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5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Encourage Your Writers


5 Surprisingly Easy Ways image


5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Encourage Your Writers

This is a guest post written by Sharon Watson –

Check out FREEBIE FEBRUARY to see the freebies Sharon is offering!

Have you ever walked into your kitchen to start cooking a complicated meal only to find last night’s pots, pans, and dishes piled high? Before you can dive into all the work it takes to complete the meal, you first have to clean up. Soon, your enthusiasm for cooking the meal has evaporated.

This discouraging setback is similar to how our children feel when they face a writing assignment. Hurdles are making the task of writing even more difficult than it already is.

What can we do to encourage them without piling extra work on ourselves?

Provide an Environment That Invites Writing

Where do your children like to write best (or hate it the least)? On their beds? At a desk? At the kitchen table surrounded with family? Next to a window with an inspiring view? Every child has his or her own happy place. Let them discover it so they can write there.

The family vehicle is not the best place to write essays. A setting with fewer distractions and that allows for thinking on a deeper level is better.

Good lighting is a must, as are writing supplies available nearby: pens, pencils, paper, dictionary, thesaurus, and so on. Would your students enjoy designing and decorating their own writing spaces?

Allow Enough Time to Plan and Complete Writing Assignments

Our children can become discouraged if they do not have enough time to plan, write, and proofread an assignment. When they are up against a ticking clock, panic takes over and they cannot think well.

As a general rule, allow at least one hour for every hundred words in the assignment. For instance, if your students have a 300-word essay to write, make time in their schedule for at least three hours during the week.

Also, instead of assigning a due date for the whole essay, compile a writing schedule for them: brainstorming due the first day, points in a logical order the next, and so on. To download a sample writing schedule, go to .

Give Your Writers Keyboarding Lessons

Some middle or high school writers, especially kinesthetic learners, have real trouble with the physical aspects of writing. It hurts their hands. Their handwriting is horrible. The physical act of writing discourages them.

These writers may benefit from keyboarding lessons. First, the keyboard is a gadget that does not require fine motor skills. Second, keyboarding (typing) is a valuable skill they’ll use for the rest of their lives. While there is a cognitive benefit to writing by hand, there is no need to work on handwriting during a writing assignment.

If keyboarding lessons only frustrate your writer, allow the hunt-and-peck method.

Write with Them on Writing Assignments or Prompts

Writing with our children makes writing seem legitimate in their eyes. If a parent writes with them, it takes on a new importance. Plus, it can be fun to write from a prompt together and then switch papers to see what others wrote.

But your writing time does not have to be all about writing. It could be about planning an essay they’ll never write. Choose a topic that’s on their radar. Then brainstorm ideas together, pull three to five ideas from the list, and finish by arranging the ideas into an order that makes sense.

You’ll find a whole slew of ideas here: . At the bottom of that post, you’ll find links to other helpful articles.

Could you use some fresh writing prompts for this experiment? Find Middle School Prompts here: . High School Prompts are here: .

Point Out Something They Did Well

It’s very easy for us as homeschool moms to focus on all the mistakes our children make in their essays, especially mechanical mistakes like spelling and punctuation. Instead of being instructive, as we had hoped, it only shuts our writers down.

No matter how frightened or sketchy your writers are, they could use some encouragement. Find one or two things your writers did well and tell them about it. A small reward for meeting the assignment deadline may be welcome, too.

Which one of these ideas will work best for you and your writers?


Author Bio

Sharon Watson is the author of Jump In, Apologia’s easy-to-use middle school writing curriculum featured in Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. She was forced to retire from homeschooling after 18 years when she ran out of her own children, but her enthusiasm for teaching permeates her writing and literature courses. Her popular course The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition is based on her sought-after writing classes and is the sequel to Jump In.


Why Public Schoolers would benefit in learning from the Homeschool Model


Why Public Schoolers would benefit in learning from the Homeschool Model

This is a guest blog post written by Don Sevcik – President of MathCelebrity

Check out FREEBIE FEBRUARY – MathCelebrity is giving away a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card!


