Thursday, December 31, 2009

Beginning Homeschooling Mid-Year

Some students will be missing from the public schools when classes resume after the new year. If questions posted on the Time4Learning parent forum are any indication, quite a few of them will be at home, engrossed in their online homeschool curriculum.

Students who begin homeschooling in the middle of a school year do so for a variety of reasons. Parents whose children are perceived as being "behind" academically may feel pressure to help them catch up. If a child leaves the public school system for another reason, parents want assurance their student will be able to stay on track.

If a student is thought to be behind, there is a temptation to fit a year's worth of education into the months remaining in the school year. The problem with this approach is that real learning takes place over time. "Cramming" often results in the student retaining the information studied just long enough to pass a test. This method does get neglected academic concepts checked off your list as having been presented to your student, but it's unlikely to be helpful to the child over the long term.

Instead, it can help to step back and evaluate why the student is "behind". Few students struggle in every class subject. Is math the challenge? You may have to work backwards to determine if the child has missed learning a basic concept along the way. Many students become lost simply as a result of not learning the multiplication table thoroughly. It's frustrating and ineffective to try to accelerate learning of concepts a student already struggles with. It makes more sense to provide the foundation necessary to make understanding these concepts easier in the future. This is difficult for some parents (and children) to accept, because it requires slowing down instead of speeding up.

If lack of writing skills is the culprit, homeschool writing help is available through courses like Time4Writing. Unlike a writing textbook, which provides little assistance to a parent in evaluating their student's work, Time4Writing provides daily, personalized feedback from a certified teacher. Remarks are personalized and encouraging, usually a welcome change to students who are accustomed to negative criticism concerning their school work.

Does the student need help with reading skills? Students who read well do not necessarily understand what they are reading. There is no better method for improving reading comprehension than practice. Students should be allowed to read material that is enjoyable and meaningful to them and encouraged to discuss it with their parent/tutor.

Parents and children are often reluctant to place a child at a lower grade level than might be expected for his age. It seems counterproductive to the goal of catching up. When missing foundational skills are the problem, getting at the root cause is more effective than trying to continue to build on a faulty foundation. This is why Time4Learning allows students to be placed in any grade level, regardless of age. Students can work at different levels in different subjects. Parents can choose to assign lessons in the recommended sequence or pick and choose lessons that cover areas where the child needs practice. Lessons can be repeated as many times as necessary or skipped altogether.

Evaluating the problem, planning a course of action, and implementing your chosen method can feel like it's impeding progress at the beginning, but it helps accelerate learning in the future and can avoid further frustration.

You might also be interested in reading My Child Isn't at Grade Level or Is My Child on Track?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Adding Creative Writing To Our School Plans For Next Semester!

We are enjoying every single second of our Christmas/New years vacation. We have been baking, reading, listening, watching, dreaming, going and doing for days on end. One of the things I love to think (aka: dream) about is what I’d like to do differently this next semester. We will not be changing our Time4Learning math or language arts, but we are going to get together with another family and do a KONOS unit on Early American History.

I know that part of our plans is to have our kids write a paper on what they’ve learned, but truthfully I find creative writing to be the most difficult of subjects to teach because it’s all subjective. I constantly question if my expectations are too high or not high enough. So we are going to add Time4Writing to our line-up for January. It has something for everyone from elementary through college! Take a look at some of the courses...,

Elementary School

I love the placement page! It helped me find the perfect starting place.

After years and years of homeschooling our BEST creative writing experience came back in "2007" when my oldest son Brandon used Time4Writing. I cannot find the words to express what a great experience it was for our family. We had an incredible teacher named Leslie who was the perfect balance of graciousness and firmness.

My son seemed to thrive in the daily exercises and immediate feedback. Time4Writing took a subject that he felt insecure about and gave him confidence. I loved that all the pressure was taken off me so I could simply come alongside my son and cheer him on.

Here is our families 12 Month Goal for Time4Writing....,

February- Kick off with the “Grammar Rocks” course.

July- “Sensational Sentences” course.

September- Finish up with “Perfect Paragraphs”.

After looking at your creative writing options which program would best fit your learner?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Long Days, Short Years

"Parenting consists of long days and short years." I don't know who said that, but I remembered it because I recognized it as a profound statement, worthy of contemplation. The upcoming New Year and my grown son's Christmas visit have combined to once again remind me to make the most of every day, every hour, every minute.

As the mother of six children, people sometimes assume I either don't experience the typical parenting woes or have been somehow immune to them. How else to explain giving birth to my youngest the same year my firstborn graduated from college . . . and the other four children scattered along the intervening 21 years?

I may have unintentionally promoted this fallacy by always trying to present a cheerful attitude. Mothers of one or two are "allowed" to give voice to the frustrations that are a natural part of parenthood. In our culture, mothers of many are less likely to encounter empathy. "You should have thought of that before you had so many kids!" is a typical reaction . . . as if only moms with a brood experience parenting-related stress.

