Thursday, December 31, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect Fits Writing to a Tee

Does your child struggle with capitalization, write in sentence fragments or are they a run on sentence kind of kid? Or maybe verbs and nouns just don't line up, they can't punctuate to save their sentences, or they have a big test coming up with an essay requirement. Not to worry, there is help and it is only a mouse click away. Time4Writing just released a handy writing assessment chart that helps you pinpoint exactly where your writing student is having problems and then matches that problem with the class to remedy the writing issue or prepare them for their upcoming writing challenge.

Here's an excerpt but you can find the entire interactive writing assessment chart here:

I only wish the solution to my writing problems could be as easy as using this chart!
Johns Joker Collection

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lapbooking and Writing

One thing I have always wondered about is how to incorporate more writing into homeschool lapbook projects. Time4Writing offers online writing tutors for students in 2nd through 12th grades.  They just recently published this free lapbook pocket download that homeschoolers can use to store their writing assignments in their current lapbook.

If you aren't using lapbooks in your homeschool curriculum, this is what Time4Writing has to say about the features and benefits of incorporating lapbooks into your homeschool routine:

"One of the greatest aspects of lapbooking is that the child can bring out their completed project anytime to present to family and friends. Each time they share their material they master it over and over again. Lapbooks help children master and retain what they’ve learned while having FUN! The completed lapbook makes a wonderful homeschool portfolio to bring along for your year end testing or annual evaluation."

I just like saying the word lapbooking, lapbooking, lapbooking. And children get a kick out of showing off what they have created by bringing out their trophies for family and friends.  Here's a fun video of 2 finished lapbooks. One on a complicated subject and the other just in time for Thanksgiving.
Enjoy and thank Kelly for sharing these great examples. To read more about how Kelly uses lapbooks in her homeschool routine, you can visit her lapbook post about what is a lapbook and why would I want one? on


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Unschooling - Does that mean I unlearn everthing I learned in school?

Unschooling seems like a strange term to use when describing an educational curriculum used by homeschoolers. It sounds like you are undoing something done by school instead of a proactive teaching approach. Reading about unschooling as a homeschool approach at Time4Learning:

"Contrary to how it sounds, Unschooling is an active learning process, and not the passive, unstructured method that it sounds like. Unschoolers are homeschoolers who are focused more on the experimental process of learning and becoming educated, than with 'doing school.' The focus of unschooling is on the choices made by the individual child, dictated by interests, learning style, and personality type."

My suggestion is that the unschoolers of the world get a new public relations agent and rename the curriculum to something that is more descriptive and less negative, like say maybe experiential homeschooling.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eclectic Homeschooling - Another Word for I Can't Decide?

When I first heard the term Eclectic homeschooling I thought it was a fancy way of saying I can't decide what curriculum to adopt but after more research it appears to be the best of all worlds. According to Time4Learning, they define eclectic homeschooling this way:

"Eclectic homeschooling is often an end result of trying a variety of other homeschooling styles. “Eclectic” does not mean “erratic” or “unorganized.” Families who take an eclectic approach have specific educational goals for their children, and they make deliberate choices about the resources that they use.

Eclectic homeschooling is an efficient way to teach a number of children who have different interests, abilities, ages, and learning styles. If you have more than one child, it is possible that their varying needs may not be met with a single curriculum."

This means that eclectic is really a collection of methods or approaches that are carefully selected and assembled to address the unique learning style of each child. That seems to me to be a lot of work, but the best way to choose a homeschool curriculum. I've even heard the term "relaxed homeschooling" applied to eclectic homeschoolers but that seems the furthest from the reality. I think I would be more relaxed if I picked one approach and used that one for all of my kids. Oh, isn't that what we do in the school systems? Is that relaxed or just lazy? You be the judge.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A preschooler's education - is it homeschooling?

I was watching some kids doing some great online preschool activities and their parents, all of whom are regular schooling families, talked about the homeschool education that they were giving to their kids. I thought it was weird.

But I loved the preschool website that they were using. I quote from it's description:

The Time4Learning preschool program combines technology, animated characters, original stories and fun music to inspire a love of learning in the littlest e-learners. Ed Mouse and his friends guide children through more than forty topics such as numbers, letters, rhymes, self, time, music and colors.