Three years ago, I attended my second homeschool conference and learned a valuable lesson from families who were exhibitors. The lesson learned is one I most certainly will use as I raise my daughter. What was the lesson you ask? Business savvy.

The children in the booths helped perform various tasks for their parents’ business. Some would greet people, some would pass out literature, and some would even answer questions from attendees. Another booth I visited had kids as young as 10 handling financial transactions.

If you are in sales or marketing, you already spotted some of the vital business lessons learned above.

  • Greet people = Opening dialogue
  • Pass out literature = Marketing and Lead Generation
  • Answer questions = Overcoming objections and helping close the sale

What amazed me is that some of these kids were not even teenagers, yet they were already getting vital business experience at these conferences. They were dealing with the public, assisting in day to day operations, and learning what works and what doesn’t work. These skills, unlike test taking, are adaptive and constantly growing. Being a business owner myself, I’ve learned the most valuable skill you can possess is salesmanship.

As adults, I’m certain most of us at one time or another have thought, “If I knew then what I know now, I would be light years ahead of the game.” Imagine the lessons a 12 year old who helps out with a family business learns. I’m talking about things they don’t teach you in standard textbooks and classrooms, priceless street smarts that can only be gained from real time experience dealing with the public. Let’s fast forward 10 years. Now an adult, that same kid who helped Mom and Dad at the homeschool exhibit is in the workforce or running their own business. How much is the adaptive learning and business savvy that our homeschooler learned worth in the marketplace? How much stress is now avoided having that vital knowledge?

Looking back, if I could change one thing, it would be immersing myself more in business rather than just taking classes for a grade based on textbook knowledge. I would love to have learned more about things that really matter at an earlier age. Riggs Institute had a nice article about the child’s brain having the ability to absorb information like a sponge. You can train and rewire the brain with enough practice and discipline. What better way to encourage real world learning and business knowledge than the child helping Mom and Dad run a business? A homeschool conference is a hectic event, and these kids were holding their own, learning as they go. There were no robotic tests at this conference. Let’s face it, taking robotic tests teach you how to pass an exam. Dealing with people at a busy conference while running a business is a constant learning experience requiring adaptation and intuition.

Adaptation is vital for brain growth. BrainHQ has a nice article on brain plasticity which is a hot topic right now, and for good reason. It turns out, as our abilities change and improve, so do our neural connections in the brain. This creates a positive feedback loop which encourages more learning and improvement in that skill. When you run a business, there are multiple skillsets and moving parts that are learned at once. Many of them are related, so brain wiring would grow multiple connections, the best part being that all of the skills relate to one another. Think of this as a multiplier effect in the brain, where the end result is greater than the sum of the parts.

The lesson to take away from the Homeschool family business approach is to have our kids learn more street smarts and real world skills. That is why I will commit to bringing my daughter to a homeschool conference to work with my wife and I in the exhibitor booth. No matter what field of study she is passionate about learning, the real world skills she attains will be valuable and transferrable.   Her brain development demands it!


Don Sevcik – President of MathCelebrity

Don is the founder and creator of MathCelebrity, an automated online math tutoring and education website. Don has been a math tutor for 20 years and a programmer for 10 years.

You can find him at or on Twitter @MathCelebrity.


Don’t Get Left Behind in Computer Science Education




Don’t Get Left Behind in Computer Science Education

Written by Chris Yust, from Homeschool Programming, Inc.

Check out Chris’ freebie in our FREEBE FEBRUARY listings!


As a homeschool teacher, when you hear the term “Computer Science Education”, do you feel a little shiver of fear? The odds are most parents never learned to code growing up and may not feel comfortable teaching this critical subject to their homeschooled children. However, several long-term trends suggest that NOW is the time to introduce your students this critical subject.

A Great Job Market for Software Engineers

Those of us that lived through the 1990’s Internet bubble and “” cycle remember that many software engineering jobs were shipped overseas. This is true, but it’s not widely known that many of these jobs came right back onto US shores, and the job market for US software engineers is excellent, with a bright long-term outlook.

