Sunday, March 6, 2022

Balancing school and work

It can be hard to fulfill all your responsibilities when juggling both school and work. Fortunately, there are a few ways to make the struggle a little easier. Here are some tips for balancing your school and work responsibilities, so you don't end up falling behind in your studies.

1. Look for appropriate times at work to fit in your studies.

Are you most likely going to sit in the break room during your break(s)? If so, bring along one or two of your assigned readings (books, articles - whatever format they're in). Bring along one or two of your assigned written assignments, or at least a notebook and pen to jot down some thoughts and ideas for your written assignments that you can use later on when you have a larger block of study time available. You'd be surprised how much reading and/or writing you can get done during your 15-minute break(s) at work.

If you get a lunch break, consider splitting your time between eating and studying. A split lunch break could give you an extra 10-15 minutes or more of study time that might otherwise go unused.

The time spent traveling to and from work can also be used for studying if you have a long commute on public transit.

2. Ask for some leniency at work around exam time.

You are likely to be extra busy with school work in the weeks leading up to your exams. Consider asking your employer for reduced or more favorable work hours during this period to help you better cope with your increased school work. While some employers will be more accommodating than others, yours may be happy to offer some relief in such times.

3. Speak with your teachers if you're falling behind on critical projects.

Teachers are more likely to make allowances if they know you're balancing school and work, but open and honest communication on your part is the key here. It's your responsibility to approach your teachers on this. If there's no chance of you finishing particular projects or papers on time, speak with your teachers well before the due dates to see what your options are. By "well before the due dates," I mean at least several solid days before, not the night before or the morning of. Your teachers may offer deadline extensions or reduced penalties for late submissions. But again, it's all on you to initiate this important conversation.

There's no doubt it can be a struggle to balance both school and work. Because of this, it's not uncommon for workers to see some unpleasant results on their school assignments, tests, and exams. Hopefully, the preceding three tips can help ease your struggles, so you can continue to do well with your studies while fulfilling your responsibilities at work.

If you found this post helpful, you may want to check out these previous posts, as well:

How to properly prepare for tests and exams

High school students and stress

Better study habits

Be more productive, complete projects on time

Be more productive, complete projects on time

Four ways to boost productivity and complete your projects on time

When you're working on a big project but only have a limited amount of time to get it done, boosting productivity becomes very important. Otherwise, when the deadline arrives, you might not have much to show for your efforts. So, how do you increase productivity so you can finish your projects on time? Read on to find out. Here are four ways of boosting productivity that can help ensure your projects get done before they're due.

1. Commit to working on your project every day.

Sometimes the most challenging part of finishing a project is getting yourself to actually work on it - especially after an extended break. That's why, instead of procrastinating, you should commit to working on your project every day. By working on your project every day, you'll incorporate it into your daily routine, making it easier for you to continue with the project from where you've left off.

2. Set deadlines for completing the various stages of your project.

It can be tempting to casually go about your work if you don't set deadlines for the various stages of your project. To keep yourself from falling into a slowly-paced work style, give yourself specific deadlines to meet while working on the project. Setting several minor deadlines helps create a definitive work pace, which can help ensure you finish the project on time. In addition, multiple deadlines can inspire you to work harder as you see the individual due dates getting closer.

3. Eliminate as many distractions as possible.

Anything that pulls you away from your work - even momentarily - makes you less productive. By eliminating distractions like email, voicemail, and text notifications, you'll be better able to stay focused on the task at hand, allowing you to get more done. If you do turn off your regular notifications, remember to dedicate specific times during the day for checking your emails, voicemails, and texts. This way, you'll stay up to date with what's going on, so you won't accidentally miss out on anything important.

4. Schedule yourself breaks and don't skip them.

While holding extended work sessions may sound like an ultra-productive strategy, in reality, it usually isn't. Why? Because concentration and motivation start to suffer after working for too long without a break. Scheduled breaks give you a chance to recharge, so you can return to your project fresh and ready to work. A popular way of handling breaks is to schedule a 15-minute recess after every 90 minutes of work.

Boosting your productivity is vitally important if you don't want to struggle with insane last-minute workloads when your deadlines draw near. That's why, the next time you start a project, you should keep these productivity-boosting tips in mind from day one. By boosting your productivity, you'll be able to complete your projects earlier than expected, so you can focus on the other things you'd rather be doing.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

2022 Lent prayer requests

Please use the comments section below to share your prayer requests this Lenten season so that our growing community of readers here may pray for your intentions. I will be praying for your intentions throughout Lent. You may certainly remain anonymous, if you so choose.

Many blessings to you and yours as we begin this Lenten season of prayer, fasting, and reflection!

All the Best,

Aaron Robertson

Saturday, February 26, 2022

How to enjoy reading

Introduction

March is National Reading Month! Let's usher in March 2022 with a new, or renewed, commitment to reading. If reading for pleasure is a foreign concept to you, you're certainly not alone. So many people, especially those in school, decide early on that reading is incredibly dull and not at all enjoyable. Can you really blame people for thinking that way, though? Not so much, considering most required reading materials are far from stimulating and generate little interest in their forced audiences.

That said, if you, too, have decided that reading is dull beyond compare, then maybe it's time to give reading for pleasure another chance. With nothing to lose and plenty to gain, there really is no reason not to give it a try.

This post is really two-pronged in focus. First, let's discuss a few suggestions for making the experience of reading more enjoyable. Next, we'll look at three tips that will help you read more books by maximizing your time more efficiently.

