College Credit Plus

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There has been quite a bit of talk about the new education program that is replacing the Post Secondary Education Option. If you are a resident of Ohio you have the opportunity to enroll your 7-12 grade student in public college classes free of charge. You may enroll them in a private college as well, but may need to pay a minimal amount. I wanted to make you aware that the deadline for enrollment in this program is April 1. If you scroll down past the information you will see the pdf enrollment form for homeschool students.  If you are interested Click Here

Travels with Charlie: A book about U.S.Geography

books“Who is Charlie?!” Charlie is the name of a cartoon character dog after which this series, written by Miles Backer, is named. I first saw this book on the internet and thought it would be a great resource for teaching younger students geography. Each page has some facts about the state and some questions to research, plus children must look at each page to locate Charlie somewhere on the page. It would be beneficial to have a map or atlas for your student as you discuss each state. Take your time with these books; I would suggest that you only do one state at a time and not rush through. I am going to spotlight some states by giving you activities and a craft to accompany your reading. If you are interested in purchasing the books or seeing more information, click on the individual titles listed below.

Travels with Charlie Way Out West

Our first stop is Alaska! How about printing a map of Alaska so your student(s) can color and label it? Here is a website with a collection of various maps of Alaska to color. CLICK HERE

Alaska is bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined. And we thought Texas was big! You will find more interesting facts to read by clicking here

Time for Kids has information on the area, the people, and the animals of Alaska.

Travels with Charlie Down South 

Tennessee, the home of Ruby Falls Cavern, is sure to be a springboard for a study on caves and caverns.  Have you ever heard of cave popcorn, soda straws, or cave bacon? Here are pictures and facts for the various formations found in caves. CLICK HERE

How about making a cave in a cup? Sometimes it is hard to explain how water can eat away at rock, but this activity is perfect for showing the effects of acidic water on limestone. CLICK HERE

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Travelin’ the Northeast

The beautiful state of Maryland is one of the states featured in this book. Did you know there is a Miss Crustacean Beauty Pageant held there? In honor of this event, your student can make a crab craft.

As you can see, there are all kinds of activities and lessons you can do with your child when going  on an adventure with Charlie. Have a good time, and don’t get lost! :)

Tailoring Curriculum part 2

Continuing from yesterday…

With my middle child, we tried to start school at the age of 5 with him but he was struggling in so many areas it was overwhelming. I have tried quite the gamut of programs with him. I started out very traditional with phonics workbooks and readers. It actually worked out okay until he got to multi-syllable words. I then took a break from phonics and we started reading easy readers but he never got over the hurdle of multi-syllable words. And because of his Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), he had significant language delays and couldn’t naturally keep sounding out words. I decided to try All About Reading with him and that work well. Levels 2 and 3 are what he needed to understand how to decode those multi-syllable words. And while my son reads much better now, he still has a way to go before he can be truly independent. For spelling, he has also used All About Spelling but I will probably not continue on with him after this year. All About Spelling has really helped him to jumpstart his spelling skills, but I feel like there may be something out there that is better suited to his learning style. My plan at the convention this year is find a new product to try with him to see if that can help him spell better. As for creative writing, my son hasn’t done much of that this year. He struggles with spelling so much that we have been doing lots and lots of copywork. This is helping him to build up his hand muscles; it helps him to see words spelled correctly; and gives him lots of confidence in his writing abilities. Next year though he will begin doing his own original pieces and my hope is that his spelling will have improved enough that he will be able to do some independent writing. Finally, my last initiative with this child has been to read lots of books with diverse vocabulary to him. Because of his APD, he doesn’t learn language like you and I do. Picking up new words is difficult for him. But I have found that his vocabulary is improving significantly by me reading lots of interesting books that have an assorted variety of language.

