Monday, September 14, 2009

Taking the word "no" out of your homeschool day

Hi all,

I am going a little off topic with this post, so I hope you will all bear with me. I belong to a few different homeschool email groups and a poster recently asked a very good question about how to have a productive homeschool day, when your strong-willed child says "no". The poster was telling the story of a typical day of her homeschool day with her 5 children. Following the Charlotte Mason philosophy, she wisely scheduled all the lessons to be about 20 minutes long, however she was finding that her children would whine and complain, drag out the lessons or just plain refuse to do them unless she was sitting right next to them and they would spend hours working on the assignments.

Now we all know how hard it is to focus on the lessons of one child, when the other child or children are also vying for your attention, so what do you do? I can tell you, when we began our journey, it WAS difficult getting the children to "cooperate", especially because they were transitioning from a school environment to a home environment. The idea of mom being their teacher was a new concept, so my heart went out to the poster.

Here are some suggestions if you are facing the same type of situation:

1. Learn what their learning style is and tailor their subjects to that style.

2. Stop making it just like school if it's not working for them. Who says your homeschool journey has to be set up like school (nothing wrong with that if it works for your child). If they don't thrive in a school environment, switch it up a bit.

3. Give them daily and weekly incentives. For example, in the beginning you want to get them doing their daily work, so I would put the assignments on the board for that day (remember, don't make the assignments over-whelming) ), for every assignment completed, I would give them a punch on their reward card. If they had all of the assignments completed, they could get to watch a movie, or play a video game, if they had only 4 out of 5 assignments done, they couldn't have the first reward, but they could earn a lessor award like a dollar store toy or something to that effect. The point is to give them something to motivate them to want to complete their assignment, and reward them for their efforts. Even if they only get 2 assignments done, find a way to reward them for their efforts and encourage them to "earn" the higher prize. That way the pressure is taken off of you, and you're not getting frustrated and neither are they.

4. Give them wiggle time. If they are high energy children, they will need to release that energy. Let them have some free time to run around (use a timer and set to 15 minutes, so they know when it goes off it's time to get back to work. If they refuse to come back to the studies, let them know they will not earn another free time for the day)

5. Keep lessons to about 20 minutes or so. Even if they haven't finished it, let them work for 20 minutes and then give them a break and move on to something else. They will improve their abilities over time once they are used to being able to work within a time constraint, but it won't be right away, so give them a break.

6. If your kids like to read, unit studies are the best way to transition your child from public school to homeschool. It is much less threatening and the children learn a lot while reading.

7. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. When you are organized, it helps them to stay organized. You can plan activities for the younger one's to do (like online computer time or watching an educational video) that doesn't require you to be with them while you help the older children and vice versa.

I hope these suggestions help. It won't get better overnight, but it will get better if you are consistent with it.

If you have any suggestions or tips that have worked for your family, please take a moment to post it here. Thank you and God Bless!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Homeschooling through High School

Wow! Time flies when you're having fun! I have only one more year before I have to start worrying about high school! What do we do as parents? Do we succumb to our insecurities and put our children in school? Is there anything out there that can help us prepare our children for the challenges of high school and ensure that they are highly competitive for college scholarships?

I believe it is a very obtainable goal to homeschool our high school-aged children, but it IS something that many people worry about. With the economic outlook of our current economy, many families worry about how they are going to pay for college should their child decide they want to attend. It seems to me, if we want to give our children a fighting chance, we need to provide them with a "top-notch" college-prepartory education. How do we do that? Do we put them into a traditional high school? Do we "bite the bullet" and enroll them in a college-prep private school or boarding academy? Do we continue to school them at home and hope for the best? These are the questions my husband and I have contemplated as our oldest child begins 8th grade.

A few years ago, I belonged to an international online homeschool support network. I was "introduced" to a wonderful woman by the name of Lee Binz. Lee has successfully homeschooled her two sons through high school, and she now dedicates her time to providing tips to home educators such as myself. The thing I really like is how she has such a calming way of relieving the fear monster that likes to sit on our shoulder. Take a look for yourself.

Well, I hope that I have inspired you to want to check out what Lee has to offer. If you would like to visit her site, please click here

As always, please check out the links I have in the homeschool links section. There are many links that apply to multiple grade levels, and new ones are updated on a regular basis. If you have any questions, concerns, comments or great links that you have found, please leave a comment below.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back to school days

Hello all,

I actually had planned on blogging earlier than this, but as always, life happened :-). I had the wonderful privilege of chaperoning my darling daughter's youth group trip to an International Camporee that takes place every 5 years. Can we just! There were 35,000 children from all over the world that attended this week-long event, and at the end, 500 children were baptized (to include mine. Yeah!)! God is good all the time, and all the time...God is good!

