A Charlotte Mason Lifestyle

We first began homeschooling nine years ago.  My daughter had just turned five years old and upon making the choice to veer away from the norm and to follow my heart, I did a lot of reading – researching education theory and homeschooling methods. In all honesty, I learned more about education and how children best learn in the first few years of homeschooling than I did in all my teacher training.  And in that time, I discovered Charlotte Mason.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who invested her life to improving the quality of education in England at the turn of the twentieth century. She wrote volumes and held a firm belief that the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind. A Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words,

Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.

This really resonated with me and it has been my mantra ever since.  I even use it in my email signature. Recently, I have been giving a lot of thought to Charlotte’s teachings. Specifically, what Charlotte did not say:

  • “Education is meeting the requirements of the Common Core.”
  • “Education is mastering Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.”
  • “Education is what someone does to you by teaching important information through tests and grades.”

Charlotte tells us to take our eyes off “end points” and to focus on creating a rich life through shaping the atmosphere through discipline and through life itself. I so love Charlotte’s vision that I recently sat down to reflect on how we have embraced Charlotte’s teachings in our homeschool.

The Charlotte Mason Lifestyle @EvaVarga.netEducation is an Atmosphere

By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that the ideas that rule your life as the parent make up one-third of your child’s education.

In our home we strive to model life-long learning, cultivating an environment that puts education and self-improvement above other pursuits (like television). We have a wall of resources – a library of living books, reference materials, and curriculum. We read both for leisure and for self-improvement. We take part in book discussions with friends.

While traveling, we visit historical sites and museums and incorporate our homeschool studies into our holiday excursions. You can read about our travels on our family travel blog, Well Traveled Family.

My husband and I participate in professional development opportunities regularly. One of the courses that I have most enjoyed is Turning Leaners Into Leaders: Empowering Youth Through Service in Education that is offered FREE this summer through Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.

I also coordinate learning opportunities for the local homeschool community to ensure that my children have a variety of learning opportunities. The activities my children have most enjoyed include:

In addition to fuel for our brains, we take our physical health seriously. The kids participate in swim team year round, attending practice 3-4 days a week with coaches and peers who are passionate about swim, who set goals, and work hard to achieve them.  Though competition is a part of this experience, we don’t schedule our life around swim meets. Our goal is a healthy lifestyle, not college scholarship.

The Charlotte Mason Lifestyle @EvaVarga.net

Education is a Discipline

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits—and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

Lessons aren’t always fun and games. Rote drill and practice are important – particularly in subjects like math, music, and foreign language. We thereby have weekly lessons all year long to keep these skills sharp.

I try to maintain continuity when it comes to our other lessons. The unschooled within me often wins, however and we have a very relaxed approach. I trust that they will learn the skills they need for success – regardless of how many facts they can recite.

Contributing to family obligations is another key to character development. We utilize a rotating chore assignment and everyone is expected to pull their own weight. Establishing a chore routine takes time and practice. We still have kinks to work out ourselves!

Our regular family meetings help to assure we are on the same page and serve as a venue for airing grievances.

The Charlotte Mason Lifestyle @EvaVarga.netEducation is a Life

The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.

In the end, it is important to focus on ensuring that people feel heard, loved, and that their dreams can be achieved. Listening to the hearts of my children and allowing them to pursue their passions not only makes learning enjoyable, but allows them the freedom to be innovative. I elaborate on this in my previous post, Independent Study Projects.

With Charlotte as our guide, we allow homeschool to ebb and flow—some weeks making a “course of study” a priority in a systematic way, other weeks learning as we go guided by our curiosity and enthusiasm.

We allow all of life to serve as our classroom—our recent conversation about the state’s decision to ration water in light of the drought is equally important as the math lesson that had been planned.

If you can let go of your need to match the state’s expectations, your own school memories, the pressure of your very academic classical homeschool community, or the stringent requirements of some important university … you can surf the waves of learning as they roll onto your shores.