No, I haven't been immune to any of it. I simply learned the truth of the above quote well and early, although I never worded it quite as eloquently. The night seems interminably long when you're sitting up with a baby who can't sleep, when you're up every hour emptying a child's sick basin, or when you're lying awake in the dark, pondering a teen's poor decisions. But, before you know it, the baby or child or teen is grown and you're left wondering how it all happened so quickly.

I once remained tired for two whole years! Two of my children were only 13 months apart, and I also had an eight-year-old son. Waking my toddlers from their naps to take their older brother to soccer practice, piano lessons, or a birthday party was almost a daily occurence. Finding time to shower was a challenge. My own meals were eaten one-handed and usually shared with another little mouth. When I fell into bed, exhausted, there was always at least one other little body sharing the space, and it was usually leaking!

Then, it was over. In the blink of an eye, my babies were practically grown. I'm grateful for the lessons learned with my first three children. It has allowed me to enjoy the second three so much more! Events surrounding a lost night of sleep or a missed appointment that seem so important today are often remembered with fondness in years to come. It was probably that realization that led me to take the above picture of my youngest child. He's only four, and I already treasure that photo. I'll never hear his newborn cries again.

It seems like only yesterday that I was adjusting to new motherhood with my now-25-year-old. I admire who he has become but, during his Christmas visit, I kept looking at him and wondering where the little boy had gone.

Long days, short years. Resolve this year to treasure even the stressful moments that make up what will become the too-brief years of childhood.

Is it Time4Writing in 2010? Consider starting the new year with an online writing course that includes personalized feedback from a certified teacher!

Monday, December 28, 2009

De-Cluttering Your Homeschool

Clutter Be Gone!

Image by evelynishere via Flickr

I’ve scheduled this post to publish while I am on vacation.  Well, maybe vacation isn’t exactly the right word for what I am doing right now.  I’m spending two weeks DE-CLUTTERING!!

That’s right.  My New Year’s resolution is starting a few days early, and I am getting rid of excess “STUFF” from our garage, basement, attic, and each and every room of our house.  All year long I have felt the weight of “things” on my shoulders.  I can’t pass a closet without wondering how good the hinges are and whether they are going to hold up against all the contents stuffed in them.

No one needs a bunch of items they never use and have long since had sentimental value cluttering up their house or their lives.  This is so true with homeschool as well.

A new year is the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the homeschool materials you have accumulated.  How many of them are things you bought in the excitement of the moment, but quickly discovered they were not a good fit for your child or his or her learning style?  How many are things you have already used but have been hesitant to part with?  How many are things you have borrowed but have forgotten to return?

These things can quickly become homeschool “clutter” that can not only take up valuable space in your home, but also become a source of discouragement if you feel obligated to hold onto them “just in case.”  Why not make a clean sweep of every homeschool-related item that you aren’t absolutely, without-a-doubt, going to use in the next two years?

For all the rest of it, evaluate where it should go, then dedicate an entire day to getting it there!  Gently used materials and curricula are a great way to get some post-holiday cash back in your pockets.  Using online auction sites, or used homeschool curriculum swaps, you can often get back a decent percentage of what you put into the materials.  Items without enough value to sell can be donated to your local library, thrift stores, or a local homeschool curriculum lending library, if your community has one.  And of course, all those borrowed items need to be returned to their rightful owners. 

Following “the purge”, your homeschool room or area should feel cleaner, more manageable, and far less overwhelming because now you are able to concentrate on the curriculum and materials that you know are designed for your child and your child’s learning style.

And isn’t that a great way to start off 2010?

Doesn’t EVERY School Have Flexible Grade Levels??

I’ve obviously been using the Time4Learning curriculum too long.  It has made me a Time4Learning snob, I’m afraid.  I was talking to a friend whose child is in public school the other day, and we were discussing some troubles her son was having in his fourth grade class.

My friend’s son has always been very good in math.  His teacher is even giving him accelerated work because he has mastered his daily work so easily.  But in language arts, he is really struggling.  Reading comprehension is especially difficult for him.

In hopes of being helpful to my friend, I blurted it out before I even thought it through: "Can’t your son just take third grade language arts until he catches up?"

My friend looked at me like I had really lost it this time.  I had to backtrack for a good five minutes and explain how the homeschool curriculum we use allows for flexibility in levels of learning.  I explained that in the homeschool world, grade level isn’t as important as individual achievement. 

I’m so thankful that there is a curriculum that allows for the strengths and weaknesses of each child, and doesn’t punish for working at different rates and levels, but instead supports them in mastering subjects at their own pace.

If you have a child who is working at different academic grade levels in different subjects, you might find that the Time4Learning homeschool curriculum is a perfect fit for him or her.  No one child is alike.  Fortunately, there is a curriculum that doesn’t expect them to be. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if EVERY school were like that??

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to our "Time4Learning" Family! What an absolute JOY it has been getting to know so many amazing homeschool families all across our nation. Our facebook and Twitter numbers have exploded as more and more join together on this incredible journey through home education.

Would you take a moment to share how you spent your Christmas celebration?

