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A 2008 Conference Special Edition Back To School Homeschool Jewels Avoiding Burnout Finding the Best Price for Books

Organize a Mini Co-op Homeschooling With Toddlers

sAvoiding Burnout Taking It To the Streets

No Fail Ways To Choosing High School Curriculum UT $4.50 ET $5.00

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00000 Don’t Judge a Book By0000It’s Cover

July 30, 2008


said do get stuck in a rut. Although our routine has had some variance over the years— an extra workbook here or different teaching element there—we have stuck, pretty much, to the same schedule and basic subjects each year. So, without additional prep work (besides my own), our children know what is expected of them each day of the week. Unless we have an interruption (a field trip, travel, or unplanned event), they can sit and complete their work whether I’m around or not. Only once in our time at home was I too sick to get out of bed, but I was astonished and thrilled that the kids came downstairs and did everything they were supposed to do, only consulting me if they had questions.

Homeschool Jewels I once read a great article by Diane Flynn Keith entitled “7 Dumb Mistakes Smart People Make When They Homeschool and How to Avoid Them.” The article really struck home with me in areas where I’ve been, and some areas in which I insist on returning, despite my best efforts. For copyright’s sake, I won’t post the entire article here, but I will share her list of mistakes: 1. Unrealistic expectations (or no expectations) regarding yearly or daily goals 2. Over-scheduling & under-scheduling 3. Ignoring child feedback 4. Overspending 5. Isolation 6. Thinking you can do it all 7. Striving to convince everyone else that they, too, should homeschool Like I said, I could preach a sermon on all but #4, and I’m good enough to even get an offering on #s 2 and 6. The reason that I’ve not been guilty of overspending, at least not yet, is more of a function of the method I chose for homeschooling than any well thought-out savings strategy. One great benefit I’ve always enjoyed about Charlotte Mason’s principles is that there isn’t a lot of curriculum to buy if you play your cards right. I have used as a mantra that quote I heard early in my journey about ‘all you need to homeschool is a Bible, a math book, and a library card.’

As a curriculum developer and self-publisher, I am not condemning the idea of packaged curriculum. To be clear, bought curriculum is the unofficial, yet official mark of a homeschooler. Think about it: how wealthy would you be if you had a dollar for each time another homeschooling parent stopped and asked you, “So, what curriculum do you use?” Moreover, there are wonderful homeschoolfriendly products available from parents who have traveled the same path and appreciate the roses, and thorns, along the journey. Where would the homeschooling movement be without this type of ingenuity? For me personally, as I pray and do the homework regarding what to buy, I have a couple of homeschooling jewels that I often refer back to, especially at the year’s end when I’m beginning to think about the years to come. Jewel #1 on buying curriculum: consider the following questions: • Is this something I can teach without a curriculum? • Am I attracted to the content, or the packaging and promotion? • What do the reviews say about it? Finally, this one is my favorite: buy books instead of buying “stuff ”. Jewel #2: get stuck in a rut. Yes, that’s right. I

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Routines are just what the name suggests— routine, boring, and monotonous. I can, however, offer the carrot in front of this ho-hum horse. As a college instructor, I reach out to students each day who are having a less-thansuccessful start in post-secondary studies. In some cases, they are simply not college material. However, in many cases, they are bright learners who could have an academically successful experience, but they lack the skills to be good students—discipline, time management, and concentration. As much as we hate to admit it, these are the roles we often play as parents in the homeschool. So the question becomes, how do we help our kids transition to do these things themselves? Cutting them off cold turkey after 12th grade doesn’t work in many cases, so we have to create an environment for certain habits to form. Moreover, those habits must form in us first. We can’t lead where we aren’t willing to go; how dare we expect children who can manage themselves when we present ourselves as flighty and undisciplined. School can still be filled with love and laughter, but think about and certainly pray about making it boring enough for your children to learn to discipline and manage their lives. Again, these nuggets have been invaluable for me as we progress through the years. Prayerfully, they will bless you, too. Belinda Bullard is a homeschooling mother of six years. In addition to being a wife and mother of three, Belinda is an author and the owner of A Blessed Heritage Educational Resources. A chemical engineer by formal education, Belinda started the company in 2004 to introduce homeschooled children to more inclusive history. The literature-based history curriculum features AfricanAmerican presence in history, but also includes the contributions of other races to American history. Finally, she serves as adjunct faculty for college distance learning programs.


Back to school. In my public school days, this was an exciting time, mainly because it meant purchasing new clothes and new supplies. I enjoyed looking at my class schedules, flipping through my new books, and anticipating seeing the faces of old friends and making new ones.

Back To School

Pick up brochures and pamphlets at your local visitor center to see what is going on in your city or state. You may also find these at hotels, if you don’t know where your visitor center is (or you don’t have one).

So how do you combine all the exciting goodness of those days into homeschooling? And... should you?

When you travel to visit someone, check out educational and fun events going on in their area, and set aside time to check it out.

Get Geared

Get Your Children Involved

Even though we don’t have an official start and end to our school year because we are delightfully discipled year-round, I do like to get the kids (and myself ) pumped up as summer winds down, and many of their friends head back to school.

Make sure to include your children, no matter their age, in all of this. Kids love helping pick out supplies, and they enjoy having a say-so in planning things out. It’s easy to do it all yourself, but it’s important to get the whole crew involved, even if it requires more time, hassle, and effort.

Our first stop is usually a book store. HalfPriced Books is my favorite bookstore, and worth making a trip to, even if it means driving an hour. Not only do they have deeply discounted new books, they also carry loads of used books. They always have a used-book clearance where you can snag a book normally priced at fifteen bucks for only a dollar! What a deal! Half-Priced Books helps my budget stretch. I’ve walked out of that store with ten books, for only $20. You won’t find that kind of deal anywhere else. Another way to celebrate back to school is to have a book swap or a curriculum swap. Book swaps can include those who are homeschooled or public schooled. Serve snacks and refreshments, and have a great time! As summer comes to an end, stores gear

up for the new school year by putting supplies on sale. This is a great time to stock up. Last year, crayons, markers, and paper were all on sale for ten cents a pack, so I purchased enough to last me for the year... plus extra to share with friends. Pens, pencils, markers, lined paper, construction paper, scissors, folders, binders, and glue will probably not be cheaper any other time of year. Do Some Planning While we don’t do much curriculum planning, I do like to scope out places that would be fun and educational to visit throughout the year. We try to plan one major thing per month, whether it be visiting the zoo (which is major because, where we currently live, we have to travel 3 hours to get to one), checking out an Imax film, visiting a museum, touring plantations, or touring a factory.

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You don’t have to do this all in one day. Build the excitement. Talk about it with each other. Get pumped up about it! If possible, give each child a little money and help them budget it in order to purchase a few things they really want above and beyond the basics you plan on buying. What are some ways you prepare for or celebrate the new school year? Do you school year round or take summers off ? We’d like to hear all about it! Mandy is a former homeschooling student who has set out to homeschool her three young munchkins in an unschooling meets discipleship method. In her column “Delightfully Discipled”, she gives a glimpse into the curious minds of her children as they follow their natural instincts to explore the heights and depths of knowledge and and are led though Godly discipleship. She blogs at MandyMom.com and Noggin News.


