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 day...you 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 unique...no 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 Christianbook.com 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
Christianbook.com 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 Christianbook.com 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 Christianbook.com 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
Christianbook.com 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
Christianbook.com Home or check out Vegsource for used texts.
Kathy D.