Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Long Hard Road to the Swim Championships

swimmeetIt was a long hard road, literally.  We drove across 3 state borders and many miles, to travel back and forth to swim practice and swim meets.  Each day, my daughter could not wait to go to swim practice.  Her hard work paid off at Junior State Championships.

I noticed that my daughter gained more than a chance at States or Junior States; she gained character. This has been a tough season for my daughter.  Through a sudden departure of a head coach, the exodus of friends, the increased injuries, and unscheduled illnesses, she kept going to swim practice.  She persevered through this year and I am so proud of her.

There were times she had to dig deep inside herself and muster up courage to face her fears. When her times were stagnant, she would say, “Well, you know what that means? I just have to work harder.” Yes, she gained so much this year.  Unfortunately, coaches and fellow swimmers will never observe most of what she achieved.  What she gained was confidence, integrity, and perseverance.

She gained so much more through the triumphs and the trials that abounded. The Lord has been with her through every step, every tear, and every stroke.  He knows her heart and her passion for swimming.  He brought her through this challenging year.

As I stood on the swim deck timing the 500 Freestyle, tears of joy filled my eyes for her courage and her love for her sport. Yes, my daughter, you are a champion in more than a swim meet; you are a champion of the heart.  Congratulations, my dear daughter on 5 out of 6 best times at the Junior States Championships!

Homeschooling : What Are You Doing Next Year?

 

I do not like this time of year. I do not like it here or there.  I do not like it anywhere! There I said it! 

It is the time of year, when many homeschoolers are trying to decide what they are going to do in the next school year.  They are deciding a curriculum, programs, classes, or coops.  In the beginning of homeschooling, there was little choice.  Today, there are so many programs, classes, curriculum, and coops.  The choices are overwhelming.

Homeschooling one child does present an additional challenge.  As a parent, I know that my student needs to have social interaction, but which one.  After exploring many different opportunities and curriculum, I can say without a doubt, that no curriculum or program is perfect.  The challenge is finding one that meets your and your student’s needs.

I will explore the basic types of opportunities found in homeschooling:

  • Homeschooling Curriculum – Packaged Complete and Individual
  • Online classes
  • Online schools
  • Coops
  • Schools
  • Umbrella Groups
  • Church
  • Family and Friends
  • Home based solutions

There are many choices.  Here is the real deal.  You do not have to make up your mind right away.  Do not feel pressured to find a solution in January or February for next September.

There is pressure to sign up for classes because these organizations want to have a good idea of who is attending.  This helps them hire or obtain teachers and helpers. It is a legitimate concern.  It is one of those chicken and egg quandaries.

A homeschooling parent truly wants the best for their student.  A homeschooling one parent many times feels pressured from inside to find the perfect program with the right amount of socialization balanced with the academic excellence.

Come explore a new series of Homeschooling Choices in future articles.

Have a wonderful day!

Practice Tests for Standardized Testing

Good Morning! It is early in the morning and I just finished reviewing my daughter’s practice test for her standardized test in March. We like to use practice tests, to help us make minor tweaks in academic subjects that she may need more emphasis. One piece of advice is to review the practice tests, question by question.

photo-020After reviewing my daughter’s practice test, my assessment is that she did pretty well. Certainly, she has areas for improvement. However, I noticed something. Her strongest academic subject was her weakest overall score on the test. I was confused, so I went through the test, evaluating each question.

When I looked at the test, I felt my daughter did extremely well considering the quality of questions in the practice test book. For example, one problem in the practice test showed a picture of a gray shaded arena with seating sections. The student is to pick out which seating section are the best seats. My daughter got the question right. However, I do not know how she could easily read the numbers to figure out the seating sections. I think she made a good educated guess.

I feel that using practice tests are a sensible idea, especially if your child gets nervous for standardized testing. However, I would review the right and wrong questions to look for trends. In the end, my daughter needs additional review on poetry, punctuation, and government/civics. The information was helpful, but only because I reviewed the entire practice test. If I had taken the scores at face value, she would need to review; reading comprehension, word analysis, language mechanics, and government/civics.

I recommend that parents use practice tests to prepare their children for standardized testing, however be sure to review the details not just the overall scores.

Have a wonderful day!

Reprint with permission Copyright © 2013 123ParentHelper.com

The Amazing Homeschooling Parent

Have you ever sat down and really talked to a homeschooling parent?  Over the past few years, I have noticed that homeschooling moms and dads are very smart, driven, creative, and talented parents.  If you want to know the latest on how to learn mathematics or the best reading program, ask a homeschooling parent.  They spend countless hours scouring for the best, latest, and greatest information and materials.  These homeschooling parents purchase, evaluate, and instruct using these education materials and programs. They know what works for different types of students and what does not work.  These dedicated moms and dads are focused, driven, and interesting!

