Monday, November 30, 2009

Working and Homeschooling

One of the most common questions I see on homeschool forums is this one:  “I would love to homeschool my son/daughter, but I have to work to help support the family.  Is is possible to work and homeschool?”

Years ago, the answer to that question would have probably been a resounding “NO.”  Homeschool curriculums used to be preparation intensive, teaching intensive, and follow-up intensive.  Parents often felt that they were spending as much time lesson planning and teaching as a classroom teacher with 30 students! 

Today, that doesn’t have to be the case at all.  Many homeschooling resources are designed to be parent-friendly, and require very little preparation time or actual hands-on instruction.  In fact, some programs let you pick and choose just how much you want to be involved in the learning process.

When your children are in the early elementary years, active participation in their studies is most important.  Even if they are using a homeschool program that allows for a lot of independent work, it is important to be nearby while they are working, so that you are available for guidance or any questions they may have.  But an independent homeschool program also allows you options.  You might be able to have your child work on some subjects while a spouse or family member is present, giving you time to work. 

An online homeschool curriculum is an excellent option if you are working.  If you have your own business, and need to take your children with you to work, they could take care of their studies on a portable laptop.  Or if they will be spending part of their days with a babysitter, or family member while you work, their schoolwork is always as close as the nearest computer. 

Another option for working parents is finding another working/homeschooling family to coop with.  If you and they can coordinate your schedules, it might be that each of you could trade off time watching each others children while the other one gets some work done.  And I have read about homeschooling families who have turned their entire nights and days around so that they could make homeschooling and working fit for them.

The ability to make working and homeschooling balance out for you will totally depend on your commitment to making it work.  There are options, support, and programs that can make it very possible, but there will still have to be sacrifices and changes that might be difficult - - especially at first.  But if you are passionate about teaching your child at home, there is no obstacle too difficult to overcome.

How many of you are working and homeschooling either by necessity or just because you want to? 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Military Families, Our Silent Soldiers!

I hope that each and everyone of you had an incredible Thanksgiving filled with family, fun, fellowship and festivities! I am actually writing this on Thanksgiving day. I've been cooking up a storm and needed to recharge my batteries. Believe it or not, sitting down at my little iMac and typing out my thoughts on a certain subject can be very therapeutic.

Today I am thinking of a dear friend whose husband is serving our country over in Afghanistan. He’s been deployed for almost a full year and she is at home selflessly taking care of their home, their children, their responsibilities without ever drawing attention to herself. I am constantly in “awe” of her quiet dignity. She is amazing and STRONG!

I know that there must be others in our Time4Learning family who are in the same boat. I want you to know that I am thinking of you and praying for you AND your soldier. Thank you for keeping us safe, for fighting for those freedoms that would be so easy to take for granted, such as homeschooling, freedom of speech, etc.., I hope that you have good friends and family who are taking you in today and loving on you.

My hope is that Time4Learning might be playing some small part in making your life easier. We know that when one spouse is holding down the fort that there is an incredible amount of responsibility involved. Our goal here at Time4Learning is that you can simply login and do the work. No details, no record keeping, no lesson planning! (unless you want to add things in for fun) Our computer based record keeping allows you to invest your valuable time doing things that might otherwise get pushed away.

Whether you are a military family, a civilian family, a single parent or a working family, you may want to take a peek at our homeschool resource page put together to help you have the best homeschool experience possible! Time4Learning believes that parents don’t have to work harder, they can simply work smarter. Let us do the busy work! Your time can be invested in teaching your children about the world around them, snuggling on the couch to read a loud or going on field trips.

If your family serves our country via the military would you take a second and introduce yourself? Let us honor and get to know you......, Remember, "We’re Better Together"!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being Prepared Can Make Or Break Your Homeschool Program!

This article is going out the day before Thanksgiving. I am sure that most of you, like me, are busy preparing for family, feasting and fellowship. I know that in order to have a stress free, fun-filled, memory-making Thanksgiving day celebration, I MUST prepare. To just wake up Thanksgiving day without a plan would lead to frustrations, delays and disappointments.

This week I’ve made out my menu and turned that into a shopping list. We’ve been doing extra projects around the house to make sure the house is in tip-top shape. My family and I have been purposeful in sharing those things we are most thankful for, and today I even bought an air filter that makes the whole house smell like pumpkin pie.

I was thinking about all the time we invest in this one day, and then imagined what our homeschools, our lives, would look like if we were to prepare this well every single day? As homeschooling parents we, more than ever, need to make sure that we have a plan in place.

I personally go away every June to a riverhouse retreat with other moms to plan out my year. But that is the big picture. I take time to read through what my boys are going to be learning, to pray and to process, but that alone is not enough. Being prepared, means being purposeful on a day to day basis.

Today's article is specifically to share tips and idea's to help you have a plan in place so you can have the best school year EVER!

1- Check out Time4Learning’s Homeschool Resource pages. They are filled with information and idea’s to help you have the best year ever. If you are looking for tips and idea’s, this is a great place to gather your information.

