September 15, 2014
Homeschool.com’s Extravaganza of Experts!
Join us — check out the TWENTY interviews with homeschooling/educational experts!
Listen at your convenience.
Ask questions through Facebook
(These experts are standing by – for one week only – to answer your personal questions and to help you take your homeschooling from ordinary to extraordinary!)
September 12, 2014
Would you like to take your homeschooling from ordinary to extraordinary? Homeschool.com interviewed 20 experts and asked them for their advice on how you can take your homeschooling to a higher level — with ease and joy. We also asked them if they would answer your personal questions for one week. They said yes!
Join us Sept 15-23 for Homeschool.com’s “Extravaganza of Experts.”
September 11, 2014
Five Reasons to Develop and Use Weekly Thematic Units
by Renée Heiss
By developing and using weekly thematic units, you can add fascinating topics to required subjects–thus making your homeschool classroom much more interesting and fun–for you and your students.
For example, you might determine that your weekly theme is going to be rainbows. Your math manipulatives could be arranged in rainbow order. The books you read might be about rainbows. The science lesson would definitely cover rainbows and prisms. Throughout the week, add rainbow stars to your rewards chart. Hang rainbows from the ceiling that your children have created. And naturally, you would wear a rainbow of clothing throughout the week and ask your children to do the same.
More than the simple fun that this involves are these advantages to you and your children:
- It helps your children learn to develop connections. If your lessons are disconnected and about many different topics throughout the week, the month, and year, you children won’t see the continuity. However, when you use a thematic unit each week, which may be a sub-unit of a larger theme, you help their brains to constantly make connections during class time and beyond the regular instruction day.
- If you feel that your creativity has become stifled by standards and requirements, the use of a themed unit will free you from this feeling. Whenever you force the connection between two unrelated topics, the right brain takes over and controls your thoughts. For example, if you introduce a theme on insects during your curriculum, you’ll begin to see the many different ways you can incorporate that topic that you may not have originally considered.
- You can easily adapt unique assessment strategies because you have a theme upon which you can base a test, essay, or journal entry. Going back to the rainbow theme, you might recommend that your children use rainbow-colored pens, pencils, or crayons for their assessments. Nobody ever said that you must use only black or blue ink!
- Thematic units allow children to develop their own learning strategies. When you present a singular topic on Monday, by Friday you’ll find that your children will be clamoring for more and more ways to develop that theme using the established curriculum.
- Thematic units can be time-savers because you can teach two topics at one time. That includes adding character education to every aspect of your curriculum. When you integrate character education into math, science, and literature, you show your children that integrity can occur in every aspect of their lives.
Weekly thematic units can be fun and interesting to create. Develop your list of topics with your children and then pick one each week or month as your curriculum focus. Watch as their interest spirals throughout the week, the month, and the year!
Renée Heiss is the author of the SHINE! series of themed learning modules based on the books published by Entelechy Education, LLC. She is an award-winning retired educator and author of the books that feature The EnteleTrons, a unique trio of characters who teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), character education, and language literacy.
For more information, go to
September 10, 2014
Explore Lulu Jr. & How Writing Stories
Benefits You and Your Child
Deciding to home educate your children affords many advantages, from the flexibility of choosing your own schedule based on your needs, to the endless hands-on learning opportunities in museums, galleries or just outdoors, and, finally, crafting your children’s learning experience to fit their needs and goals. One of the more favorable advantages, however, is being in control of your child’s curriculum and exploring skills that are most important to you and your child.
One skill that’s an important part of early childhood education is creative writing. Professor Gail E. Tompkins, a professor of literacy and early education at California State University and author of numerous books touting the benefits of learning composition skills from an early age, has consistently underscored this statement and has outlined seven unique benefits for children writing stories. These are:
- to provide entertainment for the child and others
- to foster artistic expression
- to explore functions and values of writing
- to stimulate imagination
- to clarify thinking processes
- to search for and identify the child’s identity
- to improve reading and writing skills
Facilitating the exploration of your child’s imagination through storytelling and creative writing has typically taken the shape of a journal, telling stories on ruled pages at a predictable tempo. But, as with many areas of education, this is becoming a trend of the past, especially for younger students that are exposed to technology at an early stage.