Takin’ It To The Streets “I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves...” Song of Songs 3:2 (NIV) As we begin a new school year, our thoughts turn to plans and priorities, supplies and schedules. But do we forget our priority to our marriage and our husbands in the process? It sure is easy to do with all the other things that press in on us and demand our attention! The other day I read my friend Jessica’s blog and was taken in by her honesty about her marriage. As I read her words, I was convicted to fight for my marriage as she describes. Here is an excerpt that she has given me permission to share: As I pulled the blanket up around me, I heard God speak very, very, very softly to my heart. He spoke to my about my priorities and showed me that, once again, I had put my marriage on the back burner. Before, I had been purposing to make time for weekly date nights with Hugh. However, I’m the one responsible for working out the babysitting, and rather than using the sitter for dates, I’d been having her come during the day and using my “kid-free” time for shopping and projects around the house. Also, Hugh has been gone a lot for work lately, and I have not been purposeful about spending the little time we have had together to be, really be with him - to really connect and catch up. So why am I surprised when sarcasm and miscommunication started to slowly creep into our relationship (again)? Did I think that since I had made my marriage a top priority for the last nine months, that I could get lazy? My relationship with my husband is something that needs constant attention and focus, not a task I can check off my list.

Jessica’s open and honest look at her priorities within her marriage was a wakeup call for me. I am sure it will be for many of us. We can talk a good game about keeping our marriage second only to God in our lives, but do we live that way? Too often, the tyranny of the urgent replaces our hopes for a godly marriage. We take for granted that our spouses will be there whenever we get around to it. And then we are surprised when a gap grows between us. I love the image in the scripture of literally combing the streets looking for our loved ones. This is a love that will go to the ends of the earth. This is a love that doesn’t give up when our to-do list gets long. This is a love that doesn’t burn out, that doesn’t grow stale, that doesn’t stop trying. What comforts my heart most of all is that this is also the way Christ loves us. I want to have a marriage that takes to the streets, if need be, to find and focus on my husband. I want to not merely pay lip service to my commitment, but to live it out. When my husband seems distant, I want to search for him instead of just sitting back and complaining about it. I don’t want to lose hope when things start slipping but to take every situation to God. To offer it up to Him to transform and make new as only He can. Will you join me, and Jessica, in pursuing our marriages with wholehearted devotion? Will you take to the streets if that’s what it takes? Marybeth is a NC native and loves living in the south! She has been married for almost sixteen years and has six children ranging in age from teen to toddler. Things are never dull around her home! Additionally, she writes and speaks for Proverbs 31 Ministries, is active in a local Bible study, and serves on the board of her local community theater. In her “spare” time, she tries to keep scrapbooks of her children and she is an avid reader. Visit her at her personal blog: Cheaper By the Half Dozen.

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Sponsors: A Journey Through Learning A Virtuous Woman Anne’s School Place Barefoot Blogs Barefoot Books Biblical Womanhood Blackbird & Company Literature Guides Blessed Heritage Blue Thistle Books Brain-athon Emporium Brandenburg Studies CurrClick Discover Art With Sandra Down Under Literature Excellence In Writing Family Man Ministries Grapevine Studies Greek -n- Stuff Hands Of A Child Heart of Wisdom Home School Legal Defense Assoc. Homeschool In the Woods Homeschool Share HS Sports Insider Jeannie Fulbright Knowledge Quest Lori Lane Love Me-Knots Maridel Willer Marshall’s Online College Courses in the High Schools (OCCHS) Program Mary Beth Whalen Math Mammoth My Sewing Treasures Mystery of History Notebook Learning Notebooking Pages Once Upon a Family Portrait of a Writer, Interrupted Science 2 Discover Scrap and Learn Select Violins Sheila Wray Gregoire Simply Fun Sonlight Curriculum Split Decisionz Steward Ship TG Magazine The HomeScholar The Homeschool Lounge The Lady Book Maker TruthQuest History Usborne Books


Finding the Best Price for Books

It’s that time of year again! It’s time to go through your old curriculum to see what you have, need, and want for the coming year. I only keep what I could reuse within a year. Anything kept longer than that will be lost, broken, or completely forgotten about. I donate everything that is no longer needed, either to family, friends or to charity. It takes me about 2 weeks to plan the next years’ course-of-action. I view my lists then start on my eclectic search for curriculum. I often feel overwhelmed at all the possibilities! After all, you have many subjects to include along with trying to keep it interesting, interactive and fun. With my boys, it is best to keep them focused. I like hands-on activities that make the curriculum “come to life”. Whether it’s dressing up as pilgrims or American Indians, or playing “farmer and store” while learning about producers and consumers.

My usual plan-of-attack on finding textbooks involved several steps, often taking at least a week by itself to complete. First, I’d view our state’s Department of Education’s website to find the “recommended” publishers by subject. I chose to use the DOE list because you can often find these books for sale, and it ensured that I cover all of the topics for each subject as outlined in the Course of Study. I’d hate to have to buy 4 different science textbooks just to cover all of our 3rd grade science topics! The DOE list is often 5-10 pages in length, listing each publisher alphabetically. I’ve got my job cut out for me. After downloading each subject list, I’d log into my favorite discount retailers, usually Amazon and Ebay and then the real work would begin. I’d look at the subject list and find a common known publisher. Then I’d go to Ebay.com and type in the grade and pub-

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lisher and search. Then I’d write down the “best” price. Next, I’d go to Amazon.com and do the same thing. I did this with each subject, each textbook, and each publisher that I recognized. This was both exhausting and futile, since Ebay’s prices change everyday. So, not wanting to go through what I went through last year, I decided that there has to be a better way. I did an internet search for “ISBN search”. After several websites, I found the answer to my dilemma! Chambal.com is a website that you can use to compare prices for books across major online stores. You can search by new and used books, rare and collectible books, ebooks and even audio books. Just enter the ISBN number into the appropriate search field and you’ll quickly receive a list of the least expensive online stores that have your book. No more manually searching each site only to come back later to find the prices have changed. From using the DOE publishers list, I’ve learned that I really like Harcourt Publishers. So now, I go to HarcourtSchool. com and find the grade level textbook by subject to get the ISBN, then to Chambal.com to find the best price. This saves both time and money, something we all could use more of ! Nikowa is a 2nd year homeschooling mom to two boys. (Ages 8 and 5) With her “learning never ends” philosophy, they have an eclectic year-round approach to learning. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys photography, organizing, cooking, reading, and knitting. She is a #1 LOST fan and watches UGA football too! (Go Dawgs!) You can visit Nikowa at Knowledge House Academy.


