Friday, December 19, 2008

Why I'm No Longer Blogging!

It's been quite a while since my last post here and I wanted to let my readers know why...

I really do have a good reason though I should have let you know sooner....

I found myself frustrated by the limitations of blogging and so have chosen to build a full-fledged website! A website is much more flexible and the company I'm using is dynamite.

I'm pretty excited but I'm also buried in a gigantic learning curve as I widen my horizons to include the language of HTML and the world of SEO.

The site is called The Homeschool Companion. You can find it here (it's already live though far from complete.

My hope is that you'll follow me over there and participate as much as you like....there are forms on some of the pages where you can make suggestions of homeschool resources or submit articles and eventually I plan to add a forum. So I hope to hear from you and God Bless!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Has It All!

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC or TOS as they refer to it, is a top-of-the-line, full-color, homeschool magazine which only comes out 4 times a year but there is more packed in each issue than in most monthly magazines I've come across over the years. I am reviewing the Summer 2008 issue as that is the one sent to me to sample.

Structured as though the magazine is a schoolhouse and grounds there are sections such as Campus Store (a list of advertisers and where to find their ads), Homeschool Faculty (bios of contributing writers), and Teachers's Lounge (reader feedback). TOS also has a Homeschool Watch section to help you keep abreast of legal issues.

There are a wealth of articles written to encourage, not to overwhelm you on such topics as gifted children, adoption, special needs children, nature walking, intelligent design, and teaching your child to love reading.

You will always be able to keep on top of the latest products in the homeschooling marketplace just by browsing the advertisers in each issue (many offer free catalogs or brochures and almost all have a website to visit).

I visited the 'Principal's Office' to learn about submitting articles, their statement of faith, and subscription rates ($25.00/year or $39.00 for 2 years). Sign up for the current fall special and get an extra issue along with 6 free gifts while supplies last. Subscribe online at the link below!

If you visit their website
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, you will find even more opportunities to pursue! There is a free weekly newsletter to sign up for, The Schoolhouse Store which offers very reasonably priced products and always free shipping (a big plus these days). There are numerous e-books in 20 different topics available for purchase. For instance right now, you can download an e-book unit study on Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends for $3.50 (on sale) or a bundle of Eric Carle Unit Study e-books for $9.74 (on sale). The left sidebar is loaded with catagories of products to browse covering all major subjects and lots of electives.

So get inspired! Hook up with the folks at
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC and your homeschool journey will never feel lonely again!
Kathy D.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Teaching Spelling the 'Natural' Way

I think it was about 8th grade when my daughter began to enjoy writing stories on her own, that I realized I had made some erroneous assumptions about her spelling abilities. It wasn't completely unnerving, just a little wakeup call for her teacher.

We were homeschooling pretty much eclectically (using materials from different sources to teach a subject or subjects), I had tried a variety of workbook approaches with spelling exercises. I even enlisted the help of a few 'freeware' software programs, fed lists of spelling words into them to generate word search and crossword puzzles hoping to make spelling 'fun'. She saw it as so much busy work and had little interest. Because she was an excellent and dedicated reader, I had decided not to worry about it. Whoops!

Once that gaping gap was discovered however, I knew I needed to take this subject more seriously. Perusing my catalogs, I came across Kathryn Stout's 'Natural Speller', liked the review and decided to give her approach a try. It was a great move. Here is how we used it:

1) Natural Speller provides spelling lists of the most important words to know for each grade level (Gr. 1-8).
2) Starting with Grade 1, even though my daughter was in 8th grade, I read each word aloud and she spelled it back to me
3) We covered about 20 words each day, and she was able to sail through the first several grades in the first week giving her a great sense of accomplishment.
4) When she began missing words, she wrote each one in a notebook along with a sentence that showed me she knew the meaning of the word. If she didn't know the meaning, she was required to look up the word in the dictionary and copy down the meaning and then use the word correctly in a sentence.
5) Once she had accumulated 10 missed words, I asked her to do some of the suggested activities in Natural Speller with each word, giving her a choice of which she wanted to do. Her goal was to master spelling not only the word itself but also its variations.
6) When she felt she had mastered all 10 words, I gave her an oral or written quiz. Words she knew where checked off and words she missed, if any, were written at the beginning of a new list.
7) As each grade level was completed, I gave her a review test either written or oral on that grade.

By the end of the school year, she had mastered all of the spelling words in Natural Speller and learned the basic spelling rules as well. From that point on, I only had her work on the spelling of words she misspelled in compositions and reports. No busywork!

I highly recommend Natural Speller by Kathryn Stout of Design-a-Study, not only for remedial spelling help but also to teach spelling from first grade onward. You can learn more about it and see Kathryn's other study guides by clicking on the picture Natural Speller
Kathy D.

What Do I Need to Know About Learning Styles - Kathryn Stout

Anything we find confusing or complicated is best learned when we can see, hear, and do something in order to understand it. In general, however, by age 8 or 9, a child is stronger in one of those three areas: seeing (the visual learner), hearing (the auditory learner) or doing (the kinesthetic, or hands-on learner). Sometimes, all it takes for a child to understand the lesson is a change in how the information is presented.

The visual learner prefers to look at illustrations or text, or to watch others do something, rather than listen only. He tends to remember what he has seen. (This child may be able to tell you where you left your keys.) As an adult, he or she is likely to be a note-taker and list maker. The traditional approach, textbooks and workbooks, are comfortable to this type of learner.
Use visual aids: pictures, charts, graphs.
Provide an orderly learning area. These learners tend to be more productive when surroundings are neat.
Use color as a visual aid if a student has difficulty learning to read or spell a word. Color over the troublesome portion with a yellow or orange highlighter, or write that portion of the word in red or orange.
Remember, ability to memorize text and fill in blanks does not prove that a child has learned how to think. Be sure to incorporate thinking skills and provide opportunities to encourage creativity, even though these activities may initially be met with protest.

