Monday, September 30, 2013

Saving Money: Group field Trip Tips and Other Discounts

I found out some cost-saving tidbits from chatting with a friend that I wanted to share with you. Coincidentally, it was on a field trip to Port Discovery I organized for our group (more about that in another post). We all saved each other so much money by going in together as a group and I was grateful to them for coming because it allowed us to visit the museum for half the price, and where we ordinarily wouldn't have due to cost. 

Organizing group trips is a great way to save. Some other ways to do it are: 

Homeschool Buyers Co-Op*- Aside from getting a steal on curricula, they also offer a free Educator's Card you can print yourself, that as you find places to use your Educator discount, will come in handy. They also have an at-cost option that they send to you for about $8.

Barnes & Noble Educator card (FAQs)- Homeschooler-friendly! 20% discount on purchases and it's FREE to join. Join in-store by bringing your LOI (Letter of Intent to Homeschool) and your Photo ID.

Amazon Prime, Student, Mom*- free shipping, streaming videos & 1 free Kindle ebook/month. Like Netflix on speed. (There's the regular Prime Account, Prime for students, and Prime for moms.

Baltimore Aquarium- classes are only $15/MD student and this includes the child's admission as well as 1 chaperone's admission/reservation. For additional chaperones, the admission cost is greatly reduced, or I'd recommend making a separate reservation for each child to allow additional chaperones in at no cost. Additionally, all MD schools visit the Aquarium FREE, although I don't think we fall under this category just yet.

Michael's- My local store has given me a hard time about using my educator discount here, but in all fairness, I didn't have my letter handy. All my friends have used their discounts at other locations with no problems, but we'll see what happens when I go back...And don't forget about their coupons online or the ones that print out with each purchase. I usually Google coupons right there in the store on my smartphone and take a screen shot of the barcode for quick access for them to scan it right from my phone at checkout.

Free Fall Baltimore & Smithsonian Museum Day- a great way to see museums and other attractions for FREE! Reservations are sometimes required so pay attention to that.

The National Gallery of Art and the Walters Art Museum have Art Kits available for loan or purchase.

Bolt Bus tickets are dirt cheap for what you get. For just a few bucks on travel, you can tour NYC for a day or see the Philadelphia Zoo & the Children's Museum. Routes vary depending on your start location so additional transportation (commuter train, subway or bus) may be necessary in order to reach your intended destination.

*While I am not yet a member, I've heard rave reviews about these things and plan to join up as soon as I am able. No one is paying me or giving me free stuff to say this, by the way, even though they should be!

Where are your favorite places and ways to save??

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Checks & Balances & How I'm 2-Piecing Self-Doubt

Sigh, here it comes. I knew it! Year's starting off great, we are easing into it, I'm fighting becoming overwhelmed tooth and nail and it was going well. However, apparently it's grown enough strength to finally fight back. Maybe it happened while I was sleeping??

As you can tell, I'm going through a period of massive self-doubt. Here's a little of what I'm reading and viewing to ease myself through it, because as incredibly uncomfortable as it is, I know by now it's just another part of homeschooling and you might be going through it too. 

On the brighter side, I'd like to think it actually does serve a good purpose by helping to ward off complacency and keeping me on my toes. 
What would life be if you didn't have to sacrifice something great or small for a huge payoff? We'd all be spoiled rotten *wink and a smile*. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

FREE this week ONLY! Great Anatomy App for Kids

I just happened upon this Tinybop Anatomy app yesterday- FREE this week only!

I've played around with it and I feel like I'm stealing by catching it free. I really enjoyed this one and I know the kids will, too. It definitely panders to the scientist & teacher in me!

You can create a parent profile, pass code locked, to safeguard the child-safe settings & more advanced information on certain bodily functions (the urogenital system is available as an in-app purchase). This app gets five stars in my book. 

(I'm emergency-blogging from my iPhone and will include photos soon!)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

So Much More Than An App: My Disney Princess Royal Salon Review

We received a review copy of the new Disney Royal Princess Salon app to try out and give our thoughts, and Oh boy, this was a tough one. But more on that in a bit.

Overall, my girls liked the app, which normally retails for $4.99 in the App Store. Just be forewarned you have to have a 4S or newer before you can play. 

It has the standard dress-up/makeover features you'll find with similar apps: comb and style hair, add accessories, pick out dresses- all some pretty cool features that make these games a lot of fun. But one thing I haven't seen yet that I see with this game is that it also allows you to add an image from anything around you to "color" or "pattern" the princess' dresses with the camera.

So back to my reasons...

Anyone who knows me knows how I generally feel about Walt Disney's "tradition" as it pertains to the lovely, popular, mostly homogenous-looking line of princesses. And no, the bucket of stereotypes that is Tiana doesn't even begin to address that in my book. (I won't even touch on the messages that come across loud and clear in each love story).

Unfortunately, this tradition carries over into this otherwise really great app and I just can't allow it through the "Healthy Mind and Body" filter I've worked so hard to construct for them.

To be fair, this isn't the only app or game I've run across that shares this same issue, and I have equally edged the others out, as well. It's just so hard to believe that people today still haven't gotten the Diversity Memo. (Diversity Sells!, Diversity is Popular!, Diversity creates a healthy society!)

In a near-depressing world shortage of positive, powerful, diverse images for young, African-American girls, I find myself constantly on the lookout, constantly having to dig and dig through library stacks and screen movies, cartoons, and games to find material suitable for counterbalancing all the other images they are bombarded with in certain situations and out in the world. 

I say "certain situations" because the TV generally remains off in our house and we carefully screen computer games, thereby limiting their exposure to a lot of potentially negative content. 

Remembering my experience growing up seeing almost no one like myself doing anything of value on any screen anywhere- at least not overwhelmingly so- I know too well the feeling of being devalued by your own society merely through images, or lack of images, alone. 

What would we be if we didn't learn from our experiences and let those things be a benefit for others? 

My experiences created an awareness in me of just how powerful images can be, allowed me to see how I can and should move forward with my own children to turn it around, and made it clear to me that as parents and part of a dying "village", we can't ever be too careful with these young, impressionable minds. And that, as a homeschooler, is exactly what I'm shaping here as I actively choose to select "delete".