Well, I'm back home, exhausted, a little under the weather, yet excited to get back into my homeschooling routine! I expect that most of you have already begun your school year (didn't this summer just fly by)?. I have spent the last few days finalizing facility locations and tweaking the syllabus of both my Anatomy and Astronomy classes, and am finally feeling confident that I have everything covered.

Yeah...right... I woke up this morning to face the day and it suddenly struck me....hmmm I haven't organized the kids classroom/playroom (currently functioning more as a playroom), there's a ton of laundry that I need to do from our trip, I haven't actually sat down and made out my school schedule yet ( I like to plan the school schedule in 30 day blocks), and oh yeah...My children did say they wanted to take Spanish this year...hmmm I should probably get right on that....

Have any of you ever felt as over-whelmed as I sound right now? Well, I have a plan... I am going to sit down with my coffee cup and my bible and have a few moments of stillness. I will let the peace and comfort of God's love wash over me and I will know that HE has already worked it all out. He knows my name, he knows my needs, and he says...Michelle, I have already taken care of all of that for you! I take comfort in that knowledge and if you are having one of those mornings, I'd like you to take comfort in that knowledge also. It's so easy to lose sight of our real purpose when we focus on all of the little details, don't you think? Take comfort and know that he is God.

I'd like to take a moment to ask all of you who are praying people, to pray for one sick little boy, Noah. He's been having quite a difficult time with his health lately, and I pray for peace and understanding for his family.

Anyway, in closing, I'd like to share a link to a free resource I found (well, part of it is free, and she charges a low yearly fee for complete access). Molly Evert is a wonderful blogger, and she has taken a lot of time and effort to develop a wonderful website that brings you many of the classic stories in audio format. I plan on checking out her site often, I hope you do too. Check out her site at:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Drum Roll Please! Free Homeschool Helps

Well, I don't know about you, but I am in full swing planning my next homeschool year. We will not be starting until after Labor Day this year due to our many obligations during August :-)

I decided that this year, I really want to make my life a little easier as I develop my business, and prepare for a year-long service project that our family will be doing. So, I've opted to do a multi-subject, year-long unit study called A World of Adventure.

Here is the description from the website "A World of Adventure, gives a year of lesson plans in a daily format. It is based on world history and covers all subjects but math, which you must supply with a program of your choice. This book tells you exactly what to do each day, which books you must check out of the library and which books are suggested. It includes hands-on activities, recipes, discussion questions and writing and project ideas. Ideas and activities for extended learning adventures are included. Lists of required materials are given at the beginning of each unit. It gives guidance where guidance is needed. It was written for those who lack the confidence or the time to put together a unit study of their own. I've done the work for you so that you can spend more time making memories with your children.

This book is written for children in grades 4-8. However, you may easily supplement or simplify the material in various areas to accommodate younger and older children. There are six units in this book, one corresponding to each historical period of study. They are: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, The Middle Ages, The Renaissance and Reformation, and The Age of Exploration."

Great right? Well of course, I am adding my own little twist and supplementing with Math and Science (because Science is my thing :-))

This year, I will once again be teaching Science coop classes: Anatomy (middle/early high school) and Astronomy (Elementary/Early Middle). Please keep me in prayer as I mentor these wonderful children in the ways that God has a hand in all things, and how we can explain wonderful aspects of science from a creationist viewpoint. Pray that the Lord will be a light onto my path and touch my lips so that I may speak what he desires me to reveal.

As many of you know, I really enjoy teaching using a hands-on learning approach. I was doing some research to find additional projects to do with my students, when lo and behold, I came across a terrific homeschool website. This site has so many things to help you organize your homeschool, wonderful forms and best of all, lots of free worksheets and unit studies! Yeah! What a treasure, and it was truly wonderful to find it! The website I am talking about is: Highland Heritage Homeschool.