Avoiding Burnout Summer’s drawing to an end and are we excited about starting school? You bet we are, or at least that’s the way we should feel starting out. So why are we talking about burnout now? Wouldn’t that be a more suitable topic for later in the year? Well, I experienced a “low” time this summer and when I began to evaluate my situation I determined that I was burned out. This was a surprise to me as a veteran homeschooler because I thought I was immune to it and knew how to avoid it... but it can sneak up on even the most experienced mom! Homeschooling our children is not something we can isolate into a little box since our time together encompasses all areas of life. There’s no doubt about it, homeschooling just adds to the load. If we can start this year prayerfully with vision and goals then learn to evaluate and recognize areas which would cause stress, we can actually avoid burnout and sail through to the end of the year....everyone the better for it! Years ago I heard a speaker talk about burn out and I was surprised that my idea of what burnout was and her description were different. Since then I have learned to recognize the characteristics of burn out (although sometimes it isn’t until I am in the midst of it!) When I asked a group of ladies what they thought burnout was they said: “Loss of vision, lack of creativity, tiredness.” and so on. While those are certainly factors the following can be signs that you are burned out: Feeling negative / pessimistic (instead of optimistic), self-pity (feeling sorry for self ), introspective, resentful (at husband, children, friends), tired, depressed, physical problems, withdrawn (“I don’t need anyone”) What leads to burnout? Stress - my life is out of my control, Busyness - results in marriage: not working together on goals, not connecting or communicating... leads to misunderstandings. Difficulties - illness, caring for older parents etc. Over commitment - church, outside activities, sports, lessons etc. Fear - about children / school (like worrying whether your children will make it to college when they are only four years old!) Worrying about your abilities to teach, whether they’ll turn out right, whether

you’re doing enough! What is our part? Pray then recognize, evaluate and eliminate. It helps to sit down and make a list “Stresses in my life” listing everything that causes stress in your family. Now consider and change ALL the things you can and accept and ask for peace for those things which you cannot change. Here’s the point...ready? YOU are in control of your schedule. You don’t owe the world - which is outside your home (your refuge) - anything. They can get along without you - your family cannot! What is God’s part? God’s part is to be the loving gracious God who He is and always has been. His part is to be faithful and to keep His promises. Worrying? Read Matthew 6: 24-34. Do not worry about tomorrow - it has enough worries of it’s own. He WILL provide for your needs...not all your wants, but all your needs. II Cor. 12 :10 says What to do now? Pray together, husband - wife - children. Make goals for the family and the children

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for the coming year and keep those goals before you. Start with a clear schedule and keep it clear - don’t allow yourself to get “off track.” Learn to say “NO” - don’t answer the phone stay home, be home - sit on the porch swing, smell the roses, laugh, do jigsaw puzzles, read aloud, bake cookies! As for school, don’t try to do too much. Learn how to do unit studies and other alternative methods that are delightful and interactive - they can really simplify your teaching and relieve the stress from feeling like you’re not doing enough AND solve the problem of grumbling kids who hate “school!” Watch the stress just melt away. Get your kids involved in the planning process. They can’t wait to do assingments they planned! Get your kids to share responsibilities and you’ll begin to raise independent learners. Why not do some hobbies for yourself THEN give yourself some grace. God does. Enjoy your kids and your schooling! Jennifer Steward is a happy wife married to her highschool sweetheart, mother to eight children, and grandmother to five grandchildren. She counts it a blessing to have been able to educate all of her children from home since the beginning. Four of them have graduated from homeschool high school… four to go! Jennifer is the owner of a home business called STEWARD SHIP, and author of the popular Choreganizer and Everything You Need To Know About Homeschool Unit Studies.


ing cups to pour it from one container to another. Yes, you’ll have to clean it up later, but it may buy you 30-45 minutes of teaching time with another child. 3. Put the step stool up to the kitchen sink, close the drain and run a drizzle of water into the sink along with a little bit of dish soap. Give your child some plastic cups, bowls and spoons to “wash”. He’ll feel glad to know that he is helping with the chores.

Homeschooling With Toddlers Do you get nervous when it gets really quiet around your house? Do you have to put markers, glue and other creative art supplies up on a high shelf ? Do step stools located in unusual places around the house make you cringe? If you have answered yes to two or more of these questions, then you must have a toddler living in your home. Toddlers are a joy, there is no doubt about that, but they can also create havoc if left alone with nothing productive to do for too long... There are three strategies to use when homeschooling with toddlers in your home and these are 1. Keep them busy, 2. Divide and Conquer and 3. Get Creative. Let’s look at each one as you will want to employ a combination of strategies in your home to get the most enjoyment with your older and younger children. KEEP HIM BUSY 1. Have a special school box for your toddler that they only use during school time. It may include special crayons to be used during handwriting time, snap cubes to be used during math time, etc. Our special preschool box is filled with ziploc activities - see Paula’s Archives (parental note: there are some link problems on this site, so we have temporarily removed the hyperlink until the website owner can fix the problem) for tons of ideas. This box is to be kept aside for use only during school time so that it remains fresh and new for the child. 2. Offer special high chair activities during school time. Put shaving cream in a gallon ziploc bag and let the child “write” with a finger on it and erase by squishing it around. Offer finger-paint or play dough. Have a big tupperware container filled with dry beans or split peas and let your child use scoops or measur-

GET CREATIVE 1. Have school time during nap time. 2. Work on some school subjects at night while dad is home to play with or put the youngest to bed. 3. Do some fun activity with your toddler before you begin school. This will cause her to be happier playing for a while on her own. 4. Don’t do every subject every day. Combine subjects or possibly double up on some school work on certain days. For example, do a whole week’s worth of science on one day.

4. Get book and tape kits from the library. Your toddler can listen to the story through headphones while “reading” the book.

5. Be willing to do some school work on Saturday when dad is home.

5. Have your read aloud time with your older students right outside the open bathroom door while your younger child plays in the tub.

6. Use smaller amounts of time for school. A block of 4 hours may not be possible at this time, but 45 minutes to an hour at a time may be doable.

6. Have special toys for use during school time. Rotate these toys so that they are always fresh and interesting.

7. Read aloud during breakfast and lunch (while youngest is contentedly eating in his high chair).

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

8. Understand that your homeschool day will not look like a classroom day during this season of your family’s life. And this is OK!

1. While working on a specific subject with one older child, have the other older child play with the youngest child in her room. This is a special play time together. Then switch off. 2. Have dad teach certain subjects. My husband teaches science and logic to the older kids. This frees me up to spend time with my younger children. 3. Have middle grade students do certain subjects independently. After giving instruction, send them off to work on the assignment on their own. 4. Hire a homeschool teen (or ask Grandma) to come over and play with the youngest child while you “get serious” with the older children. 5. Swap school time (or toddler time) with another homeschool mom. That way each of you can have two or three days of concentrated school time each week.