Lulu Jr.’s Education Programs offer free, online book-publishing programs designed to support writing and language arts curriculum through project based learning, communication and collaboration. The result is a finished book either authored independently by your child or authored collaboratively with your other children or their friends. Either way, the experience will inspire creativity, strengthen literacy skills and build self-esteem. To learn more about these programs, visit www.lulujr.com and click on the Teachers tab.
There are many other experts in childhood education joining Professor Thompkins in her support of introducing children to creative writing early. The benefit for the child and parent are perhaps most clearly summarized by the words of Pam Allen, a world-renowned literacy expert, author and motivational speaker. Allen states, “By engaging in the act of writing, we are engaging in the valuing of life, valuing one another, and valuing the precious moments we share. Writing will also bring you closer to your child because it will give you access to his wonderfully complex inner life.”
September 9, 2014
Web Design for Kids!
By Chris Yust, from Homeschool Programming, Inc.
In this highly technological age, you may find that your children spend quite a bit of time on the Internet. They may be working in online classes, researching topics for papers, updating their social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, or just surfing the web. Regardless of what your children enjoy doing when they are online, chances are they have shown some interest in creating their own websites. Fortunately, basic website design is something that just about anyone can learn with no expensive software!
When you view a website, you are typically using a program called a web browser. The most common web browsers on the market today are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. These browsers all speak a common “language” called HTML. While these letters may seem mysterious, the language itself is something that can be easily learned and understood by computer-literate children.
Tools of the Trade
OK, so your eager students are ready to learn HTML. 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. If you need a quick primer on using Notepad or TextEdit, click here to watch a brief video.
Your First Web Page
To get started, run your Notepad or TextEdit program. Once you have your text editor program open and you’re staring at a blank screen, what next? HTML code is just a series of “tags” that tell the browser how to display your web page. There are two tags that must be included in your file. The “<html>” tag tells the browser that you are starting your html code and it must be the first line in your file. At the very end of your file, you will “close” the tag with the word “</html>”.
In between these outermost “html” tags go two more important elements: the “<head>” and the “<body>”. The <head> area can contain information about your web page that is not displayed in the browser, so you can ignore that for now. The “<body>” area contains all of the visible content that you want to appear. Anything you type between the “<body>” and “</body>” tags will be displayed on your web page. So, if you wanted to make a web page that said “Hello there!”, you could create a file containing this text:
Now you can save your file with a name that ends in .html (like “myWebPage.html”). Then just find your file using the Windows Explorer or Mac OS Finder, double-click on it to launch your web browser, and marvel at your first ever web page!
Our super-simple example doesn’t add any fancy colors, formatting, pictures, or other things you’re used to seeing on a public web page. That’s ok, you’re just getting started. There is much more to learn! You can find out more about HTML tags by searching through the many different tutorials that are available online.
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 www.HomeschoolProgramming.com
September 8, 2014
7 Resources that Help Students Spell Words Write :)
Written by Katie Funk
People say that spelling is an obsolete skill because we have spell checkers. That is sadly untrue because word misuse is technically a spelling mistake, which is why spell checkers will never replace actual knowledge. Still, there are plenty of spelling mistakes that spelling and grammar checkers will notice, so here are some resources that will help you spell your words correctly.
1 – Proofread with Grammarbase
Grammarbase assigns one of their professionals to your work and they can get it back to you within three hours. Their proofreading service catches issues that spelling and grammar checkers are not going to catch, such as if you use the “principle” instead of “principal” or if you use “lay” instead of “lie.” Plus, there is customer support for people that have questions.
They use a secured network to operate their proofreading service. It simply offers another layer of protection from outsiders trying to see your text. They have a great team of seasoned professionals that look over your work with a high degree of professionalism. Their prices are fair, which is also why they have such a good online reputation. If your work is already near perfect then you will see that they do not make changes for the sake of it.
2 – Better Writing Skills
This is not so much a tool, but it is a resource that helps you write a little better. There is little point in improving your spelling if your writing is repetitive and boring. If you are a good writer, you can work on improving your spelling as you write.
