Friday, December 14, 2012

High School Homeschool Writing

Writing is very important these days, especially for kids planning on attending college. It is also important for kids once they hit the workforce. Sadly, many kids struggle with writing when they don’t have to. Many parents struggle with teaching writing. There is a solution.

Homeschool Mom:  “Johnny, today’s assignment is an easy one. I want you to write a story about the meaning of Christmas. Make sure you have a good beginning, middle, and end. Make sure you have quality paragraphs… You know how to go about good paragraph writing. I covered it two years ago, remember? We spent a whole two days on it. Be sure to check your spelling and punctuation. Begin with a great attention getting topic sentence. Make sure you close by restating your main idea. Hmmm, go ahead and make it between 1000 and 1500 words. That shouldn’t take too long. Oh, and you might as well write an outline draft first. Well, what are you waiting for? I have other things on the agenda today too”

Johnny:  “An attention grabber what?? Topic sentence where?? 800-1000 words! I might as well concede now. At least I know a great paragraph consists of three sentences. I think I better make a Christmas wish for Santa to write this essay for me. I’m doomed.”
Can you feel Johnny’s frustration? He has no idea what Mom is asking him to do. She assumes he soaked up all her teaching. Johnny is sure he will have to muster every the, and, is , of…to help reach the 1000 to 1500 word death count since he now feels totally overwhelmed by Mom.
Can you relate to the silly story above? Some high school homeschool kids need structured writing lessons, and sometimes Mom is just not the one to do the instructing. The Mom above is stressing Johnny out, and is clearly not in tune with him. Many times kids listen better to someone else. An online writing tutor is a great solution for situations like this.

A tutor has the ability to be more objective with students. They have no preconceived notions, and have years of specialized training in all areas of writing. Students tend to work harder for the tutor than they do for Mom.
If you find yourself in this type of situation, give an online writing tutor a shot. You just might be surprised how much your child will thank you!

Thanks, I spoke to one tutor who helped my students a bit and then convinced me to switch to a different homeschool math curriculum.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Special Needs Learning

If you ever look at programs geared for special needs learning, then this checklist might be very beneficial to you.

When evaluating learning software for special educational needs, you should make sure that it:
  • Proceeds at the student's own special needs pace
  • Builds on existing reading, writing and math skills
  • Allows placing the child at different levels for math and language arts
  • Encourages kids to become active learners through exploration and discovery
  • Introduces new learning opportunities in a safe, supportive environment
  • Balances learning with fun!
Special needs learners includes kids with dyslexia, CAPD, kids on the autism spectrum, ADHD and ADD learners, kids with Asperger's, Down Syndrome, and more.

Many times these kids have needs that most curriculum providers fail to meet, which creates frustration for the student and parent. I don't know about you, but lately everything I look at is focused on pushing kids ultra fast and hard, as if they are already in college. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, right?

Special needs learning also applies to your homeschool gifted student as well. They too have needs that must be met in order to thrive. Your curriculum choice must challenge and stretch them.

What programs have you found beneficial, and why? What programs have you tried that didn't work, and what about them didn't work for your student? Did you take your child’s homeschool learning style into account when selecting your current curriculum?

Sharing helps everyone, so please leave your comments below!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thinking About Homeschooling

Are you thinking about homeschooling? Can you relate to any of the following stories?

Johnny comes home from school with tears in his eyes once again. It breaks your heart that kids can be so ruthless and uncaring. You know Johnny is an awesome kid who just happens to be a little different, but that doesn’t make him any less a person.

Cindy’s teacher calls to let you know that Cindy is still having problems focusing in class and she is falling behind once again. You suggest she sit Cindy at the front of the room and call on her more often to help her stay focused. The teacher informs you she has many children in her room that all need extra help and she is doing the best she can. The teacher suggest you consider putting Cindy of Ritalin.

Paul is so bored at school. He continually gets his color changed for behavior. We have talked to him about this at home, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. We have asked his teacher to challenge him more. Her answer was to give him more worksheets to complete…not exactly our idea of challenging him!

While these are only a few examples of solid reasons to homeschool your child, they are valid ones. Homeschooling need not be a mystery. There is no one set way to go about it. Just as each child is different, each homeschooling family’s style is different.

Examine the pros and cons of homeschooling. There are many ways to accomplish this. One of the best ways is to  get to know other homeschoolers. You can join an online forum. You can a visit local homeschool support group. You can check out local homeschool co-op classes. You can visit with local homeschool families. You can read homeschool magazines.

Veteran homeschoolers can easily answer questions for you and offer support. They can direct you to places you would have never thought about on your own. A good “How to Homeschool” guide makes stepping out a lot easier too. The guide should present vital information in sequential steps. I liken them to a blueprint or a lesson plan.