How to make reading for pleasure an enjoyable experience

1. Determine your preferred genres.

You aren't likely to find much pleasure in reading if you're reading books that don't interest you. That's why figuring out your preferred genres is essential for making reading for pleasure a pleasurable experience. If you aren't sure which genres you'd be interested in, then think about the types of shows you enjoy watching on TV. Odds are, you'll enjoy reading books from the same genre. There may even be a series of books based on your favorite TV show. And let's not forget about your other hobbies and interests here - there most likely exists some wonderful literature out there about them, too. If you like certain sports and sports history, for example; or if you collect anything, like stamps, postcards, sports cards, coins, etc.; chances are high you'll find some great reading material.

My favorite genres are in the non-fiction realm. I enjoy books, articles, magazines, journals, and newspapers that cover subjects like personal finance, entrepreneurship and business, minimalism, history, biographies, music, inventions, travel, philosophy, sociology, politics, economics, and the Roman Catholic faith. I often find that these non-fiction reading genres closely align with my TV-viewing habits, as well. I love non-fiction TV shows and documentaries focused on history, travel and cuisine, biographies, business and finance, inventions, etc.

2. Make the act of reading about more than the book itself.

Sure, reading a good book can be its own reward, but there's so much more you could be doing to make the experience exceptional. To get the most out of your reading experience, push it to the next level. Start by finding yourself a cozy nook for reading, then settle in with a delicious beverage and some tasty treats by your side. Reading for pleasure becomes more enjoyable when adding external factors that make you happy.

3. Set aside any books you aren't enjoying.

Nothing makes reading less fun than slogging through a book you aren't enjoying. So, to make reading for pleasure an enjoyable experience, set aside any books you aren't enjoying and move on to a new one. Of course, that doesn't mean you have to give up on the book forever. You can always return to it later when you're in a different mood. It's also worth mentioning that many books that start slow hit their stride several pages into the text. For this reason, you should always give each book enough time to draw you in before completely giving up on it.

While reading for pleasure might not sound like your cup of tea initially, it could be a far more enjoyable hobby than you realize. After all, with countless books covering every imaginable topic, there are plenty of books out there you'll enjoy reading. You just need to find them. So, if sometime in the past you convinced yourself that reading for pleasure isn't your idea of a good time, then maybe you should give it another try. Who knows, you might end up with another vastly enjoyable hobby to fill your spare time.

Three tips that will help you read more books

Reading is a great way to escape for a little while from the hustle and bustle of daily life, while also increasing your overall knowledge. To reap the benefits of reading, however, you'll need to take the time to read some books. So, what are some lifestyle changes that can help you increase your time spent reading? Read on to find out. Here are three tips that will help you read more books.

1. Bring a book with you everywhere you go.

Life provides many opportunities for reading. To seize these opportunities, keep a book nearby so you'll be ready to read whenever these moments occur. That way, you can reach for your book and do a little reading the next time you're sitting on the school bus, waiting at the doctor's office, relaxing in the break room at your place of work, or in study hall with no other work that needs to be done.

2. Make it a habit to read each night before bed.

Rather than browsing through your social media or loading up another episode of your favorite TV show before bed, make it a habit to read a book instead. Reading for fifteen minutes before bed each night may not feel like a lot of effort, but it will increase your time spent reading by over ninety hours per year. As a bonus, reading before bed can make your eyes feel tired, which might make it easier for you to fall asleep.

3. Don't be afraid to replace certain books with others.

As previously discussed, if the thought of continuing a book you aren't enjoying has put you off reading altogether, then don't be afraid to find another book. There's no point in forcing yourself to finish a book if it's causing you to procrastinate beyond a reasonable amount. Unfortunately, while this tip can help you read more overall, it can only be implemented while reading for pleasure. If you must read a specific book for work or school, you'll still need to push through it the best you can, no matter how much you dislike it.

Conclusion

While reading for pleasure may sound or feel somewhat strange to you initially, it has the potential to be a far more enjoyable hobby than you realize. There are countless books covering every imaginable subject. While this post is primarily focused on books, let's not forget other sources of reading and learning, too, like articles, magazines, journals, newspapers, and audio books. You most likely have favorite TV shows and/or other hobbies and interests you enjoy. Chances are highly likely that there is some wonderful reading material out there on these subjects, too. You just need to find them.

So, if sometime in the past you convinced yourself that reading for pleasure isn't your idea of a good time, then maybe you should give it another try. Who knows, you might end up with another vastly enjoyable hobby to fill your spare time. There is much to be gained by reading more. Fortunately, reading more is easy if you're willing to accept a few simple lifestyle changes. After applying the preceding strategies and tips to your daily routine, you'll be reading more in no time. Happy reading!

Friday, February 25, 2022

Travel the world without leaving home

How to travel the world without leaving home

There are many reasons why a person may not be able to travel. Perhaps it's due to failing health or lack of funds. Maybe it's obligations at home, work, and/or school. It doesn't much matter what keeps a person from straying too far from home. What matters is making the most of the current situation. So, if you want to travel the world, but circumstances have left you unable to do so for whatever reason, then here's your answer - do it virtually!

All you need to do to travel virtually is think of a place you've always wanted to visit, then immerse yourself in that country's culture. By immersing yourself in the other culture, you can take a virtual vacation to another land without leaving home. Here are seven virtual travel ideas to get you started.