3 – Grammark
This tool isn’t perfect, but is a good second defense against spelling mistakes and grammatical mistakes. It is the sort of tool you should use after you have already used a spelling and grammar checker. It will pick up the straggling mistakes that the other spelling and grammar checkers didn’t catch.
4 – White Smoke
This is a tool that helps improve your writing skill,s and helps improve your spelling too. Though, you should probably check with a dictionary to be sure that the word it suggests is actually the most apt for what you are trying to get across to the reader. There is a cost to this service.
5 – Reverso
This is a great tool you can use to improve your writing and your spelling, and you can even improve it in a different language. It may be the most intelligent spelling and grammar checker on this list because it automatically corrects some of your more obvious mistakes. It even picks up on word misuse, which is very good if you are checking your work for college or to send off somewhere official. The functions of this tool are too numerous to mention in this small article, suffice it to say you should try this tool.
6 – Polishing My Writing
This is a very simple spelling and grammar checker that is not that dissimilar to the spelling and grammar checker that comes with your word processor. Just like Grammark, it is a tool that is better used after running your text through another spelling and grammar checker.
7 – Spell Check Plus
This is a great spelling and grammar checker because it catches a lot of mistakes that other tools simply do not catch. It is very good when it comes to comma errors, especially if you are the type of person that adds too many or too few letters too a word. It is also very clever when it comes to work misuse. There are literally hundreds of words that students use incorrectly all the time. They are technically spelling mistakes if they sound phonetically similar, and Spell Check Plus helps you find them. The tool is free to use and if you give a yearly donation they let you check more text in one sitting–though there is no limit to how many times you may use it per day for free.
September 5, 2014
The 2016 SAT Test is Homeschool Friendly!
Written by Dr. James Stobaugh
I am giddy with excitement about the 2016 SAT! Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine such a homeschool friendly exam would be created.
In the late 1800s, a group of leading American universities formed the College Entrance Examination Board, and working together they administered the first standardized exam in 1901. For the first time, students could take one entrance exam for several universities instead of taking a sep arate exam for each university to which they applied. The SAT from its inception has been an attempt to provide colleges with a tool to identify potential candidates for their universities. It remains so today. Generally speaking the SAT is an “aptitude” (Standard Aptitude Test) which measures critical thinking skills. It is similar to the IQ test which puts more emphasis on cognition (problem solving) than upon epistemology (information). The ACT, by the way, is an “achievement” or epistemologically based exam, much like the Iowa Basics or Stanford Achievement Exams.
Universities use the SAT to predict college performance. It is, undoubtedly, pretty good at doing that. Occasionally students who do poorly on the SAT do well in college, but almost never do high scoring SAT students perform poorly in college. Incidentally, that is another difference between the aptitude/IQ SAT and the ACT: the SAT is a predictor of college performance and the ACT is an assessment of high school performance.
The 2016 SAT is changed in form but not in substance. It will still be an “aptitude test” and it will take about 3.5 hours. The test will include three sections — evidence-based reading and writing, math and an optional essay.
- Instead of arcane “SAT words” (“depreciatory,” “membranous”), the vocabulary definitions on the new exam will be those of words commonly used in college courses, such as “synthesis” and “empirical.” Does that mean the vocabulary on the SAT is changed? Not really. Does that mean preparation should be different? Not really. Students should still read good books and learn Greek and Latin roots.
- The essay, required since 2005, will become optional. Those who choose to write an essay will be asked to read a passage and analyze the ways its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument. Ok, but I bet you that the best schools will still require it. We homeschoolers hope so because presently homeschoolers are the best writers in the country. It is fairly easy to improve a score on the writing portion of the coaching resistant.
- The guessing penalty, in which points are deducted for incorrect answers, will be eliminated. I like that. Nice. I cannot prove it statistically, but most of my homeschool students are good guessers. I think it is related to their calm, Christ-centered approach to the exam.
- The overall scoring will return to the old 1,600-point scale, based on a top score of 800 in reading and 900 in math. The essay will have a separate score.
- Math questions will focus on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Calculators will be permitted on only part of the math section. Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!