Homeschooling in California: Beginning the Journey

With growing opposition to Common Core, the number of families that are choosing to homeschool is growing exponentially.

As a veteran homeschool mom, I know first hand that making the choice to homeschool is both exciting (it opens a whole new world giving you the freedom to do what works best for you and your family) and intimidating (your child’s education and future is truly in your hands).

No matter when you choose to take this journey (whether your child is just a toddler, is in the midst of third grade, or has just entered junior high), I want to reassure you that you can do this.

You CAN homeschool successfully.

I have had the privilege of homeschooling (thus far) in two states, initially in Oregon and presently in California.  I am familiar with the laws in both states and will be writing about each over the next few weeks.

homeschooling caliBeginning the Journey – How do I homeschool in California?

When we first moved to California, I debated the pros and cons of the homeschool choices available to me:

  • Establishing your own home-based private school (R4),
  • Enrolling in a private school that offers independent study (PSP),
  • Using a public school independent study program (ISP) or charter school that caters to homeschoolers or,
  • Using the tutorial option (if you have a credential).

Facilitated Homeschooling

For those just getting started in homeschooling or whom simply want someone to guide them along the way, I would suggest any of the three latter methods (private school, charter school, or hiring a tutor). As each school is very different in their approach and what they have to offer, you will want to learn about the specific options in your local area.

Compare and contrast the programs they provide. Some will assign you the curriculum materials they have adopted for your child’s grade level, some will purchase on your behalf the curriculum you choose, and others will provide you with a monthly stipend. Some charters will also provide 1-2 days of enrichment activities (art, science, music, language, etc.) and quarterly field trips.

If possible, meet with the facilitators and find out just how much freedom or flexibility you will have.  How often are you required to meet?  What kind of student work or documentation is required?

Be aware that charter schools are in fact public schools. As such, as a student enrolled, participation in the Common Core exams will be expected. Presently, it may be possible to opt out of these exams. Be sure to read all the materials before signing enrollment contracts.

When we first moved to California, I was intrigued by the myriad of opportunities. Each of these options appealed to me in different ways, but in the beginning, we opted to partner with a public charter school (or umbrella school).  I selected one in which I felt would best meet our needs and I met with the facilitator one afternoon.  I liked her right away and the kids were excited for the weekly enrichment day.

Within a few months, however, we discovered that an umbrella school was not the choice for us.  We had become too accustomed to doing things our way and I felt constrained by the requirements expected of me by the state. The busy work was killing us! 

Unbeknownst to us, many of the enrichment day activities were gobbled up with testing requirements of one sort or another.  We thereby opted to return to what we were accustomed to – doing it on our own – and I thereby filed an R4 to establish our own home-based private school.

Other homeschool families I have spoken with since have shared their experiences with umbrella schools (whether private or public charters). Everyone has a different story – some love the guidance and support. Others, like me, felt constrained by the requirements.

What is important is that you find a match for your needs.  Find what works best for your family. 

Independent Homeschooling

Undoubtably, if you choose to homeschool independently, you will have more freedom. Filing an R4 is a pain-free, simple form that is completed online once each year in early October (or upon disenrolling your child from another school).  It takes just a few minutes; you simply list the number of students that will be enrolled and what the grade range.  There is no need to denote what curriculum you are using or to specify what courses you plan to teach.

Establishing a home-based private school can at times be a little daunting but it is also a very rewarding option. Though you are technically on your own, there are so many resources available today that help is just around the corner.

I will talk more about choosing curriculum and finding resources again next week, Homeschooling in California: Choosing Curriculum & Finding Resources.

To learn more about the specifics of each homeschool option in California, you may also be interested in the California Homeschool Network’s How to Homeschool 

Are We Too Busy?