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Enjoy this season of your child’s life, knowing that it will not last forever and that you are not alone. Your toddler will only be at this stage for a couple short years and next thing you know, he’ll be in kindergarten. They are only young once and it is a precious, precious time. Don’t wish it away! And try to stay flexible, toddlers change from one day to the next. Just when one strategy may be working for your family, he’ll change and you’ll need to try something else to keep the school day flowing. Above all, give him lots of hugs and kisses during your school day which will reassure you both that he is not an interruption, but a blessing. Enjoy your school year! Terri Johnson is a homeschooling mom of five and her and her husband own Knowledge Quest, a homeschooling company that provides materials such as maps, timelines, timeline gigures and more!


10 No-Fail Strategies for Choosing High School Curriculum

T

ovi was explaining to me her anxieties about high school. After seven successful years of homeschooling, high school was making her nervous. She sought help from a company with certified teachers and an accredited program. Instead of supporting her successful homeschool, they told her not to use the curriculum she had chosen.

Why?

Personal preference. Even though the curriculum was popular and successful among homeschool families, the teacher just didn‘t prefer it. It simply wasn‘t her cup of tea. Tovi left that meeting feeling more insecure and incapable. Fortunately, because she was a veteran homeschooler, she didn‘t stop there but continued to look for help that was a better fit for her family. That‘s how she found me. „That one phrase on your website got me,“ she said. „I will not judge your homeschool or evaluate your children.“ That was how she ended up with me, talking about curriculum. When you are starting high school and feeling a bit insecure, how do you go about choosing curriculum? Here are ten proven strategies to help you make successful curriculum decisions. Finally, if you‘re still stuck after all that, I‘ll share my personal „starting points“ for choosing curriculum so you can see the things that I used.

It will save you so much frustration! Strategy 2: Do What Works When you are looking for something new, how do you know where to begin? As you are shop for curriculum, the learning styles of you and your children can help guide your choices. If your children work best with workbooks, then keep using what works (see Strategy 1.) In high school, some students will do their schoolwork in notebooks. If your children have done very well with hands-on projects, keep using them! Even in the high school years, there are plenty of natural learning opportunities. Boy Scouts, 4-H, Patty Paper Geometry, and YMCA Youth and Government are all great hands-on learning. Look around until you find a match for your children‘s learning style. My children learned best by reading. Whenever I got stuck with a curriculum that didn‘t work, we went back to our roots - reading. Sometimes my curriculum

Strategy 1: Use What Works If you have been homeschooling for awhile, you probably have a good idea about what curriculum will work with your kids. Look back at your successful homeschool years and think about what you used that worked. Find a curriculum that is most similar to what worked each year. Your mantra should be „If it works, keep using it.“ The grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence, but maybe the grass is Astroturf. If your grass is already green, don‘t look somewhere else. When I work with clients, I always suggest that they keep using a curriculum that works. If Sonlight has always worked for you, keep using Sonlight. Of course, the flip side is also true. If something is NOT working, that‘s when you start looking around for something else. Even if you are in the middle of a school year, once you recognize a curriculum isn‘t working, change as SOON as possible.

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“teacher” of a subject. Your longterm plan is to make learners who can absorb material by themselves. Searching for self-teaching curriculum is a good thing that will prepare your students for college and life. It will help you to teach things you don’t know, and help your children learn subjects primarily by themselves. When students go to college, they will need to absorb college textbooks by themselves. Choosing a selfteaching curriculum will give them the practice they need in order to do that in college. choice just flat out didn‘t work - art comes to mind! That‘s when we would read about the topic instead, which meant reading books about art history. „Do What Works“ also means using a curriculum provider that you have used in the past. I used Sonlight Curriculum, and it was perfect for our family. When I decided to try teaching Latin, I used the program that Sonlight provides. I figured that if Sonlight was working for me, then I could trust the people to choose a good Latin program. So if it worked for them, and looked good to them, it would probably work for me as well. Place a higher value on recommendations from curriculum suppliers that work for you. Strategy 3: Use Homeschool Curriculum A textbook written for a public or private school assumes that the teacher already understands the subject. A book written for homeschoolers assumes that the teacher knows NOTHING about the subject! That’s why homeschool curriculum is easier to use and makes you feel competent, not stupid. Curriculum written for homeschoolers doesn’t assume that your child is in a classroom setting, and suggest impractical group projects. When you use curriculum that is meant for homeschooling, you can teach subjects without help, even when you don’t have a clue about the content. My children learned physics and calculus without any help from me! We were successful because we used the formula “homeschool curriculum + their effort = success.” Strategy 4: Self-Teaching Curriculum Homeschool curriculum works because it’s usually self-teaching. Your ultimate goal is NOT to be the

Strategy 5: Don’t Start Over Most curriculum suppliers think that their curriculum is the living end. They thinks it is the best, that it teaches the best, that their way is the right way, and without them you can’t possibly learn all you need to know. A writing program may tell you to start at level one, even though your student is in high school, just so that they can follow their program completely. A math program may tell you that even a 9th grader should start their curriculum learning basic addition. There are probably some good reasons for starting over, and you will know if that’s important for your children. On the other hand, starting over is NOT always important or advisable. For example, when a curriculum has a placement test, there is no reason to start at the beginning. I have seen parents start over with a different math program every year, putting their child further and further behind. Resist the urge to start over when you purchase a new curriculum. Start where it makes sense for YOUR child. Strategy 6: Encourage Specialization Buy curriculum that covers all the basics, certainly. You can’t skimp on reading, writing, math, science, and social students. On the other hand, you also want to choose curriculum that will encourage their passion! If your child loves art, music, or science, remember to buy those! I’m reminded of the Bible verse, “If his son shall ask bread, will he give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9.) If your child ASKS for a subject, give it to them! If they ask for microbiology, or economics, or Russian History, follow their interests and get it for them. Try to avoid taking those

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passions and making it a “school subject.” I remember a client, who wanted to encourage her student’s interest, so she turned it into a homeschool course - complete with assignments, worksheets, and tests. Strangely enough, her student lost interest in the subject when it became a dreaded “class” that he had to work on. Don’t make specialization a subject, just let them enjoy it. Then when they are done, put it on the transcript! Strategy 7: Invest In Your Weaknesses Where is the best place to put our hard-earned curriculum money? Invest in your weaknesses! If you hate math, and you don’t know what you’re doing in the subject, and you avoid it at all costs, then THAT is where to put your money. Our strengths are fun to finance, and areas of specialization will often result in birthday and Christmas presents. But purchasing things for our weaknesses take conscious effort. What do you hate teaching? Which subjects do you feel like you’re failing? That’s the best place to put your curriculum dollar. If you need to, you could teach all the “fun stuff” in the library and real life, but weak areas may need a little extra help. Strategy 8: Allow Teens to Choose It’s also helpful to have your teen choose curriculum - ESPECIALLY in their weak areas. As your teens progress, try to engage them in curriculum choosing. If you can come up with two or three suitable alternatives for a subject, and you just can’t decide, then perhaps your teen can place the deciding vote. That will often help to reduce whining. After all, who can they blame? They chose it themselves! This strategy is especially important when you are looking at a video curriculum of any kind. Teens are remarkably sensitive to visual programs. Things that look just fine to us may drive them crazy! Maybe it’s the way a speaker dresses, or the sound of their voice, but sometimes a video will annoy kids so much they can’t learn. Whenever possible, have your teens compare video samples, and make the choice for themselves. Even without a video, you may still be surprised at their choices. I remember being stunned when my son Kevin chose Saxon math! Believe it or not, he was looking for a book that had pages full of math problems. Meanwhile, I had been shopping for a curriculum with clearly written instructions and colorful photos and diagrams. Let your teen help you choose curriculum,