If you are considering the wonderful transition to the world of homeschooling, I applaud you. Will it work? Will you be happy? Will your kids excel? You will never know unless you step out of your comfort zone and try.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Online Spelling Test

The importance of spelling goes beyond just getting all the words correct; it does much to help kids academically. It benefits reading and writing especially. A child who sees continual improvement in his spelling is usually more willing to write because he is not so focused on spelling mistakes; he is not so dependent on others. People often look down on those who don't write correctly, even belittling them, so learning to spell correctly is a great goal for young learners.
Homeschool students have more options available to them when it comes to learning. Spelling does not have to take the traditional form of getting your words on Monday, taking a pre-test on Wednesday, and taking the final test on Friday. You have the option to be more creative with the actual words you learn as well as how you choose to learn them.

Taking a spelling test online is one option, this is also a super option for the dyslexic, right-brained visual learner. The student can practice learning his words online via fun, educationally sound games. Vocabulary Spelling City offers numerous ways to practice spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting. There are also great teacher resources and videos available for free. If you choose a premium membership, you can track your child’s progress, have access to fantastic vocabulary resources, have them do the record keeping, have access to more games, and so, so much more.


If your child hates spelling, give online spelling a chance. You will most likely see improvement not only in his spelling, but also in his attitude toward spelling. Online spelling practice at places like Vocabulary Spelling City offer a great supplement to whatever spelling curriculum you currently use, even the AVKO spelling system.

         Indulge the kids today with a little spelling F*U*N!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Homeschool Geography

Do you tend to put geography on the back burner thinking math, language, and science are more important? The study of geography gives the student a greater understanding of our world. Students will be better prepared to comprehend topics impacting our planet such as climate change, water issues, global warming, climate change, places, and more.

Ten Reasons To Study Geography
  1. To discover your neighborhood
  2. To explore economic patterns
  3. To delve into ways in which cultures — past and present — leave their imprint on the land and landscape
  4. To learn about urban life
  5. To examine the movements of people across space
  6. To recognize geopolitical patterns
  7. To glimpse into the ways in which human relationships to places, spaces, and environments are shaped by — and, in turn, shape — class, ethnic, race, and gender identities
  8. To map the world
  9. To locate and explore natural hazards, biogeography, climate change, and earthquakes
  10. To employ the newest technologies of geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing and satellite imagery to better understand the world's constantly changing natural and human landscapes
This back to school year try mixing a little fun into your homeschool geography lessons by adding geography games into the mix.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Highschool Video Question of the Week

The Lets Homeschool Highschool video question of the week kicks off some great discussions of highschool homeschool issues.  Watch it here and then jump over to LHSHS to join the conversation.

This week's question raises a question about us homeschoolers as joiners or not. Very interesting.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teacher Resources: Just a Click Away!

Years ago, when I was still in the classroom, the Internet wasn’t available. Later on, it slowly started evolving, but it sure wasn’t what it is today.

In my day, teachers and homeschoolers relied on the local teaching supply store and their own two hands. I know I sure put in many, many hours making things for my classroom. Whew! I am sure that time could have been spent elsewhere, but you do what you have to do.

Today, the Internet makes teaching so much easier. You have not only resources to use in the classroom, but instruction lessons for students as well, even educational songs and videos. Just about anything your student or classroom needs help with can be found via a simple Google search.

Teacher resources are just a click away. Much of what you search for is free. Free is one of my favorite things.

See what you can find today!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Online Math Would Have Been My BFF

When I was a kid I had a mental block when it came to math. It just didn’t always make sense to me. As I think back to those days, I realize most of the instruction I received was via the blackboard and worksheets. I am a visual, tactile--hands-on type student, and that just wasn't popular in those days.

I could work problems lots of times, but I was just going through the steps, I had no real idea why. For example, I knew how to borrow, but certainly had no idea why, or what it entailed. I just knew to mark through the one number and put one number less above it, then put a 1 next the number to the right. It wasn’t until I was much, much older that I figured out what it was all about, and I did that on my own!

Lots of kids need visuals and manipulatives when it comes to math. I sure wish the Internet had been around when I was in school. An online math program would have been my best friend forever, especially when I hit the oh, so, confusing and abstract world of algebra , and the anxiety it presented.  Math anxiety doesn’t just target kids who are confused, or have poor math skills, it smells fear, and it is no respecter of persons. 

In years past, most people noticed math becoming a problem once kids hit about fourth grade, but that is not the case anymore. Younger kids are falling victim today.

In a 2011 study, Stanford University School of Medicine researcher Vinod Menon, Ph.D., looked at this phenomenon using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans of second- and third-graders. While in an fMRI machine, the children were given math problems to complete, allowing the researchers to see how their brains responded. For those with math anxiety, the fear centers in their brains lit up, while the problem-solving regions showed decreased activity.

Resources are available to kids today via the Internet. Gone are the days of hiring a private tutor, and gone of the days of breaking your bank doing that. Much is free, and some that charge are well worth the investment.

If your child is experiencing math anxiety or confusion, blow the clouds away and research online math programs and resources. Technology is actually our friend.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Root Words

(root word) root: (linguistics) the form of a word after all affixes are removed; "thematic vowels are part of the stem".

A root word is the most basic form of a word that is able to convey a particular description, thought or meaning. Root words are sometimes English words, but often they are words based or derived from other languages like Greek, Latin, German, French, or Spanish (which is quite often based on Latin).