I have come to believe that my generation is just too busy.  Our children are rushed from one activity to another with hardly the time to breathe between.  Some time ago, I came across a post or link on Facebook (I honestly can not recall) that discussed the glorification of busy. I wish I could find that post now, but The ‘Busy’ Trap is another great article that touches on the same topic.  Ooohh .. the words in these posts hit me like a ton of bricks.  It feels like everywhere someone is ‘bragging’ about how busy they are .. rattling off their to-do list with pride.  I admit, I have been guilty of this myself but I have made a conscious effort to combat this tendancy.

When I’ve encouraged friends to join the Sons of Norway lodge or invited them to join us on our Roots & Shoots outings, the common response is we are just too busy.  When I have tried to make plans with family to get together for holidays or even just because, there is always something else that keeps them away (if they have kids, it is frequently sports or school).

When did busy become synonymous with value?  Are we too busy to connect with others and to make a commitment to community and family?  I fear we have lost our balance.

are we too busyAvoiding commitment

Most Sons of Norway lodges celebrate the holiday season with an annual Jultrefest. This past weekend, my family and I drove to Central Oregon to visit friends and to attend Fjeldheim Lodge’s annual dinner.  So many people wish to attend the dinner at Fjeldheim that for the past several years, they serve three consecutive dinners (80+ people each night) – complete with a Santa Lucia procession, singing of carols in Norwegian and English, recitals by the children, and a visit from Santa.  It is a beautiful evening and a highlight of our holiday season.  It is no wonder that so many people attend.

The weekend prior, we attended our local lodge Jultrefest.  Though only one night, there were over 90 people attending.  While these numbers may seem impressive, the lodge officers like myself know that it gives a false sense of involvement.  Look around the room and the faces are essentially strangers.  As children or grandchildren of members, this is the only lodge event they attend all year.   They do not see the value in joining the lodge themselves or they simply do not want to commit. It saddens me because the lodge is a wonderful place to connect generations – for the elders to share their knowledge and skills with our youth.  Yet lodges are closing all over the country as their memberships dwindle.

Are we too busy to commit?

Courtesies forgotten

The simple act of writing a thank you note is also a dying art.  I know I stereotype here – but it seems to me that few people in my generation take the time to write notes of gratitude and thereby teach their own children this grace.  We have attended many birthday parties over the years and have received a note of appreciation from the child only rarely.  When one was received – would you be surprised to know that it was a homeschool child? I’ve spoken with other adults ~ members of the lodge, my own parents, and in-laws ~ and they confirm they seldom receive thank you notes, even from their own grandchildren.

Are we too busy to express our appreciation?

I plan numerous enrichment opportunities for local homeschool families – art shows, living history presentations, science fairs, and nature walks.  In an effort to plan ahead and make the events as memorable as possible (I love to create buttons, clever programs, and certificates for the kids), I ask that the families RSVP at least two weeks in advance.  I receive so few that I have in fact cancelled events thinking no one was interested – only to receive a wave of calls lamenting my decision and begging me to reconsider.  There have even been times when my kids and  I show up only to discover we are the only ones.  This is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to the kids.

On the other hand, I have also been surprised by guests arriving when I was quite unprepared.  At a lodge dinner recently, a family I wasn’t expecting showed up, late no less.  In addition, it wasn’t the mother and son who came, but the father who I had previously never met (the mother arrived an hour or so later).  I was so thrown off, I didn’t know how to react.  As a result, my husband (who due to a work obligation was expected to arrive after dinner) was not able to sit with us when he arrived a short time later.

Technology today makes staying in contact with others so easy.  Why then is it so difficult to respond to invitations in a timely manner?  Are we too busy?

Are We Too Busy?Reaching out

Each year, our local lodge takes part in an annual multicultural faire at the local mall.  The event is coordinated by the county Sheriff’s office with booths throughout the mall representing the many cultural groups and organizations in the community as well as a stage for entertainers (dancers, musicians, and martial arts demonstrations). My daughter stayed with me at the faire all day – from 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.   My son volunteered from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  He went home with his father after the grand march.  On our drive home later that evening, I asked my daughter why she chose to stay with me.  Her reply was, “I wanted to stay because I wanted other kids to see that kids are part of Sons of Norway, too.  I thought that if they saw me having fun they would want to join, too.”

