know, science is my favorite subject. Even so, it is one of the subjects that gets pushed aside in our homeschool when life gets busy.

Here are three posts I enjoyed reading last week. I’ve annotated each to give you a peak into what I liked about each of the three I selected.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

I found it humorous that Claire at Angelicscalliwags warns us that her post, Human Biology: Reproduction, may be considered revolting. I encountered the same reactions from my students when we were engaged in our study of human anatomy. Due to time constraints, however, we didn’t cover the reproductive system. It is for this reason that I chose to highlight Claire’s post. I love the hands-on approach!

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Another favorite post this week is from Marci at The Homeschool Scientist who shares with us the steps to Make An Electroscope to Experiment with Electrical Charges. How can we tell if an object contains electrically charged atoms? Read on to learn how to create a testing device with simple materials you have at home.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Adult skills as we refer to them in our home have always been a fun component of our homeschool. Kris, who blogs at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, shares a wonderful list of 10 Home Ec Skills Your Kids Need to Know. As she says, “There are many things on this list that I have neglected  and need to focus on during my kids’ last few years at home.”

Thank you for helping us to make Finishing Strong a key resource for families who are homeschooling through the middle & high school years.

What are you going to share with us this week?


  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
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  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

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Teaching Our Teens About Money – Part 2: Developing Entrepreneurs

My parents were in many ways great role models. In addition to hard work, my parents instilled within me the drive to seek out creative ways to earn money.

You might also be interested in my earlier posts, Lessons Learned from My Mother & Lessons Learned from My Father

When I was a little girl, my two younger brothers and I would periodically set up a lemonade and craft booth in front of our house. We lived in a small coastal community and our home was on a main street through town. The majority of our customers were tourists and I remember fondly, when one group of young cyclists offered to pay us with Canadian money – we were overjoyed! Their money was so different from our own!

We never made a lot of money but it was a fun way to pass the leisurely hours of the summer. The money we did earn we split evenly between the three of us and generally spent it on candy at Wilson’s Market up the hill.

Last week I spoke about how teens can earn commissions doing work around the house. Today, I wanted to share with you ideas for developing entrepreneurs.

Creative Entrepreneurs

Being a young entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to think of a new idea to make money. It just means you need to find a way to make money doing something you love. You have to think out of the box a little.

You’re never too young to develop your talents and, in turn, make money from your skills. ~ Dave Ramsey

Teaching Our Kids About Money (free printable)

Jeffrey is shown here constructing several Mason Bee Nesting Boxes. He was very successful at the Earth Day festival, selling his entire inventory.

At a local Earth Day fair earlier this year, the kids set up a booth to share with the community the efforts we had undertaken as part of our Roots & Shoots club. In addition to showcasing the projects we had undertaken (primarily our Bottle Cap Mural still underway), each of the kids developed a product that demonstrated their knowledge of and passion for the environment.

The previous year, our club had created Insect Hotels. Jeffrey shared that he had really enjoyed this project and wanted to make a difference for pollinators like the Mason Bee. He thereby reached out to his papa one weekend when we were visiting to procure the wood he would need to make a half dozen nesting boxes. He brought the cut pieces home and began to construct the boxes. He sanded down the rough edges, nailed the pieces together, and finally filled the interior space with nesting material.

Geneva had borrowed a book from the library some time ago, Terrarium Craft, and was intrigued with both the simplicity and beauty. When we began to plan our booth space for the Earth Day fair, she expressed interest in creating terrariums similar to those she had enjoyed in the book. She thereafter ordered a variety of air plants and a half dozen glass terrariums from wholesale vendors online.

Teaching Our Kids About Money: Developing Entrepreneurs

As an extension of our nature studies, Geneva created several beautiful glass terrariums and was also very successful selling these at the Earth Day festival.

There are thousands of ways to make money doing something you love. As we listened to the book Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze in August, we spent time brainstorming more ideas for each of our kids – ideas that they were both capable of doing and that were of interest to them. Here’s just a few of the services and products that they came up with:

  • Babysitting
  • Pet Care
  • Insect Hotels
  • Terrariums
  • Yard Maintenance
  • Auto Detailing
  • Play Piano at a Dinner Party
  • Baked Goods (cupcakes, cookies, etc.)
  • Wild Organic Herbs
  • Create an iPhone App
  • Upcycle

Many of their ideas require very little startup costs. I am particularly impressed with their creativity. Regardless of what avenue they choose, I encouraged them to use a notebook to keep track of their progress.