Have you ever given much thought to root words? I bet you just have your child complete the worksheets in your given curriculum without ever really thinking about why you need to teach them, or what benefit they give.

The roots archy (government) and dox (opinion or belief) need to be combined with other word elements, like prefixes, suffixes, or even other roots:

  • dyarchy: a government with two rulers, from the prefix dy-(meaning two) and the root archy (meaning government)
  • anarchist: one who rebels against governmental authority, from the prefix an- (meaning without or no), the root archy (meaning government), and the suffix -ist (meaning one who)
  • orthodox: conforming to established doctrines and practices, from the prefix ortho- (meaning right or true) and the root dox (meaning opinion or belief)

A solid foundation in root words is extremely important for your child. In order to successfully decode some words you must first identify the root. Knowing the root helps your child understand more clearly what a specific word is meant to express. Reading fluency. comprehension, and spelling skills will benefit greatly from studying root words.

Many root words have suffixes and/or prefixes attached to them. When you can put together the meaning of a root with the meaning of a prefix and/or a suffix, you can unlock the definitions of new words without a hitch.

de+ter+ent=deterrent  adj.  impediment

The study of root words begins in kindergarten and continues into college. The language portion of most standardized tests will contain root word questions. While worksheets  are one way to learn about root words, playing root word games are also an excellent way to learn and reinforce this important skill.

*Tip:  When you encounter an unknown word, look at the root first to see if you can figure out the meaning even if you don’t know the word. For example, if you read the word arboreal and you recognize arbor, you know the word relates to trees.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vocabulary Strategies

A variety of vocabulary strategies may be helpful in assisting your child or students in activating, acquiring, and applying appropriate vocabulary. These strategies are geared for middle schoolers, so feel free to modify the activities to fit your child and his learning style. . Many of these activities are great for the right-brained visual learner.

  • Using a word processor, your child will type new vocabulary words in a word bank using their choice of font and color.
  • Give your child six to ten vocabulary words in which they supply the meaning and provide an appropriate matching sentence.
  • Have your child research vocabulary words you have given them, and using a word processor, create a three-column chart inserting the vocabulary word in the first column, a definition in the second column, and either a synonym/antonym, image representing the word, or an original sentence in the last column. 
  • Have your child create their own crossword puzzle, cloze passage, multiple choice quiz, or matching quiz using vocabulary you have supplied, or their own. Siblings can solve.
  • Introduce new vocabulary as “word of the day.” Your child will write the word, identify its root word, prefix, suffix, synonyms, antonyms, illustrate the word, and use it in a sentence. This can be made into a vocabulary book.
  • Using a word processor, your child will type new vocabulary words  into a word bank and create a picture dictionary by inserting digital images or
    clip art representing the new vocabulary.
  • Using Paint or some other type of graphics software, your child will create mini-posters that include the vocabulary word, an illustration, and/or a definition.
  • Using a word processor, word art, or concept mapping, your child will create a word splash of new vocabulary. Your child will add definitions, explanations, or illustrations of the vocabulary. They may also add text boxes, comments, or sound clips.
  • Using sticky notes, your child will label items around the house…air duct, linoleum, radiator, beam, sill, pane, doorjamb, couch, stove…They can take pictures of the item with the vocabulary sticky note attached in order to make a picture dictionary.
  • Using pictures from magazines, your child will select pictures that illustrate various vocabulary words.
  • Using vocabulary from a text your child is reading, they will write a short story.
  • Create a “word wall” in which your child adds words and definitions relating to a particular area of study. 
  • Have your child complete a “word cycle”.
  • Have your child predict the meaning of vocabulary words you have given him.
  • Have your child create a word explosion by choosing a root word and developing new words by adding prefixes and suffixes to develop new vocabulary.
  • Have your child act out vocabulary words for sibling to guess.
  • Have your child create a comic strip, or strips, complete with speech bubbles demonstrating the meaning of new words.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fraction Lessons

Most kids need to “see” fractions in order to completely understand them. All kids have different learning styles, but visual, hands-on lessons seem to make fraction lessons much more fun and very easy to comprehend. Having a solid foundation of basic fraction concepts will make the advanced concepts easier to learn.

So just when do we use fractions around the house? We measure ingredients when we make cookies or a casserole…an eighth of a cup of this and a fourth of a cup of that. We divide the hour when we tell time -- it's half past two or it’s a quarter of five. Mom and Dad use fractions when they plan their budget. Their boss uses fractions when he figures the payroll. Sewing is full of fractions as is carpentry.

The most common hands-on visual for fractions is usually cutting a pizza into slices. The light bulb goes off and kids “get it”. Drag out the measuring cups and measuring spoons. Have the kids help you bake cookies. Turn the baking into a mini lesson. If I bake 10 cookies and I want 5 of them, what fraction is that? I have 20 cookies and there are 4 of us, how many do we each get? Introduce the idea of splitting cookies in half. As your child gets better and understands more, begin doubling and halving the recipe. Change the measurements in recipes to improper fractions and have your child convert them.

