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It’s been one of those days. The kids are screaming. You were lucky to get a shower this morning – if you did at all. The laundry is piling up, as are the bills. You’re always surrounded by your beloved children, yet you’ve never felt so alone. Stay at home mom isolation has you in its grip. There has to be a way to beat this thing.

The feeling of isolation is often the price to be paid for the privilege of being a stay at home mom. It goes along with the loss of income and privacy. Many a stay at home mom quickly notices a feeling of isolation, not only when she first starts out at home, but also when circumstances cause her to lose touch with the outside world.

Isolation is painful. It doesn’t matter that you adore your children or that all the other stay at home moms you know are counting their blessings and seem to be having a blast. Sometimes the personal sacrifice of less time with other adults really stings.

It’s even harder when you run into people who tell you that you should just be grateful for the time you have with your children. You can be grateful for that yet still feel isolated. There is nothing that says those two things can only be felt separately. Being told to be grateful doesn’t solve the problem – it only makes the SAHM feel guilty for her own feelings.

You don’t have to feel completely alone. No matter how young your children are there are things you can do to get some time with other adults and beat those lonely feelings.

Run Errands

Something as simple as running errands can help. It’s not much time with other people, and you probably won’t have a real conversation with anyone other than the cashier as you check out, but it can relieve some of that isolated feeling.

Running errands won’t solve your isolation – it’s just not enough. It’s better than nothing, especially if you know when friends run errands. A lot of parents in my area, for example, run errands after dropping the kids at school. Chatting with the ones I encounter makes my errands take longer than necessary, but it’s so nice to talk to other adults!

Go Fun Places

If the children are old enough, heading to the park or to a museum can help with stay at home mom isolation. The park is particularly enjoyable if you can arrange for another mom to be there, ideally with kids for yours to play with. The children get exercise; you get time to talk with another grownup who knows what you’re dealing with.

You don’t have to take the kids along for all your fun outings if someone else can take care of them. Your spouse can handle them for a little if you want to go out on your own, maybe meet up with friends, or you can get a sitter so you can go out together. Time away from your kids really helps refresh you for later.

Join A Mom Group

There are also various moms groups you can sign up for if you don’t know any other stay at home moms in your area. Stay at home moms can be hard to spot, but you might be surprised at how many are in your area.

You can find groups online or form your own as you meet other stay at home moms. It can take some time to find a group that’s a good match, but it’s worth the effort.

Socialize Online

Going online really can help. Join a forum on a topic that interests you. Read blogs. Start one of your own. It’s all a chance to express yourself and at least virtually interact with people who share your interests.

There are mom groups all over the place online. You can probably find one with parents you’ll enjoy chatting with. Search for them on Facebook and BabyCenter (it’s not all about babies) for starters.

There will be drama in most groups from time to time. It happens. Friends disagree in person too, right? It may be a bit rougher in a large group with more people to argue, but it’s normal. Sometimes it will be bad enough that you decide to leave the group, or others will decide to leave. Other times you can agree to disagree and move on.

Volunteer

Find a place to volunteer, with or without the kids, depending on what’s available in your area.

My kids and I have volunteered at a local animal shelter for several years now. The employees and other regular volunteers all know us. While most of our time is spent with the animals, we get to chat a little with customers and the others who work there. It’s a lot of fun.

Work At Home

Starting a work at home job or a home business can help you feel less isolated. This can be challenging when the kids are tiny and need a lot of attention. Doing something super flexible is easiest, even if it doesn’t bring in as much money as it might otherwise.

This is why I like blogging. You can write when the kids are sleeping, playing peacefully, or when your spouse is around to be the main parent. Starting a blog is easy… making it profitable is more challenging. I consider it worthwhile.

Don’t Feel Bad About Feeling Isolated

Some stay at home moms will insist to you that they never feel isolated, as though you shouldn’t either. But if you ask them about it, you will find out that these are the moms who already have a good network of friends and family they can talk to and do things with regularly. They aren’t lonely because they don’t allow it to happen.

Don’t Feel Bad About Being Frustrated

We all have bad days. When the kids are acting up and making life difficult, any parent will get frustrated. Sometimes you just have one of those days where it all goes wrong.

As you get used to being a stay at home mom and develop friendships with people who can be there when you need someone other than a child to talk to, you can get control over stay at home mom isolation. It doesn’t have to be a problem forever.

The post Beating Stay at Home Mom Isolation appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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A well set up home office makes working at home much easier. It gives you a space to work that is all your own, for those times when you have to be completely focused. While there’s something to be said for working in other parts of the house or even somewhere else entirely, there are times that you can’t beat your home office. These home office features will help make it a comfortable and productive place to work.

We won’t discuss your computer in this post. You should get a good computer for your home office, probably a laptop if you work elsewhere as well. There are other things, however, that you will only use in your home office.

Dual Monitors

If you’ve never used dual monitors, you might be amazed by how much they help your productivity. The ability to have more things open and visible while you work is a huge help.

If your home office computer is a laptop, its monitor may be one of your dual monitors. In my experience, it’s not as nice as having two monitors side by side, but it works much better than having only the laptop monitor to look at.

An Ergonomic Office Chair

An ergonomic office chair will make working in your home office so much nicer. It should be a chair that you are comfortable in even when you work for hours at a stretch.

Your office chair is one of those things you should splurge on if you can. It will pay you back with years of comfortable work. There’s a lot to be said for keeping back pain at a distance as much as possible. You have to sit properly in it for the best effects, of course.

A Large Enough Desk

Your desk needs to be large enough to handle the demands you put on it daily. Can it handle the papers you put on it? All of your equipment?

If your desk can’t handle your daily work routine without feeling cluttered, it’s not big enough. Sometimes that can’t be helped, but do what you can. If your home office is in a small space, there’s only a little you can do.

I strongly recommend getting a sit-stand desk so that you can change positions throughout the day. It’s so nice being able to do that. There are a number of units now that you put on your desk which can raise and lower your monitor and keyboard as you decide to change your position.

Fast Wireless Internet

Fast wireless internet is vital in your typical home office. What would you do without it? Make sure your router is fast enough to handle the demands you put on it as you work as well as what others in your home may need it for.

Fast wireless internet also means you can work elsewhere in your home if you have a laptop or tablet. There will be times that you want that, most likely.

Sufficient Storage

What do you need to keep in your home office? Where will it go? If you can’t keep it organized, your home office needs more storage.

Think about what will work best for your needs before buying anything. Are bookshelves enough, or do you need a file cabinet?

Take full advantage of the space you have, especially if it’s a small home office. Get creative with your storage space if you’re running out of room. Don’t forget any extra space under your desk, so long as you leave enough room for your comfort.

Decor That Makes You Smile

Your home office should feature decorations that make you happy to be in there. It’s your personal workspace – have a little fun with it. It’s a part of your home as well as the place you work.

Just how much fun depends on whether or not someone else will see it while talking to you in a professional manner. No one sees my home office, so I have dragons on my desk. If I had to present a more professional workspace, they wouldn’t be there.

Don’t let your home office decor get in the way of a productive workday. If it’s in your way while you work, find a better place for it.

Paint your home office if you can. Choose a color that will make you comfortable while you work. You want something that helps you feel productive. You can look at the psychology of colors to help you choose something, or just go with one you like.

Great Lighting

A pleasantly lit home office is a great place to work. Natural light is great (so long as the sun doesn’t get in your eyes), but it’s not always enough. Open your window blinds during the day in your home office and let the natural light in while it’s available.

For the rest of the day, have enough light fixtures to provide a good level of lighting. You may want a task light on your desk as well, depending on what you’re doing.

If you want to get fancy with your lighting, look into the Philips Hue. These light bulbs will allow you to adjust your lighting from your smartphone or other smart home devices such as Amazon Echo.

A Door

I know not everyone can have a home office with a door. But if you can manage it, I highly recommend one.

This doesn’t mean your home office has to be a completely dedicated space. Many families can’t manage that. A home office in a guest room or your bedroom still has a door, and when you need to be productive, you should close it. The ability to close out the noise of the rest of the house is not to be underrated.