Time4Learning provides a solid standards-based foundation for Kindergarten readiness. Time4Learning's preschool program is divided into two distinct educational levels and recurring practice is provided in concepts that include ordering, classifying, syllables, patterns, rhymes, colors, and number and letter recognition.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Are You Homeschooled?

One subject that never seems to come up in conversation, where did you go to school? Or should I say, one response that never comes up - I was homeschooled, how about you? I know that homeschoolers only make up abut 1.5% of the population, but I never seem to run into them. Or maybe homeschoolers are just not forthcoming about being homeschooled.

I mean homeschooling isn't mainstream for sure and that's one thing that kids want to be is mainstream so they fit into their peer group. So this might explain why mum is the word on homeschooling discussions at cocktail parties. But why be so quiet about an education platform that appears to be outperforming all others - by a margin of 20-30 points on standardized tests?

I think it might be time for homeschoolers everywhere to come out of the closet and toot their horn a bit. Even if all parents can't make the commitment to full time educational responsibility, maybe they can step up to the plate and provide more supplemental help for their kids. Technology and the internet have made easier than ever to fill in the gaps of where public schools are letting down our kids who may have special needs. The company I work for has a wonderful option for afterschool or summer school help, not to mention a great adoption rate by homeschoolers everywhere.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SpellingCity - Even more useful

I'm a huge SpellingCity user. We put all of our word lists onto spelling city including math, history, geography, literature, and vocabulary. My kids take tests, play games, create printables, get handwriting practice, have vocabulary practice, and it’s all free. There are ten games that the lists automatically get imported into ranging from vocabulary exercises to alphabetical order. The site is great.
Practice Vocabulary and Spelling at

I've just learned from the homeschool online blog that they’ve now added the ability to track student records for test taking.



One homeschooling family builds vocabulary and spelling lists from their math, history, science, and language arts studies. not only provides a method to collect, practice, review, and test on these lists, the student records are easily printed for the student portfolios and annual review. (they could be talking about me!)

How do I get started? First, you must be a registered user of To register as a parent or teacher is free. Once registered, when the user logs in to, the user should select a menu item on the Teacher Toolbox labelled Student Records which will guide them into activating student records.

How much to track student records? For homeschool families, it’s $29.99 for a year. It’s more if you want to pay by check or handle a group larger than five. There is the opportunity to build homeschool groups with up to 30 for $49.99 which I think they would allow.

Student Gradebook

Student Gradebook

Here’s some more reasons that I’m excited about They are building lists of great interest for each state. The one about Alabama is the first one, I can’t wait until they get Florida done (they announced they’ll all be up by mid September). Also, their lists of resources are fantastic:

High Frequency Words - This collection of Dolch or Sight words is perennially useful. There is both background information and lists ready-to-use.
Compound Words – Kids love studying compound words. Teachers love teaching them. Does your school have a Compound Word Day? It should!
Sound Alike Words or Homophones – All students and many adults benefit from practice distinguishing the right spelling and usage of its and it’s; they’re, there, and their; and to, too, and two.
Word Confusion – This article reviews homophones, homonyms, homographs, and synonyms. Need a quick reminder? Here it is

Contractions – You can build lists using words like: I’ll, we’ll, shouldn’t, and they’re. There are lists of what contractions supports.
Abbreviations - You can build lists using abbreviations such as titles (Mr. Dr, Mrs.), measurements (oz., pt, qt.), and geographic terms (Blvd., Pkwy., and Rd.)
Possessives - SpellingCity has added some sample possessive forms of nouns, both plural and singular, for spelling and grammar practice. For example: aunt, aunts, aunt’s, aunts’, boy, boys, boy’s, boys’, lady, ladies, lady’s, ladies’, doctor, doctors, doctor’s, doctors’. As background, SpellingCity has always included both the singular and plural forms of nouns and the the forms of verbs (ex play, playing, played).


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Great Meme about favorite homeschool online resources

From the online homeschooler blog, I found this meme:

What are your favorite online resources for homeschooling category?
  • Favorite parents discussions/forums/newgroups/communities?
  • Favorite homeschool resource directories?
  • Favorite paid sites with homeschooling curriculum materials?
  • Favorite free homeschooling resources sites?
    Favorite homeschool blogs?

