Starting Homeschool in Texas

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

We are starting homeschool in Texas after having an unsatisfied stint at government school. Homeschooling should help us better customize learning and  education to my son’s strengths.


This month we are starting homeschool for my son. We have seen some negative changes with him since he started going to the local government public provided school. I have always discussed with my wife about homeschooling as an option. She comes from a family of teachers, so it has been difficult to explain to her. In the end, the problems from the government school made the decision easy for us.

Some issues or problems we have with government school:

  • We’ve been stressed out almost daily with his school schedule
    • the schedule works well so that parents can be at their 9-to-5 shift, but it sure hurts family time and makes it difficult to wake up for a 5 year old.
  • Always tired when he comes home
  • Something about this school made him not want to be there
    • He loved going to private school at our church the year before. However, since he started going to government/public school he has often told us how he does not like this school compared to the previous one
  • Has issues with teacher
    • I made some mention of this on here. It has not improved and actually escalated. Part of our decision to pull him from school was due to the teacher
  • His tantrums increased in frequency and intensity
    • He can be very emotional, but did not have intense tantrums like he’s been having. My wife (aka resilientMom) told me of how intense it got one day when he had picked him up from school. They were maybe 2 minutes out from the school driveway at the time. It was as if he had all this pent up frustration while he was in school.

Benefits from government school

My son did learn some basic things in his few months in school. These will make it much easier for me to teach him and let him learn on a self directed method.

  • Learned to read and write
  • Learned addition and subtraction

I have to give them credit for teaching my son reading and math. We plan on leveraging these skills and teaching him as much as he wants to absorb.


First step was for mom and dad to decide

One particular night full of insight, me and resilientM were talking about my son’s school experiences. I had been taking him to school and having lunch with him for the last few days while resilientM prepared for an exam. I shared with her an observation I had during lunch. My wife then went on to explain her own observations in all the times she’s gone to school for lunch or after school. We agreed that there were just some issues we could nto work out. We realized he was having issues with his teacher. Despite having gone to his teacher to try and figure things out, we felt the issue had gotten worse.

We explored the option of moving him to a different classroom. I said my son has a gift of not being shy and he can go in and transition quite quickly. ResilientM was concerned with this, but I reminded her of the gazillion times we were at a park and my son would just ambush every kid who approached the park and asked them to play with him. He was very convincing.

The other option was to try homeschooling him. I had always talked to my wife about starting to homeschool but she had a different idea of how it worked. Like most parents afraid of homeschooling, she was concerned our son would not have enough socialization. Now, given that my son is not shy I said I can help to tackle this. I can join homeschooling groups and meet with them on weekends. No matter what the concern is, we had to decide the best course of action for our son. He was having all these negative effects from school and I’d rather try experimenting now while it was still early, before problems grew and accumulate over many years of him being in the system.

Starting Homeschool in Texas
Photo credit Melvin E (flickr)

Mom chose to start homeschooling our son with me.

I think it is very important that she has as much input into this decision than I do. I know this path will have rough spots, and if I push us into this, at some point I will be blamed for it and then it will be easy to say my approach failed and homeschooling failed-let’s put him back in the system. We have to both agree it is the best option-even if only for a short time.


Back up plan

One concern was what happens if we start homeschool and years later find it does not work for us. My wife was concerned about how my son can re-enter the government school system.

I explained to my wife how the government school is funded on a per student basis. I reminded her how the school was very accommodating when we were asking on enrollment deadlines. The school wants our kids enrolled. I told her that it would not be an issue to put him back in school and that I have met many parents who have done it. If we cannot make it work, then we still have that option. (But man I sure plan to make homeschooling work)

After this, she felt more comfortable about trying out this path.


Have a rough plan how this would work

ResilientM did not want to take charge of this. One of her main issues was that she would end up doing this every day. She did not want the added workload.

We have a lot of freedom to homeschool in Texas. We can put together the curriculum and there are no requirements to reporting or testing. At least none that I have researched as of today. I might be wrong as I am still researching and still new to all of this. But the research has been consistent that we have those freedoms.

I told resilientM I would put together a curriculum. It would not be an all day, everyday schedule. It would be more of a focused, 2 hr intensive on certain days plus on a weekend. I have heard quite a few benefits where the children benefit from having more frequent rests through the day-even in government school. Knowing my son, I was 110% sure he would benefit from this and come back with renewed focus.

Kids benefit more from frequent breaks. Houston ISD has made the change.

Frequent breaks. Intense learning sessions and self directed learning on topics he is interested in. This was my goal to get us started.


Withdrawing from public school

The last part to getting us started in homeschooling, was pulling him out of school. We are fortunate to be in Texas where there’s not a lot of requirements when pulling your child out of school. After researching on it for some hours, I felt informed enough and prepared a letter for the principal, the counselor and the attendance person.