Minimal Distractions

As much as possible, keep the distractions out of your home office. That’s a part of what the door is for, but don’t go adding other distractions in.

This means no television, including starting something up on one of your computer monitors. It’s fun to watch a show while you work, but you won’t be very productive at all while it’s on, will you? Be honest with yourself. Keep the TV out of your home office in whatever form.

Do what you can to keep pets and other kids out too. A part of that is having a door you can close, but also make plans for when they come into your home office.

I have a spot set up for my cat to nap in my home office, for example. This way she doesn’t try to get on my lap too often. She likes her little bed.

A Great View

Just because you shouldn’t have a lot of distractions in your home office doesn’t mean you should avoid having a great view from it. It does your eyes good to look away from the computer monitor from time to time throughout your day.

If you can’t set your desk up so that it’s easy to look out the window, hang some wall art in your home office. You need something to look at when your eyes need a break from your computer monitor.

A Bit Of Exercise Equipment

A little exercise equipment can help you keep in shape while you work at home. A quick fitness break can help your productivity. Some equipment will make you stop working entirely to use it, but other things can be used while you work.

Equipment can be as simple as some hand weights, or as fancy as a walking desk. You may also want to consider an under desk elliptical. Any of these will allow you to mix some basic exercises into your work day.

Home office exercise equipment isn’t something to break your budget on, but it’s so nice to have. Getting enough activity in each day becomes so much easier.

Slippers

I love keeping a pair of slippers in my home office, especially in winter. I don’t wear shoes much indoors, so slippers keep my feet warm while I work. Cold feet are very distracting.

Share Your Favorite Home Office Features

What home office features do you value the most? What would you love to have that you don’t yet? Share your ideas.

The post Home Office Features To Include So That You Will Love Your Work Space appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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One of the big concerns many people have about working at home is whether or not they get employee benefits. So many work at home options don’t offer them. That’s because companies often hire work at home people as independent contractors or freelancers, rather than as employees. Fortunately, there are also a lot of companies that have remote jobs with benefits.

Not every position with a company on this list will have employee benefits. Part time positions may or may not have any, depending on the company. Your best bet for a remote job with benefits is a full time position. Your search for benefits will be much more difficult if you want to work part time. That’s true with outside the home jobs too.

Companies that allow regular employees to work at home will often include benefits such as health insurance, vacation, sick days, 401(k) and so forth. These companies have come to recognize the advantages of having employees who work at home. Some companies are entirely or almost entirely virtual, so the work at home employees aren’t the odd ones out in the company.

While I have done my best to be accurate with this list, you will need to review individual job postings and check with the company to see if the work at home job you are considering actually includes benefits.

Agencies

Temporary employment agencies and recruiting agencies will have much more than just work at home jobs available. Check with the agencies in your area to see who has remote positions available and whether they offer remote jobs with benefits to the employees they supply to other companies.

Adecco

Adecco is an employment agency, and some of their jobs are home based. Possible virtual positions include customer service and sales jobs. It’s not easy to find work at home jobs by searching their site, but I did see some locations.

Depending on the job, you may be able to get benefits from Adecco after you’ve been placed in a position. Some positions are direct hire, using Adecco to find employees, and then I would expect the benefits to depend on the employer.

CyberCoders

CyberCoders is a recruiting agency, and some of the positions can be done remotely. Benefits will depend on the company looking for employees, but many will have them available. The main focus of the site is on technology and IT, but there are also jobs in engineering, finance, and healthcare.

Companies With Multiple Work At Home Job Titles

You can’t put all companies into just one category with the kinds of jobs they offer. The possibilities are too broad. These companies offer a variety of remote jobs with benefits.

ADP

ADP (Automatic Data Processing, Inc.) offers a variety of jobs that can be done primarily from home. Many have location requirements and may require that you come into a local office at least once a week. Jobs that may allow you to work at home seem easy to find as the form allows you to select whether or not you work at a home office.

Many positions have to do with sales, instructional design, and project development. What’s available will vary tremendously, of course.

ADP offers a lot of perks, including medical insurance, life insurance, dental, 401(k), career development, tuition reimbursement and more.

Amazon

While Amazon is best known to have virtual customer service positions, they have other virtual location jobs as well. They have positions in many countries around the world. Pay attention to any location information they give you even if it says the location is virtual, as some are not home based.

Amazon jobs can be very demanding, but the benefits can be good. Eligible employees can get medical benefits, a 401(k), parental leave and more. These can vary by location.

Dell

Dell is, of course, best known for its computers. It has a wide variety of remote jobs available as well. Some are field based, not home based, so if you don’t want to do field work, keep that in mind as you search their job listings.

Dell hires in many countries, and so benefits may vary. They generally include health and wellness, time off, and retirement plans.

Xerox

Xerox has people who work at home in many areas, including customer care, tech support, data entry, quality control, software programming and more. Benefits include paid holidays, health care, retirement plans and more.

Customer Service, Technical Support, And Sales

Customer service and sales job have been very popular with people who want to work at home. Employers can be very demanding about having no background noise audible on calls. On the other hand, many of these jobs are very flexible, which is why many work at home moms and dads seek them out. You might be surprised by how many offer remote jobs with benefits.

American Express

Most virtual positions at American Express are for customer service or travel counselor positions. They take calls 24/7 and may require you to have flexible availability. As of this writing, they don’t hire in California, Alaska or Hawaii.

Benefits for eligible employees may include health, dental and life coverage, paid family leave, 401(k), tuition reimbursement and more.

Apple

Most at home jobs with Apple are in the customer service and technical support area. They also hire team managers and area managers at home to supervise the at home advisors.

Even part time associate at Apple get benefits which include product discounts and paid time off.

Asurion

Asurion hires customer service representatives to work at home, and pays a premium for bilingual employees. You also get paid extra for working evenings and weekends. Performance bonuses may also be available.

Benefits include medical and dental. Tuition reimbursement may be available.

Convergys

Convergys hires customer service agents to work at home. Some positions require more sales or technical support knowledge, but all are expected to do basic customer service.

Benefits include medical, dental, vision, paid vacation, 401(k) and tuition reimbursement.

Enterprise Holdings

Enterprise Holdings includes Alamo, Enterprise, and National rent a car companies. They offer reservation sales and customer service positions that can be done from home. Pay attention to the location listed in work at home job listings – you will probably be required to live in that area to apply. Work authorization paperwork may need to be completed in person.

If you qualify for benefits, they may include medical, vision, and dental, life insurance, 401(k), flexible spending accounts, and more.

Sitel

Sitel work at home customer service jobs include benefits for full time employees. Benefits may include medical, dental, 401(k), vacation, and discounts from partner companies.

Support.com

Support.com is best known for its technical support offerings, but not all of their remote jobs are in technical support. They also hire for positions such as web developers or data engineers that can be done remotely. Benefits may include medical, vision and dental, 401(k), and paid time off.

SYKES Home

SYKES Home offers customer service work at home jobs with benefits, including vision, dental, and health. This may be good for entry level work at home job seekers, as they also list a customer service background as nice to have, but not required.

World Travel Holdings

If you want to sell cruise and resort vacations from home, this is the position for you. There may be occasional openings for a web developer or other positions as well. They offer health benefits and time off.

Education

Many remote education jobs require a little travel to go see your students. Others may be done entirely online.  But when you want to teach, how nice is it if it’s also a remote job with benefits.

Connections Academy

Connections Academy runs online charter schools in many states. Benefits may be available to full time employees and may vary by state.

K12

K12 runs online charter schools. They offer health, vision, and dental benefits, as well as a 401(k).

Western Governors University

WGU has positions for work from home instructors, evaluators and course mentors to work from home. There are some small benefits for part time employees, such as a 403(b) retirement savings plan and tuition discount. Further benefits, such as medical and dental, may be available to full time employees.

Financial

Many financial jobs can also be done from home. Not many are, so far, but there are a few companies that will let you do your job remotely.