After listening to Smart Money Smart Kids and our family brainstorm in early August, Geneva has grabbed onto an idea and has shown remarkable resolve. She won’t allow me to reveal what she is working on but I can share a few of the steps she has taken in pursuit of her new passion.

She set up a binder to keep track of everything including the name and the graphics she has created for her business, a list of products she plans to offer, market research she has done (comparable prices, etc.), materials needed, and of course, expenses.

As part of her market research, she created a survey using Google Docs and spent a morning at a local farmer’s market to poll the community. While she wasn’t able to use an electronic device as planned (no wifi), she sat down later and entered all their responses by hand into the document to create a spreadsheet of her results. As an introvert, I was very impressed that she followed through. I can’t wait to see how far she takes her project!


Teaching Our Teens About Money – Part 1: Earning Commissions (free printable)

We all need to feel needed and to know that we’re making a contribution — even kids. “But they can’t feel that way if they don’t have chores and make contributions to the family,” states parenting experts Foster Cline and Jim Fay.

We’ve followed the Love & Logic philosophy since the kids were toddlers. While we haven’t always been consistent in all disciplines, the one strategy that really struck a cord with us was in regards to chores.

Teaching Our Kids About Money (free printable) @EvaVarga.netThere is so much power to an effective chores system. Even the words you use to discuss chores with your child impacts how she perceives the activity and experiences the “lesson”. So, for example, Love & Logic suggests referring to daily “chores” like making the bed, picking up your room, and helping to set the table as “contributions”.

Family Contributions

Contributions are part of being a family, of being valued and needed, and working together to make a household function well. The approach, a simple change in language, considers the family unit and the home in a way that is sure to cultivate a respect and responsibility for these things over the long term.

Chores are something everyone in the family does to contribute to the family.  They are part of being needed and valued by the family.  Chores teach responsibility.

Since they were toddlers, the kids have contributed to the needs of the family. We all do our part to help things run smoothly. Here is a list of their daily responsibilities:

• Keeping up with their schoolwork and completing the assigned tasks each week
• Pet care (daily feeding and cleaning of cages)
• Making their bed and keeping their room orderly / picked up
• Putting their school materials & swim gear put away properly
• Cleaning up after themselves (putting their art materials away when finished with them, for example)
• Helping to carry in groceries and put them away properly
• Clearing their setting and cleaning up after meals
• Keeping their bathroom tidy
• Personal care daily

Their failure to follow through may forfeit their earnings that week. This is not to say there are not roadblocks and pot-holes along the way, but we strive to make improvements individually and as a family.

Teaching Our Kids About Money (free printable) @EvaVarga.netEarning Commissions

Parents are not just responsible for providing food, clothing, and shelter for their kids. They are also responsible for teaching their kids about life—and life includes handling money.

Guiding your children in the choices they make with money is HUGE! The lessons you teach them as they earn money and learn to spend, save and give will lay an influential foundation for their lives. ~ Dave Ramsey

You can begin to teach kids about money as young as pre-school age; here are 9 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money. Just think about it: if your kids can grasp this money stuff early on, they’ll avoid many of the pitfalls later.

Teaching Our Kids About Money (free printable)


—> Download the free Earning Commissions printable here! <—


In addition to their contributions or responsibilities to the family, our kids have many opportunities to earn commissions. As they have gotten older, the jobs have increased in time input and difficulty (and thereby also pay a larger commission).

In the infographic above, you can see the variety of ways in which our kids can earn commissions. Pay has been negotiated over the years and is related to the time in which it takes to complete the job. The jobs with an asterisk are required. As such, three of these jobs are assigned to each child every week. The other jobs are optional.

We certainly are not confined by this list. Additional jobs and opportunities arise throughout the course of the year. The kids have even worked on commission for their grandparents undertaking a variety of tasks. Friends of ours have farm animals and responsibilities associated with life on a farm.

How about you? In what ways have your children earned spending money?

Join me next week as I share with you creative ways kids can boost their earning power with entrepreneurial efforts.

Setting Goals with Your Teen or Pre-teen: 5 Tips for Success

My husband is very successful in his work. He manages time well and has great working relationships with his colleagues and direct reports – evidenced by the many farewell emails, heartfelt inscription in cards, and often tearful good-byes that have been shared with him these past few weeks.