The auditory learner prefers listening. He may not look at you when you speak, which appears to be inattention, only to amaze you with his ability to parrot back exactly what was just said. He seems to easily memorize what he hears and tends to be a sponge when information is presented in this way. Often sociable, he may be the chatterbox that enjoys trying to be funny, wanting to be the center of attention. Therefore, he is likely to prefer group projects, discussions, presentations, and videos to either textbooks or workbooks.
Weak areas tend be a sense of time (we think he dawdles, he disagrees) handwriting, following written directions, and organizational skills. Because he is so sociable, he tends to want others nearby, preferring continual one-on-one input to working on his own. He is easily distracted by sound, and tends to look for excuses to socialize.
Tell the student what to do rather than having him read directions. Consider following written directions to be a weak area and work on it specifically without allowing it to interfere with other subjects.
Be flexible with traditional visual materials. Instead of requiring the student to write answers to questions in workbooks or texts, for example, let him tell you the answers. Discuss anything he gets wrong.
Read aloud or use books on tape and videos to broaden his base of literature. Then cover comprehension questions by discussion.
Use audio tapes that set facts to music for any areas in which rote memorization has been difficult.
Explain steps clearly when teaching a task that requires organization. The student will need a simple outline to follow or a list of steps for reference. Remind him patiently and as often as needed while he develops skills in this area.
Provide a quiet place to work when he must concentrate on an assignment, since sound attracts his attention.

The kinesthetic learner needs to do, not just watch or listen, to gain understanding. Often referred to as the "hands-on learner," he usually fusses if required to read and fill in workbook pages. Instead, he enjoys projects, field trips, videos that show real places and people while explanations are narrated, and computer software that allows him to become directly involved in the lesson. Doing, alone, however, does not ensure that he is developing specific skills or retaining important concepts. Therefore, provide direction for his thinking by giving him specific things to look for or accomplish before he begins an activity. Then use discussions, oral quizzes, presentations, or projects as a follow-up to be certain that information has been gained and will be retained.
Use manipulatives.
Teach through activities that allow the student to move and explore.
Use a reading program that allows the student to learn by using all the senses: see-hear-do.
Allow the student to read out loud or talk to himself (think out loud) when he works independently.

Every child is unique. Many do not fit neatly into a learning style profile, especially since personality and age also contribute to how a child learns. Therefore, it is always necessary to observe the child, then choose a method or resource to try, regardless of its category. Get feedback from the child as well. Most children volunteer their opinions without being asked, but if not, find out whether or not the approach or materials seemed easier to understand. In this way, a love of learning can be maintained.

Kathryn L. Stout, B.S.Ed., M.Ed.
Visit Design-A-Study

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Decided to Homeschool? 5 Important Ways to Prepare

Just getting started with homeschooling? Let's say you've bought your curriculum, now what?
Here are some ideas for getting things going on the right foot:

1) Prepare yourself. Look through the curriculum you've purchased. Especially read through the author's notes to parents/teachers. Go through a lesson or two to learn how they are structured. What supplies will you need? A notebook, calculator, dictionary? Do you want to add anything to the material covered such as a discussion time or extra review? Now make a master lesson plan. Depending on how many children you have, this can be a simple grid with days across the top, times down the side, and subjects in the squares. Getting things organized saves time...not only is time wasted when you aren't ready to teach, but if you aren't prepared, your children will lose enthusiasm and interest and likely find something disruptive to do while you are trying to get ready... Disorganization may also communicate that school isn't that important to you so they needn't think it's important either. So be prepared to teach and make a good effort to start on time. Please understand, I know that especially with multiple children things don't always go as planned...and flexibility is important, but you should try to have a plan in place that you can be flexible from :)

2) Prepare your husband. For the purposes of this article, I am assuming that you and your husband are of one mind when it comes to homeschooling your children. If this is not the case. Please wait to start your school and pray until one of you can come to the other's point of view. It will not work to homeschool your children without your husband's support - not in the long run. If he is behind you on this. Include him as much as he wants to be included. Maybe he can teach some math, or science, or auto mechanics, etc. on weekends or on an evening or two. Be sure to communicate your frustrations, needs, and successes to him. Keep him in the loop. Ask for his verbal and prayer support for you and for the children. Include him in any major decisions about curriculum, discipline problems, field trips, etc. Submit to his guidance as much as possible.

3) Prepare your weekly lessonplan. No you won't always be 100% on top of what you want to teach on a given day, but it would be very helpful to set aside a time - preferably once a week (I used to try to do it on Sunday evenings) to fill out a basic day by day lesson plan for each child. Take the time to set up a blank master grid on paper and make copies (or do it on the computer) then staying on top of this doesn't take long because you'll usually just be doing the next lesson in each subject. You could possibly put subjects across the top and time down the side with lesson #s or topics in the squares. Having a plan helps you to stay on scheduleAs each lesson is completed, you can check it off (or let the kids check it off or put a small sticker by it) and when the year is over, you will have a complete record of your homeschooling for each child! If you don't like to be this structured...try keeping a journal...a general overview of what you did in homeschool that can record the inevitable trials and the unexpected triumphs and any humor that may have surfaced and made your homeschool day that much more fun.

4) Prepare your school area. Most families find that having a specific place where they do their schoolwork, helps them have the discipline to stay on track. In some families everyone sits around a table, in others an entire room is dedicated to school. Some older children prefer to have their own study area - maybe in their bedroom - and that is just fine as long as they are completing their assignments on time. I homeschooled with health issues, so when I was feeling well, we used a table, a mounted whiteboard, a nearby bookcase of reference - type books, a plastic stand of drawers for supplies, wall maps, and the computer to do our lessons. When I wasn't feeling so well, we homeschooled on my bed with a lap-sized whiteboard and Jenny brought what we needed to me there. Here is a short list of supplies any homeschool should have on hand: pencils, sharpeners, eraser tips, pens, rulers, stapler, 3-hole punch, scotch tape, paper clips, scissors, highlighters, report folders, 3-ring binders, glue sticks, and paper, lots of paper (lined and unlined). Be sure your computer has ink, and paper, and when possible turn on the answering machine and set your cell phone to voice mail. When weather allows, never rule out the outdoors as a wonderful place to have school.