AccountingDepartment.com

Hires people for accounting positions. Benefits include medical, dental and vision, as well as vacations and 401(k).

Intuit

Intuit offers work at home positions for customer service and tax support personnel. Bilingual positions are available. Some positions are seasonal, and may not offer benefits. Regular positions may also be available in human resources or marketing.

Health And Medical

You might be amazed by how many health and medical jobs can be done from home. It’s not just medical coding or medical transcription – telehealth positions allow some doctors and nurses to work at home as well. These medical remote jobs with benefits cover a wide range of possibilities, from medical coding to transcription to jobs for RNs, and more.

Acusis

Acusis hires experienced medical coders and medical transcriptionists. Note that positions may require a Windows 8 computer, as some clients are not compatible with Windows 10. Benefits are available to full time employees.

Aetna

Aetna offers quite a few work at home jobs in the health and medical fields. With a quick look, I found medical coding jobs, network manager, field case manager (significant time away from home), telephonic case manager, health coach consultant, medical director and more. Some positions will require that you visit client sites and may keep you in the field more than you are at home. Others are entirely at home. They make it easy to see if a job may offer a telework option by showing it off to the side when you search for jobs.

Aetna also hires application developers and web developers, and some of these positions may be done at home.

Most of their customer service positions are NOT work at home.

Benefits may vary by position and can include paid time off, life insurance, health coverage, dental, 401(k), tuition assistance, and more.

Altegra Health

Altegra Health hires various types of medical coders, and many positions are remote. They require at least two years of experience for many positions. Some positions may be seasonal or temporary, and so may not offer benefits.

Altegra Health offers medical, dental and vision plans, as well as a 401(k) to eligible employees.

Anthem

Anthem has work at home positions available for RNs as well as positions in business development, data analysis and more. Some positions require that you work in the office for a time before being allowed to transition to remote work.

Anthem offers health benefits, retirement benefits, tuition reimbursement and more to eligible employees.

Carenet

Carenet has work from home opportunities for RNs. Benefits include medical, dental and vision, as well as gym memberships and a 401(k).

Covance

Covance does clinical research, and some jobs can be done remotely. The availability of remote jobs varies significantly over time. If you want to be a part of this, you may need to keep an eye on their job listings. Career opportunities may be available around the world.

Benefits vary quite a bit by location, which is to be expected in a company that operates worldwide. They include health and wellness coverage, as well as matching eligible charitable donations.

HCA Healthcare

HCA runs various hospitals and surgery centers. Some jobs can be done from home, such as medical coding.

Benefits include medical, vision and dental, 401(k), and HCA has a partnership with Western Governors University to offer educational opportunities to affiliated employees.

Himagine Solutions

Himagine Solutions hires medical coders for a variety of specialties, such as inpatient, outpatient, HCC, emergency, and others. Positions typically require a RHIA, RHIT and /or CCS as well as at least three years of experience. Remote workers must have remote experience. Some positions may be full time and include benefits.

Humana

Humana makes it easy to find their work at home/virtual positions with a checkbox in their search form. Some positions require travel. There are a wide range of openings you can consider.

They offer medical, dental, vision, and supplemental health coverage, as well as a 401(k) and tuition assistance.

Lexicode

Lexicode is a medical coding service. It’s a part of Excela. To find remote positions, go to their careers page, and select the remote option for State and City.

They offer full time employees the usual health benefits, and also offer reimbursement for continuing education, and a 401(k).

Parexel

Parexel offers various home based positions, mostly in the US and UK, but sometimes in other countries as well. These can include titles such as Medical Director, Clinical Operations Leader, Medical Writer, and more. Reviews posted on Indeed and Glassdoor say the benefits are good.

Insurance

Most insurance remote jobs will require some field time, but others can be done completely from home.

Erie Insurance

While some jobs with the company can be done from home, many will involve fieldwork. A company car may be included if this is the case. Jobs that might have work at home options available include adjusters of various sorts and claims specialists. They say about 40% of their employees take advantage of flexible work and telecommuting arrangements.

Benefits include health, dental, and vision, wellness programs, adoption assistance, 401(k), life insurance, and identity theft protection.

Holmes Murphy

Hires workers compensation claims specialists for telecommuting positions in certain states. Benefits are not described clearly on their site but are offered.

Marketing

Marketing is a great job to do from home, so long as you’re comfortable chatting with your coworkers online.

Acceleration Partners

This is a great company if you’re interested in helping companies with their affiliate marketing. You must live within driving distance of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, or Santa Barbara/Los Angeles. Benefits including medical and dental, 401k, paid time off, tuition reimbursement and more may be available.

Internet, Software, And Technology

Many internet, software, and technology companies now offer remote jobs. It makes a lot of sense for them, as there are so many tools making it easier to collaborate with coworkers online, no matter where they are.

10up

10up is a fully remote company that creates websites and tools for content creators. Their teams are distributed, able to work from their own home offices with flexible schedules. Benefits may include health, dental and life insurance, paid time off, professional development stipend, and 401(k).

Articulate

Articulate is a company that develops ways to make training easier. The company is fully remote and gives employees a lot of flexibility in how they get their work done. Benefits include healthcare including medical, dental and vision, flexible paid time off, a 401(k), a wellness benefit, and supplemental insurance.

Automattic

The folks that bring us great software such as WordPress also hires people to work remotely. You start out as a contract employee, but if you’re a match, it goes to full time.

Benefits include an open vacation policy, home office allowance, books and conferences, parental leave, health, vision, dental, and more.

Chef.io

Remote job titles with Chef.io may include Inside Sales Representative, Customer Architect, Business Systems Software Developer and Customer Success Manager. Jobs may include benefits such as unlimited time off, medical and dental, and paid family leave.

GitHub

GitHub is a place for companies to securely develop software. Remote positions for developers, technical support, and so forth may be available. Benefits include health, vision, dental, and family leave.

TTEC@Home

TTEC@Home offers customer support positions from home, as well as project management, designer positions, and other developer positions. Not all positions appear to offer benefits, but if they are available, may include 401(k), tuition reimbursement, and health and wellness programs.

Wombat Security Technologies

Hires software developers and possibly other positions to work at home. They offer a full benefits package.

Are There More Remote Jobs With Benefits?

Of course there are!

This is far from a comprehensive listing of remote jobs with benefits. Many companies don’t hire remote employees consistently enough for me to list them here. Others do, but their benefit offerings weren’t all that clear. Keep searching the listings on my remote job board for more places to look for work at home jobs.

The post The Big List Of Remote Jobs With Benefits appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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Letting kids stay home alone for the first time is a big deal. It’s a mark of maturity and parental trust. The hard part for the parents is deciding when it’s appropriate and for how long. Your idea of when to let your kids stay home alone may not match what they want.

But it isn’t all about what you think, or even what an individual child thinks. You have to consider a few things before you can let your kids stay home alone, for their safety and protection.

State Law

The laws on when kids can stay home alone vary from state to state, but most states decline to give an actual age requirement. Many give recommended ages, which can range from age 8 to 14. Considering that most places kids can start babysitting at age 12, I consider older than that to be overly strict on the state’s part. That’s something you have to consider when you’re making this decision.

A part of the rules effective in your state will depend on how safe the situation is. Being home alone for a while during the day is very different from being home alone all night.

Contacting CPS is an option if you aren’t certain about the rules in your area. Some of you will think this is a great idea. Some will consider it terrible. They may or may not give you good information. Sometimes you’ll get someone with very different ideas of what is safe versus what the law says. You don’t have to talk to them about it if you don’t want to. If other parents in your area have had problems, it may be a good idea. Facing legal issues over what you considered to be a good parenting decision would be hard.

Where Do You Live?

In asking where you live in this case, I don’t mean which state. We’ve looked at state laws already.

What we’re looking at here is the kind of neighborhood you live in. Do you feel safe letting your kids be home alone in your neighborhood?

There are neighborhoods where it’s a higher risk to have your kids home alone there than it would be elsewhere. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your kids home alone due to your neighborhood. You have to consider it, but it’s not something you can easily change. It’s not like “move” is a realistic answer for most families.