We have both heard friends exclaim, How do you do it all? How do you get so much accomplished? They are often surprised when we reply that we simply set goals and take measureable steps to achieve them.

Goals are critical. They keep you focused on what’s important to you, and allow you to make the best use of your day. When tackled correctly, they force you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow more each day than you would without them. Most importantly, goals put us in the driver’s seat and give us control. By setting a goal, you are taking an active role in driving new and better results in your life. What could be more important than that?

Setting Goals with Your Teen: Five Tips for Success @EvaVarga.netTeaching our pre-teens or teenagers to set goals effectively can be life-changing. However, as we teach goal-setting to our children, we need to make sure we’re showing them how to use goals to have the greatest possible positive impact on their lives.


The most important thing to remember is that goals are personal. We as parents have experience and should try to impart our wisdom. However, we need to provide guidance around the process of goal-setting. Try not to determine the specific content of the goals. Keep in mind these are their goals, not yours.

Everyone will have different goals. The question is what are you excited about? What do you want to do? What passions drive them? What are their areas of interest? Support their process of self-discovery and encourage them to follow their hearts.

Encourage them to also be as detailed and specific as possible. Saying “I want to be a writer.” or “I want to be a concert pianist.” is too vague and thus more likely to fail.

Answer the questions: What are you going to do? Why do you want to do it? When are you going to do it? I am really interested in ____, so my goal might look like this: ____.  I want to do this to help me ____. 


My daughter has aspirations to write a novel. She has several notebooks with pages and pages of stories that are beginning to emerge. She has typed out numerous fan fiction spin offs and has shared them on Wattpad. Most recently, she has asked to be excused from her other lessons in the month of November so that she can participate NaNoWriMo, the annual novel writing project whereby each participant aims to write a 50,000-word rough draft in the 30 days of the month.

A key step in setting goals and achieving the desired result is to make your goal measurable. A number of pages per week or the number of words per month is a measurable goal. You will be able to hold yourself accountable and measure your progress. Remember, it is a numbers game. If you want to be a writer, for example, the best way to get better is to fill more pages.


Setting goals can be a double-edged sword. It can drive purposeful action in our lives and allow us to achieve more over a shorter period of time. Setting goals can also be a source of anxiety. They have the potential to create a hyper-focus on future circumstances.

Relatedly, goals need to be attainable. Continuing with my daughter’s goal writing a novel, if she sets out to fill 100 pages a week, she will probably fall short of her goal (at least I would). To assure success, choose a number that you can do but will push you a little outside of your comfort zone.

Setting Goals with Your Teen: Five Tips for Success @EvaVarga.netRealistic

Life is always throwing curve-balls in an attempt to derail us from our path. We may fall short of our goal but that doesn’t mean we throw in the towel and give up. Perhaps you need to be more specific in your goal statement or quantitative measure. If 50,000 words in a month seems far too much, perhaps 25,000 or 10,000 words is more attainable?

Celebrating small milestones and accomplishments along the way can help maintain enthusiasm. Take heart and trust you will get better, just give it time. Do not judge yourself on how pretty a painting is, but attend to what you discovered, or how much richer your memories of the experience have become.


One of the goals I have had in the past that I look forward to revisiting once we get settled in our new home is to keep a nature journal. I loved documenting my discoveries alongside my children when they were younger. Somewhere along the way, we stopped journaling regularly and I really miss it.

When and how often are we going to open my journal? Every moment of my day is already filled. How can we fit in something new? These are just a couple of the questions that have been going through my head as I begin to formulate my goal.

Another key to successful goal setting is to connect routines you already have in place. For example, when we go birding or hiking, I can bring our journal materials along with me and start to journal on these expeditions. Journal entries need not take hours. We can get out our journals to catch fifteen minutes here and ten minutes there.

~ ~ ~

We all want what’s best for our kids. Teaching them to think in terms of setting and accomplishing goals will help them discover that their best source for fulfillment is within themselves. Experience with setting goals will provide the recognition that they control the outcomes in their lives. Through the process of setting goals, we can give our children the most important gift any parent can give – the ability to thrive in life without us.

TypeKids – Individualized Typing Lessons for Kids

We live in an information age. Strong typing skills are critical to success – regardless of what career path students may choose to take as an adult.

I’ve tried numerous typing programs over the years and my son has always dreaded typing lessons.  He whines and complains all the while and has never moved beyond home row.