I had signed up earlier for access to the school’s parent portal website. From there I made pdfs of my son’s absences and tardy dates. His subjects and any other useful information for my records.

I found a good template from Texas Home School Coalition for a letter of notification for the school. The letter basically says we are withdrawing our child from public school. The letter also references a memo from our state’s Commissioner of Education so the school will not give me a hard time about it. The letter is addressed to the school admin saying we are not required to sign any additional forms and that the  letter of notification is all that is needed.

I made my letter based on the template and added a “received by” line at the bottom so the receptionist can sign it. I printed 2 copies of my letter so I have a record of them receiving it to take with me. I printed the letter from the Commissioner of Education and included this.

That next morning I went to my son’s former government school at the usual time we ran there many mornings before-often stressed out that he would be late and stressed by parking and all the frazzle. That morning I was relaxed and purposeful. My son was still at home, enjoying an extended and proper breakfast cooked lovingly by his mom.

I gave them the letter and politely asked them to sign so I have a confirmed receipt. The receptionist was hesitant, but since I addressed the letter to the principal she was off the hook and was simply receiving it. Fine, not a problem. I had always been nice to them even when sometimes the rules of their system made me upset.


Starting Homeschool

We actually have already started homeschool. I made some very focused worksheets for my son. The initial goal is to gauge where he is at and what flaws we need to work on.

Here are some worksheets we did.

This worksheet tests his spelling and imagination. He gets to write anything he wants about the image. His writing skill will need to come up to his level of imagination.

 

This worksheet was for me to gauge his writing skills. I asked him to write whatever he wants about the picture I drew. From here we learned we had to work on some letters and practice penmanship. (In the age of keyboards, I believe he still has to learn proper penmanship).

Here’s the penmanship exercise where we focused on some letters where he had issues with. Based on his hand’s dexterity, we changed how he wrote some letters and saw an instant improvement on them (check out improvements on “b”, “d” and “a”) Read more “Starting Homeschool in Texas”

Mom easy CCW: Making it easy for mom to get her CCW-part 1

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

Mom should also have a CCW so she can protect the kiddos when dad is not around. The challenge is getting Mom to carry of her own choosing. One way to do it is by making it easy for Mom to get her CCW and creating a rewarding experience around the process.

This will be an ongoing series on my wife getting her CCW, or License to Carry (LTC) in Texas. I am starting from range training all the way til she gets her CCW and carries.


This week we are taking my wife (will be referring to her as resilientM) to the range. We have been discussing how to get her CCW. By being a positive example and by showing her the benefits of carrying, she is now willing to become an armed citizen. The plan is to make this easy and convenient for her while she builds up confidence and dedication to do this on her own diligently.

First step is to get her to the range to recall how it feels. Go through gun safety and become familiar with the gun.


RANGE DAY

We went to the range on a Friday night. Before that, we stopped by a nice local gun store to check out her options. This was a great idea as it tied this to shopping-which she was comfortable with. I was surprised how comfortable she was at asking about the gun and options. I was behind her during the conversations and sometimes I would get some of it started so it went in a direction where she learned something. Gun store people are great, they are not salesy but they just love guns and have a great wealth of knowledge. My wife was looking for the smallest pink gun (or something of that sort) which is fine,but during the course of this visit realized there would be issues with recoil. Nearing the end of it, she got to liking a Kimber with a pistol grip laser. It was $900 used. I did not squelch her interest by reacting to this price. We kept looking and would put the guns in her hands so she could compare.

We also looked at some concealed carry shoulder bags and belly bands. She was learning about this new world, and I am happy to show her around..

At the range, we brought 4 boxes of ammo and purchased 2 more. We rented a full size pistol for comparison (we got to use a Springfield XD in 9mm). It was great to shoot but I stuck to my Taurus PT809C.

 


HOW IT WENT

To make it short, it went really well. resilientM can aim properly and she had lots of time to run the gun. We talked thru the basic gun safety rules first. Showed her how to rack the slide, put in a magazine, how to release the slide and shoot. Also went thru a good grip and stance. She’s shot before (around 7 years ago maybe – whoa been so long) so we weren’t very long on the lectures. I kept myself from talking much but assured her I am right behind her if she needed me.

Our first few shots were up close to make an easy win and set the mood. She shot quite well the whole time.

