A Simple Guide to Plan for Your Child’s College Future

When I was a kid in high school, I used to think that there would be nothing better than an extended vacation that lasted for months. In fact, there were some summers that had been so filled with self-directed learning and activities, that I wouldn’t have minded if school just never started up again. It seemed like, once fall came around, I never had enough time for myself or my own hobbies, but was instead spending all of my free time at school and working on school projects. Every now and then, when I find myself home sick from school, I’d revel in the chance to watch trashy daytime television and read every book that I wanted to rather than those that had been assigned to me. I fill my days with my own interests, and dread the day when I had to be back in class. It’s not that I didn’t like school — on the whole, I actually loved the relationships I developed with my teachers and other students—but I only ever excelled in the subjects that interested me. Finding the motivation to succeed in algebra when there was an entire world to explore outside of those classroom walls was more than just difficult: sometimes it felt downright impossible. 

When the quarantine began, there was a small part of me who thought that students might enjoy being home for what I naively believed would only be a month or two at most. I never dreamed that students would be robbed of graduations, of sports teams, of theater performances, and of the classroom setting that—for some students—modeled the only positive peer and mentor relationships in their lives. Apart from that, they’re now lacking the classroom motivation to have faith in their post-high school careers: how, amid all this uncertainty, are they expected to make definitive plans for college? 

Stay On it Online

While working with your student at home, you might have noticed that the desire to succeed wears thin, as the weeks grow long. Expert online teachers, like the ones at Mountain Heights Academy, understand why some students naturally succeed in some subjects, while appearing unmotivated in others. To combat this, good teachers often present students with a different take on the subject matter. As a tutor myself, I’ve had students go from feeling as if they’ve hated math, for example—and is more than a grade level behind—to being excited, confident, and catching up to the rest of their class. The really striking cases happen with students who are eager to learn, but just didn’t connect to the content. If you show them how they can use mathematics to be creative—to design models, to develop art, illustrations, and animation, and to express their ideas—then you’ve set those students up for new levels of success You and your student can actively restructure their least favorite classes into their favorites.

Fear and Loathing in Lost Classes

The second category of apathy, however, is tougher to address—the students who seem unmotivated to do well in anything at all. Here, you won’t overcome their reluctance by teaching the content better. These are often students whose parents aren’t modeling a great attitude at home, and who are dealing with a bunch of stresses and problems already (including a pandemic), before adding homework to their list. “Not caring” about much, including school, can be a defense mechanism; they can’t handle pouring their heart into a subject on the off-chance that they won’t excel immediately, “confirming” that they’re unable to succeed. Right now, it’s hard to trust that things will turn out all right. To reach this student, start with building a strong, trusting relationship first and foremost; using that to foster feelings of safety and confidence. Celebrate small successes. As important as the standardized tests are purported to be, getting through this quarantine with a sense of personal accomplishment—no matter the subject—is fundamental to rebuilding self-worth once the lockdown is lifted.

Oh, the Savings They’ll Grow

Before the great social divide, attending a college or university after high school was all but a given for most students: now, with most institutions remaining closed through next year, it’s time to sit your student down and have a real discussion about taking a gap year. Not only does everyone need to have their emotional needs met at this time, but it’s also an opportunity to extend their real-life learning: many businesses are looking to hire some online interns; instead of risking bankruptcy to attend the college of their choice a year (or even two) from now, they can start to build their futures by developing some financial independence

Nothing feels certain during these uncertain times: the best that we can all do for our favorite students is to strengthen the relationships and bonds that we share with them. When it comes to my own favorite students (my nieces and nephews), I’m working hard to promote their hobbies and interests just as much as I encourage their test scores. After they emerge from the chrysalis of quarantine, I want them to feel like they’ve morphed into a stronger version of themselves. 

Stay-at-Home Summer DIYs

While I’ve been stuck at home during the lockdown, I’ve been doing my best to keep busy. Obviously, I’m still working plenty from home online—meeting with clients and working on customized nutrition programs—but I’m still finding myself with a little more free time than usual. So, instead of wallowing in my isolation, I’m trying to pull myself up from my bootstraps (technically, I’m only wearing my socks indoors) and finish up a few DIY projects around the house.

Clutter-Fun

First and foremost, it’s time to break down my pathological need to hold onto too many old things from my past, on the off-chance that I “might need them one day.” I’m sticking to the following handy guideline to make sure I let go of some things the way Rose let go of Jack at the end of Titanic: definitively, albeit with an air of sadness.  