My youngest has been my easiest to teach. She has absorbed everything around her and I have not had to spend much time with her education. She learned basic phonic rules at a very young age and I think it was probably by her listening in on her brother and sister. She started reading Bob Books at the age of three. She absolutely loved them.   I never really put her through a phonics program, but just gave her lots of books to read. For a period of time, I did make her sit with me while I did my son’s All About Reading lesson just to make sure she knew all the phonograms. But I honestly found that she didn’t need it. She had already figured most of them out on her own. For this particular child, I still bring home lots and lots of books from the library for her to read. She loves all kinds of books too. So I try to bring home a variety. As for math, she used RightStart here and there but she doesn’t really need it. She does very well with workbooks. Using workbooks, she taught herself the 4 basic functions and she does them fairly well. She not only can do them, but she also understands them. She also taught herself how to convert things as well, minutes and hours, inches and feet, the metric system and the likes using workbooks. Not only does she learn well with workbooks, but she loves to complete them. Much of her early education was completed with workbooks. Because she is such a good reader, I could literally give her the workbook and she would complete her work on her own. The only subject I have not done with a workbook for her is spelling in which she uses All About Spelling. However, next year I am not planning to continue on with this program. I am moving her to studied dictation. She has a photographic memory and I think this form of spelling will be a fantastic compliment to her learning style.

Obviously school is composed of much more than language arts and math. But I have found those are the subjects that I need to tailor most to my kids according to their learning style. As for history, science and Bible, I have changed it up a lot each year based on my needs. When I started homeschooling, I liked to build my own program. Every year at the convention was like Christmas because I couldn’t wait to discover what we would do the following year. But about 4 years in, I found I no longer had time to piece it all together. I sought out an all in one curriculum. There are many, many different vendors for an all in one curriculum. For me, this is the only time I have really considered myself and my teaching style as a huge part of the curriculum. I tried My Father’s World for a year and we absolutely loved it. The first year I did My Father’s World, my kids were all in separate levels. It went very well that year and my kids learned a lot. Then the following year I was at a point where two of my kids would be combined into their 5 year cycle. I made it in 8 weeks in dropped it. With my oldest and my middle child being so completely different, I found it was just too difficult to try to teach everyone at the same time. Not only did I have to significantly modify the assignments, they all distracted each other the entire day. I learned very quickly that I did not want to teach all of my kids together. I then found a company called Heart of Dakota. It is set up that you can combine some age groups but that you don’t need to either. It is set up with age ranges for their levels but their levels are very skill driven. For me, this was my perfect fit. I am now able to place my kids according to their skills and the teacher’s manual then tells me or them what to do. For me, this box curriculum is my perfect fit. I also never realized that my teaching style was a Charlotte Mason style. This company aligns very closely to that method of teaching and seems to also be my kids learning styles as well. In addition, because of the layout of the manual, I can switch the math and language arts with whatever program I want to make it my kid’s perfect fit too.

For me, every year I homeschool always holds an excitement and wonder of seeing the changes and growth in my kids. I love that there are so many curriculums out there to pick and choose from to help kids grown in different areas. I also love the fun stuff too. My kids have learned through the use of games, hands-on kits, and we have explored several foreign languages. I have spent much time researching and trying different programs out to see how we liked them. Some we have liked, some we have not. I live my life by the philosophy that I will immediately shelf something if I find it doesn’t work well for us. There have been many a shelved items in this family. But, I have also been very delighted by finding various curriculum treasures that my kids enjoyed much more than I anticipated. If you are struggling with curriculum, I would recommend starting with 102 Top Curriculum Picks by Cathy Duffy, which you can purchase or borrow from the library. It has a survey in the front that will help you discover your teaching style. You can then go from there to try and find curriculum that will suit you and your kids. She has wonderful reviews on her website that discuss many products that are available. Before I purchase anything, I always review it. I check her website and then I go to www.homeschoolreviews.com and check their comments as well. I have found that sometimes it does take a bit of trial and error but in general, the more research I do, the less likely I am to shelve my final selection. As a final encouragement, embrace the diversity of the various curriculums and don’t be scared to try something new. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you love it and grateful for the change.

Tailoring Curriculum to Meet Your Child’s Needs part1

BooksI have a guest blog post today and tomorrow! Thank you, Daneale, for sharing with us and just in time for the upcoming homeschool convention. yay!

I recently wrote a review on Lisa’s website stating that I love homeschooling my kids because I can tailor their education to their individual learning styles. After I wrote that comment, Lisa asked me if I would be willing to write about it for her blog. Absolutely! I love talking curriculum!