5) Prepare your children. Before you start homeschooling, you and your husband will want to have at least one talk with your children about why you are choosing to homeschool. Hopefully, your enthusiasm will be contagious, and they will be looking forward to this new adventure. Emphasize the pluses. Will you go on field trips, have days off, learn things that interest them? Give them a chance to voice any opinions or preconceived notions they may have about homeschooling. By working through issues ahead of time, you can save untold grief later on. Let them know what you expect of them...what are the rules for your school? Let them help make them when possible. What are the penalties for disobeying the rules? Are there any rewards for obeying? For younger children, you can make a chart showing rules, penalties, and rewards and use it when discipline is necessary. Let them help set up the school area. Try to instill a sense of ownership in them for your school. After all, it will be other family will have a school just like yours.

Deciding to homeschool is the beginning of a wonderful adventure for your family. Being prepared to homeschool helps to ensure that the adventure doesn't become an exercise in frustration.
Kathy D

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Invitation to the Classics

A classic, according to Mark Twain, is “a book that people praise and don’t read.
I like to think that at least among most homesechoolers, the classics of literature are introduced to our children as a part of their basic education.
n to the Classics (Gr. 7-Adult) edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness defines a classic as:
1. The classics not only exhibit distinguished style, fine artistry, and keen intellect but create whole universes of imagination and thought.
2. They portray life as complex and many-sided, depicting both negative and positive aspects of human character in the process of discovering and testing enduring virtues.
3. They have a transforming effect on the reader’s self-understanding.
4. They invite and survive frequent rereadings.
5. They adapt themselves to various times and places and provide a sense of the shared life of humanity.
6. They are considered classics by a sufficiently large number of people, establishing themselves with common readers as well as qualified authorities.
7. And finally, their appeal endures over wide reaches of time.

Invitation to the Classics is fast becoming a classic in its own right, especially among homeschooling families! Covering 78 literary gems from Homer through Dietrich Bonhoeffer, each author is covered with brief background information. We are then given insight and understanding of his legacy to literature. Photographs, illustrations, and quotes from major works are provided to help the reader make the connection to the author.

Did you know, that not all books that are considered classics necessarily teach wholesome values or exclude topics you wouldn’t want to be introduced in your home? Invitation lets you get a good sense of what a title is about before your student reads it. Or maybe you are have heard of a book, but are not sure of the storyline. Check out the index and then the article to determine if it interests you before you order it from the library or purchase it. I would recommend this as a must for high school home libraries. You can order Invitation to the Classics from Home .

Getting to the Root of Vocabulary

Words are so basic.
Researchers are showing that children often learn how to use words by inference. They determine the meaning of words by their visual, audio, and physical context. As they get older, students need to build the number and depth of words they acquire because now, instead of just speaking to family and peers where they can use facial expression, hand gestures, and body language to help them get their meaning across they need to learn to communicate through the written word. Now, they only have the words themselves to bring forth all that they want to say. They must keep their writing interesting and they must be able to find the specific words that express their exact thoughts. Painting visual pictures, developing a character or plot will all require an author to draw upon his acquired vocabulary.
One of the best ways to help children decipher the meaning of words on their own is by helping them master the Latin and Greek roots from which much of our English language is derived. Once they know, for instance, that ‘photo’ means light, they can begin to know the meaning of any word that has ‘photo’ in it such as photography, or photosynthesis. Learning these ‘word roots’ is an integral part of becoming a better reader and writer.

Here are several learning tools to help your student master word roots. The first, not surpri
singly, is called ’Word Roots’ and comes in workbook or software format. The workbooks cover Grades 2-12. Each lesson focuses on one or more root words and the prefixes and suffixes used with that root to build other words. Exercises teach children to identify these elements in English words, to match each given word to its correct meaning, and to select the correct word to complete an unfinished sentence. ‘Word Roots’ interactive software let’s a student build an ancient city as he completes a lesson. You can find ‘Word Roots’ on theCritical Thinking for Life’ website.

A second resource for learning Latin and Greek word roots is Vocabulary From Classical Roots. Word roots are introduced in workbook format and exercises completed to reinforce the meanings learned. After each 3 lessons there is a review. For Grades 4-12, VFCR comes in consumable student workbooks and require a teacher’s guide for each level. Find VFCR through Home .

Another popular vocabulary resource is ‘English From the Roots Up’ (Gr. 2-12) is subtitled ‘Help for Reading, Writing, and SAT Scores. EFRU is a creative, interactive approach to learning new words. Using index cards, a file box, and a good dictionary. Each root word is written on the front of its own card which gets a border (red for Latin and green for Greek). On the back are written words which contain the root, the definition of prefixes and suffixes used to make up each word, and the definition of the word itself. If you don’t want to take the time to make up the cards during homeschool, you may also purchase premade cards. Available through Home .

A few other popular vocabulary programs to consider are Jenson’s Vocabulary, Wordly Wise, Roots and Fruits, and Vocabulary Vine. You can read more about them and buy them at a discounted price by going to Home.