Consider these facts from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Software Development is a 30% growth job market over the next 10 years
  • 3 out of every 4 new science and technology jobs through 2020 are in computing
  • Unemployment for software engineers is about 4%

Wow! These statistics (and many others) tell us that the US is not currently producing nearly enough software engineers to fill the demands of the job market.

National Recognition for Computer Science in STEM Programs

National policy-making organizations and the federal government are slowly beginning to recognize the gap in computer science education in our school systems. This past October, the STEM Education Act of 2015 made sure that “computer science” was included in the federal definition of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs. Imagine that…the most highly sought jobs under the STEM umbrella were not even considered part of the STEM program until recently!

One of the bottlenecks to expansion of computer science education in public schools has been lack of qualified teachers. Public school teachers (as well as homeschool parents) are struggling to come to grips with this technical subject. With the new STEM Education Act, public school teachers can now receive training in computer science through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal programs.

State-Level Efforts to Broaden Computer Science Education

Individual states are also beginning to recognize shortcomings in computer science education and are taking steps on their own. For example, Arkansas has recently passed a law that says at least one computer science course must be offered in every high school. That doesn’t mean every student must *take* a computer science class as a core subject, but it must be *available* if a student wants to enroll as an elective.

New York City is running a Software Engineering Pilot Program to bring computer science education to more students. Recently they have unveiled a plan to bring these skills to ALL students, even elementary students, over a 10-year period! The Texas Center for STEM Education is leading a state-wide effort to improve computer science education. You can find examples of grassroots support for computer science in many other states, too.

Where Can Homeschoolers Turn for Help?

Clearly many state and federal organizations have recognized a long-term need for more computer science education and are beginning to take concrete steps. But where does this leave homeschool families? We don’t want our students left behind in this national trend.

You might cheerfully admit that your kids know more than you do about computers. So one great approach is to find a self-study course your students can use to learn computer science skills independently. Today, self-study courses from Homeschool Programming can guide your students step-by-step through the coding process with minimal teacher involvement.

The KidCoder and TeenCoder courses for 4th-12th grade students cover a variety of topics such as web design, introductory coding, video game programming, and smartphone app development. You can provide a quality Computer Science education for your homeschool student even if you’re not an expert yourself. Let’s spark a passion for Computer Science in your student today!

About the Author

Chris Yust has 17 years of experience as a software engineer and is co-author of the KidCoder and TeenCoder computer programming courses for 4th-12th grade students. Find out more about computer programming and website design for kids and teens at!


Why Learn Web Design?



Why Learn Web Design?

Written by Chris Yust, from Homeschool Programming, Inc.

Check out Chris’ Programming Freebie listed in our FREEBIE FEBRUARY event!


When your students are ready to move beyond core subjects and choose a technical elective, they will have many options. Consider offering your kids a chance to learn how to design their own web pages! Today you have many great resources to support this effort, and web design is a long-term skill that both technical and non-technical students can use throughout their academic and professional lives.

What is Web Design?

The term “web design” includes both the high-level graphical design of web pages and the low-level coding necessary to create those pages. Some software tools will hide the low-level coding from you and allow users to create web pages with a visual drag-n-drop environment, just like using a word processor or presentation software. But visual design tools such as Adobe Dreamweaver can cost money. You could instead choose to create a web page from scratch by writing code in simple text editors that come for free with your operating system.

Web Design for the Non-Technical Student

Not every student will grow up to be a software engineer, but nearly every student can find web design useful as they move through their academic and professional lives. Has your student ever considered writing a blog? Or is your child an entrepreneur that wants to start a small business? Perhaps your kids want to share their cool hobby with some friends or the entire world!

These examples demonstrate reasons why everyone may consider creating a web page at some point in their lives. If you don’t know any web design skills, then your options are somewhat limited. You can pay someone else to do it, or try to find some visual design tools that don’t cost too much and don’t take any expertise. However, if you DO know even basic web design skills, then you can more confidently create your blog or website using a variety of tools.