I have three very different children with three very different learning styles. My kids are 10, 8 and 7. My oldest has mild dyslexia. I didn’t realize that she actually had reading issues until she reached the age of 7. Not only did she have reading issues, but she also had a significant struggle with math. My middle child has an auditory processing disorder. This particular child had a 15 word vocabulary at the age of 4 and went to speech therapy, language therapy, occupational therapy and a counselor until he was 7 years old. It helped him gain huge strides in many areas that we consider very natural but that didn’t naturally develop in him. And finally, I am fairly certain my youngest is gifted (thank you God for blessing me a low maintenance learner!) and she has pretty much taught herself everything she knows. As you can see I have a wide range of learning styles and have tried several vendors for various subjects to try to teach my kids with curriculum that speaks straight to their learning style. The one interesting challenge I encountered that I did not originally anticipate is that I not only needed to consider curriculum that harmonized with my children’s learning style but found I could only consider products that aligned with my teaching style. In addition, while I have only been homeschooling six short years, I have done significant research. I have discovered there really isn’t bad curriculum. So, while I may say a product did or didn’t work for me, it doesn’t mean it will or won’t work for you. To me, it is all about finding you and your child’s best fit.

The way that I have discovered most of curriculum for my children is by asking others what they use, researching different curriculums through Cathy Duffy Reviews, and by trial and error. When I first began, I started very traditionally and very textbook-driven. I quickly learned after a couple of years that using this method of learning was not a good fit for my oldest child. It was then that I discovered she still couldn’t read well and she couldn’t spell either. We switched over to All About Spelling and we also switched over to RightStart Math. All About Spelling not only taught her how to spell, but it also taught her read. Because they taught phonics skills for encoding to spell, she now had the phonics skills to decode words to read them. As for RightStart Math, it is a very hands-on approach to learning. Their math curriculum does not follow a typical math sequence as other programs, but by using this math program, my daughter learned tools for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. The only down fall with RightStart is that it is teacher intensive and there is no student textbook. I found that I would have to spend 30 minutes each day in math with her. But this program was an answer to prayer and my child made amazing strides with it. She has finished all of the elementary levels and has now moved into another program very smoothly and with confidence.

Tomorrow we will see what Daneale has to say about her other two children…

Finding Used Curriculum

imgresWatching pennies is a hard task to accomplish when it comes to purchasing curriculum. If any of you are like me, I just want to buy it all! I am like a kid in a candy shop and want to sample a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and pretty soon my list of books and electronic media has reached titanic proportions. The unenviable task is to whittle my list down to a manageable amount and create a wish list. (sigh!) What can a homeschool mom do to stretch your hard-earned dollars?

Borrow I am thankful for friends who helped me along the way when I was homeschooling my children and lent me books. Remember that one good turn deserves another, so lend your books to others as well. One thing I learned was to label your books so that the person who borrowed will remember to whom it belongs. If you are really organized, keep a list of who borrowed your books so you can keep track. Sometimes I lend out homeschool books to families during portfolio reviews and forget that I lent it out. I am pleasantly surprised when the books are returned to me the next year! :)

Used library book sales are a treasure trove of wonderful finds that won’t break the ol’ bank. I have found great science books, biographies, and even some textbooks this way. If you live in a larger town, you may need to get there early since the selection is limited.

Thrift Stores sometimes will surprise you in what you can find there. Not only can you find books, but sometimes there are videos and computer games too.

Garage sales have been a boon for curriculum, science experiments, crafts, and trade books. I have even found a rocking chair to sit and read my books! You can get some great deals when you come upon a former teacher’s garage sale.

Used curriculum websites have been a place where I have not only purchased books, but have sold them as well. I have dealt exclusively with vegsource (Look under the Swap Board-> Items for Sale). I have had great success with this website. Caution!!  The amount of books that are for sale each day is overwhelming. If you do a find on your computer you can have the computer sort things out for you.

Homeschool Classifieds has curriculum categories so you don’t spend a lot of time perusing through curriculum.

Homeschool Trader is another site to check and see if they have what you need.