Maturity of Your Child

The simple truth of the matter is that some kids are ready to stay home alone sooner than others. You know your children best. You can decide when they’re ready to stay home alone for short periods and when you can be gone longer.

Your kids may be ready to stay home alone when you’re confident that your child won’t break too many of the rules you set for when you’re gone, such as having friends over, answering the door, cooking, and so forth. They should also know how to deal with minor problems and what to do in case of an emergency. They should know how to reach you at need. Cell phones are wonderful in this regard, as it makes it much easier for a child to reach a parent who is out and about.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if the kids don’t follow all the rules you set every time. Do you really think they’ll be perfect about screen time limits when you’re not around? Keep them reasonable. If your kids are like mine, you’ll come home to kids rushing to get assigned chores done. It’s normal. So long as the rules aren’t broken too badly, it’s rarely a big deal. But if the infraction is serious, deal with it appropriately.

Most of these rules should loosen up as your kids get older. They’re going to move out someday, and you want them comfortable doing normal adult things by then.

My son, for example, is about to have his first day alone without even siblings home. It’s his choice. I have to be an appraiser for his younger sister’s Destination Imagination tournament, and my husband has to be there with her. My oldest daughter has an archery tournament. I gave my middle child the choice of which to attend or to stay home, and home is what he chose. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. We’ll all be gone a significant chunk of the day. He knows he can call us if he needs help, and he has the phone numbers of various friends he could call if he needed an adult sooner than we could get back.

Siblings

A child with older siblings able to watch him or her can stay home without a parent younger than one without older siblings present. A child who has to watch younger siblings will need to be older before being allowed to watch them without parents home. Taking care of yourself and siblings is a much bigger deal than taking care of yourself.

I think about how old I was when I started babysitting, which included watching actual babies. I was 12.

That’s probably a pretty good age, state laws permitting, so long as your older kids are familiar with what the younger needs. They should also be fairly patient with the younger.

How Long?

How long are you going to leave your kids alone matters too. You can trust kids while you run a quick errand younger than you might trust them to be alone for a few hours.

For example, I’m willing to let my youngest stay home for a short time while I pick up her older siblings from school. Longer than that she’s not ready for.

They should also be a bit older if food preparation is required. Snacks may not be so difficult to deal with once rules are agreed upon. If a meal needs to be prepared, there’s more responsibility required of your child. This is true even if it’s just popping something in the microwave. It’s all too easy for an accidental burn to happen while taking food out of the microwave. Your child should know how to handle that without panicking.

Can Someone Come Help If Needed?

It’s a huge help if your kids know which neighbors or nearby family friends they can call upon at need. Most times, no one will be needed. On rare occasions, things happen. They need a trusted adult faster than you can come home. Plan for it so it’s not a bigger problem than it has to be.

Don’t make letting your kids stay home alone be a burden on neighbors or friends. If your kids need help from them often, they’re too young to be alone.

How Will They Contact You?

Make sure your kids know how to contact you in an emergency, even if it will take you a while to get home.

Most times, this is easy. Most of us have cell phones. If you don’t have a landline phone in your home, make sure your kids still have a way to contact you, of course.

There is an extra challenge if you’re somewhere that you cannot use your cell phone. Some jobs won’t let you carry one, for example. It’s rude, of course, to have your phone ringing at the movie theater or at a performance. Other times, there isn’t cell coverage where you’re going.

At these times, you need to have a backup plan for your kids. If they can’t reach you, who should they call?

What Options Do You Have?

Sometimes you aren’t entirely happy about leaving your child home alone, but you don’t have other options. If your child isn’t ready to be home alone, you will need to find a way to deal with that. You may need to talk to a family member, friend or neighbor about helping you out, or hire a babysitter. Sometimes you can arrange a playdate with one of your child’s friends when you need to get out without your child. If leaving your child alone isn’t the right choice, you have to pick an alternative and make it work.

When it comes right down to it, guidelines or no guidelines, and even state law, you know best when your child is ready to stay home alone and for how long. If you don’t feel your child is ready when the law or guidelines say they can do it, you don’t have to push the matter.

Allowing your kids to stay home alone is an important step in developing their independence. Keep the rules reasonable and they’ll have a lot of fun.

The post When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone? appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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People are getting their tax refunds at this time of year, and are ready to spend them. A lot of people, however, don’t spend them wisely. Suddenly you have a chunk of money right there, ready to be spent. It’s easy to use that unwisely. These are some of the tax refund spending mistakes many people make, along with some suggestions for smarter choices.

These situations aren’t true for all families, of course. Something that’s a mistake for one is just fine for another. But all too often, there’s a smarter choice available. The tighter your finances are for the rest of the year, the more careful you should be when spending your tax refund.

Major Tax Refund Spending Mistakes

Most times, it’s a mistake to spend your tax refund on these things. Not always, of course, but if you want to do this, make sure you know why you’re spending your money this way and be sure there isn’t something smarter you should spend your tax refund on.

That New TV

Getting a new TV, smartphone, or whatever gadget you’ve been eyeing is often a tax refund spending mistake. Sure, they’re nice to have, but how much do you really need it? Why couldn’t you afford it before?

If you’re spending your tax refund on something like a TV, think about why you’re spending it that way. If it’s just “I have the money now” and not “That’s how the timing worked, and the old one is about dead,” you may need to rethink things. You’re smartest to buy such things when they really need to be replaced, not just because a chunk of money came in.

If you couldn’t afford it without the tax refund, is it really affordable with it? Maybe there’s a better way to spend your money.

Other Splurges

It’s easy to want to splurge when you get extra money in your account. I get that. But it’s not a good idea to spend your entire refund on stuff that won’t last.

Whether it’s a new wardrobe or a nice vacation, really think about why you’re spending your refund that way. Be sure your priorities are straight. There are good reasons to spend your refund on things like vacations (you can’t beat the memories!), but not all reasons are good.

The Wrong Down Payment

There are times when it’s the right move to spend your tax refund as a down payment on something, such as a new or newer car. Other times it’s a huge mistake.

Don’t use your tax refund as a down payment on something you will struggle to make the monthly payments on. Just because you have enough money for the down payment doesn’t mean you can afford the thing the rest of the year. Keep it sensible so that you don’t add to your money troubles after the tax money is gone.

Gambling

Some people can’t resist gambling when they have some extra money. It’s that dream of hitting it big, and you have a system, right?

Casinos look as amazing as they do because people lose a lot of money there. Odds are that you’ll be one of them.

If you really want to gamble, only use a small part of the money for that. Don’t risk your entire tax refund. If you have a good day gambling, you have some extra money. If the odds aren’t in your favor, you’ve only lost that part of the money, and still have the rest to spend more carefully.

What Should I Spend My Tax Refund On?

The right choice for what to spend your tax refund on depends on your situation. If any of these apply to you, however, they’re probably a good choice.

If you’re getting a huge refund every year, odds are that you should adjust your withholdings. Remember, this is money you put in. If you change your withholding, you’ll have a little more money each month, rather than having it sit around until you file your taxes. You can put that money to better use if you get it as a part of your regular paycheck.

Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is expensive. If you get a big tax refund, spend it paying down that credit card debt. It’s so hard to get out from under it that the boost should help you quite a bit. Getting rid of credit card debt is usually a wonderful idea. Considering how high credit card interest can be, there are few things that can beat paying it off for financial benefits.

Household Repairs

Are there any repairs around the house that you’ve been delaying on because of money? Spending your tax refund getting your house into better shape is probably a good idea.

You might look into better insulation for your home, new windows, a new roof, new carpeting or flooring, or planning a remodel of your bathroom, just for some starter ideas. Depending on the size of your tax refund, it may not pay for the entire amount, but if you can afford to make these changes with your tax refund money, this is a great time for it.

You may even be able to consider getting solar power if there are good deals on it in your area and your electric bill is high enough for it to be worthwhile. In my area, solar companies try to get the monthly cost to less than what you’re paying for electricity, so this could be a good deal regardless of the size of your tax refund.