 

She took frequent breaks which helped. Her arms grew tired of holding up the weapon for extended periods and her aim would get worse. Resting allowed her to aim well and she was happy to see how her aim was pretty good. Forcing her to keep shooting would have been bad, as her arms would tire,her aim would be bad and she would see bad results and would make for a negative experience. Read more “Mom easy CCW: Making it easy for mom to get her CCW-part 1”

Making a Functional & Efficient Family Meet up Plan

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

If something happens and getting home as usual is not practical, having a plan to meet your family at an alternative location can be useful. This is useful for big emergencies and small ones.


There may come a time when, for some type of emergency or impracticality, you will need your family to meet with you somewhere other than home. It may happen when time is crucial or there is some form of a threat. Perhaps there is a forest fire in your city, or maybe some type of protest/rioting. It maybe something less cinematic, like you need to get to the emergency room due to some unknown pain or a minor accident. Maybe you just need to meet outside of the city before you head for that long road trip, and want to beat the traffic. It would not be practical to get home from work, get your family into one vehicle and then head out to a safer place.

A family meet up plan has been called many different things. All it is, is a plan on where you will meet up with your family or group. The situations that trigger the meet up can vary from casual to dramatic, but the benefits remain the same: planning ahead of any issues and getting together safely at a predetermined location that benefits you.


DEFINE YOUR RISKS

Consider your situation and make a short list of what risks apply to you. Do you have any known health issues (pregnancy or health issues that require getting to the ER)? Do you have flooding? Tornadoes? Identify what situations might come up where you might be forced to evacuate your home. Are there any industrial facilities in your area that pose some risks?

Family meetup plan

These will help you further understand the risks and what you need to plan for. (At one point we had a meet up plan when my wife was pregnant.) If you know the risks, then you can plan ahead of everyone else later on.


FACTORS TO CONSIDER IN SELECTING MEET UP PLACES:

Say you now have a list of threats you need to plan for, you can slowly plan around them and how you might react.

If you have a risk for flooding, then your plan must involve a place and route that is on higher ground and has a way in and out of the flooded area. Read more “Making a Functional & Efficient Family Meet up Plan”

Keeping your family safe from terrorist truck attacks

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

Terrorism is a real threat in today’s world. One of the more recent method is a terrorist truck attack-having a lone terrorist drive a truck towards a crowd of innocent people. It may be worth rehearsing your actions in your mind in case this does happen.


Terrorist truck attacks are one of the latest methods of terrorism. They are easy to plot and skip over the entire complexity required for a bombing or shooting type of attack. Bombings require specialized knowledge and materials which open up a risk of being tracked before the attack is executed. A shooting event requires training and acquiring of the weapons and a vulnerable target. On the other hand, the truck requires an individual who can drive, and he can rent a truck from just about anywhere. The attacker will only need to pick the time and place where he can inflict optimum damage-that is about all the planning he would need.

We have seen this attack in Nice, France and a few months ago in Berlin, Germany.

It has yet to happen in US soil, but given how simple the attack is and how it has seemed effective-it is possible that someone in the US will pick up after this method and create some damage.

If it is a possibility here, how might you be able to stay aware of this danger and keep yourself and family out of harm’s way?


WHAT ARE THE PREFERRED TARGETS?

So far in previous truck attacks the targets were large crowds gathered outside. The crowds were gathered for some type of festivity, but the same risks can be found in other events. This might apply to a protest, a marathon, a concert or a busy Friday night in a downtown outdoor venue.

The key is:

  1. Lots of people
  2. Accessible to a fairly large vehicle (truck)
  3. Wide enough space to maneuver the truck for multiple attacks

The easy pattern is to find a large crowd in high density cities when they are gathered for some kind of celebration. The celebration itself has a theme that can be used as part of the message of the attack. Nice is the 5th most populous city in France, and Berlin is the capital of Germany. The significance of the city may have been part of how they were selected as targets.

2010 Parade in Nice. Photo from Wikivisually.com

Consider also the nature of the festivities. Remember, it was Bastille day (French National day) and Christmas. Similar festivities in the US might be Independence day or a Thanksgiving day parade. In both previous attacks people were in good spirits and care free. If you do decide to participate in an event where such an attack can happen, what can you do to stay ahead?


HOW DID PEOPLE REACT?

Watching the videos for both terrorist truck attacks, we can see how a lot of people stared in disbelief-some until it was too late. People can freeze in these types of situations as the mind tries to process the unusual information coming.  Some people stood still and motioned their hands up, gesturing the mad attacker to stop.

After enough people had screamed to get out of the way, most of the crowds had enough presence of mind to react. There is panic and everyone simply tries to get out of the way. There is pushing and disorientation. Some people even managed to keep their heads and found a chance to fight back. A few people tried to stop the attacker in Nice by grabbing onto the side of the driver’s door and attacking him. (In retrospect this was dangerous as the driver may have well been armed.)


WHO SURVIVED?