When asking your child to reduce a fraction, you might get a blank stare. Try asking your child to reduce 5/15 by saying you get 5 out of 15 cookies so what fraction is that? It makes it easier for them to understand they get 1/3. Sometimes they way we say things makes it easier or harder for kids, and we certainly don’t need more math anxiety. Try saying “shared” rather than “divided” in some of your fraction word problems. It makes it easier to visualize.

Have your homeschooler work on fractions at the grocery store. The kids are having friends over Saturday and they want each person to have 4 cheese crackers each for a snack. Have them figure how many packages they need to purchase based on how many crackers they will need. 

Just try to have fun with your kids as they learn math using everyday life skills. You will both be happier.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Back to School: Fast or Slow


Are you heading head first back into your back to school homeschooling routine, or are you easing into it? If new supplies and resources are arriving daily, I bet you and the kids can’t wait to sink your teeth into the new year. If you are continuing unfinished plans from last year, you might just be inclined to ease into the new semester. Both paths have pros and cons I am sure. Start hard and strong and chance burning out too quickly. Start slow and a little too easy and it might be like pulling sore teeth to finally get back into the groove. A blend of the two methods seems to be the obvious solution, but how in the heck do you blend them??

One solution is to only introduce one or two new ideas or resources each day, or half the first week and the rest the second week. At least that cuts down on info overload and keeps the kids anticipating what is still to come. It also lets the kids get into the routine of a few of the new programs before having all of them thrown at them at once. Another method is to only school half day the first week and full day the second week. Let the kids play educational games the first week after the half day of instruction is concluded. Spelling games like Matching Definitions is a fun game and is an easy way to ease back into school work while still having fun.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Homeschooling On The Go

I am excited to have Katie from You.Me. Us, guest blog today at 3D Learners. Katie is a homeschool Mom who lives in a very techy family. Please leave her a comment today, I know she will enjoy reading it. If you get a chance, visit Katie's blog and be sure to read the guest post I shared with her readers. 

                               Homeschooling On The Go

First off, let me start by saying thanks to Jackie for giving me the opportunity to guest post on her blog! It’s really cool to be able to contribute to such an informative and fun homeschooling blog. :)

My boys are about to turn 8 and 13 and we are long time homeschoolers. We’re a bunch of tech-junkies, through and through. We don’t do workbooks. We don’t do textbooks. My kids wouldn’t write on paper if I didn’t make them…they’d write on their Bamboo Tablets and send an email. :/

On top of being homeschoolers, the hubs and I also work from home, which means we have a lot of flexibility in our days. We have family spread out across our state. We enjoy weekend trips and we enjoy a good Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention whenever we can get to one. We have two soccer schedules we need to keep up with. Add those things to a fine arts program for homeschoolers that they attend weekly, scout meetings and 4H meetings…well you get that we are on the go a lot. A LOT.

So how do we manage to homeschool while never actually being at home, lol?

Fortunately, I have been able (through web searching on my own, and through fabulous suggestions from other homeschoolers) to find homeschooling programs and resources that we can use pretty much anywhere!

Our core program, Time4Learning, is completely online based. This means that there’s nothing to install or download. My boys’ logins, as well as my parent admin login, can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection. This is really great when the boys want to spend a few days with their grandparents…they don’t have to pack a computer or worry about traveling with one. Neither do I. I can check their grades/scores, see their progress and even schedule an activity or lesson for them, from any computer I can get to.

Both of the boys have an iPad, and those are constantly loaded with books to read. This way, they have a good collection always waiting on them, and we don’t have to worry about library books or trips to the book store (unless we just want to, which is always possible). Even though they can purchase books from iTunes/App Store, they also downloaded the Kindle app, which affords them the opportunity to have ebooks they can lend to and borrow from their friends!

Since they do love being on their iPads, they usually appease my need for them to be constantly learning, lol, with some great educational apps. My boys enjoy ones like 10,500+ Cool Facts, Math Master and Oregon Trail.

Speaking of apps… I think our most favorite online resource is the one we use as their spelling curriculum; VocabularySpellingCity. We have been using it for a couple of years now and I honestly don’t know how we did spelling before we found this site! I love that I can create my own lists. I love that I can find a TON of lists shared by other members when I’m being lazy. But what I love most of all, is they just released their iPad app! When we went to download that app on all of our iPads, you would have thought we were downloading a treasure map or something!

It’s still new, so everything from the website hasn’t quite found its way to the app yet, but there is more than enough to keep the boys occupied. All of their assigned lists are there and they can use those lists to do a spelling test and/or a vocabulary test, and to play games like Sentence Unscramble and HangMouse (a family favorite!). There are a few other games too, and you can even find additional lists without having to leave the app.

We love the site, and we love the app. It’s easiest to use when you have a data or WiFi connection, but you can use the app without that. You just have to make sure that you access each list and activity before you leave the connection. You don’t have to complete the activity, just load it. So it caches it within the app for later use. When you do this, you want to make sure that you don’t remove the app from the app tray, or power off the iPad, but that’s it. Also, if I forget to do that and I know we are going to be without internet, all of the sample lists on the app can be used without a data or WiFi connection, so I’m covered with something they can work on. :)

There is time that we spend at home, even though it doesn't seem like it. But with those two programs (T4L and VSC), I am always comfortable that we have more than enough to take with us when we go. :)

Katie is a computer junkie, workbook hating, TV watching, iGadget addicted, eclectic homeschooling, soccer mom. A not-so-country girl, living in very country small town, she has been homeschooling her two boys since 2005. You can get a little glimpse of her when you visit her blog: You. Me. Us.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Internet Safety

Are your kids safe? Are you sure?