What gifts were big hits at your house? What new recipe drew rave reviews? What was your funniest moment or your most precious. How many of you shared a first Christmas with a new baby or spent their first one without a cherished loved one?

Won't you grab a steaming hot cup of coffee, take a break, and share your heart?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homeschool Holidays

Budgeting and Shopping for Gifts = General Math

Wrapping Gifts = Geometry

Making Gifts = Art

Writing Thank You Notes = Language Arts

Reading A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas = Literature

Listening to Grandpa's Stories = History

Baking Christmas Cookies = Home Economics

Going Christmas Caroling = Music

Going Sledding = P.E.

Attending Church and Entertaining Guests = SOCIALIZATION!

Please add your own ideas below! Can you think of something for science?


If getting those thank you notes written is a struggle, consider beginning the new year with an online homeschool writing curriculum.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Tis The Season" For Overcoming Our Families Critical Opinions Of How We Raise Our Children!

This is the time of year when we see extended family and friends at gatherings. Though there are many wonderful conversations, oftentimes, if you are new to homeschooling the conversation can steer in a direction that can make you feel defensive and on edge. It begins with a simple question and before you know it you are being inundated from a variety of well-meaning individuals. The purpose of today's article is to help you have a plan in place.

What are Typical Questions? Well, it varies from home to home. Here are a few....,

What about socialization?
How will your child get into college?

Aren’t you afraid that your children will miss out?

How do you plan to be their teacher when you didn’t go to school to be one?
“Don’t you know what prevents that”? (When you share that you're having another baby)

How do we get through these uncomfortable situations? Here are some tips that have worked well for many families:

1- Be Prepared! A valuable tool is our Complimentary, "Welcome To Homeschooling Guide". It is filled with information as well as, resources and links.

2- Be in unity with your spouse. Make sure you both are on the same page with how you are going to respond. Make sure you both have the same answers so you present a unified front.

3- Prepare Your Children. For example you can say, “When Aunt Sally asks you how you like homeschooling what would you say”? If she tells you that she doesn’t like it, ask her why and work that out before you ever arrive.

Let me leave you with two powerful tips that I have found work exceptionally well when it comes to effective communication!

#1- Is called the "Feel/Felt/Found” Approach.

What a great question. I know exactly how you feel. I felt the same way when we first began homeschooling, but let me tell you what I have found to be true.

#2 If the question is inappropriate or rude. (Don’t you know what causes pregnancy)

Wow, you took me off guard. I can tell by the question (or tone of whatever) that you disagree with our choice. I hate that, because I love you and value your thoughts and opinions. I'm so sorry, but I'd like to change the subject. (said with a sincere smile as you rise above their bad behavior)

So, how do you overcome your families critical questions about how you raise your children? You rise above those who just don't know any different, and look at their questions as opportunities to inform, educate, equip and encourage.

Remember you are AMAZING and STRONG moms and dads who are bravely stepping out of the "norm"! Stand FIRM, Stand PROUD and don't let anyone sway your decisions!

Now it’s YOUR turn. What type of questions have you been asked and how have you responded? Do you have a plan in place this year?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our Sponsors

Home-School-Online would like to thank the sponsors of our blog. Because of our sponsors we can offer  homeschool stories, advice and resources on a daily basis. Please show your support by trying their products and recommending them to your friends.

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Time4Writing provides eight-week online writing courses that help elementary, middle and high school students build writing skills through one-on-one interaction with a certified teacher. Students study a new topic each week through automated online exercises, lessons, readings, and written assignments. A personal writing teacher reviews and provides feedback on each assignment, the day after it is submitted.

Writing Courses Available for these levels:
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Time4Learning Math Curriculum Info

The Attack of the Homeschool Essay Assignment


It happens to every middle schooler.  Just when they think they’ve got this whole “school thing” down, their parents up and tell them that it is time to write an essay.  “An essay??!!” they cry.  “What is an essay??!!”

Just the sound of it can bring a quick chill down the spine.  Sentences they get.  Paragraphs - - no problem.  Even the occasional short story doesn’t cause a full flop sweat.  But an essay?  It sounds difficult, boring, and long.  So what can a homeschooling parent do to bring their child around (aside from smelling salts)?

The main thing is to make sure that the child’s first efforts with an essay are on a subject of their own choosing.  You might like your son or daughter to start with the societal implications of the Civil Rights Movement, but it is going to be hard to get John or Sara to sign on to that type of essay at first.  The key to keeping essay anxiety at bay is to allow them to write about what they love - - sports, shopping, their favorite video game - - the topic isn’t important as much as helping them overcome their anti-essay bias.

Modeling is also very important when introducing essay writing.  Find good examples of essays that your child can read and appreciate.  Holt and Rinehart have some excellent examples of student essays on their Elements of Literature website.  Seeing what other students their age can accomplish with an essay is an immediate confidence booster.