  1. Understanding that someone might be able to use this, but it isn’t necessarily me. If I can donate this, it’s time to let go.
  2. Evaluating the item in the “here and now,” without considering our shared “history.”
  3. Considering when I actually last used something, and being honest about it. 
  4. Following the “20/20” Rule: if it can be replaced in under twenty minutes, or for under twenty dollars (and I haven’t used it forever), then I probably don’t need it. It’s why I can hang onto my favorites blanket for as long as I want without feeling an ounce of guilt, even though I’ve had it forever: I can’t replace it for twenty bucks, I can’t replace it in less than twenty minutes. It’s practically irreplaceable to me: however, it’s probably time to let go of my “The Lion King” pillowcases…
  5. Checking to see if there are any “redundancies” throughout my item list. I definitely don’t need ten pairs of black jeans, so I can donate some.

As my space feels smaller and smaller the more time I spend in my apartment, I want to rid it of any unnecessary items, and approach my life in a less cluttered way, for both my mental and physical health.

Somewhere That’s Green

I’ve been wanting to make myself a small composting box for a while. Usually, I used to think of compost piles as gigantic mounds of dirt appropriate only for farms, but compost is basically just organic material that has decayed in the presence of oxygen—it happens in nature everywhere, and all the time. If organic materials did not break down naturally, there would be mountains of dead plants, trees, and fruit covering the surface of the Earth. In nature, decomposition is facilitated by a variety of bacteria, fungi, and animals—compost is what is left once the organisms that need air to decompose things have done their job. All we are doing as composters is providing a place for aerobic decomposition to occur and trying to make it happen as fast as possible, and that’s it. Here’s my simple method for building a compost bin for “dirt” cheap; I’m starting out with this to see if home composting is for me:

  1. Get a large cardboard box, remove tape/glue so you can open it, and give it a round shape.You can’t turn it, you can’t move it around, it’s not tight-closed and it will only last 1-3 years, but if you can’t even get some pallets and nail them together it’s better than nothing.
  2. Cut the folds on one side so they get narrower if you want to get a more rounded shape (7-8 inches of width usually does the trick), then fold them under the box.
  3. Get one more large box and cut 2 circles of the same size of the bin. One goes on the bottom to help keep the sides of the boxes firm. The other one goes on the top and acts as a lid, and also helps with stability.
  4. On the bottom put a thick layer of whatever brown material you use, as a buffer.
  5. You can place it directly on the ground, but you should never expose the box to outdoor weather. The more stuff you put into it, the more stable it’ll become. You can use a small garden pitchfork to turn the compost but you need to be extra careful in order not to damage the bin, or you can just use a smaller tool (I use a tiny pickaxe).

Of course, I don’t have the kind of room at my place to appease the “green thumb” gods via every compostable material that’s available to me, but I made certain to call up some reputable waste management services to rent out a green waste container for my building. It feels great to know that, whenever I toss organic material back into that “green waste” bin, I’m limiting the methane gas building up at the landfill. 

Lockdown Muscles

The last DIY project? Myself. As a gym-rat without a physical gym location to regularly pester anymore, I definitely felt the crushing anxiety that hit so many of us at the outset of quarantine: that debilitating fear and loneliness, and that lack of human connection. For me, it manifested as a lack of motivation to get out and about and work out. Now, my plan is to focus on tidying up my diet (I was eating my feelings for at least a month), to go for safely, socially distanced walks throughout the day, and to combine that with yoga and bodyweight exercises that I can do in my living room. If this lockdown has taught me anything, it’s humility—instead of working out for a “look,” I’m exercising to reconnect my heart, soul, and mind. By the time our lockdowns have lifted, I hope that I’m ready to be a stronger force for good in the world around me. 

Should You Rent or Own Your Own Home Away From Home?

After ditching the humdrum of an everyday office job to develop a successful online fitness platform, I found out that working for yourself does not automatically afford you all the free time in the world to explore and travel like I’d hoped—at least, not initially. I spent several years building up a clientele until I had enough of a base to employ others to take care of the day-to-day practices that kept it in business. As soon as I was able to spend less time focusing constantly on my platform, I started prioritizing the activities that filled up my limited free time: and there’s absolutely no activity that I take more seriously than getting into the great outdoors and camping. However, even with the extra help, I realized that I’d have to streamline my “outdoor” time if I wanted to get the most out of it. Eventually, I decided to invest in some mountain and desert properties that allowed me to escape into the wilderness whenever I had the time, while also creating some passive income for me whenever I rented them out to others looking for a weekend getaway of their own. 