1. Pick up some travel guides.

Travel guides are an excellent resource for learning about the people, culture, and attractions in the country you'll be virtually visiting. Beyond traditional guidebooks, you can also pick up brochures at a local travel agency and visit some travel websites about the country in question. The more you learn about your virtual vacation destination, the more it will feel like you're actually exploring it.

2. Watch a travel documentary.

Travel documentaries take you off the beaten path and into places that guidebooks rarely mention. They may also introduce you to some colorful locals while discussing region-specific customs and cuisines. To watch a travel documentary, check what's available regarding your chosen destination in your cable or streaming provider's on-demand catalog. If no programs are available for the particular country, or your cable package doesn't include on-demand programming, try searching YouTube for documentaries instead.

3. Enjoy some international cuisine.

To make your at-home travel experience feel more authentic, align your daily menu with meals inspired by your chosen travel destination. To do this, you have two options - either order in from a local restaurant specializing in authentic cuisine, or try cooking some travel-inspired meals from scratch. If you need some inspiration for your travel-themed meals, search online for famous dishes from the country you're virtually visiting.

4. Listen to travel podcasts.

You can learn a lot about a particular country by listening to travel podcasts about it. To find podcasts featuring your virtual travel destination, type 'Travel podcasts about' followed by the country's name (e.g., Travel podcasts about Mexico) in Google's search engine. While not all searched countries bring up a list of travel-themed podcasts, many do. As for listening to the travel podcasts, you can listen to them whenever you wish, though a highly recommended time for listening is while you're in the car.

5. Listen to foreign music.

Listening to foreign music can help get you in the travel spirit. To find suitable songs, first search online for a list of musicians or bands from the country you're virtually visiting. This search should provide you with the names of the country's most famous artists, making it possible to search for their music on YouTube or other similar websites. While you're searching, create a custom playlist featuring popular songs from the artists on the list. Once the playlist is complete, listen to the music whenever your travel spirit needs a little boost. If the country's top musicians and bands are already in heavy rotation on your local radio stations, then consider searching for traditional music from the region instead.

6. Watch a foreign television show or movie.

Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video contain many international television shows and movies. If you currently subscribe to a streaming service, search the catalog for television shows or movies filmed in your chosen vacation destination. If you find a suitable program, but it's in a language you don't speak, look for a subtitles option to help you follow along. If you don't currently subscribe to a streaming service, check what's available through free options like YouTube or Tubi.

7. Learn some words and phrases in another language.

If you're going to be virtually traveling the world, then you might as well learn something new while you do. If the people in your chosen destination speak a language you don't currently know, then take the opportunity to learn some common words and phrases in the other language. Travel guides and brochures may be helpful in this regard, as would a dedicated language course if you feel like going the extra mile. Watching foreign-language media with the subtitles turned on can also help you pick up some frequently used words and phrases in the other language.

As you can see, there are many ways a person can virtually travel the world without leaving their home. So, keep these ideas in mind the next time you find yourself with a travel itch you can't scratch. With a bit of effort and creativity, you can create your own travel experience without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Better study habits

Introduction

Many people find studying to be an unpleasant, grueling experience. Because of this, some people choose to avoid their studies, leading to unnecessary stress later on when they ultimately fall behind on their lessons. So then, how can you make studying feel less grueling, so the simple idea of cracking a book or writing notes no longer fills you with dread? It's easy. Train yourself to learn more efficiently and creatively. Studying more efficiently speeds up the learning process, helping you avoid the negative feelings associated with inefficient study sessions. Learning to incorporate more creativity into your study sessions through the use of different study methods and materials may - ahem - even make studying more fun and interesting! Or at least more tolerable. C'mon, work with me here...

Following are a number of strategies and ideas to hack your future study sessions so you can learn more efficiently and creatively. Consider this post to be your complete guide to getting the most out of your study sessions. Feel free to bookmark it, come back to it from time to time, and share this information with others.

The Environment

Getting serious about studying: Three tips for having more efficient study sessions

When you have a lot of studying to do, it is vitally important to work efficiently. Otherwise, you might not have much to show for your efforts - even after an hours-long study session. That said, if you're ready to get serious about your studies so you can truly tackle the topic at hand, try implementing the following three study tips.

1. Find a suitable study environment.

It's hard to stay focused on your studies when you're in the wrong environment. That's why, if you need absolute silence to study efficiently, you should look for the quietest available space to hold your study session. On the other hand, if you find silence itself distracting - and some people certainly do - seek out a study location with enough background noise to keep you focused. Perhaps you need the TV or music going quietly in the background, or maybe you enjoy studying at your local coffee shop.

2. Get rid of distractions.

Distractions are nearly guaranteed to break your focus. To help maintain focus on your studies, mute your cell phone and stop checking your social media accounts. Save such distractions for after your study sessions or during your scheduled (and timed!) breaks. We'll get to the subject of breaks a little later on.

3. Only multitask when necessary.

You can accomplish quite a bit when you focus all your attention on a single subject. While tackling many subjects at once may seem more productive, the constant switching between topics can actually slow you down in the long run. Try keeping each study session focused on a single subject so you can make more substantial progress on it.

If you want to have more efficient study sessions, it's time to get serious about your studies. So, when you're ready to get serious, find yourself a suitable study environment, get rid of any distractions, and only multitask when absolutely necessary. By following these three tips, you'll increase your productivity levels by having more efficient study sessions.