To ensure your child’s success in essay writing, you will want to take the instruction slowly and build upon their sequential learning.  The Time4Writing “Welcome to the Essay” course is a wonderful choice for helping middle schoolers build essay-writing skills.  Each of the units in the course builds upon previous instruction to provide a comprehensive overview of essays from expository paragraphs all the way to full narrative and expository essays.  A certified teacher guides students through the entire course, giving direction and feedback each step of the way.

Even if your middle schooler recoils in horror at the idea of writing an essay, you can help him or her not only overcome their fears but become confident, successful young writers.  To find out more about Time4Writing’s “Welcome To Essays”, or one of their other homeschool writing classes, head over to their website.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Years Resolutions, Pulling It All Together!

What a FUN week we’ve had dreaming together as we set our New Years Resolutions. Truthfully, we are still refining and defining some of the things on our list, but mostly we have the big ones taken care of. What are the things that we want to accomplish in the next six months? What are the things we need to take off our plates to make room for those things that are most important? Rather than going through all of our goals I will touch on “general” goals.

Letting Go:

1- Let go of teaching at our homeschool co-op. Though this saddens me in some ways it truly FREES me up greatly time wise.

2- Cut back on my outside writing projects.

3- Letting go of too many girlfriend outings. (smile)

I am going to be very busy preparing for my last six months homeschooling my oldest son. We have senior pictures, Senior Banquet, Senior high prom and Grad Bash Universal studio's ahead. These things will keep us busy, busy, busy.


1- Read through the books Hosea and Acts as a family.
2- Memorize One verse per month as a family.
3- Work on one biblical character trait per month.


1- Workout with husband three days a week with a simple 30 minute plan.
2- Stay with Weight Watchers and begin cooking healthier for my family.
3- Consistently take a liquid potassium supplement and Omega three.


1- Travel once a month to meet with a mentor who has taken me under her wing.
2- Decrease T.V. and Video games.
3- Read more christian self improvement books.


1- Embracing the freedom of Eclectic Homeschooling!
2- Doing Time4Writing with my 13 year old son.
3- Using the library two times a week for our Time4Learning lessons.

I am very excited about using the library for our Time4learning. Our city just renovated our old library so that it is state of the art with brand new computers and starbucks coffee! I thought we would shake things up and add a little fun to our schedule.

Has anyone else started working on those goals for New Years?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Years Resolutions! Helping Our Children Set Their OWN Goals!

Setting goals helps me to be purposeful about where I’m going, where I’ve been, what’s worked and what’s not. It helps me to figure out what my priorities are in my life. Without goals I can become watered down and create the habit of coasting by. Goals help me to keep my vision STRONG!

“I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I don’t want to look back on my life with any regrets. I only have so many years to help my children lay the foundation of who they are going to be for their entire adult life. I don’t want to waste it watching cartoons or sitting in front of our gaming systems. Though we do those things, without goals we do them too much.

A Priority is a pre-determined decision about where we are going to spend our time. It helps us to create discipline in our lives. Discipline is doing what I ought to do, instead of what I want to do, so I can do what I want to do. For me, homeschooling is an opportunity to teach my children (from a very young age) how to be purposeful about their lives. I want to raise adults who know how to pursue their PASSIONS!

In our home we set goals twice a year, January and July. I find that doing this in six month increments is more practical then when I try to set annual goals. Setting goals allows me to evaluate where I’ve been, what worked, what didn’t and why. Once I have that information I can then begin to evaluate where I am, where I’m going and what I want to change. I always set my own goals first because I can’t teach what I don’t own myself.

The four area’s we concentrate on in our home are:

1- Spiritual
2- Physical
3- Personal
4- Educational

How do I help my children set their goals?

1- We have a family meeting where we talk about the past six months. I will often pull up my blog and go through my favorite pictorial posts with my kids as we relive field trips, biblical stories we’ve read, academic achievements we’ve accomplished, as well as area’s we’ve struggled in.

2- We pray together as a family. (and then individually when we sit down for our one on one time)

3- I look at where we are in life and what’s coming up so that I can be realistic in our goals. For instance, my oldest son is graduating this May so I know that we have a lot of academic and financial requirements. This helps me to know that this next six months would not be a good time to invest in new activities.

4- I meet with each child individually and help them set their goals. I actually just include my first and third grader in my goal setting process for them. I show them what they’ve accomplished and what I’d like to see happen over the next six months and then tell them the plan we have in place. I give my older children the absolutes but ask them to create their own personal timelines and action plans. Sometimes I will need to stop and ask them questions to help them re-evaluate a portion of their plan that they might have overlooked. However, I try very hard not to take over.

Since this is what we are working on this week I will share with you our goals on Friday.

How about you? Do you set goals, New Year Resolutions or do you skip it entirely?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Cell Phone for Christmas?

Homeschooling families often feel they live beneath a microscope. While they expect to defend their educational choices on occasion, it's often surprising to find that other parenting decisions are subject to equally close analysis by friends and family members.

Homeschooling online was a natural choice for our family. We just love technology! My kids think computers are fun, my husband thinks they're relaxing, and I appreciate the time- and labor-saving aspects of my collection of electronic gadgets.