2- Visit our parent forums and gather idea’s from other moms who are on the very same journey. Some of my best experiences were given to me by someone else. I just had to take it and tweak it to make it fit our home, our homeschool.

3- Make sure you are signed up to receive Time4Learning's FREE newsletter. It comes right to you! The more resources you have, the more success you will experience.

4- Lastly, if you've not had a chance yet to check out our lesson plans then take sometime to browse through and add your own personal touch.

As you peel those potato’s, baste that turkey, stir that gravy, I pray that you and your family have an amazing day filled with forever memories!

Why don't you grab a cup of coffee and take a time-out from all the cooking and cleaning you are probably doing today to share with us ways "you" prepare for a successful school year!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Heart & Soul of

We thought you might like to know more about the women who bring you the great homeschooling insights each and every day found on our blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Our esteemed crew includes:

Brandy Strouse is a homeschool mom to 3 kids and has been homeschooling since 2003. She uses the "whatever works" method of homeschooling, sometimes called eclectic. She homeschools to her child's individual needs.  She writes a personal blog In Training for HIM She also moderates forums for Pinellas Parent Educators Association and When she is not teaching, blogging or moderating forums she is a part time office manager for a local marble restoration company.

Kelly Stone is a homeschooling mom for
6 kids that span an age range of 21 years.
Her youngest son has Down syndrome
and 2 of her eldest have graduated from
homeschool. One earned a college degree
in Computer Electronics and the other is
studying business in college. She is owner
of The, the oldest curriculum swap
site on the Internet and on the governing board
of Mid-Columbia Christian Home School Co-op.
In addition to her administrative duties for this
group she writes and publishes the monthly
newsletter and maintains the group website.
In her spare time she teaches classes in
journalism and literature for this group.
Kelly is a freelance writer for Time4Learning,
an online homeschooling curriculum.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What is a lapbook, and why would I want one?

A completed lapbook can be compared to a child's pop-up book or a lift-the-flap book. These types of books often generate more enthusiasm among elementary aged kids than simple text. Tactile learners respond well to the interaction involved in making and looking at a lapbook.

Lapbooks are made by children, with varying degrees of parental assistance. They serve to reinforce what the child is learning, much as a worksheet is designed to do.

Are you a parent who enjoys scrapbooking? Then you will probably enjoy lapbooking with your children.

Lapbooking can be a regular part of your curriculum, an occasional diversion, or a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Since 2001, my kids have created a lapbook almost every week. The completed books are stored in magazine files. By the end of the school year, we have collected around thirty lapbooks per child, each containing a record of the child's study for that week.

Besides reinforcing study material and providing a record, lapbooks effortlessly incorporate review into your program. My children are eager to share the contents of their lapbooks with friends and family. Each time they do this, they are reviewing the material contained in the lapbook! I've never seen them grab a textbook or worksheet to show off when Grandma knocks at the door, but it's a regular occurence with their lapbooks. (Thanks for your patience, Mom!)

Lapbooks provide an easy-to-use reference for young children, too. Can't remember the difference between a reptile and an amphibian? If they've lapbooked it, chances are they'll know right where to find what they need. My kids naturally go to their lapbooks to retrieve information.

Most lapbooks use a file folder as a base. The child collects information studied in small "minit books" that he then glues into the file folder. The process is fun and the result is attractive and useful.

Minit books can be made from scratch or borrowed from other generous lapbookers who have posted printable versions of their own designs on websites that feature homeschool resources. Possibilities are virtually endless. One example is a tab book where the student writes one fact about the material studied under each of four tabs. This is far less daunting to a young writer than a vast expense of white paper needing to be filled with his words.

Still not sure what a lapbook is? I wasn't either, until I saw a few that others had created. One of my daughters' Thanksgiving lapbooks is showcased in the video below.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saying “Yes” To Your Community


In Friday’s post, I alluded to something that is very important to us…volunteering.  When my husband began working at a homeless shelter eight years ago, our whole family came face to face with the reality that most of our non-profit organizations would never be successful without an army of faithful volunteers to take on many of the necessary tasks.  Now that my husband is the operations director of that shelter, he can vouch for the fact that there would be far less aid and help given in our community if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of volunteers.

Once we understood this personally, it became one of our family’s personal goals to volunteer on a regular basis.  Over time, we have realized that we each have issues we are passionate about.  My husband, in addition to being passionate about the needs of the homeless, has also volunteered a lot of time toward another issue close to his heart - - helping the mentally ill of the community who often fall through the cracks of the healthcare system.  My particular focus of interest is supporting local agriculture, so I find lots of opportunities to volunteer at farm events and tailgate markets.

Our sons, of course, have very different interests as well. Our oldest son is very technically savvy, and finds opportunities to provide support for non-profits with computer and website issues.  Our younger son is passionate about animals, and seeks out chances to help out at animal shelters, to care for the pets of neighbors who are away on vacation, and to lend a hand at pet-adoption events.