The Note-Taking Process

Retain more of what you're studying by rewriting your notes

There are countless reasons why rewriting your notes helps you retain more of what you're studying - especially if you rewrite your notes by hand. After all, a thorough rewrite lets you revisit topics you may have forgotten, refreshing the details in your mind. Here are four tips to help you retain more of what you're studying while rewriting your notes.

1. Grab a pen and rewrite your notes by hand - and avoid word-for-word rewrites.

Though technology can be a helpful study tool, many people learn more efficiently when transcribing their notes by hand. There's just something about personally writing your notes by hand that helps commit the information to memory faster than typing notes on a computer or laptop. Additionally, it's unlikely that you'll remember much after mindlessly copying words from one sheet to another. So, to retain more of what you're studying, rewrite your notes to express the same concepts with different words. This exercise will force you to think critically about the content, making it more likely you'll remember the details long-term. If you can only squeeze in a short study session, then quickly review the topic in question and rewrite the most critical points from the lesson by hand. Remember, the faster you can memorize your notes, the more efficient your study sessions will become.

2. Expand upon or correct passages as needed.

It's easy to miss essential information when taking real-time notes during a quickly-paced lecture. Take a moment during the rewriting process to consult related books and handouts so you can expand upon your previously constructed notes. Also, correct any passages if you find that you've accidentally copied down incorrect information.

3. Summarize the content.

End each portion of your rewritten notes with a concise summary of the topic. In doing so, you'll both review the lesson and create a handy overview of the subject matter containing the lesson's most vital details. The summarized text may also prove helpful during last-minute cram sessions when you're unable to review your notes in full.

4. Read through your rewritten notes.

After rewriting your notes, spend some time reading over what you've just written. Better yet, read the pages aloud so you can both see and hear the details covered during your study session. By reading your newly-created notes, you'll better connect with the material, allowing more information to stick in your memory.

It's a well-known fact that using a range of study methods generally leads to the best results. That's why, if you're looking to hold a successful study session, you should always schedule some time for rewriting your notes. By incorporating this additional method into your study routine, you'll be more likely to retain what you're studying, giving you a leg up on your next test or exam.

Additional memorization strategies when it comes to utilizing your notes

There are many ways to commit information to memory. While certain memory aids and memorization techniques will likely work better for you than others, there's no harm in trying several methods during your study sessions. With each unique approach to memorization, you'll review your study materials another time, which can help solidify the information in your memory. In addition to reading notes aloud, consider trying some of these other popular techniques the next time you study: creating flashcard quizzes, coming up with clever mnemonics, and drafting mock exams. After learning which methods work best for you, you'll start having more efficient study sessions.

Taking Breaks: An Absolute Neccessity

Three reasons why taking breaks helps you study more efficiently

Studying non-stop may seem like a great way to be more productive, but having non-stop study sessions can often do more harm than good. Why? Because non-stop study sessions can lead to mental and physical fatigue, preventing you from effectively absorbing information. So, how can you prevent yourself from becoming mentally and physically exhausted during your study sessions? It's simple. Take regularly scheduled breaks. Here are three reasons why taking breaks leads to more efficient study sessions.

1. Taking breaks fends off mental fatigue.

Being mentally exhausted makes it harder to focus on your studies. Having less focus makes it more challenging to absorb the information you're trying to learn. Mental fatigue can also negatively affect your memory, making it harder for you to recall previously known information during tests or exams.

2. Taking breaks releases physical tension.

Studying in one position for too long can lead to muscle tension and body aches. When this happens, you may focus more on your aches and pains than the subject you are trying to study. By scheduling breaks to move around and stretch your muscles, you'll relieve built-up muscle tension, helping you maintain peak levels of concentration.

3. Taking breaks helps you change your perspective.

It's far too easy to get caught up in a single perspective if you never look up from your work. Taking a break lets you step back from the topic, giving your brain a chance to process the subject matter from different angles. Approaching a subject from various perspectives is also helpful because it leaves you with a more thorough understanding of the content.

When scheduling breaks in your study sessions, aim to take breaks lasting for between five and fifteen minutes following each hour of studying. If you're having trouble keeping track of when it's time to take a break, let an alarm notify you when your hour-long study segment is complete. Consider also using the alarm to announce the end of your rest period so that you can resume your study session at the appropriate time.

The Importance of Sleep and Nutrition

Taking excellent care of yourself

Nothing breaks a person's concentration during a study session like a rumbling stomach or feelings of fatigue. To study more efficiently, take excellent care of yourself by paying close attention to your eating and sleeping habits. Once you understand your behaviors, you can improve your routine wherever necessary. For example, to ensure you're eating well, make an effort to choose more nutritious foods. Also, do your best to avoid skipping meals whenever possible. As for resting, aim to get a solid night's sleep as often as you can - especially before a big test or exam.

Conclusion

There are many ways you can increase overall learning efficiency and creativity during your study sessions. For instance, you could try rewriting your notes by hand, utilizing various memory aids and memorization techniques, and taking extra care of yourself. Finding the right study environment is certainly important, as well. Hopefully, by implementing these study strategies and hacks described above, you'll find studying far more enjoyable and learning much more efficient and creative.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Personal finance vocabulary list

Following, in alphabetical order, is a list of vocabulary words, along with my own definitions and explanations I wrote for them. These are ideal for high school students taking a personal finance class or simply wanting to get a better grasp of, or head start on, various money management concepts. By no means is this list of vocabulary words and their corresponding definitions and explanations meant to be exhaustive. Check back from time to time, as this personal finance vocabulary list for high school students may be expanded upon.