I love that she is so dedicated and so aware at such a young age, yet it saddens me.  How can we encourage today’s youth to get involved?  How can we show them the value of reaching out and connecting with others?

Are we too busy to get involved?

When we first moved to California, my son made repeated efforts to maintain a relationship with a boy he perceived to be a close friend.  He wrote letters, sent postcards, and even mailed a gift in a clever package.  Sadly, he never received a reply in acknowledgment. In time, he lost interest in writing knowing that his extension of friendship was not reciprocated.  Relatedly, we mail over 100 Christmas cards every year to friends and family.  We receive less than 20.

Are we too busy to reach out to others in friendship?

Growing apart

When I was growing up, I remember fondly family gatherings for birthdays, holidays, and any reason just to spend time with one another.  In the summer, we had annual family reunions whereby we got to meet and get to know the families of my parents’ cousins – our extended family.  My mother has 6 siblings and I thereby have many cousins .. most of whom now have children of their own.  Christmas and Thanksgiving were huge … my grandmother’s house was literally overflowing with loved ones.  My husband has similar stories to share of gatherings and traditions.

Today, the only contact I have with most of my cousins is on Facebook.  Reunions are rare and poorly attended – for many, as jobs take us away from the communities in which we grew up, it is just too far to travel.  Holiday gatherings with my parents and my brothers are short – we typically can find only a short window to meet for a meal at a restaurant; thereby there is little feeling of warmth and comfort.  This is due in part to distance – I live 6 hours away from my siblings.  Partly, due to circumstance – my parents divorced shortly before the birth of my eldest and we thereby haven’t really grown accustomed to the change.

I could write an entire post on this issue alone but much is personal.  I feel though that we have lost not only our sense of cultural identity and community, but also our sense of family.  I feel lonely.  I miss the closeness we had as a family growing up.  I miss gatherings with family to share in our successes and celebrate the children’s milestones. I miss my family.

Are we too busy to stay connected with friends and family?

What is important is balance

I realize that finding balance is difficult.  I certainly don’t have all the answers.  As a homeschool mom, we have to juggle our activities and make occasional accommodations in our schedule.  I make service learning and volunteering a major part of our curriculum.  When opportunities present themselves, we talk things over as a family and weigh our options. We have made sacrifices, passing on swim meets and formal lessons to connect with family and friends. As we strive for balance, I will keep reaching out but I can not do it alone.


Unschooling Wisdoms: How I Know Unschooling Works for Us

As I consider us to be classically minded, unschoolers, I don’t always know exactly how much my kids know in relation to all subject areas. Formal assessments are no fun and though we have taken part in some standarized testing in the past, the true measure of their growth comes from little snippets of conversations.  Little moments when I realize the wisdom of unschooling and I know unschooling works for us.


Snippets in Math

Whenever my little man watches a movie or listens to an audio book – he gets really into the characters and his playtime incorporates scenes and acts from the storyline.  His imagination and creativity know no bounds.  More often than not, his characters revolve around Harrison Ford’s most well known characters as he has morphed into Hans Solo and Indiana Jones.  He carries a 8-foot, 10-plait Raiders of the Lost Ark bull whip everywhere we go and on his personalized swim cap, he chose “Indy” rather than his given name.

For the past couple of weeks, in addition to his usual fascination with the quest for the ark of the covenant, my little man has been intrigued with tree houses.  It started when we were staying with Grandma and Papa and he watched a few episodes of Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet. Upon our return home, he eagerly began working on his own treehouse – despite the fact that we rent and the two trees in our yard aren’t suitable for a treehouse.