A few of our friends had just begun to use cell phones when our first child started delivering newspapers on a secluded, rural route. Concern for our child's safety led to the decision to buy him his own phone. I liked knowing he could call me if he needed something while delivering papers. He liked being able to play games while waiting for me to pick him up when he finished!

As each child, in turn, became old enough to venture away from home on their own, they have been presented with their own cell phone. Child number five's Christmas gift this year will be an orange monstrosity that even my eight-year-old will find difficult to lose. I've started allowing her to walk a couple of blocks alone to visit her friends, so it's time.

I've had to defend the cell phone decision more frequently than our choice of homeschooling! I do stay informed about potential health hazards, but certain friends and family seem to simply think a child "shouldn't" have their own phone, for some unspecified reason. Some worry the kids will be spoiled. They're concerned about prank calls. They're afraid of the unknown.

We don't take phone ownership lightly. We homeschool, for goodness sake. We're used to overseeing what our children do. The kids are educated as to the appropriate way to use their phones, and we take advantage of parental controls. I'm convinced that my own kids are safe and well-prepared for life in today's society. I had to smile when the first job child number one obtained upon graduating from college was . . . selling and setting up cell phone plans! (Today, he installs and repairs computer systems for businesses. I told you we were a techie family!)

Text messaging keeps me in touch with my grown son these days, and I'm certain that texting gives me an advantage when it comes to communicating with my two teens. Although I'm entirely comfortable with the decision we've made for our own family, I do understand the raised eyebrows when my younger children pull out their phones. There are pros and cons in most parenting practices. Do your children own cell phones? Why or why not?

Monday, December 14, 2009

5 Reasons Homeschoolers are Terrified of Teaching Writing


Not many things strike fear into the hearts of homeschoolers like the thought of teaching writing to their children.  Hey, I have a  B.A. degree in writing, and I still feel a sense of trepidation when I think of forcing j0439459my boys to sit down and complete a writing assignment. 

Why is it that we would rather do almost anything homeschool related (even that science project we’ve been putting off for a month!) before we will tackle writing instruction? 

Here are five reasons I think we homeschoolers dread pulling out the notebook paper and pencils…

  1. We know our kids are going to balk.  No matter how well our homeschool day is going, we can pretty much be ascertained that when we say it is time for “writing”, things are going to go downhill from there.
  2. We don’t look back fondly on our own writing experiences.  Truth be told, when the kids start whining about writing, we are all “now-this-is-good-for-you-and-you-are-going-to-like-it” on the outside, but on the inside, we are really saying “don’t-blame-you-one-bit-kids; I-hated-this-stuff-too!”
  3. We doubt our own qualifications.  No matter how many language arts courses we took in school, and no matter how many blogs we write, we still never feel like “good writers.”  So we wonder how on earth we can teach something that we so obviously stink at.
  4. We don’t know how to make writing fun.  If you’ve looked at most of the homeschool writing curriculums out there, you have already concluded that teaching homeschool writing is somewhere akin to watching paint peel.  If you are bored reading the lesson plan, imagine how bad it is going to be actually teaching it.
  5. We realize the importance of writing success.  Everyone knows that to graduate, get into college, and get a good job, you need to have a good grasp of writing.  Knowing that we are the ones in charge of teaching our children that important skill is daunting, to say the least.

So what is a homeschooling parent to do??  First of all, we want to start out by understanding that reading is the most important factor in teaching writing.  Do you make reading good books a key ingredient of your homeschool?  Then you are already halfway there to creating a successful writer!

Secondly, we need to take a new approach to writing.  We want to override all our old biases against what writing instruction is “supposed” to look like, and reinvent the wheel, by opening our options to new and different ways of approaching writing - - including incorporating writing technology into the mix.

One of the most motivational writing techniques is “getting published.”  With services like Tikatok and, you can easily let your child write and illustrate their own stories, books, and graphic novels, and then have them printed up - - just like a real book. (And talk about great gifts for the grandparents!!)

But if writing instruction STILL seems intimidating, you may also want to check out all the great online writing courses for homeschoolers at Time4Writing™.  Time4Writing takes the guesswork out of teaching writing, by having certified writing teachers guide your children through the ins and out of every aspect of student writing including grammar, sentence construction, forming paragraphs, and composing essays.  To check out the course selection for elementary, middle, and high schoolers, go to the Time4Writing website.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Leading By Example

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of talking with Jane Lambert (Author and Owner Of Five In A Row Unit Study Curriculum) for a very long time. She and her husband Steve are coming to do a weekend conference for my support group and we are working out flight details, hotel arrangements and such. As Jane and I spoke about the workshops she will be doing for our weekend conference, I shared with her how much I LOVE lapbooks, but how I’m not very good at doing them with my kids. She asked why I didn’t do the lapbook myself? I paused, not sure what she meant.

We ended up having a very long talk about how powerful leading by example can be. If I am interested in lapbooking she encouraged me to lapbook something I want to teach my kids and use “my” lapbook as a teaching tool. If any of my children seem to really get excited then I can include them when we do our next one. What a GREAT idea! That was so freeing to me.