Budget - "A spending plan for your money. You are telling your money where to go and what to do." - Dave Ramsey

Checking - A checking account is an account you have, typically with a bank or credit union, allowing you to write checks to other people or to businesses without having to carry cash on you. The money for these checks comes out of your checking account when these other people or businesses cash your checks. These days, it's more common to see people using debit cards tied to their checking accounts for purchases rather than paper checks (see Debit). You are responsible at all times for keeping money in your checking account to cover your checks or debit card purchases. Not having enough money in your account when checks or card purchases are made against your account can result in heavy overdraft fees.

Credit Card - A plastic card issued to you by a bank, credit union, or credit card company. A credit card is a form of loan that must be paid back by you. When you use a credit card to make a purchase, you are not using your own cash to pay for the purchase. Rather, you are using money loaned to you by the issuer. Typically, if you don't pay your balance by the end of the month (or your assigned due date), you will also have to pay interest, which can be very high.

Debit - When we mention the word "debit," we're often talking about a debit card, but not always. A debit card is like a credit card, in that it is a plastic card with an account number and expiration date. It has your signature on the back. All like a credit card. The big difference, though, is that a debit card is backed by your own cash. It's really your money being used for purchases, not money loaned to you by a credit card issuer that you must pay back (and usually, with interest!) A debit card is usually tied to a checking account, meaning the money used to make debit card purchases comes right out of your checking (see Checking).

Debt - Put simply, debt is any amount of money, from one or from many different sources, that you owe. It could be money that you owe a family member or friend. It could be money you owe on credit cards, student loans, a mortgage, a car loan, etc.

Income - We usually think of income as money we earn from our jobs (wages, salaries, sales commissions, etc.), but income can come from a variety of sources. For example, income can be generated from investments you own, like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. It can also come from rental income on properties you may own. In this scenario, you own a home, apartment complex, commercial property, or even land, and other people (or businesses) are paying you to live there or run their business.

Investment - An investment, simply put, is you giving your money to an individual, a business, a financial advisor, or a bank in exchange for the potential to get your money back, along with more money just for you giving your original money in the first place! We say potential, because it is possible for you to lose money. Your investments may come in the forms of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, precious metals, or business opportunities, to name a few examples. Check out this previous blog post on the differences between stocks and bonds.

Loan - A loan is money issued to you on credit. The money is not yours. You don't get to keep it. You must pay it back, usually with interest. A few examples of loans include credit cards, student loans, a mortgage, a car loan, and a business loan.

Mortgage - A type of loan you take out from a bank or credit union allowing you to purchase a home or perhaps even a commercial building, if you're in business. Like any other loan (car loan, credit card, student loans, etc.), it must be paid back with interest added.

Salary - A salary is a type of income that you make from your job. Usually, when we discuss the term "salary," we are talking about an income that you are guaranteed to make in a full year. For example, you may get a job someday with a salary of $60,000, as opposed to being offered a wage of, say, $25.00 per hour. A big benefit of being paid in salary is that you know for sure what you'll make in a year. A major potential downside, though, is that you will most likely not receive any additional compensation for overtime, holidays, etc., like hourly wage earners would typically earn. You also will most likely end up putting in many more hours during the typical workweek than your wage-earning co-workers.

Savings - Money that you keep on reserve for an emergency, a "rainy day," or maybe for a particular thing you'd like to buy someday. While many people think of the word "savings" as money that is held in a savings account or Certificate of Deposit (CD) at the bank, it doesn't need to be. In any case, savings is money that is usually easily accessible, meaning it's not tied up in investment or retirement accounts.

What do you think of this attempt to build a solid working start to a list of high school personal finance class vocabulary words? What do you think of the definitions and explanations of money concepts presented here? What would you change, if anything? What words would you add to this list? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below! We appreciate your insights and contributions!

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Dave Ramsey and The Minimalists

As I'm drafting this post, I'm sitting in a high school personal finance class that I'm assisting in. I was last in a personal finance class a couple years ago, during the 2019-20 school year. Though the classroom teachers have been different, the content is largely the same, with many of the lessons and overarching concepts drawing from the work of Dave Ramsey and his team.

Dave Ramsey's teachings about saving, investing, budgeting, and spending wisely are phenomenal. A couple years ago, thanks to he and the personal finance class I was assisting in at the time, I tried a time-tested strategy known simply as the envelope system, or the envelope budgeting system. I'm still sticking to it, and it's working great for me.

I had a brief chat with the classroom teacher this morning about the immense value of a high school personal finance class. I told him that I have a love-hate relationship with the course. I hate it because it reminds me of all the money mistakes and poor choices I've made in the last 20 years. I never had a class like this, and had to learn by trial and error (mostly error) and my own research over the years. On the other hand, though, I absolutely love it. I love it because I'm genuinely excited for the futures of these students who are taking it. I love it because I still occasionally pick up strategies and ideas that can help me, like the envelope system. I firmly believe that personal finance should be a required course in high school, not an elective. My message to these students and to all of you who may be taking a course like this is: Take it seriously. Learn all you can. Take good notes. You have the greatest asset on your side right now - time. You have time. And if you treat your time like the wonderful asset it is, along with developing good money habits early on, then you can, in fact, become a millionaire at a relatively young age.