I  have suggested that he sketch out his plans before he begins and to consider writing a letter to the host of the show asking for advice and words of wisdom.  He got started on his blue prints, as he calls them, immediately and eagerly showed them to me. As he described his plan he explained, “These are two 4x8s.  You cut a little out in the middle of each board to go around the tree.  Together they make an 8×8 square. That will be the floor of my treehouse.”

While this wasn’t highly technical – I loved the practical application of his math skills, elicited entirely by his own interests.  I have actually covered the concepts of area and perimeter with him. In fact, one of the reasons this snippet of conversation resonated so strongly with me was because of a situation some time ago that resulted in our decision to pull out of the umbrella charter school we had aligned with for a short time when we first moved to California.  You can read about that decision in my earlier post, Our Letter of Withdrawal.

unschoolingSnippets in Science

While undertaking a simple science activity recently, I had the opportunity to see just how well Sweetie understood the basics of chemistry.  I had planned to take part in a Google+ hangout and the topic was air.  I had thereby set up a couple of activities to demonstrate that air has mass.

I mixed a little baking soda and vinegar in a cup to produce carbon dioxide gas and then I used the invisible gas to put out a flame on a candle.  We hadn’t done this activity in the past so prior to doing so, I asked the kids to make a prediction.  To my surprise, Sweetie stated that she thought the candle would go out because CO2 is heavier than air.  I was actually taken aback. “How do you know this?” I inquired, half expecting them to say, “I saw it on Myth Busters.”

“It’s simple, Mom.”  She began. “It shows on the periodic table. We breathe air which is hydrogen. Carbon dioxide is both carbon and oxygen. The table is organized by weight and hydrogen is first.  It is the lightest. Carbon and oxygen are here (she pointed them out to me). This little number here tells how much each atom weighs so carbon dioxide is heavier. If you pour it out of the cup it will land on the flame and put out the candle.”

Whoa .. she blew my mind.  I have honestly NOT taught this to her directly.  We’ve done other chemistry activities and I’ve talked with them about the periodic table but she made these connections on her own.

These little snippets of conversations are proof that unschooling works for us. While I will continue to sprinkle formal lessons – both classical and Charlotte Mason – throughout our daily endeavors, I can trust in my children and be comforted that we will have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life.

Have We Lost Our Cultural Identity and Sense of Community?