Take some time to go through all the various units on the site; you'll be glad you did. If you are interested in finding out some more information about the unit study I mentioned earlier, check out:

Everything is done for you, you just have to get the library books and begin! Good luck with your homeschooling year, and feel free to tell me about what your plans are for this school year :-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Break hiatus

Hello all, I am back after my much needed summer hiatus! This has been one crazy, busy and full summer, it's time to refocus and get back on track for the upcoming school year. I will be posting some new information and links in the upcoming weeks, so please stay tuned!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Free Bible Curriculum for all ages

We've always done family worship, but I didn't always focus on a specific bible curriculum or study for our homeschool subjects. I figured, hey we are doing family worship and most of the curriculum I use is Christ-centered, so do we really need a separate curriculum? I became convicted that, it was just not enough. It's more important than ever to be immersed fully in the word!

I love the word of God! I have heard so many people refer to the Bible as a good reference, but very outdated for these current times. ARE THEY CRAZY? The word of God is and always will be a timeless guide for those of us seeking to live our lives to it's full potential and purpose. Life is tough and can be full of disappointments and challenges along the way, but for every challenge, there is an answer in the word.

Here is a list of various links that include Bible Study, games, videos,etc that can assist in your daily walk. I hope you love these links. If you have any additional resources, please feel free to post them in the comment section. (free English and Spanish lessons)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Free Lego Smart Activity Kit

As you all know, our family absolutely LOVES Legos, so imagine my delight when we stumbled across this:

From now through August 2009, LEGO Education is sponsoring a hands-on activity challenge for educators, including homeschoolers, to design and submit an activity using only the parts in a free kit supplied by LEGO. The activity could range from a simple construction to an advanced math application. Your imagination is the limit! The Grand Prize Winner will get LEGO Education products and gift certificates valued up to $250; eight monthly winners will receive prizes worth up to $100. Entries will appear on the LEGO Smart Blog as they are posted to the website.

See the website for all the rules and to request your kit.

Legos are wonderful tools to use for teaching. To get some ideas, please check out my blog post on teaching with Legos. Click here to see the post (please don't use the ideas in the post for the contest).

If you have any other great ideas to add, please feel free to leave a comment, and please pass this blog on to your friends, thanks!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Book Clubs, Summer Reading and Fun!

As we all know, fostering the love of reading is so important in our child's educational growth. Books open a window to the world of exploration, intrigue, intellectual stimulation and more. It never ceases to amaze me about the things I hear my children discussing. They have wonderful vocabulary, creative imaginations and always seek to challenge themselves through reading. We have been hosting a book club on our home for the last two years. I originally started it for my young tween who wanted to meet other girls who liked to read things other than the articles typical mainstream books (like Harry Potter). We actually ended up have 1 boy in our club the first year, now we have a mixed group of between 12 and 15 kids and the children choose from books we find on the Hoagies gifted website. They have some really great book lists for children of all ages as well as terrific resources such as games and articles on teaching your gifted children. Click here to visit their site.

Many people are working on wrapping up their school year, but still want to keep their children stimulated during the summer. How about a summer reading program? They can be done at a leisurely pace and usually involve the child winning something at the completion of the program. I know my kiddos always like incentives, so hey, why not? Here are some links to a few summer reading programs I found, enjoy (there's even one the adults). If you know of any other programs or just want to leave a comment, please do so :-)

Reading Contest for the adults Click Here

Any Pennsylvania Homeschoolers out there?

I came across this opportunity and thought I would share it with any of you who homeschool or teach in the great state of Pennsylvania. This opportunity looks like you would have to be a coop to participate (they have a min. 20 student enrollment), but hey, you could win $200 worth of school supplies. If you are interested, contact this organization using the link contained in the email. I welcome any comments you may have :-)

Evaluation Opportunity for Pennsylvania Teachers and Community Organizations

The Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center has designed all activities on with national and state education standards in mind. The goal is for students to retain knowledge and begin to make behavioral changes with respect to healthy choices. Over the summer and during the 09/10 school year, we will be partnering with classroom teachers and non-profit organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of the new mental health activities on the site. Educators will be asked to measure students’ knowledge gained and changes in behavioral intent through online pretests and post-tests. Teachers and childcare providers will be instructed on the use of these online survey tools and asked to make observational reports of their students’ choices and behaviors periodically.

Those who are selected to participate will receive a $200 gift card for the purchase of classroom supplies and other educational tools.

Following are the eligibility criteria:

* Students must reside in the State of Pennsylvania
* Minimum number of children per adult is 20
* You must be able to complete at least one entire kit
* All activities must be done in sequential order
* Lesson plans and activity guides must be followed as closely as possible
* Pretests and posttests must be correctly administered through online tools
* A final survey must be completed by the adult administering the activities

If you meet the criteria above, and are interested in being part of the study, please contact us at and put "evaluation" in the subject line.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Elementary Apologia Science - Jeannie Fulbright

Hi all,

Well, this has been a busy week and I've found some more great free resources that I will share in a different post.