Anyway, the main point of this blog post is supposed to be that, if you're a high school (or even college) student taking a personal finance course, you should check out The Minimalists - Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, respectively.

The Minimalists' philosophy on money very closely mirrors Dave Ramsey's. In fact, Dave Ramsey has provided rave reviews for The Minimalists' books, and has made appearances in their film projects. But The Minimalists are approaching the subject of money from a different angle.

Whereas Dave Ramsey is largely more focused on the practical math and economics of saving, investing, and avoiding needless spending and debt, The Minimalists come at it from the perspective that getting rid of all the clutter in your life - the clothes you never wear; all the stuff in your basement, closets, and/or storage unit you're not using; the long hours you're working and mounds of debt you're taking on in order to keep up appearances and look "successful" to all your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and perhaps even family members ("Keeping up with the Joneses"), etc., etc. - can help you live a more meaningful, purposeful life. By living a simpler lifestyle and only holding onto the possessions that truly add value and/or joy to your life, you are able to devote more of your time, energy, and other resources to things that really do matter - to creative pursuits and hobbies that bring you joy; to the relationships in your life; to giving back to others; to making memories through unforgettable experiences like dream trips and life-changing goals you set for yourself; and so on.

So if you're a high school or college student taking a personal finance course, I highly recommend you look into The Minimalists on your own. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus truly are rock stars, in my opinion. Dave Ramsey agrees. Or do I agree with Dave Ramsey? Anyways, their books, blog, podcast, and documentaries on living a more fulfilling life are awesome. Their own individual life stories on where they came from and what ultimately led them down the path of minimalism are inspiring. Their philosophy pairs very well with Dave Ramsey's.

In closing, make use of the greatest asset you have right now - your time. Work your time wisely, and make your time work for you. Listen to us older folks. Don't commit 20 years of painful financial and lifestyle mistakes if you don't need to.






The Minimalists

Love People Use Things | The Minimalists

I often don't have time to read many books fully from cover to cover these days. But one book that I just wrapped up (that I started reading back in August!), titled, Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works, has had a profound impact on my life. I highly recommend it to others.

Written by childhood friends and business partners Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, whom, as a pair, are known as The Minimalists, I bought the book from my local Target store for reading material on my flights to and from Key West this past August. The book had just recently come out a month earlier, back in mid-July 2021. The Minimalists had written a few books before this one, which I have yet to explore. What prompted me to pick this one up, though, was discovering their 2016 documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, on Netflix. A few days ago, I just watched their most recent film (2021), also available on Netflix, titled, The Minimalists: Less Is Now. I highly recommend both of these documentaries. Very powerful and moving.

In Love People, Use Things, the duo reflect on how reducing all the clutter and noise in our lives - all the junk gathering dust in our closets, basements, and storage units; all the clothes we never seem to get around to wearing; the long hours we're putting in at work and the mounds of debt we're accumulating just to keep up appearances and look "successful" to all our friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even our own family members (The "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality), etc., etc. - can help us live more fulfilling, meaningful, productive lives. By committing to a simpler lifestyle and only holding onto the possessions that truly bring us joy or add value to our lives, we are free to devote more of our energy, time, talents, and other resources to the things that really do matter in life - to hobbies and creative endeavors that bring us joy; to the relationships in our lives; to giving back to others; to making memories through unforgettable experiences. Consuming less liberates us to be able to create more.

The pair reminisce on how they spent their 20s climbing the corporate ladder - at the same company but in different roles and departments - while raking in the dough and owning anything and everything they wanted, only to arrive at the realization that they weren't happy. Both of them grew up poor and in not the best of home/family circumstances, and this is what gave them the drive to push harder and harder for "success." In the end, though, it was all in vain. All they ended up with was the accumulation of stuff, massive credit card debt from acquiring said stuff, and a feeling of emptiness. As Millburn describes it, he was living the American Dream, but it wasn't his dream. In the same month, Millburn lost both his mom (to cancer) and his marriage. It was then that he realized something had to change. He was the first of the duo to stumble upon the philosophy of minimalism, and would later introduce it to childhood friend Nicodemus. Nicodemus noticed his longtime pal seemed happier, and so he took him out to lunch one day at a Subway to get the scoop. The rest, as they say, is history.

You can learn more about Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists, at this Wikipedia page dedicated to them. Check out their main website and explore their blog, podcast, and other creative works at TheMinimalists.com.






Monday, January 31, 2022

Feast of Don Bosco

Don Bosco

Today, January 31, is the feast in the Roman Catholic Church of St. John Bosco, popularly known as Don Bosco ("Don" is a title given to priests in Italy).

Don Bosco, who lived from 1815-1888, was both beatified and canonized by Pope Pius XI. He devoted his life's work to taking care of disadvantaged youth, including homeless children and juvenile delinquents. His work included feeding and educating children, providing the sacraments of the Church and character development, and training boys and young men for work in the trades.

He was also a prolific writer, with works ranging from the history of the Roman Empire to Church history and math textbooks. One of his many works was a brief biography he wrote about one of his youngsters, St. Dominic Savio (1842-1857). Sadly, Dominic died at age 14. He was a devoted Roman Catholic, firm in his faith, and the biography Don Bosco wrote of him played a role in Dominic's own canonization as a saint. Don Bosco's own mentor, Father Joseph Cafasso, was also declared a saint.