Start An Emergency Fund

How prepared are you financially for an emergency? Do you have a few months’ income saved up? If not, spend your tax refund by starting an emergency fund for your family.

This is money you try hard not to touch, even though it’s fairly accessible. Keep it separate from your regular spending money, at least in terms of how you track things. This way you don’t have to touch the credit cards if you need a major car repair, a pet gives you a huge vet bill, you need a new refrigerator, and so forth. An emergency fund will cut down on the stress of these events.

Try for a high yield savings account for your emergency fund if you can. This should keep it accessible for emergencies, but still let it earn a bit of interest.

Invest

How does your retirement portfolio look? Have you been good about contributing to a Roth IRA or other retirement account?

If you have room to contribute, this is a wonderful use of your tax refund that will pay itself back when you retire. Most people don’t have enough money saved up for retirement. You can give yourself a boost by adding an appropriate amount of money into your retirement account. This is especially important for stay at home moms and dads who often struggle to contribute to a retirement account.

If you can’t contribute more to a retirement account, how about a regular investment account? It won’t have the tax advantages of an IRA, but it’s still a good way to make your money work for you.

A Sensible Vacation

Taking a vacation can make a lot of sense, even though they can be expensive. You can’t beat some of the experiences you can have while on vacation.

You need to keep it sensible, however. Don’t take a vacation that is far beyond your means. The money you spend on vacation, even if it comes entirely out of your tax refund, should make sense in light of your overall financial situation.

Improve Your Career Or Business

Have you been waiting for the money to improve your business or career? This is a great thing to spend your tax refund on because it should pay you back.

What would you like to learn that would help you to earn more money? Now is the time to take action and do it. You could learn to be a virtual assistant and start a whole new business from home, for example. You could learn a skill that would make it easier for your employer to promote you.

Whatever you choose, be sure that it’s a wise choice. Don’t fall for a scam.

The post Watch Out: Tax Refund Spending Mistakes Many People Make appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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Starting a new blog is difficult. You may have some great ideas, but new blogs usually lack an audience, which gets frustrating. It’s often hard to think of what to do next. Where is everyone, anyhow? You and your new blog are struggling, and you’d like to make it better.

Blogging is never as simple as it sounds at first. Your new blog seems like something fun in the early days, but the reality is usually far more work than you expected, especially if you’d like to make a living from it someday.

You Need More And Better Content

Creating great content is a constant struggle. Not only do I look back and shudder at the quality of some of my oldest content (admittedly well over a decade old by now), but sometimes I’ll see posts that are only a couple years old, and wonder what I was thinking.

Blogging is a learning process, even if you’re a pretty good writer already. You have to experiment to find the right style and tone for your blog, along with the kind of information you want your readers to expect from you.

There can be a constant battle of quality vs. quantity. Sources will tell you that posts should be over 1,000 words and that you should post every day. That’s not possible for everyone, at least not if you want to keep the quality up. It also doesn’t work for everyone.

Sometimes giving a day or more between posts gives people more time to interact with the post, and that can be an advantage. Other people may find that shorter posts work best in their niche or writing style.

The key here is to pay attention to what works for you. It can take time for a new blog to work up enough data to prove that a particular approach to blogging works, but you won’t know what works if you haven’t tried and tested it.

You Don’t Have An Audience

Don’t we all wish it was easy to get an audience for our blogs? It would make things so much easier!

But when your blog is new and doesn’t have an audience yet, blogging can be frustrating. It can feel like a lot of effort for minimal results. No one likes that, yet you know you have to keep trying. If you don’t your blog will never take off.

There are some steps you can take to start building an audience. They aren’t a fast solution (nothing legitimate is), but these tips can help you get things moving.

Social Media

Using appropriate social media can be a huge help to your blogging efforts. Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are popular choices for when you start out. Odds are good that you have some family or friends that would be willing to help share your posts on Facebook at the very least, and possibly on other social media sites.

Make it easy to share your blog posts on social media by using a plugin such as Shareaholic. I like that one because it’s free.

You should also make it easy for people to follow your social media pages by including links to your profile on your blog. These usually go in the sidebar.

That said, don’t overdo it on social media. Allowing social media to take up too much of your work day is one of the biggest mistakes bloggers make. It’s so easy to get interested in all of the things happening on social media.

Your basic posts on social media can be handled with tools such as Hootsuite. I use it to automatically share each of my new posts on various social media accounts. It also lets me see what’s happening with my accounts on the various social media sites. Hootsuite is a huge time saver.

You will still need to handle parts of your social media directly. You can’t automate it all, or at least you shouldn’t. Check up on your accounts and look for ways to interact with people during the part of your day that you let yourself use social media. Then leave it alone and work on more important things.

Connect With Other Bloggers

There are a lot of Facebook groups that you can use to connect with other bloggers. These are great for promoting each other’s posts, learning from each other and getting support.

I mostly use groups which focus on promoting each other. Once in a while, I’ll post in one of the groups that’s more social, but even online I’m a huge introvert and not that good at conversation. When I see something I can respond to, I do try.

Here are some I like. Most of these are closed groups, and you have to apply to get it. It’s usually fairly easy. They mostly just need to be sure that you’re a blogger.

Bloggers2Brands
Grow Your Blog
Bloggers Sharing Links For Roundups
The Blogging Crew

Connect With Your Readers

When you do start getting comments and questions, respond to them. Don’t leave your readers hanging. They’ll leave you.

You don’t have to send them a personal email, although some bloggers do. A reply on the post them commented on is enough in most cases. Sometimes a really good question will even become a full blog post. If you make the question into a post, you may want to mention who asked by name, so that they know you’re paying attention and giving credit where credit is due. Other questions will be so common that there’s no need to say that “Sam, Joe, Anna, Christine, Yona, and someone who calls themselves ‘The Cat Who Walks Through Walls’ all asked this same question.”

You Don’t Have A Blogging Schedule

You will probably find having a blogging schedule helpful. What a blogging schedule means to you, however, may be different than what it means to others.

Many bloggers will talk about their editorial calendars, where they plan out their blog posts for months in advance, or maybe the entire year. That has never worked for me. If I plan more than a few posts ahead, I quickly get to the point where I’m throwing ideas out because they aren’t what I want to do anymore.

Instead, I keep a list of ideas. This keeps me from struggling to come up with ideas without feeling as though I have to write on one particular topic.

There are times that I have planned out posts farther in advance. If I do a series on something, that gets carefully planned so that I can keep up with the posting schedule for that series, and so that it makes sense as a series.

My schedule is basically the time I put aside for blogging, more of a daily routine than anything else. I schedule time for posting, promotion, and reading. It has to fit in around the routines of each day, such as when I drop off or pick up the kids at school, when errands need to be run, and so forth.

Your Images Are Awful

Very few blogs these days can get by without attractive images included in the posts. Images can be used to illustrate points and to break up the wall of text your post might otherwise appear to be.

Social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram rely on images. If you have few or no images to be used on those sites, you aren’t going to get much good from them. In some niches, that’s a huge disadvantage.

You can use free stock photography if you like (that’s what I use much of the time) and use an image editor to make it suit your needs.

On the other hand, you may find it better to improve your photography skills so that the images on your blog perfectly suit your needs and are unique to your blog. Once again, you can use an image editor to add text or use filters to make your photos look even better.

If you’re posting recipes, for example, you will almost always want the images to be your own. You should be taking photos as you make the recipe.

A blog like this one, on the other hand, just needs nice looking images, and stock photos work pretty well. There are times that I use my own, but most of the time it’s not necessary. All I need to do is edit the images with appropriate text or to crop out portions that I don’t need.

You Aren’t Optimizing Your Posts

Optimizing your blog posts for the search engines and social media can be overwhelming at first, and the process may not always make sense. There are some basics that you should work on for every post.

The first is to know what your keywords are. These are the main words you hope the search engines will let people find your blog posts under. They should vary by blog post. A keyword is usually more than one word. It’s really hard to rank for most single word searches.