Throughout life, I suppose, everyone looks for connections with others, a feeling of worth within a community.  For some, this need is met through Greek fraternities and sororities at the university. For others, this need is met through their church or spiritual center.  While attending university, I sought out cultural groups in an effort to discover who I was and where I fit in.  As I was minoring in Spanish, I joined the Latin American Cultural Center – but as I was too timid to speak in Spanish in small groups, I often felt out of place.
When I had submitted a paper for my U.S. History class about Norwegian Americans, my professor had asked if I was familiar with the fraternal organization, Sons of Norway.  To his surprise, I was not. I had come from a small community on the coast where the lodge did not have a presence, despite a large number of Scandinavians.  Upon looking into Sonja Lodge in Eugene (where I was attending school),  I also learned that an aunt and uncle were active members.  I thereby joined the lodge and attended a few social events.
Within a few years however, I sadly let my membership lapse because as a university student paying my own way and thus working 30+ hours a week, my social calendar and my pocket book were both pretty slim.  I had enjoyed receiving the Viking magazines in the mail, however, and often wished that I had had the opportunity growing up to take part in a lodge.
After graduating, I returned to the same community where I had grown up.  I taught in the public school for several years and then welcomed my first child.  Shortly thereafter, we moved to central Oregon where I rediscovered Sons of Norway.   Fjeldheim Lodge is very active in the community and has a strong public presence, taking part in the annual Christmas parade, hosting an annual bake sale, and coordinating Ski for Light programs.  They are also very fortunate to have a broad, multi-generational membership – with an active youth group, engaged adults who were active in the community, as well as numerous retired members.   We joined as a family and immediately felt a sense of family and connection.  I knew this is where we belonged.
We now belong to Shastafjell Lodge in northern California.  While I still have that same sense of family and the connections with the other members are strong, I realize more than ever the struggles that fraternal organizations are encountering today.  Like many lodges, Shastafjell’s membership is declining and we struggle with filling board positions.  The active members are frankly tired.  They are willing to pass the torch to the next generation.  The problem is, this generation – MY generation – are not involved in the organization.  Why?? Are we too busy? Perhaps we aren’t interested?  Maybe we just aren’t aware?   I really don’t know the answer and as I discuss this with other members and other fraternal organizations, I have come to discover we all have the same concerns and frustrations.
This past weekend, the Sheriff’s Association put on their 17th Annual Multicultural Faire. I coordinated our lodge’s participation in this event and helped to man the booth while also enjoying the entertainment.  The older members of the lodge remember in years past that the mall was lined with booths from a large number of different organizations.  This year, there were only eleven.  The bag pipers were noticeably absent.  The German Edelweiss Singers and Folk Dancers performed but did not have a booth for the first time.
As I looked around at the cultural groups that were taking part in the event and observed the interactions between visitors, a few things became evident.  First, as a society, we are distracted.  The majority of people walked past the booths without making eye contact or smiling.  Many walked with their heads down, intent on whatever was engaging them on their mobile phones.   I realize that we have become immune to salespeople pushing products and trying to sell us something.  In essence, that is what we are trying to do as a fraternal organization.  But what I observed was also a lack of social courtesy and community engagement.  We seem to be scared to talk to people, to hear their story.
I also observed that the cultural groups from Europe that took part in the faire were represented by the ‘Greatest Generation’ as coined by Tom Brokaw (with the exception of myself and my two children).  The cultural groups and dancers from Asia and Latin America, had participants of all ages.  When immigrants come to a new country, they typically settle in areas where there are similar ethnic groups for support both spiritually and financially.  The groups taking part on Saturday were representative of the immigration trends in the U.S.  Perhaps over time, as successive generations begin to identify themselves more as American, they begin to loose the connection with their ancestral heritage?  Here is an interesting graphic I found to illustrate this.

Source – http://www.prb.org/Educators/TeachersGuides/HumanPopulation/Migration.aspx?p=1
I am not exactly sure what contributes to what I perceive to be a decline in volunteerism and participation in fraternal organizations.  I know, however, that it is not restricted to cultural groups.  Lions Clubs, The Grange, and Kiwanis groups are experiencing the same declines.  Lodges and Grange halls are closing all over.  It saddens me that we as a society no longer see the value in these unique communities.

I want to encourage you to consider joining a lodge as a family.  Look around you and see what opportunities may be available to you. If you are interested in getting involved in a fraternal organization yourself, there are many organizations to choose from.  I have listed a few below.  I encourage you to take some time to explore those of interest to you.  Read their missions statements.  Talk with members in your community.   Discuss the options available with your family.  Perhaps you will find a group that feels like home to you as well.

Alternatively, if you are a member of one of these groups, I would love to hear about it.  How long have you been involved?   How did you first discover the group?  If you know of a group that I neglected to mention – please leave a comment.   Perhaps your family volunteers in other ways.  Please consider sharing your thoughts and experiences.

We Have Enough .. Our Efforts in Frugality

My husband and I have often discussed the fact that many kids today are growing up with an attitude of entitlement.  We admit that we struggle with this even in our own home.  My youngest, though he has everything he could want, is always wanting more.  My husband and I have both come to realize that he is indeed spoiled and we need to nip this in the bud.  But how?  How can we teach our children that, “We have enough.”

Before I proceed I want to make it clear I am not giving parenting advice — I’m certainly not qualified to do that. Rather, this post is about what I would like to teach my own children and how we are striving to do just that.