Homeschooling has provided us with multiple opportunities to serve, since we are not confined to a classroom all day.  In fact, I see these volunteer duties as every bit as educational as formal coursework.  Being free to schedule our day, means being able to say “yes” to unique chances for personal growth, life skill training, and empathetic awareness.

Every time someone asks us the question about how our homeschooled kids fare socially, I just start rattling off all the ways they are involved in their community.  It quiets most questions almost immediately!

How about your family?  What ways have you found to volunteer in your community?  Has homeschooling made it easier for you to “give back”?

Friday, November 20, 2009

It’s All In The Name

Ten years ago, I got a little homeschool form from my state to fill out. It is called a “notice of intent” to homeschool, and it doesn’t ask for a lot of information, but the very first blank on the card threw me for a loop.

It asked for our “Homeschool Name.”


I mean I was just wrapping my poor head around this whole idea. The plan had been for me to buy the notebooks, and the backpack, and the Lunchables™ and send my son off to kindergarten. Now because of medical circumstances, that wasn’t happening, and he was suddenly a homeschooler. And now they wanted to know if our homeschool had a name??!!

I look back on that little moment as kind of miraculous. My husband’s Greek/English lexicon happened to be sitting next to me on the couch, and I began to flip through the pages. I could practically have closed my eyes and picked a page and pointed, because suddenly I came across a word in there that just sort of “grabbed” me.


Ergon. Roughly translated, it means “service.” I made the quick decision that we would be called Ergon Academy.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how prophetic that name would be. Looking back on the last ten years of our homeschooling journey, one of the biggest aspects of the whole adventure has been our service to our community. Not a year has gone by that we haven’t volunteered in some way. We’ve participated in everything from Meals on Wheels to helping out at our local Humane Society. Our homeschooled years truly have been about “service.”

I’m sure that every homeschooling family has their own story for how they chose the name of their homeschool. I would LOVE to hear some of the names you’ve chosen, and why.

What did you fill in YOUR blank??

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Managing Your Busy Homeschool Activities!

If you did not get a chance to read the article on Tuesday entitled, "Tis The Season, For Homeschool Burn Out" won't you please take a moment to read through it, as it truly sets the stage for today's article.

Two years ago I had so many new and exciting things taking place in my life. My children were getting older and I was able to get out of the house and serve in area's that had been off limits while I had little ones. I had taken on the role of chairwoman for our homeschool support group, which was a big undertaking for this mommy of four who had been homemaking and was a little out of practice with the business world.

I felt like there were so many responsibilities and felt guilty saying, "no" to some things, and so I said yes too often. I began to realize that the busier I got, the less I enjoyed anything. My plate was too full and nothing tasted good. Things I would have normally enjoyed, lost it's flavor. As I was preparing for my first big board of directors meeting I cried out to the Lord and asked for direction. How should I open the meeting? What should I say? What do I commit to and what do I say no to?

As I was sitting at my dining room table one morning sipping coffee I happened to glance over and saw a stack of styrofoam plates sitting on my dining room table and an idea came to me. Using a black permanent marker I wrote out everything that was currently on my plate of responsibility. It became quickly apparent “why” I had been feeling overwhelmed. There was so much black ink that you could not make out some of my writing. Throughout the week I would take out my plate and work on it. I began to ask some important questions:

How does this line up with my families standards?

How does this line up with my families worldview?

What do I "HAVE" to do? (school)

What do I "LOVE" to do? What fills my cup?

What am I good at?

What am I NOT good at?

Slowly, but surely I began to put lines through some of the activities and by the end of that week I had a more workable plan. I believe it's important not to work every single second of every single day. We need margin in our life for spontaneous, enjoyable opportunities.

It’s good to make a new plate once a year or even twice a year. Some things are taken off while new things are added. My rule of thumb is that to say yes to something new I have to say no to something old. (there are exceptions if it’s a short term project)

Remember that seasons often determine what our plates are going to look like. When I had all young children my plate was heavy with responsibility and I had very little time to engage in those things that filled my cup, such as scrapbooking, blogging, etc.., However as my babies got older I was able to add those activities to my plate. So what you say, "No" to today could be tomorrow's (next years) YES! Remember Keep It Simple, Leave Margin in your life for spontaneity!

What's on your plate right now and how are you feeling with your level of commitment?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meet Ed Mouse!

"Hi! I'm Ed Mouse . . . the educational mouse! Guess what? It's time for learning . . . and fun!"

Each morning, when she logs on to her online homeschool lessons, my eight-year-old could choose to bypass Ed's cheerful greeting. She doesn't, though. She sits right there and waits for the short intro to conclude before proceeding to the day's school work. I suspect this small ritual helps her transition from free time to the serious business of studying.

After years of listening to Ed Mouse introduce his siblings' lessons, my four-year-old was delighted when he realized the preschool program at Time4Learning is actually hosted by Ed. Familiarity has bred an affection for the animated, blue computer mouse with an alarm clock on his tummy.