Well, if you are a regular reader, you've read about my post of the Young Explorers Series (Exploring Creation through...) by Jeannie Fulbright. This series is published though Apologia Educational Ministries.

I personally own all of he books in this series and I can't say enough about these books. They are terrific and my children love them. In my honest opinion, it combines the best of all aspects of learning. It is designed to go along with the notebooking/journaling concept (great for all of you Charlotte Mason fans), is a wonderful read for those of you who like using living books, and has that textbook feel for those of you who love textbooks. These books are designed to be used over a one year time frame, but can be done in a shorter amount of time if desired.

Well, just when you thought it couldn't get better, read this:

Apologia is now producing notebooking journals that accompany each of the elementary science books. Both Botany and Astronomy are now available.

These journals are beautiful spiral bound notebooks that will save you time and money. You won't have to print and keep up with your child's notebook pages, buy and maintain page protectors, or purchase and compile binders...everything that makes notebooking time-consuming and labor intensive for mom. Also, your child will adore having their own notebooking journal.

Each of the notebooking journals include:
A daily schedule for those who like to have a plan or would like their children to complete the book on their own
Templates for written narrations, the notebooking activities and experiments
Review Questions
Scripture Copywork, with both print and cursive practice
Reading lists and additional activities, projects, experiments for each lesson
An appendix with beautiful, full-color, lapbook-style Miniature Books
Field Trip Sheets to keep a record field trips
A Final Review with fifty questions the students can answer either orally or in writing to show off all they remember and know at the end of the course.
See the sample pages here:




Jeannie is giving away four Astronomy Notebooking Journals and four Botany Notebooking Journals to bloggers who post about this on their site. Visit her blog to learn more about this contest:

Friday, May 15, 2009

What do you do for summer break?

Hi all,

It's been about a week since my last post (shame on me :-) ). Been busy and a little under the weather, but this too shall pass. I am dreaming of taking a nice family vacation to Bora Bora, anyone want to join me?

I can't believe it's almost June already, where has the time gone? How many of you school year round? What are the positives and minuses of doing so? We sort of school year round although it is really more lose in the summer, due to swim team, or camps,or whatever else our children are involved in; however this year promises to be different. We don't plan on doing camps this year (with the exception of a few free mini camps that we found - if you live in MD, send me a note and I'll send you a link to the sites), we haven't decided on swim team, and we are gearing up to do a mission trip to the midwest. So, what I'd like to know is what kind of fun, inexpensive things do you do over the summer to keep your children engaged?

I'm looking forward to reading your responses!

FYI: I am in the process of reviewing some homeschool material and will be passing along my review to you in the next few days! Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Urgent prayers needed for Baby Noah

I have been following baby Noah's blog for almost 2 years. His story has just touched my heart (as it would any mother). Noah has been struggling with various health challenges since he was about 3 months old. I have to say, I admire the strength of the Estes family, no matter what trials and tribulations they are put through (and believe me, they've been through many), they give the glory to God and leave it in his hands.

Many people would be angry at God, curse him, perhaps even walk away (all expected responses for tragedy), but this family remains a true example of strength, love and faith in Christ. They are a true inspiration to all.

Noah has an incurable condition and has had many a health crisis and through the grace of God, has always bounced back. His story is truly amazing! Well, sadly, baby Noah is in the hospital once more, and he is VERY sick. If you could please find it in your heart to say a prayer for Noah's speedy recovery, God's will, peace for the family...whatever you feel led to do, please do it. I really appreciate it, and if you'd like to read about Noah's story, please check out:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mother's Day Projects and free resources for all grades

I just love Mother's Day! It's the perfect time for me to have that much needed day off. I get up in the morning, the children and hubby make me breakfast, and I get to stay in my pjs for the whole day! I curl up with a wonderful cup of tea, a good book and have a mini-retreat for myself. Unfortunately, this last for maybe 2 hours before the familiar "mom! he/she hit me or honey where's my..." sounds ring out, shattering my blissful existence :-), but believe it or not, those sounds are marvelous sounds to me. I could wish myself to a deserted island beach, and I would truly enjoy it (briefly), but without noise of family...hmmm...I just wouldn't know what to do with myself!