No matter your faith, I think Don Bosco is a true inspiration for us all. For me, now working in my fourth school year since making the conscious choice to transition to the field of education after holding various roles in business and industry over the years, Don Bosco is the perfect example of a strong male role model and solid moral voice. Sadly, in this troubling age of social media, consumerism and its demand for instant gratification, and sound bites rather than real conversations, we need many, many more men like Don Bosco. And they don't need to be priests to make a genuine difference in the lives of children and young adults.

You can read more about the life and times of St. John Bosco, also known as Don Bosco, by checking out this Wikipedia page devoted to him. Here is another wonderful biography of Don Bosco from the Salesians of Don Bosco in the United States (USA West Province) website. Finally, here is an extensive biography you can download for free as a PDF e-book.

On this feast day of St. John Bosco, we ask: Don Bosco, pray for us!

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Learning how to read a ruler

Recently, I worked with a middle school student on learning how to read and understand a ruler (or tape measure) for a STEM -related course the student was in. I'd like to share these two wonderful resources here so that you / your students can learn how to effectively read and understand a ruler or tape measure, as well. My student's classroom teacher shared these same resources with me, and they were extremely helpful. At the age of 39, even I learned a couple things that I either never really knew or simply forgot!

After this awesome video, check out the link that will take you to an interactive game you can play to test your skills at reading a ruler. There are different settings you can try in the game.



https://www.rulergame.net/new-english-ruler-game.php

Aaron Robertson testimonials

2019-2020 school year employee evaluation comments:

Aaron's interpersonal interactions with students consistently demonstrate rapport and respect with students.

Aaron has attended co-curricular events in support of students.

You've acclimated to being a full-time member of the staff with grace and ease. Your support of all students is also noted and appreciated.

2020-2021 school year employee evaluation comments:

Aaron pays attention to every detail in a student's IEP, Behavior Intervention Plan, etc., and makes adjustments as necessary to accommodate students' ever-changing needs.

Aaron clearly and consistently communicates with case managers and classroom teachers to ensure the entire team is on the same page and that student needs are properly addressed.

Aaron views each challenge as an opportunity and not only approaches situations with positivity but strives to instill positivity in others as well.

Aaron is a regular contributor to our "Lion Prides" and recognizes staff members for their contributions. He attends professional learning above and beyond what is required and has a genuine interest in continuing to learn. Additionally, he volunteers to assist at events and becoming involved in opportunities like tutoring to be able to assist students throughout the building.

Aaron is a positive team player who is ready and willing to support students and staff in any manner possible. He is truly an asset to his team and the school as a whole.

An e-mail from a district-level administrator, July 27, 2021:

Hi Aaron, Just a short note to say how impressed I have been with your support at both summer school and STEM Camp. You have worked with our students with respect and patience, ensuring their dignity, encouraging them to try rigor, and thus assuring a great experience with their peers. I have also very much appreciated your daily debrief to the families so they are kept abreast of the progress. Thank you so much for your work this summer!

Links to other resources and information about Aaron and his services

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Learning at home school COVID closures

Learning at home during school COVID closures

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to rage on, causing what appear to be mainly larger urban school districts to make the decision to close in-person learning, whether for several days/a week at a time or for longer periods, many students and families find themselves suddenly left without a solid, reliable learning plan in place. Some districts and individual educators are trying to do all they can with the virtual tools and other resources they have at their disposal, while some districts and individual educators are simply closing shop altogether. As one parent whose daughter's large urban school district recently closed for a week told me, "Some teachers are going above and beyond, while others are treating this like a vacation. They're not meeting with students virtually, and they've assigned no work." And a high school in a nearby district decided to cancel semester final exams altogether because of COVID-19.
 
The data are pouring in on how COVID-19 has impacted learning for K-12 students.

Whether you're a student reading this, or a parent, guardian, other relative, or fellow educator deeply concerned and frustrated by this truly tragic situation of lost time and learning, I offer a number of resources, ideas, and strategies here, in no particular order, to help you design your own at-home learning plan when you find yourself not provided with one by your school system and/or teachers. The following suggestions can also certainly serve to enhance and reinforce the assigned learning from school if you are, hopefully, receiving regular instruction virtually.

BrainPOP - I make use of BrainPOP, a subscriber-based learning platform, quite frequently during my typical day in the classroom. I highly recommend it. With a very clean layout that is easy to navigate, the BrainPOP family of websites offers young learners video lessons on a wide range of curriculum-aligned subjects, as well as quizzes and activities that can be completed for deeper engagement with, and understanding of, the material presented in the video lessons. Check the BrainPOP homepage frequently for various specials and discount offers that run from time to time. You can purchase your own home-based subscription, or see if your school or district already has a subscription that you can use to log in with. A very high-quality, fun, and engaging learning tool.  

Think about possible careers and professions - Check out this career readiness resources page I put together a while back, featuring previously-published posts here on this blog, as well as content from other sites. If you're thinking about entering a trade and you reside in Wisconsin, learn about the Wisconsin Apprenticeship System.

Explore volunteer opportunities - Check out this previous post I wrote about the many benefits of volunteer work. Volunteering can provide a wealth of opportunities for learning new skills, strengthening skills, making meaningful connections through networking, gaining new perspectives, sharing talents, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Prepare for the ACT and/or SAT - It's never too early to begin preparing for these tests. Check out this page I put together a while back with various resources, ideas, and strategies to help you prepare for these very important college admissions tests and ultimately get the best score(s) you can. If you start early enough, even years earlier, then your preparation work won't feel like a burden, you'll perhaps even improve your overall grades and performance in your classes, and you most likely won't have to worry about retakes! And yes, these tests are still relevant.