These keywords should be used naturally throughout your blog post, in your blog title, and in the alt tag of your images as appropriate. You don’t want to overuse your keywords, but they should be present.

There are a lot of keyword research tools out there, but one simple way to come up with related keywords to your topic is to look on Pinterest. Type in your keyword in the Pinterest search bar, and see what words it comes up with that are related. This won’t tell you anything directly about how much search traffic the phrase gets, but it can help.

You should also install the Yoast SEO plugin. The basic version is free. It adds a box below where you write your post in WordPress, and you can tell it what your keyword is. Yoast SEO does some basic analysis on your post and gives tips on how to improve the SEO of the post.

Your Goals Are Unclear

What is it that you want from your blog? Is it a replacement for a job or just a hobby? Are you trying to create awareness about a cause or promote another business? If you don’t know what your goals are for your blog, it’s very difficult to push toward them.

Figure out what you want from your blog. With that in mind, you can set short and long term goals that will help you reach your larger goal. These smaller goals will make it easier to see the progress toward your primary goals.

You Ignore Analytics

If you set things up right, you can get a huge amount of information about how your blog is going with analytics.

Start out with Google Analytics. It’s free and will give you huge amounts of information about your traffic and how visitors found you. It takes some time to learn to use Google Analytics, but you won’t regret signing up for it.

Also, make sure you have a business account where possible on social media. Pinterest, for example, gives business users some very useful analytics so that you can track which of your pins are doing well.

You’re Stressing Out Over Too Much

Sometimes you have to take a step back and relax just a little. All of these details are very helpful to improve your blog, but it can also be overwhelming. That’s when you need to give yourself a bit of time to relax.

You don’t have to look at your analytics every day. You don’t even have to blog every day. Creating a lot of content is helpful, but the quality won’t be there if you’re too focused on quantity. If you need an hour or a day off to relax, take it.

Don’t stress out if you fall behind on your blogging schedule or when other minor things go wrong. Take a step back so that you can get a better look at things. Some of your best ideas may come from doing something that wasn’t planned at all.

While there’s a lot to learn when running a new blog, and it’s a struggle for most people to get things going well, you can learn to blog well. Give yourself time. Don’t try to learn it all at once. If you focus on the most important parts, such as great content, your new blog may eventually become an established blog that you’re proud of.

The post Why Your New Blog Is Struggling (And How You Can Improve It) appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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One thing I’ve noticed in running this site is that many people who want to work at home start their search with something like data entry. It’s easy to understand why. Data entry work at home jobs sound easy, can be done on the computer by just about anyone, at any time of day, and with kids around. You don’t have to worry about noise.

No doubt the high appeal of data entry work at home jobs is why there are so many scams in that area. It’s easy to fall for things that are too good to be true when you’re looking for the easy solution.

There’s a simple truth about legitimate work at home opportunities. They’re work. It may come easier for some than for others, but it’s still work.

Pick right and you’ll enjoy your work more, but an effort on your part is still required.

So what can you do aside from data entry if you don’t think you have any work at home skills, need a flexible schedule and can’t count on a quiet household? Are you just out of luck?

Fortunately, no.

You Can Do More Than You Think

Mostly that’s because most people don’t realize how many skills they do have. If you have office skills, for example, you may be able to find work as a virtual assistant. If you have transportation you might try mystery shopping, although it can be hard to earn a good living until you have a lot of experience in that field.

You might find a job where you can do research online, or where you can look up court documents in your area. There are writing jobs for those with excellent writing skills. There are lots of freelance writing jobs out there.

If typing is what you really want to do, go learn general transcription. It will take some time to find a general transcription job that pays well enough to be worthwhile, but it has fewer training requirements than medical or legal transcription.

Beware The Work At Home Scams

In all cases, you want to watch out for work at home scams. They’re out there in spades. This is especially true if you are looking for something as popular as data entry work at home jobs.

If any job sounds good to you, check out the company. Ask on forums about them. Search the company name on your favorite search engine with the word “scam” and see what comes up. Take some time to think about it. Really understand what it is you are getting paid for.

And learn what the common scams are in different work at home industries. There are common signs that will help you to keep on the right path.

For data entry work at home jobs, one common scam is to try to get you into affiliate marketing. But not the honest kind of affiliate marketing. The scammers want you to post ads about how you can make money posting ads on forums, blogs, and social media. Never mind that these are places that ads are rarely welcome and most of you posts will be deleted. Or that the ads will be selling the same information about ad posting that you got from the ad you followed.

There are ways to make money as an affiliate posting on certain kinds of sites. These ads usually give you the wrong way. The very wrong way.

In general, anything that promises easy money is lying to you. Most ways that you can easily make money don’t work for more than a few people. Even in the areas where some people legitimately do make big bucks online, such as blogging or making YouTube videos, most people won’t make much at all. The ones that make a lot have worked hard at it, even when it looks easy from the outside. Just something to be aware of, even if you don’t let it stop you.

Learn New Skills

Let’s say there’s a work at home job opportunity that has caught your eye, but you don’t have the skills for it. What do you do then?

My simple answer: Go get the skills!

There are lots of opportunities to learn new skills that will allow you to work at home successfully. Some options are free, while others cost quite a bit of money. Whether you can do it depends on what you want to do and how much you can afford to spend.

Take medical coding, for example. Solid training for that through Career Step will cost you a few thousand dollars. But, their training is highly reputable, and it’s a job that has fair demand.

If you want to become a virtual assistant, the Horkey Handbook is a good choice, and costs $247 as of this writing. The course provides a ton of information, including 58 lessons and more than two hours of video. It also offers a full refund for if you aren’t satisfied.

A virtual assistant will sometimes do some data entry work, but much of the work is much more interesting than that. And it’s usually flexible.

You Don’t Want To Limit Yourself To Just Work At Home Jobs.

That’s not quite true. You might want to limit yourself to work at home jobs. Many people simply cannot picture themselves running a home business. You’re limiting your options when you do that, but that’s a choice you make.

But thinking about a home business means opening your options up tremendously. It’s not all direct sales and daycare… although those aren’t bad options at all if they’re what you will enjoy doing!

Considering a home business means opening yourself up to risk. You might fail. You might lose money.

Then again, you might make more money than you would have with a job. You might end up doing something you really, really love.

In a home business, you have the control. You decide what you do and learn how to do it. You decide when you work on it.

If you don’t work hard at a business, of course, it probably won’t go anywhere and won’t be more than a hobby.

But consider! You can start a blog about your life. Start an affiliate site about your favorite hobby. Sell crafts you make. Work as a website designer or other professional.

None of these will guarantee you an income, big or small. But it’s a lot of fun to try. Love what you write about, and you’ll give yourself a better chance than blogging about something that bores you. Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll have fun trying.

While you still have to learn about scams when you start a home business, especially if you join an opportunity, you have much more control over what happens.

Much of my own online success has come from continuing hard work. Shortcuts have nothing to do with it. Low standards have nothing to do with it. Demanding a lot from myself does. When I’ve let work slide, my business has slid. And it’s hard bringing it back up.

You can do likewise when you decide to work from home, especially if you don’t limit yourself by thinking you don’t have the skills to succeed. These can be learned, even if you don’t get them on the first try. Keep working at what you’ve chosen to have your best chance at success.

The post Great Alternatives to Data Entry Work at Home Jobs appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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When kids reach a certain age, they start begging to have friends over for sleepovers or to sleep at a friend’s house. While some families aren’t comfortable letting their kids sleep over at a friend’s house, it’s a pretty safe thing for them to do. When you and enough other parents are ready, it’s time to let someone be the first to host. If you know what you’re doing, you can make even this first one a relatively peaceful slumber party.

Don’t Invite More Than You’re Willing To Handle

The right number of kids is very important to a good slumber party. You don’t want more kids sleeping over than you’re comfortable with.