When I saw The History of Ed Mouse, I knew I had to share it with my children. My husband says I can turn anything into a unit study, and maybe he's right. The little website provided a week's worth of supplemental education for my homeschooled children.

We learned some terminology: character, logo, story board.

We designed logos to represent our favorite activities.

We poured through magazines to find logos for a logo collection.

We used a story board to write our own cartoons.

We looked at some early Mickey Mouse cartoons and compared them to today's Mickey. Then, we looked at the early sketches of Ed Mouse and compared them to Ed today.

We discussed mascots and chose a mascot besides Ed to research and write about.

We printed some pictures of Ed and glued them onto photographs of ourselves. (Those were the covers of our homeschool journals that year.)

We love the Little House on the Prairie books, but the descriptions of the children's school days leave me feeling sorry for them. The students spent hours with a small slate, often sharing a textbook, diagramming sentences and working math problem after math problem. No wonder the teacher needed a ruler to keep them all on task!

Ed knows something I have long suspected. Kids learn more when they're enjoying themselves. Having a cartoon character associated with their school lessons adds an element of fun that my children appreciate.

Do you or your kids count yourselves as Ed Mouse fans? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Tis The Season" For Homeschool Burnout!

Keeping Your Homeschool Excitement Going STRONG!

Have you ever been to an all-you-can-eat buffet? There are many perks to choosing those feast-filled smorgasbords. It’s a great deal financially, mom doesn’t have to cook, and there’s something for everyone. However, there is a down side, it encourages partakers to stuff themselves silly. Seriously, this is NOT the place to go if you’re trying to lose weight.

The last time we went to the Golden Corral I remember eyeing a piece of red velvet cake on the dessert bar as we were making our way to our table. I made a mental note that I would definitely have a piece before we left. By the time we had eaten our fill of salads, casseroles, marinated meats, breads, potato’s, etc, we were STUFFED! Yet, that red velvet cake kept beckoning me. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to miss out on anything! (sighing and rolling eyes at myself)

I learned a very valuable lesson that day! “NOTHING tastes good when you’re full”! As I cut my small sliver of cake I could see that it was perfectly moist and the frosting was just the right consistency, however, as I took my first bite I was surprised that I couldn’t even taste it? I was so full you could have served me a stale cookie and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

How many times do we do that as homeschooling moms? We get so excited at the beginning of the school year that we begin to say yes to anything and everything? We don’t want our children to miss out on any opportunity. Saying “no” is hard because we feel this pressure to make sure that our children are exposed to every possible experience. I mean, how could I ever say no to music lessons, field trips or co-op classes?

The truth is when I look back over the many years that we’ve homeschooled, our most cherished memories came in those years where I kept it simple. I found that there is power in saying, “no”. “No”, frees me up to enjoy my “Yeses”. When I say yes to everything I become “full” of busyness and NOTHING TASTES GOOD. I don’t even have memories to carry in my heart because they get buried in our busyness.

So how do you beat Homeschool burn out?

1- Slow Down- Less is BEST!

Pace yourself. We don’t have to go on every field trip or attend every musical all in one year. Choose those things that help you work towards your immediate goals and save some for next year.

2- Keep it simple- Work Smarter Instead Of Harder!

Time4Learning has taught me that more is not better, more is just more. After years of buying big expensive, time intensive curriculum we found that Time4Learning kept our life simple and manageable, but netted bigger year end results (testing wise) then those big fancy programs. I learned that you can work smarter instead of harder.

3- Stay Plugged in with other Homeschoolers!

If you’ve not joined our cyber community forums over at Time4Learning we’d love to have you. Grab a cup of coffee, pull up your chair and come introduce yourself. Remember, “We’re Better Together”! Staying connected to others helps keep your passion burning.

Now that I’ve shared my tips, what are yours? How do you keep yourself from burning out?

Stay tuned Thursday where I will share my secret to time management. This simple and FUN plate management program will help you weed through your “no’s” so you can get to those “yeses”!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Are Homeschoolers Less Physically Fit than Public Schooled Students?

My children are involved in a terrific sports program. The kids meet once a week to play whatever sport is in season. There are no assigned teams, no between-game practices, no traveling, and no expensive uniforms. Since you never know who or how many will show up to play, teams are different each week. The program reminds me a lot of vacant-lot baseball, but it's overseen by a dedicated coach.

I had the opportuntity to chat with the director of the program recently. He mentioned that he believed homeschooled children, as a group, were less physically fit than public school students. When I asked why he thought this might be, he cited lack of physical education classes, no need to walk to school, and no dashing through the halls between classes while carrying heavy books!

When our family made the decision to homeschool, P.E. wasn't even considered. My kids have always been involved in soccer and Little League. As far as I was concerned, that covered "Physical Education" . . . until I noticed my middle son's adolescent growth spurt had caused him to grow "out" as much as he'd grown "up".