To Rent, or to Own?

At first, I wasn’t interested in anything but renting on a weekend for myself, and this might be what’s best for you, too; at least, at first. If you’re looking for total variety—and to never be tied down to anyone given region for your personal getaways—then you’re probably better off renting a place whenever you need it, in the area that you’d like to enjoy. For instance, if you’re not in love with what one particular area has to offer—and unless you live within a couple-hour drive of the property—you could wind up tying yourself down to a headache rather than a hideaway. A few questions to ask yourself before “yes” to the “weekend mess” might include: 

  • Who will maintain the house in between rentals? 
  • How will you make sure it isn’t trashed by tenants? 
  • How will you ensure that squatters don’t take over if it’s vacant for a few weeks? 
  • How will you keep out the local wildlife?

Fortunately for me, I was interested in certain specific areas, with the vast amenities they had to offer, and they happened to be located well within a three-hour drive to me. It might seem like a lot to some, but I’m an early riser, and my “isolated outdoor time” is precious to me. As far as how I’d maintain the properties, before I purchased anything, I contacted local, reputable property management companies to see what sort of services they had to offer, to keep the burden from falling solely on my shoulders. 

Investing in a Hideaway

Before investing in some properties myself, I was fairly conditioned to think that the only people who owned rental homes were billionaires with expensive beachfront homes along Huntington Beach in California or something—I never dreamed that it would be an enterprise I could afford, and much less turn a profit at. Aside from that, as much as I love surfing and other water sports, I never find myself flying out to the coast on a weekend I can spare: instead, you’ll catch me hitching up my custom camp trailer and heading out to the mountains or desert for a little rest and relaxation. In general, I like to be away from the “hustle and bustle” whenever I take a break from the hustling and bustling myself. I did a little digging, however, and found that certain types of mountain properties would indeed be an affordable and lucrative investment.

I made a point of setting appointments with several of the top rental owners in the regions I was most interested in owning, and learned what it takes to “make or break ” a mountain rental home. When I finally bit the bullet and invested in my own “getaway cabin,” and rented it out on off weeks, this is what I discovered:

  • My mountain rental attracts 3-day bookings, but few weekly.
  • I deal with a shorter rental season (assuming there’s no skiing in the area).
  • Most of the tenants have been clean and respectful—the area itself attracts the studious and pensive, and far less of the less (for better or worse) of the “partiers” that prefer rentals by the waterfront. 

Of course, this analysis is anecdotal to my own property, but the other mountain homeowners that I’d interviewed reported much of the same. The following aren’t necessarily cons or even qualms, but they are something to consider before you invest. Although I purchased properties thinking they’d be sources of pure relaxation to me, they were indeed investments, and as such, they required the following:

  • Time: since I mostly manage the property myself, I spend several hours a month on paperwork.
  • Maintenance: at least once a quarter, I visit with the express intent to paint, shop, and repair
  • Cleaning: the absolute most important component of making a rental work, are your cleaners. I employ someone thorough, honest, and reliable, and pay them well above the market. Since I am not available every weekend, and certainly not after every time someone rents the home, I need to rely on capable hands that aren’t mine. Your cleaning personnel can ensure an excellent rating for you on social platforms. They deserve every ounce of respect and support you can muster. 

Trading Places

Whenever I do have the chance to be up in the mountains hiking, or out in the desert off-roading, my rental properties make it possible to spend as much time as possible enjoying myself without having to set up a base camp out in the middle of nowhere. Aside from the passive income that each property creates for me whenever they’re rented out, I rest easy knowing that I’m sharing each home with responsible and thoughtful tenants; bringing joy to countless people who may not be able to afford a vacation home of their own. All in all, renting a vacation spot is a blast—but owning one that you rent out yourself is extremely rewarding, in more ways than one.  

Keeping Up with Your Studies During the Pandemic Panic

It’s hard not to join the hype that is the pandemic CoVID-19. University campuses are vacant, grocery store shelves are devoid of food, governors are encouraging businesses to engage employees with work-from-home assignments, and you can cut the panic and anxiety in the air with a knife. When states of emergency occur, it can feel hard to focus and concentrate on the things that matter most.

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Bringing Your Yard Back to Life

As winter comes to a halt and spring is ushered in, many of your neighbors will begin bringing their yards back to life. You’ll see each homeowner work a different angle. Some will aerate their yard to help the grass breathe, while others will rake it out, breaking up the bad roots and ridding the yard of dead grass.  Still, others will fertilize, feeding the ground, hoping to watch it turn green.

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