Mainly those who were far enough from the attack had a great chance of survival. They heard the commotion and were distanced enough that they could process what was happening. They then had enough time to get to safety. If you were far away enough, you had a pretty good chance of surviving it. The truck had a very limited maneuverability and traveled in a fairly straight line.

Those who were close to the truck had a smaller chance of surviving, reaction time is very important. If you are closer to the source of danger, you will need to react faster.

 


STAY AWARE

Does the event you are participating in have a religious or political theme that can be leveraged for the attacker’s message?

What are the socio-political hot topics right now? Would any of them be tied to this event in some way?

Are there any high value targets possibly coming to this event? Maybe a public figure is giving a speech of some sort. A quick review on the event’s website can give you most of this information. A quick online check can also give you some idea on news trends that may have some connection to the event.

It is interesting to note that the Nice attacker had lived in Nice. He was parked along the promenade of the attack earlier that day. The promenade had been closed off to vehicles for the festivities. He was a local and had rented the truck himself. He parked the truck and was waiting for the time to attack. Sometimes you will notice these kinds of signs-most of the time they will be nothing, but in this case the attacker was real.


KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS

Situational awareness is key. If you are going to be stationary in this event, you should plan some things. Keep an eye for a safe way to get out in the event of a panic. Can you find a driveway which is small enough that it is probably not where a truck attack might come from? Are there obstacles you can reach, which will provide you with protection? These obstacles may include:

  • Bollards
  • Walls
  • Concrete planters
  • Thick bushes
  • Trees
  • Permanent platforms or ditches
Bollards
Heavy and permanent planters

Read more “Keeping your family safe from terrorist truck attacks”

Teaching my 5 yo how to deal with being left out

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

Children are often subjected to an unnatural environment in school where they have to “deal” with bullies and rewire their understanding of normal-how to sit, when they can drink water, when they can use the bathroom, etc. In this post, I wanted to share how our son is having issues with his teacher and how we plan to deal with the problem. Not by making him blindly obey the teacher, but by learning what the real issue is and building his character to face it.

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My 5 year old has been having issues at school, his teacher has sent us notes about his tantrums and about him not listening to her instructions. So, the other day, I went to my son’s school to talk to his teacher. I already read her note about my son’s behavior, but it was not very informative. It was the size of a note pad, so not much info could fit in there. I needed details. I went to meet with her with the goal of understanding why the situation started and how we can work around it.


GET MORE INFO ON THE WHY

 

Note: it is important to speak with your kid’s teacher and work to get that done. I tried to do a walk-in to chat with his teacher one morning when I took my son to class. The office told me I could not do that. I could fit in a few minutes early in the morning and would have to coordinate a time with the teacher. In my case I had to email her and set that up. So I got her email, sent her a short email saying I wanted to know more about her note and learn what happened. I think it helps to keep these letters short. We set up a meeting a couple of days later.

When I met with my son’s teacher she told me how my son behaved and how difficult it was. This went on for a bit, but I kept prodding around and asking, I cannot be content on just hearing how hard it has been to deal with my son. My goal was to find out why it happened and not just hear reactions about it.

After a while I got some useful info on how the routine was in the class. You need to learn to listen and ask questions and wait to hear what you want to learn. I learned how students are grouped and how they do their exercises. I learned how many students there are and how many stations they have to share amongst. By asking more questions, I learned that my son got upset at a particular scenario. There was an activity where kids started in pairs-but on occasion he would start without a partner and would feel left out. They took turns in this activity as to who has a partner and who doesn’t mainly because their groups were composed of 5 kids for the activity. This was the info I was trying to get at, because this lets me understand what I need to focus on teaching my son. Read more “Teaching my 5 yo how to deal with being left out”

Thrift store flipping – how to make a side income from frugal shopping

HOW DOES THIS MAKERESILIENT?

Reselling helps you learn about business at a very low cost. This helps you become more resilient because it shows you new ways to earn income other than working a job.


My wife is making some side income from one of her favorite past times – shopping. I am all for this revamped past time as it is profitable and it empowers her. Several reasons for this:

  • She can shop at whatever schedule works for her.
  • The location can adjust to her and it can keep her preoccupied when we are traveling-or when my plans for the day are not interesting for her.
  • Her expenses are pretty low, as she is purchasing at insanely low prices.
  • The resell is almost always above the purchase price so in theory these are profitable
  • We purchase things we may also use and can sell afterwards

How does it work? Let me explain.

Like a lot of people, my wife likes to shop. This can be an issue when money is tight-and earlier versions of this habit was a problem. However, currently my wife has been shopping with a different mindset altogether. She has learned to find valuable items at ridiculous prices with the intent of using them and then selling them back to others thru different sites.