When Alicia was 13 years old, she made headlines as the girl who was lured by an Internet predator—and survived.

Alicia was a shy girl from a close-knit family, but on New Year's Day in 2002, she did something completely out of character. She agreed to meet a friend she had been chatting with online for eight months.

Back to school time reminds me how important it is for parents to introduce or review Internet safety. Our children are our top priority. Homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike face the dangers of not only online predators, but cyber bullying, malware, virus threats…

“I can tell you it’s like going to a big, empty field and putting a big plate of ice cream on a blanket and walking away for an hour - and coming back and finding out how many ants and flies are there, because that’s what it’s like. It’s almost unbelievable how many people are out there, every day, searching in chat rooms for children.”

– James Murray, Police Chief, Peachtree City, GA

Chat rooms are not the only place predators hang out, they are everywhere. Internet safety is critical for kids and parents. You must make sure your child is operating in a safe environment while online.

Here are sites with great tips about Internet Safety:

Also, Google just launched  a new curriculum you might be interested in reading about. Here is what the site says:

Google has developed an interactive curriculum on YouTube to support teachers in educating students on how to be safe, engaged and confident model netizens.

The initiative is aimed at students aged 13 to 17 and will help them to develop digital literacy skills on YouTube that would be applicable across the web.

So how safe are your children? Have you chatted with your kids about what to do and not to do while on the Internet?

Leave a comment about how you teach online safety to your children.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fill in the Blank

My daughter and I had a good bit of fun today as we played a few fill in the blank games. O.K., here is the truth, I was playing the games and she walked in on me. She said, “Oh, those are easy.” Well, that was grounds for a challenge. The competition started. We played middle school geometry first. I got 9 out of 10 and she got all 10. Next we played 10 Largest U.S. Cities. I missed one and she missed two. Finally, we played 10 Largest U.S. States. We both got them all correct.

Games are a fun way to academically engage your child without it being too much like work. Friendly competition makes it even more fun. Since back-to-school is just around the corner, the games are a great way to find out areas you might need to fine tune a little. I think we need to work on U.S. cities!

Here is a list of Which Word? or Fill in the Blank games you might find fun to play.

Circus Words

10 Largest US Cities

Treasure Island

3rd-4th Gr. Sound Alikes


Middle School Geometry

5th-6th Gr. Sound Alikes

The Black Stallion

Charlotte's Web

Upper Grade Sound Alikes


10 Largest US States


Harry Potter Words

Leave a comment telling me which games you and/or your child played. Which was your favorite?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Online Writing Tutor

The thought of teaching writing scares many a homeschool parent. It doesn't have to. Teaching writing can be broken down into manageable bites. These small bites remove the dread and fear from what is otherwise an overwhelming task.

Sometimes it is not that teaching writing is overwhelming, to many it is simply too time consuming and frustrating. Writing is a process that includes much time spent re-doing over and over...editing. Beginning with simple sentence writing is key. Once the student understands how to write a solid sentence, he can move on to more complex sentences and then the paragraph. 

There are lots of ways to incorporate writing into your everyday life. Here are some ideas to get your student started in a nonthreatening way:

  • Write the grocery list
  • Write a thank you letter
  • Write reasons for getting a larger allowance
  • Write a pen pal
  • Answer an editorial in the newspaper
  • Write a fan letter
  • Write a poem
  • Write the dinner menu
  • Write captions for comics you draw
  • Keep a journal
Another wonderful idea for teaching writing is to use an online writing tutor. Many times the student will listen to someone else much better than they will listen to their parent. The use of a tutor takes pressure off the parent. It is not always easy to critique your child's writing. You might be too hard or too easy. 

Don't be afraid to seek outside help for your student. It doesn't mean you are a failure, on the contrary, it shows that you care about your student. After all, not every subject is fun to teach. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Educational Songs and Videos

Isn't is funny the way we can remember the words to songs, yet remembering something we studied yesterday seems to fade into the abyss? Educational songs and videos are a great way to not only learn new material, but it is also a super fun way to reniforce what your child is currently learning, or learned in the past. Lyrics just seem to stick with you. Watching a video tends to make the material more relevant than just reading text in a book. School can be fun you know!

If you are working on keyboarding skills, spelling, health, geography, phonics, science, math, literature, vocabulary, logic skills, art, games are definitely worth checking out. Most reputable sites such as Learning Games for Kids, offer quality educational games, videos, and songs that are far from being fluff, and they are free!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Educational Songs and Videos

Isn't is funny the way we can remember the words to songs, yet remembering something we studied yesterday seems to fade into the abyss? Educational songs and videos are a great way to not only learn new material, but it is also a super fun way to reniforce what your child is currently learning, or learned in the past. Lyrics just seem to stick with you. Watching a video tends to make the material more relevant than just reading text in a book. School can be fun you know!