Because my youngest daughter’s recent slumber party was the first that any of her friends had had, I let her invite all the girls in her class. To keep the number who actually slept over down, however, I gave the parents an easy out by noting that the kids were just as welcome to come for a few hours as they were for overnight.

We had 10 guests for the party, but only three slept over.

Next year, we won’t invite nearly as many because I expect that more will be allowed to sleep over. I had several parents comment that now their kids wanted to do a slumber birthday party. I expect these are about to become common with her friends. We invited a lot because I knew for certain that not all would be allowed to stay.

Sugar Early

If you want the kids to sleep at all, get through the sugary parts of the party early on. Serve birthday cake and ice cream as soon as possible. It’s a party, so if you want to serve dessert before dinner, do it. No one will tell you you’re wrong.

The only sugar you want the kids to have later in the evening is in hot chocolate. Make hot chocolate with warm milk, not water, as a late treat for the kids. Warm milk is supposed to make people tired, after all. The hot chocolate makes it sound enough like a treat that most kids will be happy to drink it.

At my youngest daughter’s recent slumber birthday party, the kids were talking about grabbing the goodie bags in the evening, as the kids who couldn’t sleep over left. I didn’t allow that. Extra sugar at a time that you want the kids to start getting tired is not a good plan.

If the kids really need a snack, popcorn is a good choice. You’ll probably have to vacuum up the mess in the morning, but it won’t get the kids too wound up.

Keep Them Active At First

While having a bunch of kids running all around and being noisy is tiring for the parents, it’s also the best way to tire them enough that they might sleep later. Even if they don’t sleep, they might be tired enough to be quiet when you’re ready to sleep.

We’re lucky enough to have a large garage that has been set up as a playroom for the kids. Kids can get pretty wild in there. The backyard is usually fair game too. Don’t let the kids get too wild outside too late, or you’ll bother your neighbors, but otherwise, it’s a very good idea to get them running around.

Kids at a slumber party always want to stay up super late, if not all night. The more active you keep them early on, the better chance you have that they’ll either fall asleep or be content to play quietly.

Set Limits

What activities are you and the other parents okay with at a slumber party. Can the kids put on makeup? What shows or movies can they watch? When do things need to quiet down?

At my daughter’s recent slumber party, which movie to watch was a huge discussion among the girls because one family had very strict rules. She could only watch things her parents had previously approved.

Fortunately, that included a lot of Disney movies. They settled on Brave. Some of them started yelling at the screen when Merida got her first bow as a little girl and she wasn’t shooting it right. Archery is popular in our area, and some of the kids know full well how it should be done. It was kind of hilarious watching them yell about it.

Set aside places where the kids can’t go. My bedroom and any sibling bedrooms are off limits during slumber parties without specific permission. So is my home office. I now have a “Beware of Dragon” sign on my home office door. It fit with my daughter’s party theme, and I keep my fireplace dragon in my office for safekeeping during parties anyhow.

Have Parent Contact Information

You probably won’t need to contact any parents, but have contact information for them anyhow. I save all of them on my cell phone as they RSVP, but some parents also like to write it down at drop off.

Some kids will bring cell phones and be able to call their parents themselves, but I still like to have a number for my own use.

The younger the kids are, the more likely you are to need to call a parent. Minor injuries are common when they’re playing, and little kids can be very sensitive about what would be a minor disagreement to older kids. Sometimes a child who thinks they’re ready to sleep over at a friend’s house discovers late at night that they really aren’t ready for that.

Be Ready For Minor Accidents

Stuff happens when kids get together for a party. They play a little rough and bump heads. Someone trips and falls.

For these kinds of accidents, make sure your basic first aid kit is available. You don’t need anything fancy most of the time, but you should be ready. Excited kids get rough with each other sometimes.

You should also be ready for the kinds of accidents that involve spilling food or drink all over the place. Slumber parties can be messy. If there’s a place in your house where you can’t have that kind of a mess, don’t let them bring food or drink there.

And yes, be ready for bathroom accidents if the kids are younger. I’ve had to loan out clothing at sleepovers when a child got too busy playing to go to the bathroom on time. I kept things very matter of fact and found something for the child to wear. No need to embarrass them or let any of the other kids know what happened.

Keep the bathroom light on at night. Somebody will probably need it, and you want them to find it without any trouble at all.

The #1 Rule For A Peaceful Slumber Party

There is one rule my mother taught me about hosting a peaceful slumber party for kids. It strikes fear into the hearts of the children sleeping over, and they will try very hard to keep you from invoking the rule.

If you wake a parent, they get to join the party.

Trust me. Kids don’t want mom or dad joining the party. I’ve seen eyes go big at the mere mention of this rule.

You don’t have to explain what you’ll do if you have to join the party. The kids’ imaginations will usually do plenty. If they ask, I give an evil smile and tell them to wait and see. So far, that has always been enough.

When the kids are little, they get one reminder if they wake me. That’s the most I’ve ever had to do. I’ll sometimes hear kids shushing each other if things start to get a little loud, because while some kids might be willing to risk the consequences of having an adult join the party, most really, really don’t want that. So long as the noise gets under control quickly, I don’t actually join the party.

Do have a plan for if you have to join the party. My husband says he will make the kids watch nature documentaries. I don’t actually have a plan for what I would do (don’t tell my kids!), aside from trying to bore the kids, but I have no doubt that I could make them regret waking me – without so much as raising my voice.

We also have a rule that I’m the parent who will join the party if it’s girls sleeping over, while my husband would handle it for boys. I don’t expect any problems with either of us handling things, but some families are very sensitive about that.

Nine times out of ten, this rule will give parents a good night’s sleep without demanding that the kids go to sleep at a particular time. Anyone who has ever been to or hosted a slumber party knows how reluctant kids are to go to sleep at anything resembling a decent hour.

Do you have any tips for hosting a peaceful slumber party that doesn’t wear parents out? What do your kids like to do when they have friends sleep over?

The post How To Hold A (Relatively) Peaceful Slumber Party For Your Kids appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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One of the big questions I get sometimes is how to find “easy work at home jobs.” The appeal of an easy work at home job is quite clear – easier to deal with the kids, low stress, but still bringing some money in. The problem is that “easy” isn’t really a good criterion when looking for work, especially from home.

“Easy Work At Home Jobs” Rarely Pays Well

Easy jobs of any sort rarely pay well at all. The more skill a job takes, the better the odds are that it will pay well.

If you want to try an easy job, try using a microtask site such as Amazon Turk. You won’t earn a lot of money doing most microtasks, but it is easy and flexible work. It can be difficult, however, to even reach minimum wage with microtasks.

Fiverr can also be easy, depending on what you offer there, but making sure that you’re getting paid adequately for the time you spend on it isn’t always easy. You have to find something that you can offer that only takes a little time but people will pay you to do. Then you need to show up well enough on Fiverr that people find your listing and choose you. Some do very well on Fiverr, but the learning curve is not easy for most. On the plus side, you can charge more than the original $5 that the site started out with.

There’s no reason for employers to pay well when a job is so easy that anyone can do it. If anyone can do it, there’s no shortage of people able to do the job. You may have a lot of competition for the easy jobs.

“Easy” Is Usually Dull

Usually when someone asks me about easy work at home jobs, they ask about data entry and such. That’s very repetitive work, generally not interesting at all. It’s very difficult to keep interested in a really boring job, which means it’s hard to work long enough to earn enough money with it.

If you’ve ever had an easy job, odds are that it was also mind-numbingly boring. A little mental or physical challenge makes any job more interesting.

“Easy” Is Vague

One person’s “easy” may not be so easy for someone else. What you find easy, someone else may find challenging. Asking for help finding “easy” work isn’t going to get you a very clear answer.

Sometimes that’s a good thing. If you find writing easy, blogging or freelance writing may appeal to you. Be prepared for writer’s block and other issues making your job more difficult… and most writing jobs still don’t pay all that well. There are writers who do quite well, but they’re in the minority. They also write the more interesting stuff, rather than merely trying to meet a word count for a short article on a subject they don’t care at all about.