and you could be pleasantly surprised. Strategy 9: Invest in Yourself Each year, spend some of your curriculum dollars on yourself. Invest your money in keeping yourself organized, knowledgeable, and excited about teaching. When my oldest was in 7th grade, I started buying myself a book each year about high school. By the time he started 9th grade, I understood the basics of high school. I kept investing in myself each year. I learned about college admissions, scholarships, and high school tests. I learned about being the guidance counselor, and homeschooling college courses. If books aren’t your thing, invest in getting some consulting. I know of a pretty good homeschool consultant if you need one! I found that everything I spent on myself ended up saving our family a lot in the long run. Because of my studies, we won scholarships through our English program, and our college essays brought wonderful financial aid. Investing in yourself will help you feel more confident now, but can also reap wonderful long term rewards. Strategy 10: Tried and True When you are looking at curriculum choices, try to choose something that is tried and true. Do you remember the crisis over “New Math” in public schools? Have you ever wondered why public school budgets are so high while schools are throwing away perfectly fine curriculum? Schools are always on the lookout for the “latest and greatest” thing, and lose sight of the “tried and true” curriculum. Frankly, that’s a rut that homeschoolers can fall into as well. We want the new edition, the updated version, and the latest new curriculum. But at what cost? The book MAY be a good new curriculum, it’s true. It might also stink. If you have some extra money and the latest and greatest is important to you, then feel free to get the newest choices. If you have the money to correct any duds, then there is no harm in that! If you don’t have the financial flexibility to make frequent mistakes, then consider using only tried and true curriculum. Conclusion: Starting Points If you have no idea where to start, then look for clues around you. Look at your homeschooling friends. What do they use? Does it look good? Do you trust their judgment? Do their kids seem to be learning? Look at

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curriculum suppliers that you know and trust. If you trust them for science, perhaps you could try their history program. Research similar curriculum choices on the internet. If your child likes video tutorials for math, try finding a video tutorial for foreign language. Look for award winners. You can find those award winners in magazines like “The Old Schoolhouse” and books like “100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum” by Cathy Duffy.

that anyone else! Matt and Lee are veteran homeschooling parents of two and the owner of The HomeScholar, whose mission is “Helping parents homeschool through high school”. You can sign up for their free email newsletter The HomeScholar Record and get your daily dose of wisdom via e-mail from The HomeScholar Blog.

If you really don’t even know where to begin, or if you haven’t homeschooled before, then you can try my curriculum favorites, and see if they fit your family. I used Sonlight Curriculum, because it is geared to learning through reading. Although we used it in the traditional way, their boxes of books could really provide a year of unschooling for a student who loves to read. I used Rock Solid when I searched for new subjects, because they don’t have an overwhelming number of choices - just a few of each. I recommend Apologia Sciences (even to my clients who don’t usually use Christian curriculum) because they provide such thorough college prep high school science courses. Home Science Tools was my favorite provider for lab science, because they have science ideas for every subject in every age group AND they have great customer service. You are the love-givers of your child. You are the one who knows them best. Nobody else can tell you what curriculum to use without their biases shading their opinions. Use what you know about your children to make your decisions. Invest in your future by putting your money into yourself and your weaknesses first. Provide the basics, of course, but also invest in the loves and interests of your students. This is a stressful time of year, when your curriculum budget takes the biggest hit. But take heart! You know your child, and you can make better decisions with your money

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How To Plan, Host and Organize A Mini Co-op Co-ops are a popular method for homeschoolers who wish to share the responsibilities involved in teaching their children and provide additional opportunities for social interaction. Co-ops generally offer a wide range of subjects based on the skills and interests of the parent teachers involved. They can be especially beneficial for older children whose parents may begin to feel intimidated by the more complex subject matter or who may have concerns about adequately preparing their child for college. But what if you don’t want to join a large co-op or one is not available to you? What options are available to you and your children? Many homeschoolers are starting to realize the benefits of forming or participating in a mini co-op. A mini co-op is simply an offering of a single subject or topic of study over a predetermined amount of time. One parent may host the mini co-op or a group of parents may work together by sharing teaching responsibilities and in some cases, splitting expenses and sharing resources. Alternatively some mini co-ops may span an entire school year with parents taking turns assuming all of the responsibilities for that subject, theme, or session. In the later example this gives parents time “off ” from teaching responsibilities which can help avoid burn out. Some parents have also noted that they feel they are more efficient and effective teachers when they are accountable to others. For most homeschooling families time is limited and precious. Today there are an increasing number of programs and activities that are available to homeschoolers. For this reason parents are and should become selective about the programs they choose to participate in with their children. In order to have a successful turnout for your mini coop, parents will most likely need to see a benefit beyond group activities and field trips. There must be a strong educational benefit to warrant their time and attention. While informal and formal playdates certainly have their place, a mini co-op is not one of them. Following are some tips on how to plan, organize and host a successful mini co-op that will encourage others to do so as well. When planning a mini co-op make sure it is one that you want to do with your own children regardless of whether or not there are any other attendees. Planning, organizing and hosting any event takes time and effort. Your time and energy is also valuable, therefore you should only invest it in the things that will serve your individual home

school. By planning for a mini coop that may never come to fruition you are wasting your time. However, nothing is lost if you invest your time and energy planning a study that you do end up teaching, regardless of the number of students. Brainstorm ideas. Virtually any subject or topic can be used in a mini co-op however popular mini co-op subjects include unit studies, science, art, and other electives. What talents or special interests do you have? Can you utilize them in a co-op? What local resources are available to you? Examine your curriculum. Can you expand on any subject or theme? Is anything missing from your curriculum that you would like to add? Remember that the best group activities involve lots of hands-on projects so keep this in mind when brainstorming. Think out of the box and make it fun. Many students report that coop times are one of their most favorite aspects of homeschooling. Make sure yours is both educational and fun.