- Every exam will include, in the reading and writing section, source documents from a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies, and on some questions, students will be asked to select the quotation from the text that supports the answer they have chosen. Love it!
- Every exam will include a reading passage either from one of the nation’s “founding documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights, or from one of the important discussions of such texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Well, it is about time! No one reads historical documents more than homeschoolers!
In conclusion, these changes are not substantially different from the changes that were made in 2005. The company that sells my family milk put a new cover on its carton last January. Does that mean that the company is different? No. Does that mean that the milk is different? No. Does that mean that anything is improved? Yes somewhat.
You heard it from me first. These changes are God inspired and by 2018 evangelical Christians, born again Christians, mostly homeschooled, will have averages scores of 1525. Thanks be to God that I have lived to see these good things and in this time and in this place I give God thanks!
Written by Dr. James Stobaugh- Merrill Fellow at Harvard, holds degrees from Vanderbilt and Rutgers Universities and Princeton and Gordon-Conwell seminaries. He is a certified SAT and ACT grader.
Are you a student preparing for college? Are you the parent of a student preparing for college? Dr. James Stobaugh has the most comprehensive college preparation courses available – SAT and College Preparation Course for the Christian Student and ACT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student. Both courses may be completed for a ½ credit each towards a homeschooling program.
September 4, 2014
The Discovering the Real Me courses are offered free of charge from UpliftingEducation.net. The lessons are scheduled for about an hour a week for the 1st through 12th grade school year but you are free to use it in whatever way you feel is best. This curriculum can be an opportunity to discuss virtues with your child. Many families enjoy making time each week to complete the Discovering the Real Me lessons because it helps them make a habit of communicating on deeper issues of life while giving each child in the family their special time. The online curriculum focuses on issues specifically addressed for each age group but you are free to use any level for similar aged children. For more information or to enroll, go here.
Three Basic Goals of Life and Education
There are three basic goals of life and education that systems of education need to be aware of and address if they are to educate responsibly. Bearing these goals in mind shapes education to fulfill its deepest purpose: to produce well-rounded, capable, and benevolent people who are a boon to society and to themselves.
Developing a mature heart and character is the first basic goal of life and of education. Yet it is not an end in itself. Ultimately the goal of developing heart and character is to become a person capable of altruistically loving others. True love cannot be separated from virtues such as respect, responsibility, fairness, honesty, loyalty, unselfishness and others, as these are concerned with the way to properly relate with others. We may say that virtues facilitate the flow of love in human relationships. Thus a person of virtue is a mature person capable of beneficial and loving relationships, which are further contexts for fostering human development and growth. To develop loving relationships, especially in the context of a family, then, is the second basic goal of life and education.
As people develop their knowledge, skills, and technical expertise, they have the potential to be of enormous benefit to the larger society. With their maturity and sense of social responsibility, such people can balance their natural desire for personal success with the larger purpose of serving their society. A strong conscience and a well-developed capacity to love make for a more ennobling contribution to the human community. We consider making a contribution to society to be the third basic goal of life and education.
The pursuit and fulfillment of these three life goals: 1) Becoming a person of mature character 2) Establishing loving relationships and family, and 3) Making a contribution to society — point the way to valuable and productive lives. By designing our educational system with these three life goals in mind, we can help our young people to find true satisfaction and fulfillment in life while realizing their full potential as human beings.
The Discovering the Real Me courses from UpliftingEducation.net emphasize the development of heart and conscience within the context of attaining the three basic life goals. Educating children to be better and happier human beings is the essential goal of education, even as they learn the technical expertise needed to serve our world to the best of their abilities. Discovering the Real Me seeks to correct the imbalance in current education by devoting special attention to the development of the inner human being, the core of which is heart.
The Discovering the Real Me lessons are built around stories. Now, with the Uplifting Education student portal powered by Schoology, parents and students alike can share their stories and comments related to each week’s lesson. The elementary school curriculum focuses on classic fairy tales which were designed to take children on a voyage into a more peaceful and righteous world. The middle school curriculum uses realistic life situations and utilizes moral dilemmas and decision-making in order to lead the students to make better choices in their lives. The high school curriculum presents stories and situations with themes of the development of virtues such as mutual respect, taking responsibility, developing empathy and compassion, and learning how to be productive citizens.