My children have been hinting at wanting to make something special for me for Mother's Day, and since I also wanted to find some unique Mother's Day projects we could do over the next few days...I decided to see what I could find.

I found this great site that has Mother's Day lesson plans. There are lesson plans that span all of the grades.

Here's some of the titles of the lesson plans:

Make a "Memories of Mom" Memento
As Good as Gold
The Best Gift, for Shoe-er!
Celebrate With Silhouettes

To see the full lesson plans, visit

Also, if you are looking for some really terrific resources, CurrClick is having a special mother's day sale and giving all members free access to many of their resources. Membership is always free of course :-). There are some really terrific free resources (all subjects and grade levels). To check out the sales, click on the banner below.


Thank you and have a wonderful Mother's Day!

Here's one of my favorite Bible passages, you could easily substitute the word "wife" with "mother". Enjoy!

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

"Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (NIV)- Prov 31:10-15 and 25-31

Friday, May 1, 2009

Testing out music player

Hi all, I'm testing out a new music player on the site, please let me know what you think. Does it work? Is it distracting? Does it add to the site or detract? Thank you in advance!

Free Spelling Curriculum

Good Afternoon friends,

Thank God it's Friday! I don't know about you, but by the end of the week I am ready for a break! What my family and I like to do is concentrate on 4 days of assigned learning, and leave our Fridays for field trips, book club, fun learning games and nature study. That said, we do our Spelling test and Math first thing in the morning and then the fun begins!

Are you looking for free spelling curriculum? I've come across a few sites that I really like and I'd like to pass those sites on to you.

The first site is

This site uses the Basic Cozy Spelling Course, and according to the website, it's geared for children in grades 6-8. This course has been used in public school for grades 7, 8, and 9 so it can also be used for slightly older children. The thing I really like about this site is that it includes the course outline, and also clear instructions on teaching spelling rules. This site also includes dictation exercises that accompany the spelling lessons (very nice :-) ).

The other site my children and I really like is

From the site: has:
- Over 42,000 spelling words and ten spelling games!
- A REAL person who says each vocabulary word and sentence
- Free home pages for teachers and parents so they can save their lists.
- How To Videos to explain to teachers and parents how to use
- A free forum and newsletter with more spelling resources!
- Ten spelling and vocabulary games to play online or to print.

After taking the online spelling test, students can print out a report, retake the entire test, or get tested only on spelling words that they got wrong the first time.

TeachMe spells and displays the word in ways that stimulate memory for visual and verbal learners.

Printable Games include WordSearch, UnScramble, WhichWord?, Sentence UnScramble and MissingLetter.

Printable Handwriting Worksheets for combined spelling and handwriting practice can be created from any saved list (this feature only works if the list is saved). Choices includes three sizes of lines, capitals or small letters, script or cursive, and with directional arrows on or off. How cool is that?

We have been using spelling city for about a year, and we all love it! We can use the lists that are online, or I can take spelling words from the books they are reading (or from the Basic Cozy Spelling Course) and save my own list for the children to use.

If you know of any other really good free spelling curriculum, please post your suggestions for all to see. Thanks and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

oops, sorry!

Hi all, I was doing some updating on the blog and I think I accidentally removed a comment from the swine flu post. This was not intentional, I am soo sorry! I'm not sure which post was accidentally deleted, but if it was your post, please feel free to re-post. Just when I thought I had this blogging thing conquered! :-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Multiplication helps for your visual learners and right-brain thinkers

Hi again!

I guess I am feeling especially chatty today :-0. Anyway, I have been working with darling youngest child on mastering multiplication, and although it's progressing ok..we just seem to be stuck on the actual memorizing of the multiplication table. I have to give myself a reality check every so often because the same work was so easy for my oldest child to learn, but I KNOW that my youngest learns completely different. He struggles with memorizing the multiplication tables, but can already do easy algebraic problems where he needs to solve for x in simple equations (ok...makes sense right?), Geometry concepts...not a problem, but memorizing tables...ugh!

Well, I finally figured it out after many weeks of banging my head against the darling youngster was staging a stand-off (unintentional of course) against memorizing the table (think the Alamo :-) ). It wasn't that he didn't understand the concept (he can tell you the answers to the easier parts of the table just fine), he didn't want to take the time to memorize the more difficult parts of the table!

So to make a long story longer ;-), I did some handy dandy research to figure out if there was anything out there that might help us overcome this hurdle, and I'm happy to report: yes there is, as a matter of fact I found two really great resources!