Choosing and using one of these great resources is essential to giving your child a well-rounded education and a head-start on college prep.
Kathy D.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Fallacy Detective

‘A fallacy is an error in logic—a place where someone has made a mistake in his thinking.’ Thus begins this marvelous and entertaining little book. The cooperative project of father and son team Nathan and Hans Bluedorn, The Fallacy Detective is meant to be an introduction to logic for ages 13 and older.
Students and (parents as well) will learn to recognize fallacies such as red herrings, ad hominem attacks, tu quoque, faulty appeal to authority, and straw man.
Next it covers the area of making assumptions—how to identify circular reasoning, loaded questions, equivocation, either-or arguments and more.
The next topic is Statistical Fallacies which include generalizations, weak analogies and proof by lack of evidence.
The last category of fallacies is Propaganda. Now you’ll learn about appeal to fear, appeal to pity, bandwagon, exigency, repetition, transfer, snob appeal, appeal to tradition and appeal to Hi-Tech. The student is then challenged to find propaganda on his own. (Look no further than the nightly world news programs).
Each section finishes up with a set of exercises and yes, the answers are in the back of the book!
The book concludes with The Fallacy Detective Game. To reinforce skills learned, students are encouraged to make up their own examples of these different mistakes in thinking strategies.
When you visit
Fallacy Detective online, you will have the opportunity to view sample pages, and an article on how to use The Fallacy Detective in your homeschool classroom. Then purchase it at a discount from Home.
If you believe teaching your child to think critically and to be able to find the flaws in the reasoning of others is important to his/her education, then this little gem is a must for your homeschool library.
Kathy D.

Free Worksheets Online

As resource library manager, I am often asked for sources for practice worksheets to drill learned skills. There are numerous avenues from workbooks to software available to homeschoolers, but these take time to locate and money to buy.
Thankfully, there are many, many sites out in cyberspace now that free downloadable worksheets in almost any subject needed. Some are much, much better than others. Some have a free level to entice you to become a member to get the rest of what they offer. Others are more of a service and let you see everything they have to offer.
To try to save you some time, I checked out a few of them. Here are my picks from those I saw:
Teachnology - This goldmine of a site has been put together mostly for public school teachers and I did find a few worksheets I wouldn’t choose to use in our family, but overall, there were many, many usable resources offered at no cost. There are also reasonably priced levels of yearly membership which allow access to additional benefits.
This site offers worksheets in areas such as Holidays, Critical Thinking, Graphic Organizers, Math, Language Arts, Research Skills, Rubrics and Social Studies.
Click on ‘Worksheet Makers’ to access ‘Crossword Makers, Word Scramble, Today in History, Word Search Maker, Science Lab Generator, Graphic Organizer Maker, and others.
Under ‘Miscellaneous’ I found Mazes, Sign Language, Teacher Calendars, and even ‘Mad Libs’!
By clicking on “Critical Thinking’ I came across File Folder Games, Internet Search Worksheets, Logic Puzzles and Brainteasers.
When I chose the 'Themes' button, I found lesson plans and ideas for all the major subject areas grouped by topics.
I know I could have used some of these easily printable worksheets when I was homeschooling!
Another site that looked promising was
The Teacher’s Corner. Here there are printable worksheets for teaching money, time, and other math skills. There are printable calendars, as well as crossword, wordsearch, and Sudoku puzzle generators. I also found worksheets for science, countries of the world, and daily writing prompts.
Check out
TLS BOOKS. Here you’ll find thousands of worksheets sorted by grade (K-5). They also offer coloring pages, teacher resources, puzzles and reading tips. I also found printable games, charts, graphs, calendars, booksmarks, flash cards and posters.
If you don’t find what you are looking for on these sites, Google away; you are bound to locate it sooner or later...and it won’t cost you a penny beyond ink and paper!

Kathy D.

Apologia Science Overview

Looking for a Christ-centered, homeschooling friendly science curriculum? Apologia Science Exploring Creation series more than meets the needs of homeschooling families.
Jeannie Fulbright's elementary (K-6) texts (published through Apologia) teach topically from a God-honoring, creation-oriented point of view. She now has 5 hardback books covering astronomy, botany, and zoology packed with pictures and attention holding, fact-filled text. These check out often in my resource library...a sure indicator that families are finding them useful!
For junior high level students, Apologia offers general science (7th) and Physical Science (8th). the 8th grade course requires that the student has successfully completed a 7th grade math course.
Senior High students will be challenged by Exploring Creation with Biology (9th), Chemistry (10th - requires successful completion of Algebra 1), and Physics (11th - student must know Algebra 1, Geometry and basic trigonometry). The Senior in high school may choose from four courses: Advanced Biology, Advanced Chemistry (requires knowledge of Algebra 2), Advanced Physics (Trigonometry), or Marine Biology. For upper level courses, there is some lab equipment required. Visit
Apologia's website for more information as well as sample lesson pages.
CD-roms containing the entire text formatted as a website plus multimedia features such as videos, word pronunciations, and animations are available for the following titles: General Science, Physical Science, Biology,
Chemistry, Physics, Marine Biology, and Advanced Biology.
There are also Audio CDs for some titles. Visit
Apologia's website for more details.
Apologia science is perfect for the child who is aspiring to make science or medicine his career. He will learn classifications and latin terminology and all the details he can handle. In our family, we tried the Biology and got bogged down in those details. So my daughter opted to use the text as a guideline for topics to be covered. She then chose related videos and library books and narrated to me what she had learned as well as writing the occasional report. This approach worked well for her and met one of her high school science credits.
These books are a little pricey for most homeschool families though well worth the money. Try Home or check out Vegsource for used texts.
Kathy D.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Benefits of Homeschooling

I finished homeschooling 2 years ago. Well, my daughter is a sophomore in college now, so technically I am not homeschooling, right?... but doesn't drilling German vocabulary for several hours an evening count? It surely feels similar...except that I am not in charge anymore!
Every now and again, I find myself very, very thankful for having had the opportunity to homeschool. Here are a few reasons why:
> You can pass on your family's values
> You can know what your child is learning and whether it meets your family's standards both academically and morally.
> When a curriculum isn't working, you can change what you are using.
> In the same vein, you can adapt lessons to your child's learning style
> Homeschooling can be flexible! While you do need to maintain a schedule of sorts, it isn't written in stone. You can take a day off if you or your children are getting truly burned out.
> Lessons can be longer or shorter as needed. Math making your son ballistic? Stop math and switch to a nature walk or making cookies. Having a great time doing science? Shorten math to a game. They'll still get some practice in. Or read a book together.
> You can let your family's creativity flourish...Especially with History, Geography, or Science
> You can join or start a co-op or support group for group activities like international banquets or science fairs
> And my favorite benefit of can develop a close relationship with each of your children - you have to or you'll never survive! lol It is always working through the problems in relationships that can draw people closer together. In our case, with God's help, it did.
Of course there is not enough space here to list all the advantages in store for the family who chooses to make the sacrifices that homeschooling requires, do you know some more? Leave a comment for others to read!
Kathy D.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