Yes, interesting!  Here is one thing that most people may not realize.  Homeschooling moms and dads are very bright and interesting!  If a homeschool student has to memorize the periodic table, guess who else is memorizing the periodic table.  If the student is learning the complexity of calculus, guess who else is reviewing those calculus problems.  Yes, homeschooling moms and dads are smart, very smart. What they do not know, they carefully research, learn, and communicate.

I am humbled by the intelligence and education level of the homeschooling moms and dads around me.  In all my years of working in Corporate America with some very clever people, I have never seen a group so intelligent, creative, and willing to learn. The wonderful thing is that homeschooling parents pass on these qualities to the next generation of students.

When I think about the educational qualities, I want my daughter to learn.  I think about having the aptitude to research ideas with the desire to learn, the ability to comprehend complex information, and the wisdom to apply the information in productive and creative methods.  These qualities will serve my daughter for the rest of her life, whether it is at work, school, family, or church.  To give our children the confidence to boldly step forward with the lifelong desire to learn, is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.  To all you smart, driven and talented homeschooling parents…You are amazing!

Homeschool Technology Series: iPad 2 Technology Shift

Picture of an iPad   Apple is creating a major shift in technology with their products iPad, iPod, and iPhone.  Will these products change the world?  I will be perfectly honest…’Using is believing’.

 

Recently, I checked out an Apple iPad 2 32GB WiFi. From the very first swipe, I was impressed from a technological and engineering perspective.  The iPad 2 product using the iOS 4 is a significant shift in technology, but not as much from the perspective, that is a sleek fast product.  The shift is because the user’s method of thinking is significantly different and to borrow a phrase…radical.

 

In the first week, I have not actively accessed a website through an iPad 2 Safari web browser. THAT is an important shift.  I have downloaded apps that go to websites. However, I have not actually swiped, pointed, or looked at the web browser icon. This intrigued me to explore the iPad 2 technology.

 

As a former customer product test lead, I had to start testing the product.  I researched the apps with the highest ratings and started downloading.  Over the years of downloading software, I have had my share of computer crashes and lock-ups.  To my surprise, the Apple Apps downloaded flawlessly.  The iPad 2 hardware and the Apps are a great job of integrated engineering and programming! Good Job, Apple!

 

Should the homeschooling community change over to iPads?  I actually do not think so at this time.  In general, the average homeschooling parent is actually a high-level savvy computer user with curriculum software, training software, internet, social networking, and email.  In addition, the iPad does not use Flash, which is used by many educational websites.  While the iPad is technically savvy, it is not a replacement for the computer for the average homeschooler…Yet!  I have no doubt that Apple will be trying to close this gap.  Over the next year, I will write articles about iPad and Android products.  I will keep you posted with interesting discoveries! This is going to be fun!  Deep down, I am kind of a nerdy, geeky, engineering techie!

 

Have a wonderful day!

Laura

Homeschooling Technology Series: Educational Discounts

Thank you Adobe, Microsoft®, Google, Oracle, and Corel®!

 

Why am I saying thank you?  Because all of these companies are providing discounted and sometimes free software for students, teachers, and home educators.  Along with homeschooling my daughter, I am writing a book for homeschoolers, developing educational websites, and teaching technology at a local homeschool co-op.  In all of my efforts, I need software to help me achieve goals faster and better.  While there are times that I will sit down with a pen and paper, having an electronic device with document software is so helpful. Some of the software is free such as OpenOffice.org (supported by Oracle™) and Google Docs.  However, a lot of software is not free such as Microsoft Office®, Adobe Creative Suite®, and Corel® Digital Studio™ 2010.  In fact, much of the software is very expensive for the average homeschooling household.

 

How can a homeschooler be able to buy current software for their students at a reasonable price?  Many of the software companies such as Adobe, Microsoft®, and Corel® have significant academic discounts for teachers, homeschool educators, and students.  One must prove that they are a homeschooler by showing proof of homeschooling, which may include: a letter of intent, an organization card of a homeschool organization such as HSLDA, or a copy of homeschool curriculum receipt.