The first resource is the TimesTales system from Trigger Memory System. This system teaches the difficult times table in a fun story. I had ordered this system for my oldest child, but she learned her tables so quickly, I never had a chance to use it (to be honest I forgot I had it). I was reorganizing the room where we homeschool and lo and behold I found it! I figured, "why not", and decided to try it out. Oh my youngster loved the story and I was amazed at how much he actually retained! Praises! To check out the TimesTales system, click here

The other find that I think is truly a gem is a series of videos on youtube called Right Brain Math. Here is a sample video:

Swine Flu, what's a person to do?

And Joseph said unto them, fear not: for am I in the place of God? - Genesis 50:19

It seems like every few years there is a new kind of flu popping up, and I have to say..I am not usually an alarmist (although I can be high strung :-)), so I am not overly stressed about this either. I've read up on the facts about the swine flu (I have to admit, I'd never even heard about it until the reports began airing a few days ago), and I wanted to pass along the information to you. I am strong in my belief and faith and I know that I have no control over the various things that transpire in this world, but I do know where my strength and help comes from and so I am at peace.

That said, I do believe that we need to keep ourselves armed with knowledge and take preventive measures, so I've compiled a list of things we can do:

First, prayer - Prayer is our first line of defense. The power of prayer has been proven time and time again and it is our most powerful tool we can use against the many things that we encounter on a daily basis. Let's pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who have been affected by this horrible epidemic, and let's pray for each other. Let's pray that we will find peace and comfort, that fears will be stilled, and that we and our loved ones will remain healthy.

Second, Personal Hygiene - it is always a great defense against sickness and disease. We should wash our hands; if we are sick, we should limit our contact with others; avoid touching surfaces that are used by large numbers of people. Soap and water work much better than these expensive hand-sanitizing agents.

Third, we have to take care of ourselves - A healthy diet and lifestyle is essential towards living longer and preventing many types of diseases. One of the best things we can do is get back to the type of diet that incorporates fruits, vegetables and grain, with limits on or elimination of eating meats.

Fourth, know what you're dealing with. Here are some links to check out to get your questions answered. (this is a google earth swine flu timeline)

Now, if you've read this far, I have a favor to ask everyone: If you know of any natural preventative herbs, oils, fruits, vegetables, etc that one can use to help boost their immune system or prevent viruses and/or bacterial infections, please take a moment to post your ideas here? That would be great! thank you again,



Update: One of the readers sent in this link which I think is great: I hope this helps!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

Today is William Shakespeare's 445th birthday...ok, ok so the fact that he is no longer living is a small technicality :-) since this is also the celebration of his death. imagine that, being born and dying on the same date...hmmm, anyway...

William Shakespeare was a renowned poet and playwright and is considered one of the most influential writers in the English language.

The thing I love most about Shakespeare is the fact that it can be taught to virtually any age. My daughter really loves Shakespeare, we have read the plays, watched documentaries such as "In search of Shakespeare", and done research online and the boys like the battle scenes (of course).

There are some great resources out there to teach about Shakespeare to include free lesson plans, audiobooks, etc.

Check out these links:

I really hope you'll enjoy these links!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Hi all, I composed a post (a week or so ago) asking about free things to do around your local area. If you could please take a moment to respond to the post with things that you do around your area, that would be really great! I'm taking on a challenge from a friend of mine who wants to see how many places I can find around the country or the world, that has free interesting things to do for families and educators. To get you started, I'll list some things we have come across in our travels:

  • Amish Country has many wonderful places to visit and see like Dutch Haven
  • Herr's Snack Factory
  • Hershey Farm
  • Hershey's Chocolate World
  • Denver Botanic Gardens
  • Colorado State Capital
  • Dinosaur Ridge
Ok, your turn! One reader posted about San Antonio, Tx and boy, is that a wonderful place filled with things to do and see! ok, let's see what the rest of you come up with! Thanks in advance!