TruthQuest History

Before your children reach their teen years around 7th grade, they will understand history in segments...the ancient Romans, the Egyptians, Colonial America, etc. and this is the way history is generally taught. Most younger children don't have a large enough concept of time to grasp the far-reaching effects of historical events, so teaching in unit studies or time fragments, works well enough at these earlier ages. Lots of hands-on activities also help to hold interest, but that's another article!
Once teenagers begin to look around them at current events and have an interest in why things happen the way they do, they are ready to truly profit from TruthQuest History.
Michele Miller, the author of TruthQuest teaches her courses from the point of view that the Lord God is the author of all of history...her slogan: God initiates - People respond - History happens.

Truthquest History teaches chronologically beginning with God's Creation. Each lesson starts with Michele's overview in a narrative format. The lesson is followed by extensive booklists of references, historical fiction that makes the time period come alive, and periodically with a writing assignment to help the concepts learned become ingrained in the students thinking. There are books listed for several age groups so all your children can participate at some level.
My daughter and I found it most helpful to read the lesson, discuss the concepts and cultures covered, then bring in library books, DVDs, etc. to deepen her understanding of that time period. This history series can truly be as rich as you and your children choose to make it.
Visit Michele's site, browse through her lesson samples and especially read her About the Author page. I love her approach and the way it supports scripture and a Biblical worldview. If you would like to benefit Help U Homeschool make your purchase through Home
Kathy D.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

College Prep for the Homeschooled Student

If your homeschooled children are planning to attend college you may be wondering how they can go about ensuring they will be accepted.
From what I have read, more and more colleges are accepting fact, they like them! Thanks to the dedication of countless families before you, many colleges and universities have a high opinion of homeschooled students and value their applications. They have learned that homeschooled applicants tend to already have the good study habits and dedication to goals that students need to succeed in the college environment. If college is in your children's future, it will be time to start doing some serious preparation around 9th grade. A few suggestions from our own experience:
> set high standards for their high school work and keep a portfolio notebook of examples of each student's work in different areas of study
> test them regularly so you know they are learning the material they will need to know for the SAT and/or entrance exams
> have them do SAT prep work - there are free online SAT prep courses and pre-tests available (e.g.

> It helps if they take the SAT twice...once in the spring of their junior year to find gaps for which they can then study over the summer and once in the fall of their senior year...the colleges will use the higher score in each area of the test
> Help your children find colleges that provide the programs they need to accomplish their goals, then contact those schools (admissions offices) to find out how they handle this when your student is beginning the 9th grade, so you can begin meeting their standards early enough
> Have them participate in a Running Start program, if available, through your local school district. Running Start enables students to earn high school and college credits at the same time while attending classes at college) ...they can do this as early as their junior year of high school. Not only does this show that they are serious about their education and can handle college level work and assignments which are sometimes quite independent and demanding depending on the course and the professor, but it also gives them a jump start on earning the credits they will need to graduate from college. And best of all, the school district pays for the classes. Some Running Start students are even able to earn their AA degree by the time they graduate from high school at no cost to them!
Our situation was blessed in that here in WA state we have Parent Partnership Programs (not satelite or charter schools) and the one in Deer Park where we live is extraordinary. While my daughter took part several days a week in HomeLink (both accredited and enrichment classes), I was totally in charge of her curriculum and her schedule. She graduated with a diploma, a high GPA, and a transcript to prove it. She did Running Start for a couple of years, studied hard for the SAT and aced it, and as a result of her GPA and SAT scores and our low income, received grants and scholarships which enabled her to attend a nearby university in her field of choice - music. I know at least part if not all of this is because God opened doors for her.
He can do the same for your children...
Kathy D

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Locating a Homeschool Support Group

Here are just a few suggestions for locating a homeschool support group in your area.
1) Go to and 'google' homeschool support groups in _________(your city and state). If nothing relevant comes up, try just searching for support groups in your state. The list of sites that pop up will either be support group websites or a 'clearinghouse' type of website that will list support groups by state. If you find one near you, just give them a call. If there isn't one close enough, call the nearest one and ask if they know of any other support groups closer to you that just may not be listed.
2) Many churches have support groups
3) Contact the local school district, many states require them to monitor homeschool families in their district, so they may know of support groups.
4) Put an ad on your local and say you are searching for a support group
5) Post an ad on a great place to network.
6) Visit The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's blogsite and see if there is anyone posting there from your area.
7) Put an ad on the bulletin board or post office saying you are looking for a support group.
There is always a way to hook up with other homeschoolers. These are just a few ideas to get you going.
Kathy D.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What's a Timberdoodle?