That's when I began looking into opportunties for regular physical education classes. In Oregon, public schools are required to allow homeschooling students to participate in their sports programs and even to enroll in single classes, such as P.E. Our family has chosen to keep our names completely off the public school roles, so we had to explore additional options.

For the past several years, I have led our homeschool co-op in the President's Fitness Challenge. While you probably took part in this program in public school, you may not know that it's open to homeschoolers. If you don't belong to a co-op, you can still participate as an individual. The clothing emblems the kids can earn are fun to wear, and the certificates look great in their portfolios.

Of course, homeschool co-ops are wonderful places for any kind of group activity. The parents in our co-op take turns leading a weekly P.E. class for younger children. This takes place in a local park during good weather, and in a church gym when it rains. During P.E., the students get a chance to play duck-duck-goose, drop the handkerchief, Red Rover, tag, and other group games.

A private Christian school in our area issued an invitation for homeschooling families to participate in their P.E. classes. I have been taking two of my children to this school for several months now, and it's one of the highlights of their week. I realize not every family is fortunate enough to have this option but, if there's a private school in your area, it wouldn't hurt to ask if you can participate in P.E. "a la carte".

I can't say my own observations confirm the coach's opinion about unfit homeschoolers, but I do admit that it would be easy to allow fitness to take a backseat to academics.

What does your family do for P.E.?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Should homeschoolers be allowed to play public school sports?

battle for the ball

Image by jmtimages via Flickr

One of the big homeschooling debates that is currently raging in my home state of North Carolina is the question of whether homeschooled athletes should be allowed to play on the same sports teams as the public school students.  A few states have already been through this debate, with mixed results.

Out of the fifty states, only 24 of those allow students to participate in extracurricular activities within the public school system.  That means that out of the approximately two million homeschoolers nationwide, less than half are eligible to play team sports - - even though their families support those sports with their tax dollars.

Of course, there are strong opinions on each side of the issue.  Homeschoolers whose children are interested in participating in athletics often have very few options.  Most recreational league sports only go up through middle school ages, and homeschool leagues are difficult to organize in states where homeschooled populations are spread out.  They are also costly, with each sport often costing the participant $400-$500, whereas participating in public school sports is always free.  Homeschoolers also feel frustrated by the fact that college athletic recruiters usually only concentrate on public school athletes.

Opponents of the idea feel that allowing homeschoolers to play on the same teams as public school students is unfair.  School superintendents often say that if the homeschoolers are not subject to the same requirements as the school students (such as keeping grade point averages), then they should not be allowed to play.  And parents of public school athletes often argue that talented homeschoolers could steal positions on the team that could go to a public schooled student.

The HSLDA has remained neutral on the issue.  Although they understand homeschoolers desire to participate in public school sports, they also believe that the more they get involved with government-run entities, the stronger the possibility of restrictions being placed on homeschooling in general. 

What about you?  What are your opinions of the rights of homeschoolers to play on public school sports teams? 

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

What About Socialization

What About Socialization?

This is probably the “most” asked question when talking with someone who is considering homeschooling for the very first time. I know it was one of the first questions “I” asked when thoughts of homeschooling entered my life 12 years ago. I only knew what “I” had experienced through my own public and private school situations. Anything different seemed unfamiliar and scary.

All these years later and I now lovingly laugh when asked about socialization. You see, what I found was that it wasn’t a “lack” of socialization opportunities that we experienced as homeschoolers, but just the opposite. I had to actually learn how to occasionally say “no” to things that didn’t work towards a specific goal. Field trips alone can take us away from our home several times a month, not to mention, park days, homeschool co-op’s, nature classes, drama, choir, you name it. Homeschooling has given us far more socialization opportunities than my children would have ever experienced in a traditional school setting.

As I looked back to my own personal school experiences, what I remember about socialization is that for me, I was socialized in things that I should have never been exposed to. My life wasn't better because of the socialization I received in my public and private school experiences. As a matter of fact I shudder when I think what my young ears heard and young eyes saw. You see, we are always being socialized, but the environment dictates whether that is going to be a good experience or bad.

So, what about socialization? Well, the homeschooling lifestyle allows positive and purposeful socialization. Having an 18 year old gives me perspective that I could never have had back when we first began. I now see that homeschooling gives my children a leg up socially. My boys are comfortable with younger children, older children, peers, adults and elderly alike. They THRIVE working with people of all different ages.

Please note that there can be a downside to the level of socialization that takes place in a homeschool situaiton......, it often interrupts our school days. Field trip opportunities seem to happen right when we should be doing math. (smile) However, I have found that my children learn so much through our field trip experiences that I do not want to say "no". This is why I personally believe there is no better curriculum for my children than Time4learning. Because of it’s flexibility and independent nature, my children can have the best of both worlds. My boys can say "YES" to incredible socialization opportunities that come along because Time4Learning adapts to our day rather than making us adapt to it's schedule.