Determine how often you will meet. Will your group meet weekly, biweekly, or monthly? R e m e m b e r,

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many families will be trying to “fit in” your co-op so you may want to consider limiting your meetings to 1-4 times per month. Once you have determined how often you will meet, determine how long your sessions will be and the length of time required in order to effectively meet the educational goals of the mini coop. Will each session last 1 hour, 1 ½ hours, or more? Will you run your mini co-op over 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks or a school year? As a general rule of thumb groups that meet monthly tend to have longer meetings as opposed to groups that meet weekly. Determine what curriculum, if any, you will use, and what materials are necessary. If you are following a preplanned unit study or curriculum make sure you know what restrictions are involved in copying materials. Do you have the right to make additional copies or should participants purchase additional workbooks? What other supplies might you need to prepare for this study or complete projects? It’s always helpful and appreciated if you make a supply list for parents. Don’t be shy about including items such as scissors, colored pencils, construction paper or glue on your supply lists. If you are using a set curriculum,


A mini co-op is simply an offering of a single subject or topic of study over a predetermined amount of time. One parent may host the mini co-op or a group of parents may work together by sharing teaching responsibilities and in some cases, splitting expenses and sharing resources. Alternatively some mini coops may span an entire school year with parents taking turns assuming all of the responsibilities for that subject, theme, or session. In the later example this gives parents time “off ” from teaching responsibilities which can help avoid burn out. Some parents have also noted that they feel they are more efficient and effective teachers when they are accountable to others. For most homeschooling families time is limited and precious. Today there are an increasing number of programs and activities that are available to homeschoolers. For this reason parents are and should become selective about the programs they choose to participate in with their children. In order to have a successful turnout for your mini co-op, parents will most likely need to see a benefit beyond group activities and field trips. There must be a strong educational benefit to warrant their time and attention. While informal and formal playdates certainly have their place, a mini co-op is not one of them. Following are some tips on how to plan, organize and host a successful mini co-op that will encourage others to do so as well. When planning a mini co-op make sure it is one that you want to do with your own children regardless of whether or not there are any other attendees. Planning, organizing and hosting any event takes time and effort. Your time and energy is also valuable, therefore you should only invest it in the things that will serve your individual home school. By planning for a mini co-op that may never come to fruition you are wasting your time. However, nothing is lost if you invest your time and energy planning

a study that you do end up teaching, regardless of the number of students. Brainstorm ideas. Virtually any subject or topic can be used in a mini co-op however popular mini co-op subjects include unit studies, science, art, and other electives. What talents or special interests do you have? Can you utilize them in a co-op? What local resources are available to you? Examine your curriculum. Can you expand on any subject or theme? Is anything missing from your curriculum that you would like to add? Remember that the best group activities involve lots of hands-on projects so keep this in mind when brainstorming. Think out of the box and make it fun. Many students report that coop times are one of their most favorite aspects of homeschooling. Make sure yours is both educational and fun.

Determine how often you will meet. Will your group meet weekly, biweekly, or monthly? Remember, many families will be trying to “fit in” your co-op so you may want to consider limiting your meetings to 1-4 times per month. Once you have determined how often you will meet, determine how long your sessions will be and the length of time required in order to effectively meet the educational goals of the mini coop. Will each session last 1 hour, 1 ½ hours, or more? Will you run your mini co-op over 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks or a school year? As a general rule of thumb groups that meet monthly tend to have longer meetings as opposed to groups that meet weekly. Determine what curriculum, if any, you will use, and what materials are necessary. If you are following a preplanned unit study or curriculum make sure you know what restrictions are involved in copying materials. Do you have the right to make additional copies or should participants purchase additional workbooks? What other supplies might you need to prepare for this study or complete projects? It’s always helpful and

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appreciated if you make a supply list for parents. Don’t be shy about including items such as scissors, colored pencils, construction paper or glue on your supply lists. If you are using a set curriculum, lesson plan or unit study you can direct parents to the table of contents for more information about your mini co-op, otherwise you will have to provide this information for them on your own. Consider what guidelines or requirements are necessary to get the best out of your mini co-op. What age group will you limit the participants to? What is the maximum number of students that can participate? What will your policy be in regards to siblings or infants? Are parents required to be present and assist you during the mini co-op or may they drop off their child? Will a grade be assigned? Who is responsible for grading the work? What is the educational purpose of the co-op? Make sure you have one, otherwise you may find yourself hosting a glorified playdate. Of course no one likes to start off any endeavor with a lengthy list of rules, however, unless you know the participants well, not having basic guidelines in place may be a recipe for disaster! Remember you dealing with multiple personalities, teaching styles and family dynamics. Don’t be afraid to state your intentions and expectations. Determine what fees are associated with the mini co-op and what you will charge participants. It is advisable to consider charging even a nominal fee in order to insure commitment, especially when you may be turning other families away due to limited space. It is a sad but true fact that people tend to value the things that cost them something and they will be less likely to cancel on you at the last minute if they have invested in the mini co-op. You can always use the fees collected for a small party at the conclusion of the study, or to make a donation to charity on behalf of your students. When calculating expenses don’t forget to factor in any field trips you may be considering, many homeschoolers are on a tight budget and its unfair to spring last minute unexpected expenses on them. You may also want to consider what participation is required to qualify for group rates or special tours. By adding that fee to your co-op you insure that all of the participants can take advantage of the group discount, regardless of any last minute cancellations by others, provided you have a no refund policy. Create a Co-op notebook to organize your student contact information, field trip ideas and forms, lesson plans, worksheets and ideas. By keeping everything in one place you will be organized, prepared and stress free. You will inspire confidence in other parents who are entrusting you with a part of their child’s education.


throughout their lives. Oftentimes homeschoolers are especially bad about arriving on time since we do not have to place our children on a bus at an exact time each morning, or start our studies at home promptly. However, this is not how the “real world” operates and we have a responsibility to raise and prepare our children for life in the “real world”. Allow the students time and opportunities to interact with each other. Whether that is by having a snack together, gathering informally before or after your lessons, or setting them up in varied small groups to complete activities or projects together. This is their opportunity to learn with and from others who are not in their family. Do not miss out on this opportunity for fellowship and friendship. Create a predictable routine.

Children appreciate knowing what to expect and by conducting your mini co-op within a predictable routine, your time together will run more smoothly and efficiently. Do you start with prayer? A brief review of what you learned in your last meeting? Do you read aloud from a related book? Start off discussing the day’s lab or project? Do children help with set up or clean up? Do they know where clean up supplies are? Do you assign helpers for the day? How do students know when it’s their turn? Always end each lesson on an up note. Use this time to thank students for their attentiveness, compliment them on their hard work, and get them excited about what the next mini co-op will bring. Take pictures to document what you did or have students create a notebook or portfolio of the study.

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Students enjoy looking back at the work they’ve completed and it will help keep the material covered fresh in their minds. This may also serve as documentation for end of year evaluations and will encourage parents who may be unsure of participating in your next mini co-op. If your mini co-op spans an entire school year consider making a mini yearbook of your time together as a memento. Students can either create this on their own, scrapbook style, or you can lay out a fairly inexpensive bound book online at companies such as shutterfly.com Good-luck! Karin Taylor is a proud stay-at-home mother of four who feels blessed to be the mother of 5 year old fraternal twin boys and two daughters, ages three and 4 months. As someone who never changed a diaper until she had children, Karin is surprised by the fact that she has been changing diapers for the past 5 years straight with no end in sight! As the 7th of 8 children, Karin feels blessed by her average size (in her mind anyway) family and wouldn’t mind a few more-- God willing and her husband notwithstanding. Her biggest homeschooling dream is to one day homeschool across the United States in an RV. Please visit her new blog Mommy Matters.