“Easy” Often Leads To Scams

Many jobs that claim to be easy are in fact scams. There’s the classic mystery shopping scam where they offer you a cashier’s check to “shop” a particular bank – you keep a couple hundred for yourself, and wire the rest to the scammer. The problem is that the check is fake and now you’re on the hook for the money you sent them. Suddenly you’re in a mess that isn’t all that easy to deal with.

Scammers love the lazy. If you want easy money, you’re more likely to believe their claims when they offer it to you.

So What Should You Look For?

When you’re looking for a way to work at home, consider your skills and interests. Sure, you may want something really flexible, something easy, something you can do without paying for childcare, etc., but that shouldn’t necessarily be your first consideration. Find jobs that are a good match for your skills and interests first, then consider if they’re a match in other ways.

You can also look for work at home jobs that are flexible. If you wanted an easy job because you have small children or other obligations that may interrupt your day, flexible is probably what you were really after anyhow. I have a quick list of sites with flexible work at home jobs, and I’m sure there are many more companies out there.

If you aren’t certain whether a job is flexible, apply anyhow and ask at an appropriate point of the interview process. You might land a job that meets your needs even though the job ad didn’t emphasize that it was flexible.

Never assume that all work at home jobs are easy. They aren’t. People work at home in very technical jobs as well. One of my sisters did software development from home for a time, before deciding that working at home wasn’t for her.

There are work at home jobs that require advanced degrees, and ones that don’t care about your education. There are work at home jobs that require significant experience, and work at home jobs that require no experience. With today’s technology, just about any job that doesn’t require your physical presence in a particular space has the potential to be done at home.

How Do I Find A Work At Home Job?

To get started looking for a work at home job when you don’t know where to start, check out my post about getting started working from home. It has a lot of tips that might help you get things moving with a more realistic view of what to expect.

If you still go for an easy work at home job, consider it a stepping stone to better work, especially if it doesn’t pay well. Much as I discourage anyone from accepting less than minimum wage as a pay rate, I can understand why it’s sometimes necessary to do something so easy that the pay is absurdly low, just to get any money coming it. Just don’t accept it in the long run.

The post Why “Easy Work At Home” Is The Wrong Choice For Your Job Search appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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Having a social media strategy is a huge help in building your social media presence. The better job you do thinking out your plans, the better you’re likely to do when you take action. If your social media isn’t doing much for your blog, you need to look at ways to improve your social media strategy.

Plan Your Social Media Strategy

A really solid social media strategy requires planning. This helps you know how often to post on each social media platform.

Different social media platforms do well with different numbers of posts per day. Many people say that you should post no more than 1-2 times a day on Instagram, for example, but some accounts do very well posting quite a bit more than that. Pinterest and Twitter, on the other hand, generally need quite a few more posts per day.

Do not treat each platform as though it’s the same. Not only do the best posting times vary quite a bit, so do the best image sizes, writing style, and the best post length.

LinkedIn, for example, is a very professional site, and your posts should reflect that. Facebook, on the other hand, can have a much more personal feel to it. Instagram requires an excellent visual presentation for a post to succeed, and what you write there will only get attention if the visuals are good enough.

Make Your Content Shareable

Whatever else you do, be sure your content is easily shared. If people share your content on their social media, they’re doing some of your social media marketing for you. You want that.

There are several plugins available to make this easier, both free and paid. I use Shareaholic, which has lots of really useful free options. The paid options can be useful as well, but you don’t have to use them to have a good experience.

Shareable content is also right for the social media platform you’re sharing it on. Pinterest, for example, does better with tall images. Instagram prefers squares. Other platforms prefer images that are wider than they are tall.

This means you may need to make several versions of your images to use on social media. Use the right tools to make images for your social media, and this won’t be terribly difficult.

Build Your Social Media Reputation

Your reputation on social media means a lot to your success. People need to know what to expect from your business.

For most, this means avoiding controversial subjects, unless that’s what your blog is about. Getting controversial for most blogs is a way to alienate potential readers.

Beyond that, you also need a reputation of providing great information in your niche, even if you didn’t create it yourself. Share posts by other blogs and websites in your niche that people will find useful.

Don’t just stick to your own posts. Sure, you work hard on your blog, but other sites have great things to offer your followers as well. Take advantage of that fact. It will make you look better too.

Choose Your Social Media Platforms Wisely

You do not need a presence on every social media platform out there. Trying to use every site out there is a very poor social media strategy. It spreads your efforts out too thin.

Start out with the social media platforms your target market uses most. This may take some research. Also take into consideration which platforms you will feel the most comfortable using, especially when you’re just getting started. You may not feel ready to do live video on Facebook when you first start out, for example, but later on, you might choose to try it.

Pay Attention To Analytics

Social media analytics can be extremely helpful to your social media strategy. They’ll help you learn what’s working and what isn’t.

Each platform gives you information in its own way. In most cases, you’re best off signing up for a business account. That will give you the best analytics that platform has to offer.

You can also see where your traffic is coming from by using Google Analytics. Sign up and add it to your blog if you haven’t already. A good social following is nice, after all, but it doesn’t mean anything without traffic and income.

You can add campaign tracking to your links easily. This makes it easier to know at a glance where your traffic is coming from. The Google Analytics URL Builder makes this a painless process. If you really want to know how your traffic is converting from different sources, you need to do this.

It’s not necessary to look at your analytics daily, but you should look at them at least once or twice a month. Keep track so that you can see how interactions, number of followers, likes, shares and so forth go over a long period.

Make Sure Your Content Is Mobile Friendly

You may know by now that mobile is huge. It’s a major source of traffic for most websites.

If your blog theme isn’t responsive, it’s time to change to one that is. I know enough CSS and HTML to do it myself, but most people are better off finding a theme that does this for them.

If you want a fast solution, there are WordPress plugins that will make a mobile version of your WordPress blog. I don’t consider it an ideal solution (the results can be on the ugly side in my opinion), but it’s better than not being responsive at all.

If you want a really nice job done, pay a developer to design a responsive template for your site. The money spent will be worth it if it increases traffic to your website.

Be Responsive

Just as your blog needs to respond to the screen size it’s being viewed on, you need to respond to the people who visit your site or follow your social media.

If someone asks you a question, take some time and answer it. Some of my favorite blog posts have come from questions people have emailed me.

Making a blog post out of common questions makes being responsive to your followers easier. You can refer them to the answer you’ve already posted.

These answers can also be great social media posts. If someone is taking the time to ask you a question, odds are good that others have the same question.

You can also respond to other people’s social media posts. Ask questions. Give compliments. Add a little information of your own. Remember the social part of social media.

Try New Things

Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again all of the time. Try new things. It’s the only way to learn what really works.

Change the style of your images occasionally to see if a new style does better. Different fonts, different font colors, and new kinds of images may result in very different responses. If it’s better than your old style, make a change. If not, go back to your old style.

Also, try posting at different times, test new hashtags, post more, post less, and so forth. There’s a lot of advice out there for the best posting times on different social media platforms, but that doesn’t mean those will be the best time for you. Test to be sure.

Use The Right Tools

You don’t want social media to take up your entire workday. For much of your social media use, scheduling tools such as Hootsuite are worth the cost. They’ll let you schedule out the basic posting side of things in large chunks, so that part of the job can be taken care of once a week or so.

Don’t schedule everything. You can’t automate direct interactions on social media. You have to see what’s going on to respond appropriately.

Hootsuite allows you to see responses to your posts on several different platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can handle much of your posting and interaction through Hootsuite, which is faster than going to the various platforms.

Remember That Social Media Shouldn’t Be Your Only Marketing Strategy

Social media is a wonderful marketing tool, and it can be an extremely effective strategy to use it. But you should do more than that. Try guest posting, blog syndication, commenting on other blogs, answering questions on HARO, and so forth.

A broad marketing strategy gives you more protection from problems than a narrow one. Make time to do different things so that you get results from many places. You’ll improve your chance of success if you do so.

The post Powerful Ways To Improve Your Social Media Strategy appeared first on Home with the Kids Blog.

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