Time4learning allows my family to fully embrace a lifestyle of education. Afterall, learning doesn’t just take place between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

How about you? What are your thoughts on socialization? What does socialization look like in your life?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day Activities for Homeschoolers

Once in awhile, our family takes the day off from our online homeschool lessons to recognize special days. As I type this, my children are busily crafting their versions of the American flag with markers, glue, and construction paper. The kids look forward to the variety these types of activities provide. They approach all of our annual observances with an attitude of fun. They don't care that I mark it down as an educational "enrichment activity", so please don't spill the beans!

How do you observe Veterans Day? Our newspaper printed a big, two-page flag for families like us, who have neglected to purchase the real deal, to tape on our front door. We made thank you cards and we've been practicing a couple of patriotic songs to sing during our homeschool co-op's visit to the Veterans' Home later this afternoon. Our small town's Veterans Day parade has not been as well attended by the community as other local parades (the ones where clowns throw candy from the floats). Because of this, our entire co-op is heading downtown to show our support by at least being spectators.

If you don't belong to an enthusiastic homeschool co-op, how can you make Veterans Day meaningful to your kids? Here are a few ideas.
  • Read about the history of the American flag.
  • Make paper flags.
  • Learn how to make a five-pointed star with just one scissor cut. (Google it.)
  • Learn a patriotic song or two.
  • Telephone a veteran in your extended family.
  • Visit a veteran. Does he/she have any memorabilia to share? I'll bet they at least have stories to tell.
  • Do an Internet search for some patriotic coloring sheets.
  • Get the kids looking in closets and drawers for red, white, and blue things to wear.
  • Find some appropriate Veterans Day videos on YouTube to show your children.
  • Take a drive downtown to count how many flags are displayed.

Are you doing anything special for Veterans Day? Use the Comments area below to shout out to a veteran today!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Three Smart Rules for Homeschool Legislation?

A Washington Post article this summer mentioned a book that proposes "Three Smart Rules for Homeschool Legislation". The author presents these as "rules for regulating homeschooling that he thinks all sides could accept".

As a longterm, committed homeschooling parent, I don't accept them. Judging from the comments on the article, I'm in good company.

The article merely suggests that homeschooling parents be required to submit annual reading, writing, and math test scores for their children. Since I do choose to have my own children tested every year (for my own information), it might be surprising that I have objections to even this small amount of governmental oversight.

My first objection is based on statistics. Homeschooled students, as a group, already outperform public schooled students on standardized tests in grades K-12. Every study I've ever seen comes to the same conclusion, with homeschoolers scoring an average of twenty percentile points higher than public schooled students. Recent comparisons of SAT and ACT scores show homeschooled students exceeding public school students' scores in every state. In states that require standardized testing of homeschoolers, parents are usually instructed to submit test scores to the public school district. Holding homeschoolers accountable to an institution they are outperforming simply defies logic.

My second objection is to the intrusion. This is required annual testing, remember. How much support would there be for legislation that required parents to take their children for annual physicals, an annual dental exam, annual psychological evaluations, or any other tests designed to assess whether the parents were doing their job? Most parents don't need prompting to do these things when needed, and it should be assumed that I'm doing my job, unless there's reason to believe otherwise. It's the good old, American "innocent until proven guilty" philosophy. Why has education been singled out as the one thing parents can't be trusted to provide for their children?

My third objection is to the efficacy of standardized testing of young children. Some people simply don't test well. Illness, test anxiety, learning styles, and cultural differences can all affect results obtained. Many children are simply late bloomers. Others might lag a year or two behind their peers throughout their school careers, but they end up in the same place. In addition, these "simple rules" do not allow for measuring the progress of students with special needs, who often can't use standardized tests at all.

My fourth objection is to the precedent required testing sets. Certainly it seems reasonable to expect that children will, at minimum, be taught to read, write, and do basic math. Rules tend to breed rules, though, and each year brings new laws. Where the government can require a certain level of reading and math skills, it will be much easier to impose other "reasonable" curriculum requirements.

My final objection is that the amount of regulation imposed by a state has no bearing on homeschoolers' achievement. The test scores of homeschooled students in highly regulated states are nearly identical to those of homeschoolers in states with no regulation (and they all outscored the public schools).

I've found that new homeschoolers are especially willing to accept and even welcome regulation. "It keeps me accountable," one mom explained. Having been removed from the public school system for so many years, I have to stop to remember that many families consider their child's school to be an authority figure. They don't realize that, in most cases, they can separate from the system almost entirely.

I was saddened to see a friend from church, nervous and worried about an upcoming conference with her son's school teacher. Although she is a loving mother who is very much in tune with her children, she knew her parenting methods were going to be questioned again. We who choose to home educate often consider it an extension of our other parenting duties. I don't need to be held accountable for the care I provide to my children, and you probably don't, either.

Friday, November 6, 2009

That’s Just How WE Do It

So, I’ve been reading some different posts on the Time4Learning™ forum lately, and it has really made me smile to realize how MANY different ways people use Time4Learning in their homeschool. 