Lori is trying to teach here.” He asked questions, and was involved in the discussions, and after class ended, as we were getting ready to leave, he made a point to tell me, “Ms. Lori, I really liked your class today, I’ll be back.” WOW.... talk about convicted. As homeschoolers, we often find ourselves ‘judged,’ and it is NEVER a pleasant feeling. Sometimes it’s by the outside world, and other times it’s within our own homeschool community or extended families. Have you ever found yourself judged on the curriculum you’ve chosen or even on your decision to homeschool? A lesson was learned that day, one that I T~R~Y daily to teach my

“If you judge people you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa “It’s nice to meet you ma’am.” He extended his hand and had a fabulous handshake for a 15 year old. I was impressed. BUT, I had seen him earlier when I arrived to teach my Friday classes. He just did not “look” the part of a homeschooler. He had long hair, well past his shoulders, and ripped jeans and a skullish thing on his t-shirt. Unaware at the time, this boy would find his way into my art history class that I teach on Friday afternoons. I knew at the time I’d done it, you know the voice, that subtle voice of God that let’s you know in your heart you have just done something, something that you aren’t proud of. I had done something that I TRY not to do. I HAD JUDGED A BOOK BY IT’S COVER and his name was Dylan. I saw him that morning, and I judged him in my heart, and it wasn’t until he arrived in my class that I was convicted in my judgment. He was the most polite and interested student I had in my class, a really neat kid! He even came to my defense when another student began to be a bit disrespectful; “come on man, Ms.

children. I know the verse well, “Do not judge, lest you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1 Funny thing is that if you come to my house, I remove all the covers of my books, they just bother me, so if I arrive home with a book with a cover, it’s removed and immediately thrown into the trash. They all look the SAME sitting on my shelf ! Perhaps the reminder was just what was needed that day, you can’t know what is inside the books on my shelf, unless you OPEN them. There is a difference

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between “judging” and “discerning.” Judging is what we do when we don’t have all of the facts to be discerning. There was no discerning that day, I simply had judged. Jesus was clear, never a “judge some, embrace others” from Him. He lived the perfect life of not judging others. He gave them all a chance. He LOVED the unlovely, He spoke to the LOWLY and He himself likely had long hair. Oh yeah, a lesson was learned that day, and I shared it with my children. I wanted them to understand how easily we can slip into those ‘judgmental attitudes,” even their mom. I made a friend that day, and I learned a lesson, one that I did not realize that I needed to learn, but HE did...and He graciously taught me to see that my heart needed an adjustment. I’m thankful that HE did! I look forward to seeing Dylan on Friday’s....he’s a great kid, a great heart, and a deep thinker...I’d have missed that if I had continued to only look at what was on the outside. Judging a book by its cover, it’s NEVER wise. Lori is a 4 year homeschool mom to 3. Currently a 7th grader, a 5th grader and a 3rd grader. Lori insists that when she was wrestling with the decision to home school, a gentle voice guided her with the words, “you know what you should do.” Never looking back, accepting the challenges and rewards and CONSTANTLY clinging to THE ROCK...”No Storm can shake my inmost calm when to this ROCK I’m clinging.” Lori hopes to impart peace and inspiration amidst the daily chaos. Be sure to visit her blog at All You Have to Give.


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THE BEST TEACHING TOOLS ARE FREE: HOW TO INTEGRATE THINGS AROUND THE HOME INTO YOUR LESSONS The year is starting again and everyone is in a rush to buy school supplies, new curriculum and the latest software. Perhaps you are using the school sales to restock and you school all year. I know I am always up for a good bargain! When I go to make my list I always have to think past the normal pencil and paper supplies because I have a child with learning disabilities. Now, the rest of the crew are learning right on target and with 4 children it is nice to find as many learning experiences as possible that can be done together as a group. In the spirit of starting a new school year I want to share some of these ideas with you so that you may use them with your own children!

I-SPY JARS: My kids love these books and I am ashamed to say we may have them ALL. It starts out with a scavenger hunt. My older children began with a list of things they were to search to find four of each: buttons, paperclips, safety pins, googly eyes, etc. I added in some things for good measure like charms I had intended to use for jewelry making: ladybugs, frogs, daisies, pretty buttons and thumbtacks...you get the idea. I had originally thought to fill these jars with sand but realized I only had plaster and that wouldn‘t do. So, guess who has an overabundance of beads??? Yes, me. (Please don‘t ask what‘s in my craft closet, I think you may have the idea that there‘s entirely too much and you would be correct.) It wasn‘t until after the jars were complete that I realized what a great idea the beads were as the younger two loved the ‚feel‘ and ‚sound‘ of the jar as they shook to find their items. Our finished product, complete with 15 items each look like this:

TAKING APART THE BROKEN THINGS Are you like me? Do you have a house that has things that are waiting to be repaired? Have you gone out and replaced these items and still, the item sits in the garage or in the closet? Why not break down and hand these items to your children to take apart? Some of these things can include:

• Remote Controls • Gaming Consoles • Alarm Clock Radios • Lawnmowers • Toys on their last legs I cannot believe the number of items that my son—who has fine motor skill issues—has taken apart and fixed! This can be wonderful for coordination and patience. It can also help break up the day by taking their minds off of the mundane tasks they must accomplish. This can be a very useful tool when your child is facing

The Lists have been affixed to the outside of the jar, much like a baby food label. This gives them a onesided ‚window‘ to find their items. Here are the final lists: Examples 1 and 2:

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burnout. It can also help your child develop group skills if there are several working together. Our latest project has been a lawnmower. We kind of collect broken ones as my husband likes to fix them and pass them to those who do not have lawn equipment in the military community. Our oldest son has learned to change the oil, give it gas and at age ten has successfully built up his own lawn business on our block! JOURNAL JARS: One of the most common problems we have run into with boys is writing. How do you get them excited? I found that by using those leftover spaghetti jars we were able to construct a project that got them involved with the process. Wash and remove the label from a large Mason jar or spaghetti jar and let your children decorate the jar. They can use markers or crayons to make a label with their name on it and the rest is up to your imagination! Use those stickers, glue on buttons, tie a ribbon, etc. When the jar is ready you can all sit down and type out a list of topics. I found that by posing the topics as questions it made it easier for the kids to formulate a paragraph based on those questions. • What would be the best way to spend a day if you could choose anything? • I went to the zoo and while


• we were there we had the greatest adventure… • If you could sit down with the President what would you want to discuss with him? • What gifts would you give to your family if you had $100.00? Once you’ve come up with 25-50 topics you print them out and cut them into strips to put into the jar. Each day the children can pull a strip from the jar and affix it to the top of their journal page. Voila! They are ready to begin writing. If they like to draw they can use the following page to illustrate their paragraph. LETTER WRITING THURSDAY: Or whatever day you like. This has also been a great motivator to not only teach my children the lost art of letter writing, but get them to write! I provide them with fun stationary or cards, usually found in the dollar store, or my craft closet—since I am a note card addict. We then decide on the type of stamp to use, since there is always a great selection at the post office. This gives us the opportunity to talk about those specialty stamps that focus on landmarks, historical figures or anniversaries. (This is also a sneaky history lesson!) My children love the Star Wars stamps, so regardless of what is available we’ll be buying those until they move on. HAND WASHING: While there are some children who line up at the very chance to get their hands soapy and run them under water, I have found my children are not those kids. So, what would be better to learn about hand washing than starting them out dirty? Don’t worry—it isn’t as bad as you think. As a matter of fact, it’s a pretty terrific science lesson! What you will need: • Fine glitter, any color. • Hand lotion. • A sink. • Soap.