First step is to find a source with good selection and good prices. A good example is our favorite thrift store. With enough regular visits and by asking the staff, you will learn when they get large new inventory and how long it takes to put them out to the shelves. There are times we go there and the there’s nothing of value, and there are times when we can find a whole bunch of stuff. Keep track of the bad days and the good days. It’s also a good idea to check things out when seasons change and holidays have just ended. Think of times when you might be in the mood to purge your home/garage of old stuff. Now reverse engineer the dates when it might be good to check the local Goodwill store.

Other location options are:

  • estate sales
  • flea markets
  • discount stores
  • regular stores on discount days or seasonal sales

The location of the store will also affect your findings. Some neighborhoods have thrifty people. Some have wasteful consumers who go thru their stuff much faster-so you get things in better condition. Drive around new areas, check the houses and cars in the driveways. Check the kind of stores in the area. Then find the local thrift store and see what kind of stuff they get on different days.

Next step is finding your preferred schedule. This will require some finagling. The initial research will need you to be out there as much as possible. For my wife, since she stays home, she can go out as often as she wants and she can cherry pick the days when great inventory comes in. This is a huge advantage. That, plus she can come in on days when they have great discounts and other customers have not yet picked up on it.

You will also need to figure out your own schedule on when to post things (best done as a bulk task) and when you want to pack and ship things. Here she can really do this at the time that best works for her.

Look at items that can be resold. This is a balance between what we want and the value the item will have for other people to whom we will sell it to afterwards. Look thru the overall wear and tear of the product. Is it dated or are people still interested in this type of stuff? Are all the parts there? A lot of times we will buy a toy for my son and parts of it will be missing. Posting these for resale, you have to be very clear of what is included in them. Toys are a good item to purchase as your kids will have fun with it and later on, as long as they have not painted it or dismantled it, you can sell them to other parents who are looking. We once got a large Nerf gun with missing parts. We had it around for about a year, then we sold it when we noticed my son was not using it anymore. We earned about $10 maybe if I recall it right.

As you look around, check how much the item sells for if new and if used. Check online if the item is popular. Check Ebay for typical prices and how many are “watching” the item.

Check items and see if they are in demand and at what price

Let’s say you found some good stuff, bought them and used them, now you are ready to get rid of it. Where do you sell these?

Read more “Thrift store flipping – how to make a side income from frugal shopping”

DIY active home security for $15

Here’s how I put together an active burglar deterrent in my home for $15. These work at night and help make my home less attractive as a target. Unlike having alarms blaring when someone breaks in, this leads burglars look for another home to consider even before an incident occurs.

I’ve been meaning to write about the steps I take to make my home less of a target. With my wife and my kids, I cannot take risks (actually nobody does). I read a few home invasion incidents on Nextdoor.com and realized that my neighborhood is normal. By normal, I mean it is not a fancy neighborhood, it is not a high crime neighborhood, it is one that is just like everyone else’s. That means that those home invasions that happened there can happen to mine as well.

BECOME LESS OF A TARGET

If a criminal wanders into my street looking for an opportunity, the homes will all look about the same. One home might have nicer cars or windows. Another might have a dog or a good fence. For me, my home looks like someone is up and working all night. Do not come here, somebody is awake.
By this, I mean the garage has lights and a loud radio turned on at night til the early morning. In the quiet of the night, my neighbor does not hear it. From the sidewalk you might faintly hear the music. From the driveway, you will hear it and you can definitely see some light. All signs of human activity.
Here’s what you will need:
  • appliance timer
  • FM radio
  • lamp
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The appliance timer is available on Amazon or Home Depot. This one is an indoor timer and is manually set for hours of the day you want stuff turned on. There are fancier ones, but this is my choice for my budget.
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Used radio-part of my DIY home security setup. The sticker is still on it, cost me $5
I went to my local Goodwill store and got myself this radio for $5. Set it to your preferred radio station so you at least like the music if you hear it at night.

Read more “DIY active home security for $15”

Dealing with tantrums

I have been teaching my son how to control his frustrations for some time. It has been an issue for us and it has mellowed down quite significantly over the years. Still, it needs some work. I understand how hard it can be for his teachers in class when he bursts out on occasion-we’ve had to pull our hair out as well. Here are some example scenarios:

My son falls of some cliff for the 4th time in the video game he is playing. He’ll throw down the controller and burst out yelling “I am never going to get this!” and runs out to the bedroom to wail. After about 8 mins, he comes back pacified. I ask him if he is done, he says “yes” with a pouty face. And we have a short talk about how we will not buy a new controller if he breaks it when he has his tantrums. Previously, something like this meant a 30minute floor session making dust angels.
Another example is when he is putting on his seat belt. Sometimes he has a hard time getting his seat belt on. Lately it has worsened when he is wearing a thick jacket, or when we have junk laying in the car seat that bury the latch he has to get to. He will struggle and will resort to pulling it repeatedly-then with one last strained pull and a grunt as long as he can push for-he tries one last time. If it still does not click in, he will burst out screaming “dad I can’t get in in,it’s just so hard”. (This is partly my fault, as I will hurry him to buckle up because we are late for his school. I get stressed and I pass this onto him. I have since worked on this and am still, but he also has to deal with it as a separate issue.)
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Photo credits: Typical tantrum by SKXE (Flickr)
I know these are menial things, but these are examples of small things that can happen to us on any random day. Small things like these can ruin the mood for an entire weekend. It also makes us upset and sometimes we end up yelling even more. None of these are great for enriching our family experience. Here are some steps we’ve been making to deal with the issue.

FIXING IT

I am building myself a mental/emotional buffer

The buffer is made of non-emotional, monotonous and stoic response. When he freaks out about a game, I respond with a very dry and boring “okay let’s just stop playing the game if you cannot have patience to learn it”. This sometimes works, and I am adjusting it based on the situation. Maybe this is not a great example, but the point is for me to not reciprocate the tension he puts out. I respond calm and intentionally empty of feelings, with a mental hint of a consequence to his actions.

I interrupt it

I interrupt it before he peaks the tantrum. As he frantically tries to buckle his seatbelt for the nth time, he will start to speak in a tensed up voice. It will sound like “dad, i…just…can’t…find this…”and before he can even finish the sentence-which also is the peak of his patience after which he will burst into tantrum once the sentence is finished-I will calmly interrupt his sentence. I will blurt out “Oh I think I know how to help you fix that”. This response is not as dry, and  has a smile in the words I use. It breaks his pace and buys us time to talk him down and try it slower. In this situation I am interrupting his build-up, then redirecting his energy downward so that we can give him the support to do it himself.

 

Simulating the frustrating scenario

I’m contemplating on an exercise we can do to more proactively deal with this character trait. I will set up a situation where he will face a task designed to get frustrated. I will inform him that the exercise is for me and him, and should help both of us with the tantrums and frustrations. We would then go and do the exercise and repeat it until he really does get frustrated and learns to detach from it emotionally. When he does, we can either end the exercise or I can help him solve the problem. Depending on the exercise, this will also teach him the value of practicing a new skill and being humble. After the exercise is done, we will talk about what he went thru and learned, much like how we have mini-talks about lessons from small things. He loves to learn, and these talks work well for him.

Building our buffer

On our end we have to accommodate some of his traits. He will be distracted with some thing so we have to remind him until he has learned how to prioritize certain tasks (i.e. first thing to do when you get in the car is to buckle up). We also add extra time so we have a buffer against stress. If he still does get distracted, or if we miss reminding him, then we have time to redo it and we do not immediately get stressed out.

zeno_of_citium_pushkin
Credit: Shakko (Wikipedia)

Reacting is not effective

After doing the reactive thing for some time, I realize it is extremely not efficient. By reactive, I mean reacting to his tantrum by out-tantruming him sort of. Not only do we both end up upset, but the situation escalates. I hate myself when this happens-I feel I should be more in control of myself and at least not reciprocate. For this, the more stoic response worked out better in the long run (by this I mean that same session). I reciprocate with a non-emotional response and we de-escalate the drama. If he escalates the yelling, I continue to respond non-emotionally but remind him that there are consequences he will face (i.e. we are not going to X store as we planned to, or no this or that when we get home).

I am by no means an expert parent. I have a lot of bugs that need to be fixed, and these are my ways of working thru some of them. These work for us because of how we are and what our individual characteristics are. Every parent has to adapt their ways to how the whole family is. Every parent has to adapt to their kids. That is why kids never come with an instruction manual-there’s just too many factors that affect it. One key thing though, is to be observant of how we react to each other and base the solutions on that. In my case I feel I am the one who adapts easiest, so I adapt to my family and I try to coach them to find better ways to deal with issues. It is partly a burden, but also a gift.

I hope this has helped you think of some ways to deal with the tantrums. Keep in mind, you need to make the decision on how to deal with it before it actually happens. Always try to de-escalate it first. The goal is always to improve our lives for the long term and sometimes we need to take small steps to get there.

Finding a house fit for resilience

My family and I have been planning on buying a house and hope to do so in the next few months. There are a lot of things to consider in buying a house,these are some of the more unconventional considerations I have. These may rage against what your broker will say, but then again, these are unconventional ideas for unconventional times.

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I do not get too hung up on the school district.