Early in my years as a homeschool mom a thin undersized catalog arrived printed on newsprint... it certainly was not very impressive in appearance but as I discovered it was extraordinary in content!
Timberdoodle is owned by a homeschooling family in Western Washington and much of the business is currently being run by grown and growing children. Dan and Deb, the parents, started the company and have watched it grow along with their family. They provide unusual and hard to find homeschool resources for Preschool through High School. Not only do they carry products for major subjects such as English and Math, History and Geography, but also for electives such as Foreign Languages, Art, Drafting, Handwriting, Bible, and Thinking Skills.
This is just one site you have to check out for yourself. When you do you will come to appreciate, as I have, the diversity of materials they offer and the down to earth, solid product reviews that give real, personal insight and wisdom.
The reviews and product offerings often caused me to rethink the way I was homeschooling. Sometimes I changed what I was doing, sometimes not, but I always came away with a fresh perspective on teaching a subject.
Visit their website , request a catalog, and let your mind open to a different approach to homeschooling.
Kathy D. - 24/7 Help for Homeschoolers

Have you ever had days in your homeschool week where you’ve run into a subject area you couldn’t teach and didn’t have the resources to find the answers you needed? Maybe it was an Algebra problem that just wouldn’t solve no matter how many times you and your student read the lesson in the textbook; or maybe explaining how to write an essay wasn’t as easy as you thought.
Well now, you don’t have stay frustrated for long! While doing research for this blog, I came across an excellent resource for situations like those I’ve just mentioned. looks to be an invaluable resource for homeschool moms and students alike… especially if you are homeschooling the high school years.
Here is how it works: You purchase the tutoring in timed blocks and only use as much as you need in any one session. For instance the first increment is 50 minutes for $29.99.
Of course, the more minutes you buy the better value you get! But tutors are expensive no matter what and’s tutors are pre-qualified, always available, and teach in the comfort of your home in an online classroom. Perfect for the homeschooling family!

Tutors are available for most important subjects such as:
MATH: Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus
SCIENCE: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science
ENGLISH: Essay Writing, Proofreading, Literature
HISTORY: Research, U.S. History, World History …

In addition to teaching subject material, they can help in many ways like developing study skills, preparing for tests, organizing and completing projects, writing better essays, and learning to conduct effective research. They can even review your work to make sure you are headed in the right direction… 24/7!
Use this link Free -- Online Tutors Available Now! (or the buttons on the righthand sidebar) to visit Once there you can take advantage of a free 25 minute trial session to see if their services are right for your family. There is also a video that shows you how works and links to some related articles such as SAT Test Prep and Getting a Jumpstart on College Applications. Also on the site is a link to get 25 more free minutes if you own a T1 Graphing Calculator …. So you could conceivable get your first 50 minutes of tutoring free!
If you decide to try, please email me with your comments and experiences. I’d like to know what you think.
Kathy D.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What About Saxon Math?

When my daughter and I started homeschooling in 1993, I had never heard of Saxon Math. Being on a very tight budget, we homeschooled by using ideas and worksheets from websites, some used curriculum from Rod and Staff that was given to us and some workbooks that I bought at Walmart. I made our own flashcards and downloaded freeware that taught basic phonics and math (, I recently found out, flix productions software doesn't run on Windsows Vista.... We took nature hikes on our ten acres and spent lots of time at the library.
As Jen reached 5th grade, we heard about Saxon from other homeschoolers and as I was now concerned about gaps (she just wasn't getting her multiplication tables no matter what I tried so who knew what else she might be missing)...I gave her the placement test (available at at the homeschool link) and ordered our first Saxon homeschool kit. To benefit Help U Homeschool order through Home

We did the lessons together for a while and quickly became frustrated at the length of time (one and a half to two hours) it would take us to get through that day's lesson. It seemed like a lot of busy work. Once we figured out that Saxon's lessons teach in what is called a 'spiral progression', we dared to defy the curriculum's instructions and began to do only the practice problems that she actually needed to practice thereby eliminating sometimes as much as half of the work. This meant, of course that I had to stay involved in teaching the lessons, correcting the practice problems, and monitoring her test results so that I knew what she needed to practice each day. I simply circled the numbers of the problems I wanted her to do.
This worked really well until high school when she decided to do the Saxon courses independently. She was testing at her grade level each year so I okayed that decision and she subsequently completed Algebra 1 and 2 on her own and tested into a credit level math course at the community college for Running Start (a state program that allows high schoolers to earn high school and college credits at the same time thereby getting a jumpstart on college).
We really appreciated the built in review of concepts that Saxon's spiral teaching provides. We also liked that in most of the courses, the lesson number on which each practice problem was based was in parentheses beside the the problem so it was easy to go back and use the lesson to remember how the problem was done.
Saxon is a high quality comprehensive math curriculum for K-12 and has courses through Calculus. It is a straight textbook academic course with no frills just good solid curriculum for getting the job done for most students. It is not interactive or necessarily hands-on although the lower grades do use some manipulatives to teach the basics. So if your child learns better kinesthetically (by doing) or even visually, you may want to try Math-U-See instead.

Kathy D.

Why All the Ads?

I wanted to take a moment to explain what all the ads are doing on my blog. If you are as new to blogging as I am it might be a little confusing.
I started this blog for 2 reasons. The first is to be a blessing to other homeschoolers...passing on a bit of what I've learned over my homeschooling years; and second, I am helping to support our family.
My wonderful husband is disabled and hasn't been able to work for many years and my own health requires that I can only work out of the home part-time. His Social Security and my wages don't cover our family's expenses.
Our daughter is attending an expensive private university (to pursue her dream of becoming a professional classical soprano - she's very good) on scholarships and grants by God's grace but she lives at home and has expenses that arise as well as commuting costs.
So, some of the ads on my blog are affiliate links. This means if you choose to click on a banner or button and go to that company's website and make a purchase, I will receive a percentage. There are also many links on this blog that are not affiliate links. I don't earn anything if you visit their sites. They are just excellent resources that I wanted to share with you.
Just wanted to be honest and up front about why you are seeing advertisements as well as posts on this blog.

Thanks for understanding :)
Kathy D.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Choosing Homeschool Curriculum for PreK - Gr. 6

While I am not an advocate of derogatory terms...I do like the one my friend has been using lately... K.I.S.S...Keep It Simple Stupid! Okay, maybe we'll just go with gets the message across and avoids the problem word.

Homeschool curriculum planning should not be overwhelming though I'll be the first to admit I have been easily overwhelmed during my homeschooling journey. I remember looking through homeschool curriculum many as I could find...for hours at a time. I'd start out excited as I found one product after another that sounded like a very wise choice until I read the next selection and the next which provided other ways to teach the same material and left me confused and frustrated. After all, there were only so many dollars to spend and I couldn't afford to make a mistake. Once I bought it, we were stuck with it! I remember actually having a small panic attack and having to get up, walk around, and concentrate on breathing normally. Then I would put the catalogs away until the next neurotic episode.