First you must put a small amount of lotion on each child’s hands. (Think dime-sized.) You will then give them a small amount of glitter to rub all over their hands. They will love how the glitter spreads all over and sticks so easily! Next, explain to your children that they have just returned from playing on the playground. They had a wonderful time climbing up the slide, swinging, playing tag, and even got to throw the ball around some. “Look at your hands! They are covered in germs!” Give your children a chance to look and give their own answers on what germs are. You can then explain that germs can cause colds, you can pass germs from one person to another, etc. You can then tell them the places that germs can be found in the home such as the telephone, the bathroom sink, the toilet handle, etc. 1. Ask your children to rub their hands together to see how many germs they can remove. They may get a few, but the majority will be there. 2. Run some cold water in the sink and have the children very quickly run their hands under them and shake them off. (You know, the way all of their friends do.)

1. Run some warm water and put a dimesized amount of soap in their hands and have them rub their hands together for 15 seconds under the warm water. This should be the end of the experiment! They will be amazed! DID YOU SAY STAR WARS? UNIT STUDIES FOR ASD CHILDREN You want more, don’t you? The one reading this with a child on the spectrum-- How do I know this? It is the #1 search on my homeschooling blog! Apparently there are a lot of our little guys who love one of two things: Toy Story or Star Wars! The link: SPACE. The following is a post I did on my homeschooling blog regarding this very subject. I hope you have as much fun with it as we have! Lately my son, Xander has been completely fascinated with Star Wars. He loves the concept of good vs. evil and the metamorphosis that Anakin Skywalker took that turned him into Darth Vader. All of the boys in the house, my husband included, have been playing a Star Wars computer game every chance they have for about the last month. (I must say this is beginning to wear on me because they play it loud, and outside of video game time restrictions, it is the #1 activity among them.) Xander loves watching them play and though he has a hard time managing the controls he loves playing it. His favorite ‚song‘ is none other than the ‚Star Wars Theme Song‘. He and Jagger have light-sabers and both a ‚Luke‘ costume and ‚Darth Vader‘ costume and reenact the movie/ books to go along with their own creative interpretations. Needless to say, Milan has been forced into the Princess Leia role so that she is not left out of the pretend play.

They will still be there. Items around the house that get dragged in: 3. Run some warm water and have them do the same.

Legos Rescue Heroes A toy Star Wars ship K‘nex Bunk beds (they turn into imaginary ships) The trampoline (highly effective, albeit dangerous, fighting arena for ‚storm troopers and ewoks‘) Anyway, do you see the pattern? On to the initial subject...Unit Studies.

They will still be there.

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Children with Autism tend to hyperfocus on a very narrow range of subjects and typically only one wins out at a time. I have found that in teaching Xander it helps if whatever the topic at the time, that he learns better and is more apt to sit down and pay attention if I revolve it around his interests. If he starts to get overwhelmed it is easy to point


him to a beanbag and some books on the topic. You might try this-- a beanbag provides tactile stimulation that most ASD children like because they ‚sink in‘. Add a quilt or heavy-weight blanket and it‘s like their private cocoon. (You may also consider, if they are a ‚chewer‘, having their favorite chew toy nearby for added comfort.) So Star Wars: • Countless numbers of books on the subject are out there for all ages. • Integrate outer space activities into the mix--astronauts, planets, meteors, etc. • Online stories can be changed into rebus activities for beginning reading. • Star Wars opens the door for many great field trips-- the planetarium, the local air & space museum, the library. • Language Arts sentences can be structured to learn new space facts. • Legos are a very valuable tool in unit studies because they are wonderful for fine motor skills. • Playdough! (Oh so much fun to make a rocket or a planet!) • Have you seen the Mentos and Diet Coke rockets? We love these. Depending on the age you can go to the NASA site, DK Publishing has some vivid space books, and you can

even order space food online! Unit studies can provide an all encompassing experience that builds on your child‘s interest while providing them with a more than adequate education that you both can enjoy together. The one thing I highly recommend is to take some of the great opportunities homeschool offers you in regards to your Asperger child: the ability to take frequent breaks if your child is having a stressed out day, the ability to change the curriculum to suit your child‘s needs, the ability to spend as much time on a topic as their little minds desire on one subject. Asperger‘s children do not like it when people try to change things up on them so keep to your schedule as well as you can but encourage change through seeking their interests in the community. (For example, Xander is used to writing assignments on Mon, Wed, & Fri, but if I change it to ‚let‘s go to the bookstore to find more about this topic‘ or ‚I bet the grocery store has Tang like the old commercials showed astronauts drinking‘ we can get out of the house--usually without protest!) Previous topics Xander and I have enjoyed: • Trees • Sharks • Various Mammals • The Parts of the Body

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THOSE TERRIBLE FRACTIONS When I tell other parents that fractions have actually been one of my favorite things to teach my kids I usually get the eye-roll and sigh. How on earth do you make something like fractions clear to your child who just does not grasp the concept? You get them cooking! If you are at the stove, they should be too. If they are old enough to tackle it on their own then they should be assigned jobs that encourage them to halve recipes, double recipes, quarter recipes, etc. You take it one step further and teach them how to work out the ratios of serving sizes. This, my friends, is the beginning…the first steps…of algebra! While the cookies are baking break out the leftover M&Ms. (You know, the ones left over from the M&M cookies you just baked, for example.) Let your child divide them up evenly between your children. Explain, depending on how many children you have that each of them (in my case) has ¼ of the M&Ms. Bring this concept into their telling time. It works out perfectly: half-hour, full hour, 15 minutes is ¼ of an hour. You will find that through living their math they will not only catch on more quickly, but you will have life examples to refer back on when they progress to the next level. Angela DeRossett is military wife, homeschooling mother, and an advocate for autism research. Angela can be found blogging at Homeschooling the Chaotic Family and Memoirs of a Chaotic Mommy.


This issue includes: Homeschool Jewels Back To School Taking It To the Streets Finding the Best Price For Books Avoiding Burnout Homeschooling With Toddlers 10 No-Fail Strategies for Choosing High School Curriculum How to Plan, Host, & Organize A Mini Co-op Don‘t Judge A Book By It‘s Cover The Best Teaching Tools Are Free

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