So fast forward to this week when some dear friends invited me over for a gingerbread house party. No KIDS! She put on music, laid out a gourmet feast and filled the table with all kinds of candies. As I sat down and began to work I found myself relaxing and enjoying each moment more than I ever thought possible. When we were done I looked down on my creation with pride and a sense of accomplishment, but it wasn’t until I got home that my conversation with Jane Lambert came vividly back into my mind.

As I walked in the door my children fell over themselves to see my gingerbread house. They couldn’t wait to look at every nook and cranny. “Mom, how did you put the candies on the roof?”, "Mom, how did you put the wreath above the door?" Question after question after question came tumbling out until finally I had three eager faces begging me to let them do their own gingerbread house. I could hear Jane's voice encouraging me to "Lead by example".

Modeling for our children is a POWERFUL teaching tool. How do you “model” teaching for your children OR how would you like to model teaching for your children?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Catching Up A Child Who Is "Behind" Academically!

When we found Time4Learning back in “2007” I had no idea how it was going to change our life. I truly thought it was going to be more of enhancement then the actual foundation. Boy was I wrong! It is absolutely the very foundation of which we build our entire homeschool program around!

I still remember sitting and watching my oldest work on his Time4Learning math that first day. After years of struggling with this elusive subject, (due to his learning difference) we had resigned ourselves to the fact that this was going to simply be his life long challenge.

Our family used a tutor the year before without much success. He actually made less progress with his tutor than when I had simply homeschooled him with a typical textbook the year before. Over the years we have spent hundreds of dollars on the latest greatest programs on the market and though a couple worked better than others, NOTHING worked like Time4Learning.

On that first day there was something different. I saw him relaxing and just doing what came next. I saw the strong graphics pulling his mind in like nothing else ever had. As the days turned into weeks I saw his confidence begin to grow for the first time ever. He began to master concepts so that he could build on them, and then the day came for our year end testing. I was excited and hopeful, but at the same time I kept my expectation in check. Please Lord, let him at least do one full grade level!

One and half hours after he walked into the testing room he walked out with the biggest smile I had ever seen. Our tester, whom we had used for years had that same dumb smile on her face. She quickly commented that she needed to write up his results but wanted me to tell her about this new “Time4Learning” program. It turned out that all of my sons ended up making more gains in math than EVER before in all the years we’d homeschooled, however my oldest was the show stealer that day as he went up over “TWO” full grade levels!

If you have a child who is behind and desperate to catch up I can think of no better way than Time4Learning. Your child will gain confidence as they simply login and do their work each day. The simplicity is in the presentation. Time4Learning teaches, (tells) shows, (models) and presents problems so that a child feel confident in the material before they are tested. The strong graphics make a picture in the brain that imprints and stays in place so that new information can be mastered.

Whether you want to use Time4Learning as your complete foundation or part of an eclectic homeschool plan, it's the perfect choice when helping a child gain confidence in a weak academic area.

Why don’t you try a free demo or tell a friend! It will change your life.

If you are a current Time4Learning user will you share your success story? Just comment below.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mixing and Matching Curriculum

One thing about homeschoolers that always stays the same is that they never stay the same!  The very nature of homeschooling is flexibility.  We like to tweak, freelance, imagine, improvise, and discover new and better ways of learning.  Call it fickle, if you like, but one of the most rewarding parts of homeschooling is its variability.

If one method isn’t working for a child, we use our creativity to find another solution.  If one child has a different learning style, we adapt our teaching and materials to match their best mode of learning.  If one curriculum isn’t meeting our needs, we try out other programs.

Many homeschoolers would, in fact, categorize their homeschooling style as “eclectic.”  By that, they usually mean that they pick and choose from a variety of materials, styles, and homeschooling resources to create a mix-and-match approach that works for their family.  Eclectic homeschoolers might combine classical materials with unit studies, faith-based curriculum with secular curriculum, Charlotte Mason with traditional boxed curriculum.

Many homeschoolers also see the need to emphasize some sort of technology into their home education.  In a world where most future jobs, college experiences, and daily life will be seamlessly intertwined with technology, parents want to prepare their kids for the digital age.  That is one reason why Time4Learning™ is becoming such a popular homeschool curriculum.

Besides providing kids with valuable computer skills, it is also flexible enough to  be used as a core curriculum or as a supplement to other programs.  Many Time4Learning subscribers combine T4L with programs such as: Charlotte Mason, Singapore Math, Saxon Math, Abeka, Five in a Row, Sonlight, and BJU Press in order to find just the right combination of materials for their children.

And then, if one of those don’t work, they might try a completely different combo. After all, it is a homeschoolers prerogative to change his or her mind!!

What about you…what curricula do you mix and match to create a complete program for your homeschoolers?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gifted and Talented?

Is your child gifted or talented? I suggest that, regardless of any learning challenges they might experience, the answer is YES!