Here are some tips to keep it simple from my own experiences:

~ work with one child's curriculum at a time for each subject OR
~ work with one subject at a time for each child
~ find one distributor that carries a broad range of products with good reviews/prices:
~ Choice A: if you like pictures, I recommend Christian Book Distributors - Home
to request a catalog or shop online. Be careful to select their homeschool catalog as they have several. This is a color catalog on newsprint with product pictures and good descriptions. There are also professional product reviews on select products by homeschooling experts Dean and Karen Andreola and their homeschooled children in each issue. CBD's product selection is wide and they offer excellent, proven curriculum so most things you choose will work well for most children. Most prices are discounted and therefore reasonable. Many parents feel that they get a clearer idea of what they are buying from this catalog.

~ Choice B: If you don't need pictures , but are more interested in a wider selection, good discounts, and longer product descriptions, I have to say that Rainbow Resource Center at is a wise choice. They started out with about a 1/2" around 12 years ago but have consistantly added products so that this year's issue has a spine of about 3" thick! The pages are thin, the print is small and the few pictures are black and white. Each product has an age or grade level assigned. They are the most complete catalog available and they regularly have the lowest prices. There are some products with exclusive selling rights such as Math-U-See that they do not carry but they are few and far between. The catalog while huge is well-indexed so products are easy to find if you know what you are looking for. If you want to browse, everything is arranged by topic. Remember to K.I.S. by sticking to the first two tips above and it will cut down on the anxiety attacks when using this super-catalog!
Here is some of the best advice I've ever gotten about choosing homeschool curriculum for your youngest students: "If you choose a curriculum with a good reputation (i.e. you've heard at least some positive things about it from a source you trust), you won't go far wrong." Simple, huh? But then, that is our goal here, right?

Did you know that most of the material covered in the lower grades is repeated over and over in succeeding grades so that by the time they get to junior high you are unlikely to have any major gaps, if you have followed the curriculum in order and completed most of it. You can also have your child tested to uncover any problem areas and remediate during the summer.

Learning styles can be an issue, but if you've purchased a curriculum that doesn't work for you as it is and you can't return it, use it as a guideline for the topics you need to cover and then get creative! Look at the library or online for books, CDs, DVDs, software, games, and other manipulatives that will enable you to teach those topics your way!

Some other ways to find out about curriculum choices are to talk to other homeschoolers (don't be shy, we love to talk curriculum), join a support group (larger ones often have speakers and presentations), go to homeschool conventions and attend workshops on curriculum as well as visiting the vendor booths and asking questions, google 'homeschool blogs' and read articles like this one, or visit publishers' (those who write and print curriculum) websites to learn the philosophy behind their product(s).
It will take time and effort ...but homeschooling... successful homeschooling requires an investment from you. Think of it as a kind of school for you... helping you develop skills you'll use all through your homeschooling years. And remember K.I.S. !
If this information has helped you at all, be sure to bookmark my blog and visit often. I plan to cover choosing curriculum for older children soon and also review some more products that I've found to be worthwhile.

Please do email me with your ideas, suggestions, or questions.
Until next time...may Jesus bless your homeschool!

Why Teach Critical Thinking?

What is critical thinking, anyhow? I've heard the term for years; even used some of the wonderful products from The Critical Thinking Company and found them to be excellent but I had never come across a definition that gave me a real grasp on what it is. Until recently, while doing some research for a friend, I found a definition that was much clearer:

Critical Thinking is best understood as the ability of thinkers to take charge of their own thinking. This requires that they develop sound criteria and standards for analyzing and assessing their own thinking and routinely use those criteria and standards to improve its quality. --- Elder, L. and Paul R. "Critical Thinking: why we must transform our teaching." Journal of Developmental Education, Fall 1994

I also came across a short list of attributes a critical thinker has or must develop compiled by Ferrett, S. in Peak Performance (1997)

A critical thinker:
- asks pertinent questions
- assesses statements and arguments
- is able to admit a lack of understanding or information
- has a sense of curiosity
- is interested in finding new solutions
- is able to clearly define a set of criteria for analyzing ideas
- is willing to examine beliefs, assumptions, and opinions and weigh
them against facts
- listens carefully to others and is able to give feedback
- sees that critical thinking is a lifelong process of self-assessment
- suspends judgment until all facts have been gathered and considered
- looks for evidence to support assumptions and beliefs
- is able to adjust opinions when new facts are found
- looks for proof; examines problems closely; is able to reject information that is incorrect irrelevant

Okay, that gives you a pretty inclusive idea of what critical thinking is; but does it answer the question of why you should teach it to your children? Yes, I think it does!

Isn't an important part of what we want our children to learn from us the ability to think for themselves? that they wouldn't be caught up in every new idea that comes along? that they would know what they think and believe and why? How else will they sort through the barrage of information coming at them from all sides? Giving them the tools to think independently from others (not from God), will be a lifelong blessing.

The really great thing about teaching critical thinking today is that there are a slew of products out there to easily make it part of your regular school day...even part of your regular curriculum! It doesn't even need to be taught as a separate subject though at the high school level it may be a good idea.

There are workbooks, manipulatives, software, games and puzzles. They are all geared toward teaching critical thinking skills in an entertaining format and some also teach math concepts, grammar rules, science, or history right along with strategy and logic.

The internet has several very good online stores that sell these products, but I have found a company that sells them all in one place! It's easy to browse the categories or use the search engine to find the best critical thinking products on the web. It is run by a retired homeschool mom and here is her web address: Not only does she have everything you need at one convenient location, her shopping cart/checkout system is simple and speedy. You can use Paypal (credit card, debit card, or cash).