When I learned of TypeKids‘ pirate adventure storyline – I knew I had to give it a try.

I was given a free membership to in exchange for a thorough review.  I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product. All opinions expressed are true and completely my own.

TypeKids1 is an online typing course for kids, recommended for children 8 years and up. However, younger children who know how to read and are computer savvy can do well with TypeKids, too.

The course consists of 30 lessons, each taking approximately 25 minutes.  Ideally, the course should take about 10 weeks to complete, and your child will be typing faster and more accurately by the end of those ten weeks.

Kids learn to type by following the story of a pirate adventure. Each lesson has multiple exercises which are broken up by the video story and the opportunity to play games. The games continue to reinforce the touch typing that the child has learned so far.

My son has congenital nystagmus. As a result, small fonts and type are sometimes difficult for him to see. He thereby struggled a little in the beginning when the lessons were random sets of letters.

As he has become more independent academically, he is also more adept at verbalizing what troubles him. He stated that the font size was perfect and the text was clear; he simply had to move slowly to ensure accuracy.

This is true of everyone learning to type, I assured him. I strongly believe that the graphics, fun games, and engaging storyline encouraged him to continue.

TypeKids2 is an intelligent touch typing course – the program automatically detects which letters need more practice, and then instruction is adjusted accordingly. This means your child receives completely INDIVIDUALIZED typing instruction.

As the lessons progressed, and actual words were used, my son became increasingly motivated.  Because he is able to read, he was thereby able to move a little faster as he pictured each word in his mind.

As he moved beyond the basic lessons, he exclaimed, “This is really fun, Mom! Typing isn’t so bad after all.” He loved finding aeronautical words in the text and would gleefully point them out to me.

One of the things that I love about is that it issues a progress report to me, the parent, via email when he completes the lessons. Whereas most other programs issue reports only to the child. This simple form of accountability alerts me of his strengths and weaknesses.

  • Consists of 30 on-line lessons.
  • Each lesson takes approximately 25 minutes to complete.
  • Instructions are given in the form of a video demo with audio narration.
  • Retail price of the entire course is $89.95, just $3 per lesson!

Mentors & Role Models: The Positive Influences of Adults

According to research, for parents trying to raise a young man in our current culture, there are numerous obstacles: changes in the educational system, video games, ADHD medication, endocrine disrupters, and a lack of positive, masculine role models. 


Years ago, upon recommendation by our pediatrician, I read the book Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax. The ideas presented in the book still resonate with me today.

Experiential Learning

In his book, Sax claims that boys need to have more experiential or hands on learning experiences, they need more contact with nature, they need to read a variety of books for fun, boys excel with competition, they need to interact with good male role models, and they need hands-on training in working and serving. Lastly, Sax explains in depth why video games are especially addicting to boys and the reasons why they are so harmful to their motivation and progress.

In our home, we try to balance video games with time outdoors and thrilling, real-life experiences. Though we certainly can improve, I feel we do a good job being consistent in this regard. The area I want to discuss today, however, is the importance of role models. Most of us would agree that children learn from role models and imitate behaviors of those they admire.


It is thereby important to provide children with positive role models and mentors, men who exhibit the qualities you want your son to emulate. Role models are highly important, helping to guide us through life during our development, to make important decisions that affect the outcome of our lives, and to help us find happiness in later life.

When we are growing up, we look to our role models for inspiration and use this as a blueprint for how we should behave when we’re older. A good role model should be someone hard working, creative, free thinking and moral.

We had a chance to catch up with one such mentor a few months ago, a friend who works for the city’s public works department. We stopped by one afternoon as he was putting away the equipment. My son was delighted to get to climb on board.

What are the qualities of an effective mentor? In this followup post I explore the key characteristics in a mentor who is ultimately able to make a difference in the lives of youth.

I was impressed that during our visit, my son even asked numerous questions about his work. “How did you get started working here?” “What kind of training or studies are needed to do this type of work?” “What do you like best about working here?”

A few weeks later, my son was sharing an anecdote about this visit with his Mandarin teacher and referred to him as a friend. I love that as homeschoolers, he doesn’t feel constrained by age and is comfortable carrying on discussions about topics of interest to him.

Because of the influence of this mentor, my son has also had a life-long interest in model trains. On Saturday, I will share with you The Science & Math of Model Railroads.