For those of you with primary-aged children

Hi all,

I know that some of my readers have young children, so I wanted to share a resource I came across a little while ago. This resource is geared for those of you who have children in Pre-K to 4th grade, and what is does is serve as a curriculum guide. It matches up areas of study (like language arts, math, science, etc) with games that can be played online. I think it's definitely a lot of fun, and could be used as an incentive tool for your children (if they like online games, that is). If you are interested in learning more, check out the link below:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Free Sports Geography Lesson Plans

Hello friends, I just wanted to quickly share another great geography resource that I've found that's absolutely free (that's right, free!) Free is great, one of my favorite words in the dictionary...ok, moving on :-)

"SPORTING GEOGRAPHY® is an educational program that offers a motivational way for students to learn while having fun. The program helps children learn geography, history and math at the elementary and middle school level. It is targeted for children ages 8-13, specifically in grades four through eight. SPORTING GEOGRAPHY materials provide teachers with a link to a current event while complementing their curriculum objectives."

To see what kind of free sports program is available in your area, please visit:

Chemistry - pt 4 Errupting Volcano

Chemical volcanos are classic projects for science fairs and chemistry demonstrations. The mentos and diet soda eruption is really powerful, capable of producing jets of soda several feet high. It's messy, so you might want to do this project outdoors. Our class went to an open field with our directions in hand and proceeded to do our volcano experiment. The children really had a lot of fun. To achieve similar results, here's what you need to do:

  1. First, gather your supplies.
  2. You could substitute normal soda for diet soda. The project will work just as well, but the resulting eruption will be sticky. Whatever you use, the drink has to be carbonated!
  3. First, stack the candies. The easiest way to do this is to stack them in a test tube narrow enough to form a single column. Otherwise, you can roll a sheet of paper into a tube just barely wide enough for a stack of candies.
  4. Place an index card over the opening of the test tube or end of the paper tube to hold the candies in the container. Invert the test tube.
  5. Open your full 2-liter or 16 oz bottle of diet soda. The eruption happens very quickly, so set things up: you want the open bottle - index card - roll of candies so that as soon as you remove the index card, the candies will drop smoothly into the bottle.
  6. When you're ready, do it! You can repeat the eruption with the same bottle and another stack of candies. Have fun!

What You Need:

  • roll of mentos candies
  • 2-liter bottle of diet soda
  • index card
  • test tube or sheet of paper

Why does it work? The caffeine, potassium benzoate, aspartame, and CO2 gas contained in the Diet Coke and the gelatin and gum arabic ingredients of the Mentos all contribute to the jet effect. The surface of the mint Mentos is littered with many small holes, allowing CO2 bubbles to form very rapidly and in great quantity, in turn causing the jet of foam. (Courtesy of wikipedia)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Free Places to go/ Things to do in your hometown?

Hi all, this is a little detour from my regular entries. I live in an area that is great and has lots of free things or inexpensive things to do around town. If you would be so kind, I am trying to compile a list of free things to do or interesting places to go around the states and the world. Will you guys help me out with this? If you wouldn't mind, will you please send me your favorite places to visit in your area that are either free or inexpensive? If you have friends who are also homeschoolers, please invite them to send me info also. Let's see if we can hit every state at least once, thanks!

Chemistry - Part 3 Growing Crystals

There are a few different ways to grow crystals that I know of, and I'm sure there are many more that I don't know of, but here is the least toxic way to grow them:

What You Need:
  • Epsom or table salt
  • a shallow pan to grow your crystals in (like a pie tin or rimmed cookie sheet)
  • warm water
  • dark paper and scissors
  1. First select a warm, dry place to grow crystals (someplace that gets direct light is the best).
  2. Use the scissors to cut dark paper in a way that it will fit in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to 1/4 cup warm water in a separate container. Stir until the salt is dissolved.
  4. Put the paper in your selected container and pour the salt solution over it.
  5. Put the container in a warm, sunny location. As the water evaporates, your crystals will begin to form.
  6. This experiment may take from as as little as a few hours to a few days, it depends on how warm it is and the rate of evaporation.
Side note: If you are looking to grow really spectacular crystals, you will want to use borax instead of Epsom Salt, and maybe add some food coloring to get beautiful, colored crystals.

Ok, well that's it for now, I need to go teach the kiddies :-). Stay tuned for part 4- volcano experiments