I have had a cushy life compared to most people in the world. I enjoyed a blessed middle-class life. Both my parents were educated (they each had their high school diploma and my father had attended university for a few years).  By no stretch can I say I struggled, though there were stretches when my father was unemployed (he was a saw-filer and the timber industry experienced economic turmoil in the eighties and nineties).  We heated our home with a wood stove and enjoyed the comforts of a washer and drier.  We had a television and even got a VCR when I was in junior high school.  My brothers and I rode the bus to school and took part in a variety of extracurricular activities.  My husband grew up in similar circumstances.  Our fathers worked in blue-collar jobs and our mothers stayed home with us when we were young, taking on clerical jobs when we (and our siblings) got older.

I am in the fortunate position of having been brought up in a developed country, leading a comfortable life.  My life is the American dream; I am able to provide for my children the things that I did not have.  At the same time, however, I want them to appreciate how blessed they are to get them.

So what will I teach my kids?

What can I teach my kids who will grow up in the upper-middle class American society?  I can’t teach them frugality .. it just won’t stick.  Instead, I will teach them…

    • There are many people who have it worse than you. Appreciate what you have and focus on taking advantage of that.  Be grateful for that and do not focus on what you do not have.  [Note:  This is one area we work on daily with our youngest. The skills and mindset we hope to instill is a life-long pursuit.]
    • Shed the sense of entitlement. In America, many are becoming reliant on the system.  In other countries, however, there are no food banks, unemployment benefits, Medicare or Social Security. As we are fortunate to have the means by which to travel, I try to communicate an awareness of poverty in other countries as well as our own. I hope to instill in my children that which was common in my grandparents’ generation …  hard work and persistence will pay off.
    • Take responsibility. I feel responsible for my parents’ retirement, my kids’ education and my own retirement.  Growing up, my father emphasized the importance of putting money away, so saving comes naturally to me.  Similarly, when we make mistakes, we own up to our mistakes.  When my little guy damaged another’s personal property, he had to pay for the damage himself even though he was only five years old at the time.  As parents, it is our job to teach responsibility, not to bail them out or to make excuses.
    • Get priorities in order. Realize what is important in your life and figure out if you have the means to provide for it. If not, eliminate or minimize what you spend on things that are NOT important to you.  Everything else will automatically fall into place.  If is material in nature (a new bull whip, for example), look for opportunities to earn money.  You will have a greater appreciation for the value of money when you know how hard you worked to earn it yourself.
    • Help others as much as you can.   In the United States, people who are struggling to come out of poverty have access to need-based aid or government assistance. What they lack is a mentor or someone to guide them along the right path. They need someone to show them there is a world full of opportunities waiting for them, and give them the hope and confidence they need to get back on their feet.  We volunteer at the mission for this exact reason.  On a weekly basis, we work with those who are making efforts to put their life back in order.
    • Contribute to and take advantage of your social network. When this country was first founded, immigrant communities were some of the most closely knit communities. In many areas, this is still true.  As members of the Sons of Norway and the local homeschool network, I offer my skills and expertise to others (coordinating events, publishing the newsletter, etc.).  I work hard to build these communities and I model for my children that relationships with others contribute to our own success as well as our happiness.
    • There are plenty of non-material ways to feel rich. I feel rich when I can spend time with my family. I cherish the memories of holiday meals and gatherings at my grandmothers and I make efforts to build similar memories and traditions with my own children.
    • Be resourceful. I won’t teach my children to make their own clothes or grow their own food just for the sake of saving money. Anyone who has ever sewn or knitted a garment in the United States knows how expensive it is.  I will teach them how to do all those things and be resourceful because they are good skills to have.
    • And finally, I will teach them to never stop learning.  Wherever life takes you, keep an open mind or you will never grow.

Ultimately, I want my children to be good citizens of the world.  By living my life according to the principles I’ve outlined, I hope to teach them how to evaluate what goals are important in their life and how they can achieve them.  My ultimate goal is that they will say, “I have enough. I am happy.”