Public school programs that seek to identify gifted or talented students and provide special opportunity for developing their gifts leave me cold. In at least one elementary school, a student's participation in the Gifted and Talented program is initiated by teacher recommendation. A child's teacher, upon noticing a student's abilities in a certain area, flags the student's record as "possibly gifted". At that point, additional testing is offered in order to confirm the teacher's opinion.

The problem with this approach is that students who are taking part in this program are the ones who have already had an opportunity to develop their gifts! That's why the teacher was able to so readily identify the child's particular talent. The student should certainly be encouraged to expand on his natural abilities . . . but shouldn't ALL children be assisted in identifying and nurturing their own special gifts?

Labeling certain students as "gifted" or "talented" implies that other students aren't! Everyone has a unique set of gifts and talents. Depending on the culture, some skills are perceived to be of more value than others. Society will more readily recognize the abilities it esteems. This does not mean children with the lesser-desired qualities aren't deserving of an opportunity to become all they can be.

Let's not provide additional growth opportunities for students with obvious gifts while neglecting those whose talents have yet to be clearly identified. Let's begin with the assumption that each student possesses a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. Instead of labeling those whose strengths may be more apparent or socially desirable as "gifted", let's assist every child in discovering and developing his own skills.

As eclectic homeschoolers, we can take advantage of a wide variety of resources with which to achieve this goal. Our family relies on Time4Learning for math and language and a variety of unit studies, such as Five in a Row, for science, social studies, and fine arts. The variety and flexibility of this approach has been very useful in targeting my own students' aptitudes.

I love the lyrics from this old song:

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative;
Don't mess with Mister In-Between.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Can You Spell "Adorable"?

I love my children's creative spelling! It's like baby talk, though. As adorable as it is, I feel obligated to reluctantly correct it, for the sake of the child's literary future.

My seven-year-old knows quite a few sight words, but she usually relies on the rules of phonics when writing her own stories. I was amused to read her review of a new "compyouter" game. Apparently, including the sight word "you" on a recent spelling list made a big impression on her.

I have saved a box of notes addressed, "To Mom, Frum Faith". Faith is embarrassed when I show them to people. "Mom!" she exclaims indignantly. "I KNOW how to spell 'from'! I wrote those a LONG time ago!" I guess six months is a long time when you're seven.

Faithie is a prolific writer. Like her mother, she finds the sight of blank paper exciting! One of Faith's Time4Learning lessons covered the typical sound of /ing/, citing examples such as "ring", "sing", and "bring". I know my daughter was paying attention, because her next journal entry stated, "I am youzing my moms pin with the pingk ingk." It broke my heart to have to correct her spelling to read, "I am using my mom's pen with the pink ink."

As cute as they are, spelling mistakes do have to be corrected. The whole purpose of writing is communication. We aren't communicating if our readers can't understand what we've written.

My grown son received (not "recieved") a letter from a friend when he was a teen. He brought it to me, puzzled by the word "chrie" that appeared throughout. His friend had written, "I am going to chrie for that apartment I looked at and chrie living on my own again. I know I chried before, but I think I can do it this time."

Eventually, through reading the letter aloud and noticing the context in which the word was used, we began to realize his friend was "chrieing" to spell the word "try".

Being a do-it-yourself kind of gal, I rarely purchase a spelling curriculum. I find interesting words in the books my children are reading or pull misspelled words from their journals to make customized spelling lists. We've been having lots of fun practicing our words at SpellingCity. It's a free site where I can input our own spelling words or use lists that others have shared. The kids can play online games with the words. It's much more exciting than the old, "Write your spelling word five times each" method.

I remember being bored to tears over some of the assignments I was given in school, so I put quite a bit of effort into locating fun homeschooling resources for my own kids. Online learning games are usually a big hit with my family. As a homeschool mom, I can't always find an entertaining way to teach everything my children need to learn, but I really do chrie!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Take My Cup And Fill It Up!

Take My Cup And Fill It Up!

After months of serving outside my home I am taking a much needed break to pull “in” and fill my cup. It’s hard to explain what that means because my cup truly is filled when I am able to serve outside my home as well? What I am learning is that my life has a rhythm that I have to be very aware of. Too much downtime depletes my energy and makes me lazy, but too much time outside my home can do the very same thing.

Right now, I am enjoying the holidays as I pull in to spend time with my family and focus on my Savior. Last night was a precious and perfect example of how I fill my cup. We put our Christmas tree up while Avalon blared Christmas music through our house. I was cooking fajita’s and the smell of sauteed onions and green peppers mingled with my evergreen candles. I heard my boys engaged in laughter as they worked together to put the tree in place. My heart was so full I thought it would burst.

I find I am also enjoying pulling in to re-evaluate my homeschool program. The year is half over and I start to get excited about tweaking and making basic changes for January when we charge out of the gate. My core program remains the same, Time4Learning, but I have found myself deeply researching lapbooking. (though, I've tried it many times over the past 12 years I feel like my kids are older and I can do it now) I've been scouring the Time4Learning resource pages and checking out the lesson plans. We've been visitng our library and checking out Christmas books to read. I am truly enjoying slowing down from life to fill my cup, fill it UP to overflowing.