Chemistry Part 2 - edible atoms

Ok, I am going to break the posts down by experiment so that they won't be too long.
I've been teaching about the Periodic Table of Elements. In order to bring it home we made edible atoms. this is a very easy project to do:
  • Get a pack of sugar cookies, snickerdoodles or some other plain cookie, not chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin (you can make it even more fun if you have the time to bake the cookies at home)
  • You'll want to get a couple different types of candy (jelly beans, chocolate chips, dinner mints, something small enough to fit on the cookie). The candy pieces will represent the protons and neutrons, so make sure you have at least 2 different kinds of cookies
  • Have your child(ren) pick an element that they would like to make (I would keep the atomic number at 8 or below or your cookie will become over-crowded)
  • The purpose of building the element is to have your child show the number of protons and neutrons in the atom.
  • To determine the number of protons, teach your child that the number of protons is equal to the atomic number of the element (show them the atomic number on the periodic table)
  • To determine the number of neutrons, they will need to take the atomic weight and subtract the number of protons from it. The atomic weight is equal to the protons plus the neutrons
  • After they have made their yummy atom, you can check it against the periodic table and then let them eat it! So delicious!
Next entry: Chemistry Part 3 - growing crystals

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chemistry - Part I

Hello friends,

Well today I was thinking about writing about vocabulary helps, but I think I may wait and hold off on that for one of my product reviews. Today I'm going to write about Chemistry. I teach a Science coop class to 12 students aged 9 -12. These are an awesome group of children and we have had fun all year.

Science can be a difficult subject to teach, and it's so important to instill that love of discovery and exploration while they are still young. It's important to try to do this before they get it into their minds that Science is hard, too hard for them to learn. :-( My take on this is...I would probably have felt the same way if I hadn't come across two incredible science teachers while I was in high school. My Chemistry teacher would come up with the COOLEST experiments, and my Physics teacher..well what can I say...he used to let us fly rockets down the hallways to prove theories (of course the other teachers weren't always thrilled :-) ). Anyway... I pray that I have a small fraction of influence on these lovely kids :-)

We spent the first half of the year studying Apologia Elementary Science- Swimming Creatures (Zoology 2). This was really a great course and the children really enjoyed it. We combined the reading and notebooking with the great experiments and also some videos from Discovery School. We really enjoyed it. The only thing I would say about this series is I think you really get the maximum benefit of this curriculum when you take your time to expand on all the great lessons presented (next time we will take a full year). For example, when we were studying the Cephlapods, we went to our local Aquarium and did a squid dissection class and sea creature scavenger hunt through the Aquarium. We also played Marine Zoology Jeopardy (smile). I would load the file to share with you if I could figure it out, but if any of you would like to take a look, let me know (For those of you who follow the Yahoo group, I know someone on there has also developed a jeopardy game, I haven't seen it, but I'm sure it's great. This is one for the entire book).

ok I digress... this is supposed to be an entry about Chemistry :-)

Anyway, the children really wanted to do Chemistry the second half of the year and unfortunately, Apologia currently only publishes Chemistry for High School students. I really wanted a book that would teach the complex concepts of Chemistry to young children in a non-intimidating manner and looked at a lot of different curricula at our fairs. The one that pleased me the most was surprisingly a secular book (strictly teaches concepts, no evolution or anything like that in the chemistry book-I haven't used their biology or physics, so I don't know).

The book we are using for Chemistry is called Real Science 4 kids - Chemistry. It's really a great book, and we are having a lot of fun with it. It is published by Gravitas Publishing The things I really like about the book's thin, short and sweet :-), very colorful, and it is written in a way that it is easily understood by my youngest students. This course is designed to be taught in as few as 10 weeks (there are 10 chapters). the chapters are only about 3-4 pages each, and it is very easy to incorporate the notebooking concept as well as hands on learning. The down side of this curriculum is that it is pricey, worth the buy, but you may want to look for used copies or wait for the curriculum fairs.

I have each student keep a binder and they all have pretty much the same assignments with the exception of the writing and research requirements. Here is a list of what they are required to do for the week:

Notebook Page Summary
Weekly Research (find an article that involves chemistry and it's uses today)
Connects to Language
Learn Periodic Table Song

We review the assigned chapter in class, have oral reports on what they found during their research , then we do a class activity and our experiment.

So now we are on our 3rd week of class, and so far we have covered atoms, molecules and this week is chemical reactions (yeah!). We have grown crystals, made an edible atom, and marshmallow molecules and this week we will be doing the infamous volcano reactions! You know the ones I'm talking about...the diet coke and Menthos, or the vinegar and baking soda, but we will put a little spin on it by comparing the various reactions and see which one causes the biggest eruption (I love to, as the kids say, "blow" things up (in a non life-threatening way of course)! Probably all those years I spent in the military :-)

Anyway, if we get a chance we will also launch my darling son's hydrogen rocket he's been itching to try out. Well, that's all for now, in the Chemistry part II, I will post specifics about each experiment that we've done to give you some ideas.