My wife hates this, but I do not believe the public school system will be as prominent in the future. The flaws in the school system has been made more obvious with the surge of entrepreneurship-and people are realizing that school only teaches kids to be wage slaves. There is a massive growth in alternative schooling and public schools are being shut down all over the country.
If your home value is tied to the local school district, then your value goes down when they do. BUT your taxes will probably remain the same.

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The city should have a good local, robust economy

We are not looking at distant cities, but just those around us. We scouted some ideal locations a few weeks back-however after checking out the city info, it turns out they have a couple of large universities in the area. This is not an issue by itself, but this may mean the local economy is tied to the college (probably is). My issue there is the future of the university as a thriving institution. Fore more info, Google “student loan bubble”.
A few other considerations are:
  • is the area dependent on manufacturing jobs which might be automated? 
  • Are there large retail areas which are showing signs of decay? 
  • Are there signs of rezoning for apartment construction?
  • How much land is still undeveloped?
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The city should not have regulations about homesteading

A few cities in my area-including my current one-have restrictions to owning livestock in the backyard. If we are not purchasing a large lot, if we are staying in the suburbs, I at least need to be free to have some type of livestock. As an example, it turns out that most cities we looked at only allow 2 chickens.
This ties to my plans for gardening also. I plan to have a good sized, producing garden in my yard. I do not want any restrictions on rain catchment or water storage or where I can install a trellis. These things don’t sound important-until you realize that you cannot build them.

No HOAs

I do not want to be burdened by my neighbor’s preferences. I do not want to fund their authority to dictate to others or to myself. Do not talk to me about property values-I plan to address those from a higher vantage point that does not need the HOA as an excuse to exist.
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Distance is not as big an issue

Travel distance is still an issue but it may notbe as big. With the predicted arrival of autonomous cars, it will be easier to commute a 20 mile distance to the office. Plus the fact that telecommuting will be a more common part of most jobs in the future. The 20 mile commute may even be a very pleasing experience, where one gets to escape from the humdrum tasks and focus on personal leisure-like writing or reading. You will of course still need to consider the time to commute, as that would be time away from the family. But, with robocars and telecommuting you have a lot of options compared to how things used  to be.
So there you go, a short list of things I consider when we look for a house. These may sound contrary to most advice from real estate professionals-this is just my list. You will need to do some research on the concerns above. You can read more of it here but I really suggest doing your own research as new information comes up on these issues on almost a daily basis.
Do the research, form your opinions and discuss it with your family. What are your goals for the home in the next 5 years? In the next 10? To me, a few of the items above are critical so I need to be prepared to talk about it with my family.
Do you have other suggestions? Please help a guy out in finding that home he can really set roots in.

Family safety tips for long distance traveling

The holidays are upon us, and like most families, we embark on a long drive to visit our loved ones. In our case the travel is from Texas to Kansas, approx 450 miles. We’ve gotten better at getting organized for these trips (we typically have a few every year). As we learn more about these trips, they get easier and more comfortable. I actually look forward to these nowadays. Here are some things we did on a recent Thanksgiving trip. I hope you find some of these ideas useful.

Vehicle prep

Days before the trip itself, I slowly purge the vehicle of any clutter. On the day of our trip, when we are loading, the vehicle is ready and you basically start with a clean slate. The trunk is empty, the glove compartment and the console between the 2 frontseats is empty. This gives me a psychological boost and a countdown to the day of the trip. It also helps me to visualize what is needed in the car.
Check the vehicle for any maintenance needed. Depending on vehicle upkeep you may need to do more. In my case, I needed to air the tires. Others to check for are wiper fluids, oil and coolant. The vehicle we used for this trip was a lease so it was pretty well maintained.
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Fill up the gas tank ahead. I filled up the tank on Wed night, since we were leaving early AM on Thursday. This saves me from having to gas up at 5am and have to worry about how safe the gas station might be. It also makes our trip more fluid when we leave. Small disruptions during the first 2 hours of the trip really slow us down as it prevents us from building momentum.

Family stuff for the trip

We planned days earlier on what we were bringing. We had agreed on easy to cook meals so that we save prep time at our destination. This meant we allocated a big cooler for all frozen food we were taking with us. We had a separate cooler for our meals during the trip-this is super helpful if your kids have specific diets like ours do. This cooler does not go in the trunk, but is kept within reach of the passenger seat.
We pack enough supplies so we are self sustained during our trip and while we are at our relatives’ place.
We rely quite a bit on ipads and phones to keep our kiddos busy on the road. Having phone chargers and a way to charge multiple devices are important. We have an inverter in our vehicle-which allows us to charge usb, 110 volt items, 12 volt devices (like GPS). We also saved some videos onto our devices, in case internet is slow or unavailable.
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Inflight entertainment
We load the vehicle while it is in the garage with the garage door closed. We do not want to show passers by in the street that we were leaving on a big trip. We woke up early for any last minute preps and loaded up. Kids woke up last and were the last to get loaded in the car-this lets them sleep thru the first few hours of the trip.