If you are working on keyboarding skills, spelling, health, geography, phonics, science, math, literature, vocabulary, logic skills, art, games are definitely worth checking out. Most reputable sites such as Learning Games for Kids, offer quality educational games, videos, and songs that are far from being fluff, and they are free!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Learning to Read and Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Do you remember the first book you read? I do. I loved reading the Dick and Jane series even if it was a sight word reader. I loved the characters and the pictures. While I'm not a total fan of sight words, they do have their place for many kids who are learning to read. My daughter has hyperacusis, dyslexia and CAPD, so sight word reading is what worked for her. I personally believe in a healthy blend of sight words and phonics for most kids.

Extensive work with phonics does work for many children who have dyslexia, but if your child is like mine, dyslexia was not her only challenge. Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), also known as APD, is a complex problem and it certainly made my daughter's task of learning to read simply excruciating. Trying was not her problem, hearing and processing sounds was her problem. Her ears worked fine and her brain worked fine, they just didn't seem to want to work together.

CAPD affects about 5% of school age kids. Kids with CAPD don't necessarily have a hearing problem per say, they just can't seem to process speech sounds very well. It is difficult to distinguish between the sounds in words. 

Here are some signals your child might have CAPD:

  • Is your child easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises?
  • Are noisy environments upsetting to your child?
  • Does your child's behavior and performance improve in quieter settings?
  • Does your child have difficulty following directions, whether simple or complicated?
  • Does your child have reading, spelling, writing, or other speech-language difficulties?
  • Is abstract information difficult for your child to comprehend?
  • Are verbal (word) math problems difficult for your child?
  • Is your child disorganized and forgetful?
  • Are conversations hard for your child to follow?
A diagnosis can be difficult because many of the signals seem to overlap with other difficulties such as ADD/ADHD or dyslexia.

There are five main areas of concern for kids with CAPD.
  1. Auditory Figure-Ground Problems: It can be very difficult for the child to pay attention if there is noise in the background. 
  2. Auditory Memory Problems: Remembering information like directions, lists, or study materials can be quite hard. It can be immediate ("I can't remember it now") and/or delayed ("I can't remember it when I need it for later").
  3. Auditory Discrimination Problems: The student has problems hearing the difference between words or sounds that are similar (COAT/BOAT or CH/SH). This can affect following directions, and reading, spelling, and writing skills, among others.
  4. Auditory Attention Problems: The child finds is very hard to focus or listen for any specific length of time. This makes completing work a real chore. This is one area that overlaps with ADD/ADHD.
  5. Auditory Cohesion Problems: Higher-level listening tasks are very difficult. Auditory cohesion skills — drawing inferences from conversations, understanding riddles, or comprehending verbal math problems — require heightened auditory processing and language levels. They develop best when all the other skills (levels 1 through 4 above) are intact.
While these challenges make learning difficult, it is not a death sentence. Here is what I found works best for us:
  • Reducing noise levels while my daughter works helps television, no music, no phone ringers, no barking dogs, and so forth. When I was still in the classroom, several of my students chose to wear ear muffs I purchased cheaply at Harbor Freight. 
  • Make sure your child looks at you when you give directions, and always have them repeat the directions back to you. Many times you will need to begin with no more than two step commands in the beginning and work up to more detailed directions with time. 
  • Always talk slowly, clearly, and a little louder than normal. 
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat!
  • Try not to use fluorescent lighting. 
  • Teach your child to take notes.
  • Implement a regular schedule. Organization and scheduling go a long way for these kids.
  • Encourage your child to wear a watch.
  • Praise them honestly. They know when you give false praise.
  • Work on healthy eating and a good sleep schedule. 
You and your child will get through this and come out on top. By the way, my daughter also LOVED the Dick and Jane series. I bought the anniversary edition for her when she was little.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Homeschool Summer Pick-ups

Summer is a great time of year. The kids can go outside and play in the fresh air, but don't forget the sunscreen. Fourth of July means fireworks and picnic fun. Summer swimming and water parks are great summer fun too. Movie matanees, concerts in the park, and icecream stops are near the top of the to do list. Summer is usually a little more laid back and relaxing, well for kids anyway. Even if you homeschool year round, summer is still a very fun time of year.

It's not all that hard to find fun ways to sneak a little schooling into the lazy days of summer. Give the kids colorful sidewalk chalk and encourage them to see who can spell the most words on the driveway before Daddy comes home from work. Let them fix a cool summer treat in the kitchen. Make sure you have them weigh, measure, and read the directions for the recipe on their own. Have a nature scavenger hunt looking for certain types of leaves, rocks, flowers, tree branches, snails...., write summer poetry, tell stories around the fire pit, play hangman for kids, act out your favorite story book, make your own bubble blowing solution and see who canblow the biggest bubbles, fly kites after you explore why kites can fly, star gaze at night, and more. The possibilities are endless, and the kids won't really even realize all these activities are educational because they are having so much fun.