As mentioned previously, the Discovering the Real Me courses are offered free of charge. For more information or to enroll, go here.
September 3, 2014
This is a guest post from Buncee.com
Bouncey? Buncee? Yes, buncee. It’s a noun and a verb. Buncee: (n) a web-based creation tool where you incorporate all forms of multimedia onto a shareable, digital canvas. Buncee: (v) creating a buncee about a topic.
Visit the Buncee website by clicking here.
Edu.buncee.com’s simple cloud based, online creation platform allows children, their parents or their teachers the ability to create anything from digital stories and multimedia research reports, to presentations and projects, all while operating within their own virtual classroom.
By dragging and dropping elements, users can combine backgrounds, stickers, and animations with any form of multimedia to make a digital, shareable creation. With photos, videos, drawings, audio, links, and buncee artwork, your children’s experiences and lessons become engaging travel scrapbooks, digital stories, research projects, and more. Simply put, we give you the tools and you make the choices; the power is in your hands!
The tools we offer in one screen, or as we call it the “one and done” screen, allow for the ease of creating any kind of message or story. Within seconds, you and your children can create a one slided holiday project or create a 10 slided multimedia rich presentation buncee for lessons and research reports.
Watch a video of the creation process here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlMZ-lv9Tnk&index=5&list=UUuTVhQXu3Ukin_-rL5yD-Uw , and take a second to look at the examples below to see what you and your students can create!
Why is buncee the perfect tool for homeschool education? It is a creative way to learn while practicing 21st century skills and having fun. That’s it! This fun, educational tool helps students develop the technological skills required in today’s new world. This is our children’s world, and combining the way they play with the way they learn is the key to a successful education. Buncee’s value is in its ability to instill the most essential 21st century skills in your child, all while feeling like play.
Ken Kay, CEO of EdLeader21, defines four skills students need to develop in his “7 Steps for Becoming a 21st Century School or District.” These skills, the 4C’s, are Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Communication, which are all utilized and strengthened when using buncee. How? Well, bunceeing promotes these values, especially creativity, in a very unique way, as students learn while having fun.
Crafting a buncee is in itself a creative activity.Arranging stickers, animations, and quotes in a buncee, selecting the artwork and designs, and deciding what media to insert calls for creativity and imagination. By practicing these skills, your children will not just be consumers of content, but creators of content! What’s even better is that due to its accessibility, you can buncee all the time. You can buncee on the train, and you can buncee in a plane – assuming there is wifi :). As Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
If your children are working in groups, all the better. Group work on buncee means collaboration. While creating, your students will have to distribute specific roles, make design decisions, provide feedback and constructive criticism, and learn to work as a team, building off one another. Whether they’re making a digital story with personal photos, or choosing one of Gooru’s history or science videos for their research report, your children will need to collaborate together to sculpt the best product they can, just as they will in any profession of our 21st century world.
Critically thinking and analyzing media is a unique talent, but successfully converting these analyses into a creative product is an even more unique talent. As we’re exposed to infinite amounts of media on a daily basis, making sure your child is a smart, critical thinker is truly important. When creating on buncee, children will have to determine what kinds of media will add to their message and be of value to their audience. From Google images to YouTube videos, students’ media choices should help their buncee shine while still delivering their message.
Born from the idea that the best and most necessary kind of communication is both personal and creative, buncee is at it’s core a communication tool. Buncee’s CEO created the tool when wanting to send a personalized digital thank you note to the doctors who worked with the Daniella Maria Arturi Foundation, her medical research foundation that raises money for the research of Diamond Blackfan Anemia. She needed a tool that was flexible, that enabled her to visually communicate the message she wished to convey, and so came buncee.
As buncee hopes to help the world communicate creatively, we understand the importance of incorporating and strengthening the 4C’s in all users! Effective communication through digital media is important, but what is most important, though, is that creating on buncee is fun!
September 2, 2014
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How do homeschoolers measure up academically? From the infographic on this page–pretty darn well!
Please share this infographic with others–we’d like to get the word out. :)