She also offers individual consultations, a money saving Refer-a-Friend Program, and a monthly e-newsletter with new products and sales. To take advantage of these benefits, just email Roxanne at and mention that I sent you! This is an excellent place to get the tools you need to make critical thinking an important part of your homeschool program.

We'll take a look at actual critical thinking products in later posts, so stop by often!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Start Your Homeschool Day With Prayer!

Mornings can be the pits! Especially school mornings! Especially when you're the mom and responsible to keep things running smoothly!

You know the drill... Maybe you have your day planned to the minute...or maybe you're not quite that organized, but you basically know what you need to accomplish today. You at least know that you should spend time with the Lord first and you know when you want school to start in order to get those lessons done.

But when the alarm rings you find:
> your husband needs you to find his was right on the dresser...
> the baby needs changing... now!...and oh, the crib sheets need changing too...
> you can't put the laundry off any longer either...
> your 10 year old has a nasty cough ...
> and the final straw... the phone is ringing repeatedly...

Your day is already in chaos and you haven't even been able to remember your own name much less try to pray. You can multiply the confusion by the number of children exponentially!

At our house...we call it the spiraling vortex. You start to accomplish something only to realize something else must be done first... it occurs regularly and seems to have a life of its own.

Guess what? It's okay... In an ideal world, we would each have a husband and children that understood and respected our need for devotions first thing each morning... every morning.

Yet, I believe our Father is a pragmatist...all we have to do is take a look at His creation to see the proof. And He loves us unconditionally. He knows the reality of our world...of your mornings! All He asks is to be first in your be a vital part of your be your source of strength and patience.

I am not advocating neglecting devotions... time set apart for your one-on-one relationship with Jesus is vital to your spiritual health. I am saying don't stress if you don't see it happening as often as you think it should.

And here's the beauty of homeschooling... you are not tied to an arbitrary schedule!
Yes, you need to have goals and yes, you need to set standards. But don't be afraid to be flexible with your schedule, with your children, and with yourself!

Do plan to start your school day with devotions. Setting that time (whatever time it finally happens) aside consistantly will help to refocus you and your children on why you are homeschooling in the first place...and on who really needs to be in charge. Let your children participate in reading scripture and praying. They need to develop their own faith and you need the chance to hear their hearts.

And the prayer part...Paul exhorts us to pray without ceasing (I Thes. 5:17). So help your children know that prayer is not limited to that special time at the beginning of each school day.

They (and you) can talk to God, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit any time they like!


Monday, October 6, 2008

D.I.V.E. Into Math and Science

D.I.V.E. stands for Digital Interactive Video Education...that would definitely be a mouthful without that handy acronym!

D.I.V.E. offers CDs for math and science which consist of interactive there is visual and audio learning going on. The student can rewind to hear a lesson or a part of a lesson again, pause to complete seatwork, or fast forward to skip a section he has mastered. Previously completed lessons are easily accessed if forgotten.

The lessons are taught by Dr. David Shorrmann who has over 6,000 hours of experience teaching science and mathematics.
Lessons are presented from a Christian perspective with encouraging scripture verses being shared at the beginning of several lessons. Dr. Shorrmann's personal testimony is included on each CD.

The math CDs are designed to supplement the Saxon Math curriculum and the levels offered are 5/4, 6/5, 7/6, 8/7, Algebra 1/2 (Pre Algebra), Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Advanced Math (PreCalculus), Calculus, Physics, and Physics Lab.

Each DIVE Math lesson is taught along with several practice problems per lesson. Lessons are short and interactive, which minimizes time spent staring at a computer screen
To determine the level at which your student should begin visit and print out a placement test. Follow the instructions provided for scoring. This method has proven to be pretty acurate for the parents I've counselled. To locate the tests from their homepage, click on the Saxon Homeschool button, then the Placement Tests link on the left side of the page.

The science CDs follow Bob Jones University Press Physical World, (Introduction to Chemistry and Physics also known as Physical Science), Biology, and Chemistry.
DIVE science CD-ROMs are designed to explain the more complicated topics in science and enhance a student's note-taking abilities and study skills in order to adequately prepare them for college-level science and engineering courses, where tests based on classroom lectures are the norm!
Before purchasing any D.I.V.E. CDs make sure you order the correct edition to match your textbooks!
The CDs follow along lesson by lesson so this is especially important.

My personal experience with D.I.V.E. is limited though I recommend the math CDs often in my job as a resource librarian. The feedback back I receive is always enthusiastically positive!
My moms are thrilled that their child is working independently to solve math problems and grasping concepts much better than just from the textbook alone.

The drawback for me when I looked at this possibility for my daughter was that she needed someone to interact on one. When she had a question with the textbook, it wasn't answered by the D.I.V.E. CD. Our solution was a math tutoring enrichment class at the Parent Partnership Program we had joined.

Each CD is $50... You can benefit Help U Homeschool by ordering from Home

Kathy D.

What is Help U Homeschool?

First of all, this isn't about me...

If you are a veteran homeschooler, new to homeschooling, or just thinking about starting...this blog is for you!

While I'm hoping I can share some of the things I've learned, I am not a homeschool curriculum guru by any means :)

Please take time to read my About Me page to gain just a little background on why I hope I do have some useful knowledge that will benefit you.

How do you teach the times tables, or the parts of speech? Where can you find a good spelling game or preschool curriculum?

I realize that many of you know as much or more than I do and I am looking forward to learning as much as I teach so please do share your insights, ideas and experience with my readers and I. You can send a quick email to I will post your suggestions and give you credit if you like.

As soon as possible, I will be adding links to some of the best homeschool curriculum out there and sharing why I think it is the best. I invite you to email me your favorites along with your reasons for choosing them. Again, I will give you credit for anything you submit that I post here.

Along with homeschool curriculum, I will be sharing hands-on resources that can make learning easier and more productive....not to mention downright fun!

Let me know if you have other ideas to make this space valuable to us.
Don't forget to bookmark Help U Homeschool and stop back often!
Kathy Danvers