Learn a new language, or make the time and effort to strengthen and deepen your existing language skills - The ability to communicate in another language is a highly-desirable, and hence marketable, skill to have.

Research a country - Is there another country whose people, culture, cuisine, history, language, and economy capture your curiosity? Gather facts, photos, and relevant video links, and put together a nice presentation on your chosen country using a slide deck format like Google Slides or PowerPoint. Give a presentation to your family just as you would to your classmates or any other audience. This is a wonderful learning opportunity allowing you to build on a variety of relevant life and career skills, like research and fact-finding, conveying information and ideas, public speaking, writing, creativity, and educating others.

Let's plan a trip! - I took this idea from a wonderful social studies course by the same name (Let's Plan a Trip!) that I assisted in during my district's summer school this past summer (you can read more about that here). Similar to the above idea of researching a country, but with a slightly different focus. With this idea, you research one or more countries as if you're getting ready to actually visit them as a tourist. Where will you stay? How will you get there, and how much will this transportation cost you (for example, your flight ticket)? Who will you bring with you on the trip? What's your overall budget? What kind of activities and sightseeing would you like to do?
 
Take courses on Udemy - Udemy is an awesome site. You can read my review of this wonderful learning platform here.

Learn financial literacy - Financial literacy is so very, very important. Learn how to save and budget. Learn how to plan for emergencies. Learn how to spend wisely. Learn about investing and preparing for retirement. Understand how the decisions you make today about money will impact the rest of your life, either positively or negatively. The earlier you begin learning these crucial lessons and begin implementing good strategies and habits, the better for you and your loved ones. The personal finance category here at my blog helps keep track of my posts about money, saving, wise spending and looking for deals, retirement planning, etc.

Work on SMART goals - Use this precious time to write and begin work on career-related, education-related, health and fitness -related, and life goals using the SMART goal format.

Khan Academy - (www.khanacademy.org) Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The Web site features an extensive variety of courses and tutorials in areas like math, science and engineering, computer programming, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, career exploration, the college admissions process, and a lot more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.

TED Talks - (www.ted.com) Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”. From its Web site:
TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Documentaries - Every so often, I enjoy borrowing documentaries on DVD from my local public library on a variety of subjects. I'll also check out the offerings from time to time on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the History Channel. If you love the game of baseball, and its fascinating history and legendary characters, I highly recommend Ken Burns' Baseball. I've loaned out a couple of times now another documentary by Ken Burns called Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, which not only explores current therapies to combat this dreadful disease, but also takes us through the history of cancer fighting and the pioneering doctors and scientists whose groundbreaking work and ideas have gotten us to where we are today. Through documentaries, I've learned about Milwaukee's Italian-American community, the 2008 financial crisis, the lives and times of captains of industry, the education system, the history of American cars, and, now that I work in schools and usually with a number of special education students throughout the day, various learning and emotional and behavioral challenges. Most recently, I've enjoyed a couple documentaries on Netflix by The Minimalists.

Make sure to work your local public library into your learning routine - Speaking of libraries, are there book clubs or reading programs you can join? Makerspace opportunities? Upcoming speakers and presentations that capture your interest? Art contests? Possibilities and opportunities are virtually endless at the good ol' local public library.

Conversations - That's right, conversations. Simply talking with others. Interested in exploring a particular career? Wondering how college life is like and what the college admissions process entails? Looking to take up a hobby? Curious about how a particular product is made or how a process works? Fascinated about what it's like to serve in the military and wanting to learn more? Wanting to meet new people and get more involved in your community but not sure where to begin? You can get some answers to these and other questions by striking up conversations with people you already know. Examples include your parents and siblings, your friends' parents and siblings, teachers, coaches, classmates, your employer and co-workers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

Newspapers and magazines - Keeping up with events and developments in the broader world around you can potentially prove beneficial for you in numerous ways. Having a decent working knowledge base of news and trends in technology, the economy, government and politics, business, trade, education, and world affairs can position you ahead of the competition in the workplace.

Explore AmazingEducationalResources.com - This website, now listing nearly 2,000 resources, was first launched in the early days of COVID-19, back in March-April 2020 or so. My blog is listed on the site, too. You can search by grade level (Pre-K on up to Adult Learning) or by category/academic subject. You'll discover a large, assorted variety of learning games, lesson plans, video content, ideas, and activities to engage with. Most resources listed in this powerful and growing directory are free, while some you'll have to pay for. Other resources may offer a combination of both.

Worksheets, worksheets, and more worksheets - There are many websites out there offering worksheets, workbooks, complete lesson plans, learning activities and games, etc. Here are some sites I'm familiar with in my daily work, and can, therefore, highly recommend: Education.com, MathWorksheets4Kids.com, TLSBooks.com, Math-Aids.com, and WorksheetWorks.com. Some of these sites are free, while others are subscription-based at very reasonable prices.

Television - Not all TV is brain-rotting. In fact, some of it can have quite the opposite effect. Check out this list of The Top 15 Educational TV Shows for Kids of All Ages
 
What are some other ideas, resources, and strategies that can be utilized during these tragic times of school closures and lost learning? What are we missing here? Please feel free to share in the Comments section below!