Weather check

This goes without saying-check road conditions before the trip. Usually we drive thru one or two thunderstorms every time we go thru Oklahoma. Our return trip would be rainy. We get dressed for this so when we take bathroom breaks we are ready.

Home security

Before we left the house obviously we double check that all doors are locked and no appliance is left on that is not needed. For security, we leave the porch lights on. I also set up lights and a radio so that they turn on at night so as to simulate activity in the house. I use an appliance timer I got from home depot and to this I plugged in lights for a bedroom-so that it is seen from the front yard and street. I also plugged in a radio so that it can be heard throughout the house and when you approach the front door. From the backyard, one can see light within the house from the bedroom.
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If you have a paid home security service, that works too. However I like the idea of making my house seem occupied with or without a security service. Also, I have heard some rather disappointing stories about how these systems work. They are more passive than active basically. I consider my lights+radio on timers more of an active deterrent.
Update:There is also a product called FakeTV which makes your home seem occupied with somebody watching TV. I have not personally tried this but folks have said great things about it.

Bathroom breaks and stopping for gas

During the trip, all doors are always locked and windows are closed. Particularly when we stop for gas or food, doors are always locked. If I leave the car for gas, I ask my wife to stay alert and keep the doors locked (our vehicle automatically unlocks when the driver leaves the car so she has to manually lock it).
I cannot emphasize this enough. I have seen way too many car jacks because the victims
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We are careful when we stop for bathroom breaks. There are way too many truck stops on our route and we sometimes end up in undesirable areas. In general, these stops have risks to them because it is very easy for a child to be lost/abducted and taken away. There are too many strangers just passing by and there are vehicles leaving the area every second.
When my wife goes to the bathroom she makes sure to have her phone and her pepper spray with her. I take note how long she is gone. When I take a break I have my phone and ccw with me. Since having my pistol with me on these trips, I feel way better equipped to protect my family in case something bad happens. I highly advise being armed when traveling. We are working to get my wife her ccw permit also, but for now at least I am prepared and provide this extra layer of safety for the family.
Since we travel with kids, I try to have an empty bottle of water ready for those super emergency bathroom breaks for my son. Sometimes we do not make it to a rest stop. This allows us to just stay in the car while being pulled over somewhere (safe and away from the highway please).
When we stop for gas, I try to pick a spot that is favorable to my safety. No dark areas, away from other vehicles and preferably a spot that lets me get a good view of my surroundings. This does not mean isolated areas, just something that allows a good vantage point. Sometimes this means avoiding the middle pumps at the station and trying to be on the outer side. I do not stare at the pump while filling up, but I am aware of what’s going on around us.

Navigating safely

Over the years me and my wife have learned to work together as driver-navigator. It is nothing complicated, but she knows to use her phone and check for traffic ahead. She knows to look for alternate routes as well. This took some practice but we learned it during one long trip and has since proved beneficial. Our dedicated gps does not adjust for traffic, but her phone app can show us real time traffic conditions. When she drives, we trade jobs and she gets these info on demand from me.
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No traffic in Dallas at 2:19am
This also helps us to pick locations of restaurants if we are getting food. We can pick ones that are along the way and not have to take long detours. She can also confirm weather on our route ahead. For example, we saw it was supposed to rain by lunch time in OK, so we set a goal to get past certain cities before the rain came. Passing thru cities, the highways get slower and denser, so having that behind us before rains started would make for less stress.

Last bits of advice

With relatively small planning, these long trips have become quite relaxing for us. It gives me and my wife time to just sit and talk while the kids are sleeping and strapped in. Sometimes we drive a route that offers better views than the interstate-if we are making good on time or if we are early. Initially these long drives were quite stressful, there was always some big thing we had not prepped for. We kept mental and written notes of previous issues and future trips have become easier. The main thing for us is to be self sufficient during the trip. This means food, water, gas, portable bathrooms even, and inflight entertainment. If we have these and if we set them up for comfortable access then half the battle has been won. If there are external factors that are unlikely-we can pick a different route, or we can stop somewhere.
Take some time to plan the trip and think things through. Make a list of both big picture things and small details. The biggest improvement on this trip of ours was that I had a ccw and we felt safer knowing that I was armed. The best changes that made the most noticeable improvements were the food preps and entertainment.
I hope these ideas prove useful for you. If you have other suggestions please add them in the comments. I am constantly learning and I am always open to ideas.