I am beginning to see the rhythm of my life. I have come to realize that “spurts” are a good thing for me. I finally get that my personality does better with “spurts”, whereas, I have friends who need daily balance. Neither is better or worse, right or wrong. It’s finding out who you are and then engaging it without apology.

It’s funny that I always worry that I’m not home enough during my busy season and then in "down time" I feel like I am home too much. Anyone else ever struggle with that? Balance is such an elusive creature. I know that it doesn't come naturally, I have to be thoughtful and purposeful. I have to pray and ponder. Seeking balance is a deeply personal journey that draws my heart closer to my God.

This holiday season how are you taking time to fill your cup? Please share at least one thing you do to fill your cup when life doesn't seem quite as busy. Remember "We're Better Together"!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Times Table Trouble

Is your child struggling with math? Confusion about basic multiplication facts is often the root of the problem.

Success with higher level math skills hinges on having memorized the basic multiplication facts. Working multi-digit multiplication problems is a slow and frustrating process if the student must pause to calculate the product of single digits. Division also relies on a thorough mastery of the basic facts, and you may as well forget about understanding terms like "least common denominator" and "greatest common factor" until the times tables have been committed to memory.

Some children will gradually learn the multiplication table in the course of their daily arithmetic lessons. Others will require some targeted drill and daily practice before mastering these facts. Fortunately, it isn't difficult to find homeschooling resources for teaching the times tables.

At one point, following a particularly nonproductive arithmetic session, I simply stopped doing our regular math curriculum with two of my children. We concentrated on learning the times tables for several weeks. When this was accomplished, we picked up our curriculum where we had left off. The difference was a breath of fresh air. With the times tables firmly in command, the associated concepts finally began to make sense to them.

Here's how we did it.

Print or buy a set of flashcards. The flash cards are to evaluate, not to teach or practice. (There are far more interesting practice methods.) Also, print a multiplication table and post it in a prominent place.

The times tables seem designed to provide the initial success that is so encouraging to some students. Start with "the zeroes"! Teach or review the rule: Any number multiplied by zero is zero. If he can answer within a couple of seconds, he has mastered that fact. Chances are, he will demonstrate mastery of all of the zero facts immediately. If not, provide some fun ways to practice just these facts. There is no lack of multiplication games on the Internet. Choose a few, step back, and let him play some of them every day. Occasionally, get out the flashcards and assess your student's progress.

When mastery of the zeroes has been demonstrated, have the child shade those facts on his multiplication table. In the process of shading the table, the student will begin to understand helpful patterns. For example, he will see that he gets to shade a row AND a column for each family of facts he has memorized. While the quantity of facts to memorize may look daunting at first, he will soon realize that he only has to learn half of them, because if he knows what 6x4 equals, he also knows what 4x6 is.

When the zeroes have been shaded, proceed to the ones, the twos, and so forth. Help your child by first teaching a rule or shortcut for each fact family:

Zeroes: Any number multiplied by zero is zero.

Ones: Any number multiplied by one is that number.

Twos: Any number multiplied by two is double that number. (For some reason, "doubles" are often easy for children to understand.)

Threes: "Three, six, nine, twelve, fifteen, eighteen, twenty-one . . . twenty-four, twenty-seven, thirty, we're all done!" (Sing to the tune of "Jingle Bells".)

Fours: Double the double. (For 4x6, start with a fact you already know: 2x6. Then, double the answer.)

Fives: Count by fives.

Sixes: Double the three facts. (For 6x8, start with a fact you already know: 3x6. Then, double the answer.)

Sevens: Leave these for last, because there is no easy way to memorize them. But, when the rest of the facts have been learned, the sevens will have all been mastered!

Eights: Double the four facts. (For 8x7, start with a fact you already know: 4x7. Then, double the answer.)

Nines: The sum of the digits of each nines fact equals nine. To multiply a number by nine, subtract one from that number to get the first digit in your answer. The second digit is a number that equals nine when added to the first digit. For example, to do 7x9, subtract one from seven to get the first digit in your answer: six. You would add a three to six to equal nine, so the second digit in the answe is three. The answer is sixty three.

Another way is to hold both hands up in front of you with the palms facing out. To do 7x9, start at the pinkie of the left hand and count over seven fingers. Bend the seventh finger down. (This would be the index finger of the right hand.) All of the fingers BEFORE the bent finger are the first digit in the answer and all of the fingers AFTER the bent finger are the second digit in the answer.)

Tens: Any number times ten is that number with a zero on the end.

Elevens: Any single digit number times eleven has that number for both digits in the answer.

It can be exciting to see those facts gradually conquered! When the entire times table has been shaded in, your child probably has the background he needs to return to your regularly-scheduled math curriculum. If your kids are like mine, they might still dislike math, but it will no longer feel like an impossible task.

Is "dislike" an understatement for how they feel about math? Find out if they have "math anxiety".