I thought it might be kind of fun to share a little bit about how WE use the program, and then hopefully get some great comments from you guys on how YOU do it, and then compare and contrast!!

This is our third year with the Time4Learning homeschool curriculum.  We discovered this little gem two summers ago, when I had pretty much given up in despair that I would never find a homeschool program well suited to my visual, right-brained son.  What an incredible relief it was to discover an interactive, multimedia online program that seemed designed with my son in mind. 

So in this, his third year with the curriculum, we have tweaked, and prodded, and poked, and cajoled the Time4Learning system into something pretty workable for us and our goals.  Up until last year, we had only used T4L for math, and language arts.  But when I previewed the 7th grade US History course, I knew immediately we were definitely going to be using the social studies as well.  I have been incredibly impressed with how comprehensive the lesson plans are, and we have spread them out over two years now by supplementing them with unit studies and books that complement my son’s favorite lessons.

Some T4L’ers tend to do certain subjects on certain days of the week, and then switch off, but that has never been our method.  We have been a little more “traditional” and have spread the math and language arts lessons out over the course of the school year, and done a little math and a little language arts each day. 

If I were to generalize, I would say that my son does about one complete math lesson and quiz per day.  But we also have “test days”, and even “review days,” to even out the timing of the instruction.  We don’t usually have to supplement the math program much, but if our son is really struggling with a particular concept, we will sometimes have him watch a video about the lesson on Discovery Streaming, or will play a math game that helps reinforce the concept.  I print out his quizzes weekly, and we use problems that he missed as subjects for review.  Then we also review the quizzes again before taking a test.  This is sort of a “schoolish” approach to math, but the consistency and predictability of our math schedule really fits our sons learning style.

Language Arts with Time4Learning is a little bit trickier, simply because the categories of study are a little more spread out, and not as sequential as the math lessons.  We have tried getting through the LA lessons in all sorts of creative ways.  This past year, we usually went back and forth between regular language arts lessons and language arts extensions, depending on the day of the week.  Lego Ergo Sum are my son’s absolute faves, so he would have worked his way straight through those first if I had let him, but instead, we spread those out over the school year.  Sixth grade had five integrated literature units in it, also, so we took one week out of every six and focused on those.  I used the teacher’s guides for the literature units for the first time in 7th grade, and was really impressed with all the creative additional activities that were suggested.  We printed out all of my son’s creative writing from the Compass Writer activities, and turned them into sort of a “book” that he was able to show off to the grandparents at the end of last year.  I love that T4L has such a good mix of reading, comprehension, grammar, and writing instruction.  It is a really well balanced language arts curriculum, in my opinion.

Anyway, those are just things we have worked out to create the best approach for our son, but I know you probably have completely different approaches.  I’d love to hear about them, so sound off!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Are You Thankful For?

What Are You Thankful For?

I will never forget last January 4th. My family and I were watching a movie in our living room, when halfway through it felt as though he was tapping my arm trying to get my attention. As I gazed down to answer what I though was going to be a simple question such as, "Can I get a drink of water", I instead saw my precious little blonde haired, blued boy flailing, with his eyes rolling back in his head. Seconds seemed like hours and in that moment I knew that our life was about to change. All these months later and it still seems so very surreal.

Our life did indeed forever change that week, as our Seth went onto have three seizures in less than four days and we finally received a diagnosis of "Benign Rolandic Epilepsy". As I go back and read through my old blog posts and look at the pictures of my son I am forever thankful for God's faithfulness.

Seth's life "is" different. He now takes anti-seizure meds twice a day, but there has not been one single seizure since he began his medication. I now can look back and see all the things I am forever thankful for...,

I am thankful that Seth was sitting on my lap, wrapped in a blanket and not riding his bike!

I am thankful that my husband was off work and there with me.

I am thankful that the paramedic who was on scene and rode with us to the hospital was a pastor and encouraged me in my faith.

I am thankful that we live five minutes from one of the greatest children's hospitals in our state.

I am thankful to my church and homeschool community who took care of meals for our family so we could focus completely on our child.

I am thankful to all of our friends who came to the hospital, hung out and played board games.

Simply put, I am thankful that Seth is fine.

As Thanksgiving is quickly approaching I find myself going back this year and looking at all the things I am most thankful for. Not only is our Seth doing well with his seizures, my dad is now cancer free after battling colon cancer, my husband has a job in this very difficult economy, my 13 year old son with a learning difference is really reading thanks to Time4Learning, my 18 year old son is graduating and I am so very thankful that I was able to be with him through his entire educational journey. The list could go on and on.

I know that there are many things that can cause us fear and frustration in our day to day lives, but what I love most about Thanksgiving is that, it is a holiday that gives us a chance to pause and think about what is good.

What are YOU thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Quiz - What Homeschooling Method is Right for You?

You will certainly keep your own child's learning style in mind when choosing homeschool curriculum, but the teaching parent's personality, beliefs, and attitudes are important considerations, too.