What do you and your kids do for sneaky educational fun in the summer? Please share with everyone.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Find Your Homeschool Spot

It's nice to share information with like-minded homeschoolers. There is no room for negativity about the way someone chooses to homeschool. One of the beauties of homeschooling is the freedom to choose to school the way that best suits your child and you. 

Freethinking homeschoolers often feel there is no place where they can comfortably share their ideas about homeschooling without being criticized. However, there are more and more secular online groups available today. In that same vein, Christian homeschoolers have many online sites to share their ideas, resources, and make new friends with those who think along similar lines.

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter whether you are a secular homeschooler, Christian homeschooler, accidental homeschooler, African American homeschooler... you have the right to homeschool they way you choose without being condemned. A little extra work on your part will turn up great forums, blogs, and resource sites that fit your homeschooling style. Join a few this week and begin sharing your teaching gifts and talents with others.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spelling Goes Techy is a super place to practice and test spelling words, practice and test vocabulary, practice handwriting, play around with spelling flashcards, work a few printable worksheets, watch teacher training videos, practice sentence writing, access a loaded resource page, have your child watch a video lesson, play educationally sound games... This is one action packed, super-duper, educational playground of FUN! They offer a database of more than 42,000 spelling words and sentences. The words and sentences can be customized for your students, plus they also provide clear, spoken recordings of every word.

VSC is geared for elementary, middle school, and high school, even ESL students will benefit. The site is free, but they do offer a Premium Membership with great extras at an unheard of low price. Premium members have access to extra games, tracking, ability to give assignments, print records, no advertising, telephone support... It's well  worth the price.
 The Teaching Resources section that has recently received an overhaul. This awesome page has sections for Language Arts Lessons, Useful Word Lists which include games to go along with the subject material including science and social studies vocabulary+, articles, and other help and information all just waiting for you!

Drum Roll please:  VocabularySpellingCity is coming out with two new apps! The first one launched just recently and is available in the Chrome Web Store for use with Chromebooks. It is free.
The next, which is currently in beta testing, will be for the iPad. If you would like to get in on the beta testing of this new app, go to this link and fill out the form.

This newest techy app is due for release before the start of the 2012-2013 school year, aren't you glad?

Monday, June 11, 2012

English Vocabulary Learning with Games

1)Word Find – Players are thrilled to learn English vocabulary by this fun combination of word search, Scrabble, Boggle, and anagrams.  The game can be loaded with the list of your choice.
2)Crossword Puzzles – Students are fascinated by crossword puzzles and are driven to complete them. Jazz up your assignments by putting them into this to play it online or print out worksheets.
3)English Slang  – Get as "sharp aa a pin" or be "in th know" with this fun way to learn current English usage. It is for business or classroom use (nothing suggestive or obscene).
4)Word Root Games – Word roots in English are the  key to a broad conceptual understanding of the language and to unlocking words that you have not yet encountered. Yet who wants to memorize lists of word roots?  This game evokes prior knowledge so ESL students  realized that they actually know most of the word roots already.  Think about a game that points out what you already know from the words bicycle, tricycle, and unicycle.
5)HangMan Games – Hangmouse is the most weirdly popular word game in the world. Why are so many teachers and students OK with the pending murder of that poor stick figure. In our version, the drama is focused on whether the mouse will get the cheese or the cat will ge the mouse.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Online Literature Games

Some kids love to read while others have no interest. Obviously, kids who struggle with reading don't always want to read, but there are lots of kids who are good readers who just plain don't enjoy it. 

I was the kid who was a good reader, but didn't want to sit still that long.  I read for information only, and still do to a small degree. I enjoy good books when I am reading them, but I also want to finish the book the same day I start it...not always possible! I think lots of kids tend to "watch" the movie rather than read the book. 
Kindle readers are so popular right now. I wonder what impact they have made on furthering the reading movement. There are great speech-to-text readers for kids who struggle, which makes reading more enjoyable. Something that can encourage reading is having your student play literature games online
 Getting kids involved in books is key. There are awesome free educational games available for books like Harry Potter, Gulliver's Travels, Matilda, Ramona, Where the Wild Things Are, David Copperfield, 1984, Romeo and Juliet, and many more. Not only are games fun, but they help kids remember. How many times did you study for a test only to forget what you learned just one short week later? 
Games are an easy way to sneak in a little learning without kids realizing it, and they are super for right-brained visual learners.

                     Get your game on!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Homeschool Curriculum Reviews

homeschool curriculum and resources are so varied these days. Some folks use an elementary online curriculum, some use traditional boxed curriculum, some use a mix of both, some folks use charter schools, while some choose to use a mix of their own tools married with resources such as local Veritas classes. The trick is finding what works for you and your children. Each has their own merits, but not all work for every family.  Reviews and forums are helpful in making decisions about curriculum and resources, but keep in mind the person is basing their opinion solely upon THEIR situation and feeling, not yours. What one person likes or dislikes might not apply to your situation. Sometimes what someone else describes as a “dud” might fit your family quite nicely.