Web Design for the Tech-Savvy Student

If your student is considering a career in computers, then web design skills become even more important. Students taking technical classes in high school and college may be called on to create a web page to demonstrate results of a project. Computer science students learning a programming language may be asked to write a script that produces a web page in response to some user input. Or, your student might want to study web design as a career and become responsible for producing the kind of polished, high-quality websites you visit every day on the Internet.

Regardless of the technical track your student takes, the odds are at some point it will be assumed they know at least some basic web design skills. So it’s a good idea to introduce web design to your budding techie, even if he or she might not consider web design as a long-term career.

Tools of the Trade

OK, so your eager students are ready to learn web design. What do they need? A big fancy computer? Special software? Nope! Simple web pages can be created in any text editor program that comes already installed on your computer, like Windows Notepad or Mac’s TextEdit. This means that all you need is a personal computer, some basic computer skills and your imagination! You don’t need to set up a web server or install new software.

Learning Options

If your student just wants to dabble a little, you can find free online web design tutorials that may fit your needs perfectly. In fact, Homeschool Programming offers a free 45-minute video workshop that will show you the basics.

To incorporate web design into your homeschool classroom as a one-semester or full-year elective, consider the KidCoder: Web Design self-study courses for 4th-12th graders. Students can learn how to create their own web pages with step-by-step instructions, hands-on activities, and a full curriculum that can be administered by parents with no technical expertise. Put this class on your schedule and your students will thank you!

About the Author

Chris Yust has 17 years of experience as a software engineer and is co-author of the KidCoder and TeenCoder computer programming courses for 4th-12th grade students. Find out more about computer programming and website design for kids and teens at!


Filed under: Main — Tags: — dailynews @ 2:36 pm

Slidr-Mini-Freebie-Feb-2016’s FREEBIE FEBRUARY is in full swing!

Here is a list of just some of the freebies that are available:

  • The Free Tool Bar – our readers LOVE it!
  • Many FREE Items from
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  • Over 550 Educational Freebies from Educents
  • FREE Copies of Easy Grammar’s Guide for Parents
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Freebie February – what a great idea!


Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: — dailynews @ 4:00 am

Slidr-Mini-Freebie-Feb-2016’s FREEBIE FEBRUARY starts on Monday!

Do you want to know some of the items that will be offered?

  • A $1000 Amazon Gift Certificate from – WOWZA!
  • LOTS of freebies from
  • Free 1-Year Subscription to the Dove Channel
  • FREE 1 year subscription to the KidCoder or TeenCoder online computer programming course
  • FREE four week trials to Reading Eggs
  • FREE Ocean Literacy courses from
  • FREE Grammar 4Kids Learning Program
  • FREE eBook Club Memberships
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  • FREE February Holidays Printable Packs

And so much more!






Plus so much MORE!’s FREEBIE FEBRUARY starts Monday 2/1/16!

Teachers: Wear Your Mask! –

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , — dailynews @ 4:00 am

mask - drawing lessons for kids

Teachers: Wear Your Mask!

This is a guest blog post from John

It’s an actor’s key to success, its a seasoned teacher’s key to success, and it’s a key that may have eluded homeschoolers.
What’s the key? A mask.
Successful teachers and actors wear a mask.

Greek actors, for whom wearing a physical mask was a requirement, would spend hours finding elements of themselves that they could use to express the personality of their mask. The combination of mask and person drew the audience’s attention and made the actor bigger than life.

Modern actors also wear a mask. In my first acting role at the Dallas Theatre Center, I was simply the narrator of a story that was being enacted around me. I needed a way to grab the audience’s attention, so I used a clay pipe for my “mask.” (I don’t smoke, so it took me some time to make this “mask” work!)

  • I puffed the pipe slowly to show I was “thinking.”
  • I grabbed the bowl to point to important things I was talking about.
  • I pulled the pipe out of my mouth before I spoke – my way of showing the audience that it was time to pay attention to me, not the other actors.

Seasoned teachers know they need to wear a mask: their teacher persona is something different from their regular self. Their mask is anything that

  • Draws attention,
  • Establishes authority,
  • Emphasizes the difference between teacher and student, and
  • Helps teachers connect with their audience.