Rate the following statements according to how strongly you agree with them.

a = I absolutely agree.
b = I mostly agree.
c = I'm 50/50 on this one.
d = I mostly disagree.
e = I absolutely disagree.

1. Given the chance, most children will learn on their own.

2. Schedules and structure enhance the learning process.

3. I would not choose to homeschool, but extenuating circumstances require that I do.

4. I like to do things "from scratch", such as bake bread, garden, sew, carpentry, etc.

5. I am more independent than most people I know.

6. I do my best work when I know what is expected of me and am given step-by-step directions to follow.

7. I dislike being accountable to others on family or personal issues.

8. In most things, a professional is likely to achieve better results than the average person can.

9. I am a good parent.

10. I tend to be a leader.

11. I tend to be a follower.

12. Nothing motivates me more than seeing items checked off on my To-Do list.

13. I am not very organized or disciplined, and I'm really okay with that.

14. I am not very organized or disciplined, but I wish I were.

15. I have always wanted to teach my children at home.

16. I am already an experienced homeschooler.

17. I enjoy learning new things.

18. I read instruction manuals.

19. I am successful at most things I attempt to do.

20. I don't like to shop.

21. I usually buy the same brands of grocery products each week.

22. It is very important to me that my family and friends approve of my choices.

Now, on questions 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17, and 19, give yourself one point for each a, two points for each b, three points for each c, four points for each d, and five points for each e.

On questions 2, 3, 6, 8, 11, 12, 14, 18, 20, 21, and 22, give yourself five points for each a, four points for each b, three points for each c, two points for each d, and one point for each e.

Add up your score and compare it to the following:

22-50 points: You tend to desire structure in your life. You will probably feel comfortable with a traditional curriculum containing textbooks and a teacher's manual or with the programs that offer a series of workbooks to be completed. You would probably rather obtain all of your resources from one publisher.

If you use Time4Learning, you probably follow the program's recommended sequence and enjoy seeing the icons being marked as "completed" or "mastered". You are more likely than other Time4Learning parents to use the worksheets and you are probably quite familiar with the lesson plans.

51-80 points: You desire structure, with flexibility built in. You shop for just the right curriculum, and you feel free to change when something isn't working. You are likely to purchase a student text without the teacher's manual, or to substitute one science experiment for another if just the right supplies aren't handy. While you usually rely on traditional textbooks, you probably purchase curriculum from several publishers.

If you use Time4Learning, you usually follow the program's recommended sequence, but you don't hesitate to make modifications when you feel it's necessary. You are more likely than other members to use Time4Learning for just one subject. If you use Time4Learning as your core, you probably scout out additional resources to add to the curriculum.

81 - 110 points: You lean toward nontraditional or unschooling methods. You have looked at classical education and unit studies. Textbooks bore you, and you doubt they are the best method of educating anyone.

If you use Time4Learning, you are more likely than other members to let your child to set the pace. You may use Time4Learning almost as a computer game, allowing the student to choose lessons that look interesting to him.

How did you do? Is your score an accurate reflection of your personality?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Do You Plan To Homeschool Through The Holidays?

I cannot believe how quickly Thanksgiving is going to be here? I think the holiday’s take us Floridians by surprise more often than most, because we don’t have the changing of the seasons or the dropping temperatures that most of you experience. This past Saturday was Halloween and we saw family after family stripping off their carefully put together outfits because the humidity and heat made it impossible to stay comfortable.

As we quickly approach the holiday season I am reminded of one of my very favorite aspects of homeschooling...., the flexibility it allows each family. Because Florida is so hot during the summer our family will often stay in the nice cold air conditioning and continue schooling, while the heat index outside climbs into the triple digits. Our “summer” vacation is actually taken over the Christmas holidays. Each year we take from Thanksgiving through New years off.

I love how this fits our family perfectly. Being that our family comes from a christian worldview, we are able to dig deeper into enjoying the meaning and significance of each date. We love to read historical accounts from our bible, decorate, bake and make crafts. Christmas carols blare while little hands create. By the time January rolls around my scrapbook will be bursting at the seams, filled with our forever memories.

However, there used to be one downfall to our holiday schedule. Once the Christmas tree was put away, the decorations were packed, I was left with children who had gotten rusty on their basic academic skills. Five weeks off will do that to the most academic of children. I can't count the number of times January became our "catch up" month.

However, all that changed back in "2007" when we found Time4Learning. After ten years of homeschooling we found a program that allowed my children to stay in tune and on top of their academics, without feeling like school was interrupting our holiday schedule.

Doing school is no big deal. We do tone it down, but we don’t turn it off completely. The boys get up, login, do their work, and logout. It keeps them sharp, without taking away large chunks of time. They only do ONE lesson in math, language arts and language arts extensions and they’re done for the day. Now when January rolls around we’re ready to ROLL! The only thing we have to pick up after a long break is our history, science and outside activities.

I know that all families are different. How about you? Do you take the holidays off or do you school right through?