Homeschool curriculum reviews and word-of-mouth definitely have their place, just read with an open mind. Take notes about the pros and cons each person lists about a resource you are interested in learning more about. What seems to show up consistently in the reviews? If something is listed as a con, try to figure out why it was a con. Perhaps thier con is your pro or vice versa. You must apply the positive and negative features of resources to your family in order to make a solid decision.

Go to the main website for the resource you are considering. See if the company offers a free trial of the resource. What about free samples? Do they have a money back guarantee? Is there a long term contract you must sign? How well does the resource fit the needs of all of your children? Does it provide challenging material and resources for the child who needs a little extra help? Involve your kids in the decision making process because it helps build ownership and paves the way toward future success.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

School’s Out For the Summer

Just a short reminder this week to keep the kids in the swing of things (school things that is) this summer without going overboard.

For those of who school year round, this is no biggie, but for those of you who take a break, try engaging your child academically for very short periods of time once or maybe twice a day. The point is to keep things fresh and fun. Summer is supposed to be relaxing for those who take a break. It is not time to cram new lessons in. Keep the “focused” learning to short bursts.

Kids can play online logic games like sentence match;  read books; write poems, songs, or short stories; draw a picture of their favorite activity of the day; design a new robot or celestial city with Legos; play hink-pink or hig-pig word games; write a letter to grandma or their favorite actor/actress; make up the dinner menu; sort your coupons by category; take apart old broken alarm clocks and such to see how they work, or to make a new invention…

Leave a comment about your favorite things for your kids to do in the  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Word Match Games

What do oceans, Harry Potter, soccer, science, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Goodnight Moon, dinosaurs, Wuthering Heights, The Black Stallion, the 10 largest U.S. States, space, Canterbury Tales, sound a-likes…have in common? Give up? They are all word match games your child can play to boost logic and reasoning skills. Your child is required to select the best word through a process of elimination. Sentence match games are fun to play. They are excellent for building vocabulary skills. Kids can play the games online or as a printable worksheet at VocabularySpellingCity.

If you have a visual spatial learner, this site is great. There is so much to do and kids seem to retain what they are learning because they are having fun as they learn. The site is free to use, but they also offer a Premium membership that is very cheap.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Homeschooling Responsibly


I clearly remember applying for my first credit card when I was still in college. I couldn’t believe they gave me one! Rather than being super excited, I was terrified. I understood that charging something simply delayed the payment. I knew it was easy to charge, but hard to pay. I realize my “fear” was actually responsibility coming out in me. Mom raised me right. Responsibility must be taught, and it begins at home. Thanks, Mom!

Kids must witness responsibility in the everyday lives of their parents. If your kids can’t see you being responsible in your daily life, your attempts to teach them responsibility will be in vain. It’s fake. Kids of all ages grow up and repeat what they saw at home. If you modeled good decision making skills to your child, they will have the ability to make good decisions as an adult. If you were a spendthrift, your child will most likely be an adult spendthrift. 


Homeschooling responsibly includes thinking about what goals you have for your child. Academics are certainly important, but so are life skills, manners, loyalty, fairness, honesty, responsibility, empathy, ability to reason and so much more. I am not attempting to tell you how to homeschool, that is a journey you and your child will take together. .I am merely suggesting you expose your child to more than book knowledge along the journey.

Maybe you are thinking about homeschooling. You  believe the benefit of one-on-one learning and a curriculum that matches their learning style will take them to the next level.Maybe you see the need to impart more responsibility or some of the skills listed in the paragraph above. Maybe you feel homeschooling will allow you to do just that. Weigh the pros and cons of homeschooling first. Write down your reasons for wanting to homeschool. Are they valid? If you want to homeschool because you are tired of getting up early to get the kids on the bus, you might be headed in the wrong direction. List the cons. If you list a con as not being able to teach because you are not a certified teacher, just go ahead and scratch that one off. You ARE most certainly qualified to teach your child. What have you done their whole life…teach them!

Living responsibly breeds responsible kids, and who doesn’t want a responsible kid around?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Context Clues: A Schoolish Game

Here a clue, there a clue, everywhere are context clues. “What is this sentence saying, Mom? I don’t understand what the story is talking about. I don’t know what this word means, Mom.” Have you heard this before?

Sometimes kids have problems figuring out hard or unexpected words in their reading. The first thing we do is either tell the meaning (lost opportunity for them), or tell them to look the word up. Looking the word up can be boring and a drag to many kids…very schoolish, isn't it? Understanding context clues is as vital to reading comprehension as is spelling and vocabulary.

Do your kids get tired of playing the same old spelling games over and over? If you marry context clues with spelling or vocabulary practice, you will have a whole new game for them to play. And we all know playing games is more fun than just looking up a word in a dictionary, plus, retention is much higher. Give online games a shot.

Your kids can practice using context clues to identify spelling and vocabulary words as they improve their reading comprehension. Sometimes kids have to dig a little deeper to understand what an author is saying. If they become more aware of the words around the difficult words they encounter in their reading, they will save themselves (and you) many trips to the dictionary. Your goal is to teach them how to find answers on their own, and their goal is to make very good logical guesses about the meanings of many different words.

If you or your kids need a little more background on context clues, this site does a great job explaining things.