Homeschoolers would do well to adopt a mask for themselves for the same reasons:

  • It makes children pay attention.
  • It gives you authority, suggesting, “My role right now is special, so pay attention.”)
  • It’s a tool for interacting with your children, who must now take on the role/mask of student.

How do you put on a teaching mask? Here are some techniques.

Use Quirks and Props.

Some teachers like to use props. As a classroom teacher, I carried a yardstick as my personal extension. I could point with it, tap the floor with it for emphasis, point to students with it, and tap on their desks to commend them as I led a discussion. I also used a quirk. I liked to sit on the rim of the large metal garbage can that stood beside my disk. It was my “let’s think together” position.

Wear Special Clothes.

We live in the Washington state, where dress is casual. However, when I teach a class at our church, I’m sure to wear a jacket and tie. Why? It draws attention, suggests that I have made special preparation for teaching, and sets me apart from my audience.

Deny Equality.

Teachers have to give grades, so while they should seem friendly, they cannot be friends with their students. A friendly teacher will have a hard time giving a grade, so it’s best to find a way to set yourself apart from your children during class time. My yardstick had this effect. It gave me a goofiness that students loved, but its tapping sound was also a noisy symbol of authority.
Use Special Mannerisms.

Some teachers like to develop special mannerisms as part of the persona. As a university professor, I made sure to present my material with an over-abundance of energy. Some of this was mere nervous energy, but I directed to my teaching mask. Students read my exuberant animation as enthusiasm. Using a special mannerism while teaching helps set class time apart from ordinary family life.

Establish Expectations Early. Part of establishing your teaching persona is establishing your expectations and routines early on. Know ahead of time what your expectations and consequences will be, and let your students/children know. Then be consistent in following the plan.

What does a persona do for teachers and homeschoolers?

It sets up an environment for learning.
It signals that class time is special.
It sets you in the special position of authority.

Develop your persona, and set yourself up for success!

Why/How to Encourage Your Daughter’s Interest in Computer Science

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: — dailynews @ 4:00 am


“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the creation of 1.4 million new jobs in computer science by 2020, yet the number of women pursuing careers in the field has continued to drop since the 80s. The reasons behind this gender imbalance are varied, from lack of female mentors to lack of encouragement, both at an early age and even adulthood. And these barriers are even more challenging for women of color. More and more employers, however, are eager to diversify their tech departments. Many corporations understand the value and unique perspective that women bring to the tech industry and engineering and now partner with colleges and universities to change the culture and attract more female tech talent.”

There has never been a better time for women to enter computer science. Click here to learn how girls/women can make the most of this tremendous opportunity, including how high school girls can prepare for and succeed in college-level computer science, CS scholarships specifically for women, and ways to help women bridge the CS career gap.

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: — dailynews @ 4:00 am


We recently asked our product testers about social media sites they use.  This was a response about a website, and it was such an informative response, I thought I’d share it with you!  It’s from Patti –

One of my favorite websites that I came across a few weeks ago is

It has a free astronomy course for kids.  I am using this with my grandson because he expressed an interest in learning more about outer space.  There are many online games and printable worksheets, short movies and video clips, in addition to the actual lessons.  There is a lot of information packed in the website, and it can be used in various ways, depending on the individual’s needs.

The lessons are divided into 8 “packets”.  Each packet has 6 assignments with the 6th assignment being an observation of a constellation.  A final project is offered for those who chose to complete it.  The site offers a certificate for completing the course.

This site is a part of the Kids Know It Network (The Totally Free Children’s Learning Network) and several other subjects are available.

Thanks Patti!

Are there any websites you’d like to tell me about?  Just write me at

Even MORE of Our Top 100? Yes Indeed!


Top-100--slidr-Mini’s Top 100 Educational Websites of 2016 published earlier this month.  FYI, below are a number of online schools that made the list:

Bridgeway Academy –

eLearningK12 –

Forest Trail Academy –

Global Student Network –

National High School –

The Virtual Learning Academy –

If you’d like to see ALL the websites that made the list?  Just click here!




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