Here’s my favorites:

Parents forum: Parents Homeschool Forum
Homeschool directory:
This year: My two contributions: The Preschool program from T4L and the writing program from T4W.
Favorite homeschool blogs: Topsy Techie and Web Home School and the Online Homeschooler


Friday, June 19, 2009

Think Local, Act Local

Homeschooling is a very private endeavor - a decision by a family to take a path less traveled, one chosen by about 1.5 million in the US to be exact. This choice is selected for a myriad of reasons that according to research includes concern about quality of education, school environment or the desire to include moral and religious training as part of a child's curriculum. However, it is also one that takes a village to figure out the maze of rules, requirements and resources applicable to each of our great 50 states. So where does one begin?

There are some great homeschool resource guides available online such as this one, Welcome to Homeschooling Guide (download it now). This guide has a good overview but the bottomline is that you need to start local. Because every state has different requirements and guidelines you should start your search locally. Yahoo Groups is a great place to start with over 6,700 homeschool groups and most of them containing several thousand members each. Search under homeschool and your state or city.

Other places you can look for local homeschool networking groups include Facebook (over 1,000 groups but mostly very small - search home school and homeschool plus your city/state). Conducting a people search on Twitter reveals about 30 Tweeps with Homeschool in their name - but few have more than a thousand followers. However a Twitter Search for Homeschool plus your city or state is a great way to find out the absolute lastest Tweets and topics on the subject. Once you find a great resource you can normally sign up for an RSS feed to have the latest posts sent to your RSS reader or inbox. Other online resources include numerous Blogs and both free and paid resource directories that can easily be accessed using Google. Here's a site that comes up when you input local homeschool laws: Home School Legal Defense Association.

Another new resource that has just been added to the Homeschool map can be found at Just added to the site is a new Homeschool State Representative resource directory designed to put you in touch with the local network and local information specific to your state. In addition there are forums and links that should be enough for anyone to get off on the right foot as you traverse new ground right in your back yard.

If you think you would like to become a Homeschool State Representative for Time4Learning and help others who come after you, you can find a form to get started online. We can all use a little help along the way and once we have arrived it is always good to reach back and repay the favor.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Raising good writers starts at home

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 4 out of 5 students are not proficient writers, and only about half meet “basic” grade level requirements. So, where do your kids fit in? Writing was always a part of the 3 R's--Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic — but unless your kids are having trouble with it, you probably haven’t given it as much attention as, perhaps, their math grades.

But, the truth is that writing is one of the most important skills your children will learn. Writing gives them a new way to express themselves. It can help them perform better when faced with standardized testing and high stakes college entrance exams. In the job world, a well written cover letter and resume might be the key to setting your kids apart from other applicants.

Writing is something that they will use for their entire life.

But, how can you encourage your children to write (and like it)? If you can, start them while they’re young. When kids begin learning about something during their elementary years, it can become second nature to them provided that the skills are reinforced well. Writing is no exception. So, as a starting point, get their creative juices going by encouraging your children to express themselves verbally, artistically, and in writing. This can help make writing feel less like a chore and more like fun.

If your kids are a little older, starting them with a journal often works well. With school being out, kids have vacations planned, trips to take and camp to attend, so they will probably have a lot to write about. This also presents a unique opportunity for parents to help struggling young writers ease into it without pressure.

If you are looking for some professional writing help for your children, might be a good option to consider. They offer one-on-one courses for 2nd - 12th grade that are taught online by a certified teacher. The courses are only eight weeks and cost MUCH less than a tutor. Plus, they have a money back guarantee which is always nice.

If you're interested, check out the courses.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Home schooling continues to grow according to US Dept. of Education

According to the latest numbers published by the US Department of Education, in 2007 2.9% of all US families home schooled their children. This percentage represents 1.5 million students whose education is exclusively home schooling. And home schooled students overall is up 36% from 2003 when the number was 1.1 million.

Even more enlightening is the fact that according to this latest study, another 1.5 million children are using home school curricula for a portion of their education, either after school studies or summer school.

When polled why parents had selected home schooling, 36% said religious or moral instruction as the reason, 21% expressed concerns about the public school environment, 17% were dissatisfied with the quality and 14% stated other reasons, the largest being more family time.

One disturbing trend is the fact that boys as a percentage of home schooled children declined from 49% in 2003 to only 42% in 2007. When asked to explain the reduction, participation in team sports and more difficulty at higher levels for moms to manage was the reason given for shifting from home schooling to public schools. More involvement from dad might help continue home schooling for boys into the higher grades.

To read the article that I used to summarize these results you can go to:

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