 

For example, I needed software from Adobe for my technology lessons and for this homeschooling website. In addition, I am teaching my homeschool daughter how to use the same software.  The software would be out of the question for our family without me working outside of the home and not homeschooling.  Adobe understands the challenges of finances at this stage of a person’s life.  They offer their software for home educators for the same discount as teachers and students in colleges and schools. I received a 78% discount on the Adobe software.  That is unheard of in any other industry.

 

There are other software companies such as Microsoft® and Corel®, who offer an affordable academic license for software.  In fact, sometimes software companies offer free trials or reduced software for students to learn software development including programming and web design.  I have learned to ask if a software company has a homeschool or academic version for a reduced price.  Many times, they offer a Student or Teacher software package.  Sometimes, the Student and Teacher package has restrictions, but for the price these restrictions are workable.  Read the fine print on the websites before ordering.  Some of the student and teacher software packages cannot be resold or upgraded.

 

In general, the software companies offer opportunities for our young to learn, discover, and develop.  Good Job to Adobe, Microsoft®, Google, Oracle™, and Corel® for making affordable academic software for aspiring students!

 

Have a wonderful day!

Laura

Homeschooling Getting Started: Family Commitment Letter

We have a Homeschool Commitment Letter that serves as a document designed for my daughter, my husband (Principal) and me.  It is a great way for us to establish the ground rules for the coming year.  It also serves the purpose for outlining the goals and objectives for the year in a clear and personal method.  Our commitment letter has several points in it.

 

  • Establish the people involved my daughter, my husband (as Principal), and me as the Homeschool Educator.
  • Determine the overall subjects that to be covered keeping it simple rather than a complex listing of the entire year.
  • Specify my expectations as the homeschool educator.  I like to add to the letter, what I am committing to for the year.  I do not provide immense detail, but I want my daughter to understand it is a commitment for both of us.
  • Outline the time factor.  I like to add a statement regarding what I expect from my daughter in order to complete tasks and assignments within an allotted amount of time.  I think this helps her become more responsible for her own studies throughout the week.
  • Write the expectations of the desired behavior.  This year, I did include negative behavior that I did not want to see such as complaining and whining.  On occasion, my daughter complains like any other kid that would rather play than sit doing her schoolwork.
  • Prepare a statement of the consequences if behavior and negative actions occur.  I list out the consequence types such as loss of privileges and extra homework.  I have found that clearly stating the consequences is beneficial for both of us.
  • Conclude with a statement of commitment.  The statement is that it takes both of us to make homeschooling work.

 

Finally, we all sign the Commitment Letter. Each of us receives a copy and it becomes part of our homeschool records.  The letter is designed to establish good healthy guidelines, not restricting ones.  Our goal in homeschooling is to provide a nourishing, enriching, comprehensive, and Godly education for our daughter.  It is our desire is that she will become a self-confident, well-educated, Christian woman doing God’s will for her life.

Have a wonderful day!

Laura

Homeschooling Life: Keeping Their Interest at the End of the Year

tree outside on a beautiful day

The weather is warm.  There are 20 lessons of Math to go.  Their feet and minds want to be outside or anywhere except for sitting in a chair doing Math.  I am not sure if you go through this scenario, but it happens in my house.

 

Maybe this sounds familiar.  In the beginning there is mild grumbling, followed by logical reasoning and finally, complaining.  Not MATH again!!!

 

My daughter normally loves Math, but not at the end of the year.  She has taken her standardized test and in her mind…she is done with the school year.  Just one problem…those 20 math lessons.

 

What can a homeschooling parent do?  Listed below are 6 ideas that I have tried:

 

  1. Change Rooms. I find this can have a good adjustment on my daughter’s motivation.
  2. Get up and exercise. When I see my daughter fidgeting instead of doing a math problem, I ask her run up and down our hall 20 times.  She loves running up and down the hall.  It is not a long hall, so it takes her a couple minutes.  The physical movement helps her refocus her energy to math.  She bounds into the room with a much better frame of mind.
  3. Change other things such as paper color, color pencils instead of crayons, special stickers, or a poster board. Get creative!  Better yet, let your child get creative!
  4. Change the method of teaching the subject. Most of the time, my daughter will do her math problems by herself.  When her attention is waning, we will do “Hurry up Math”.  I will write her problems on the white board.  As soon as she completes one correct problem, I erase the problem and write down a new problem.  She has to try to solve the next problem before I finish writing the new problem on the board.  She likes this game very much.
  5. Incentives. I find incentives work well in the short term.  I have tried long-term incentives.  It does not work as well for us at this stage.  My daughter tends to forget the long-term incentive with a couple exceptions.  For instance, we did have an incentive for studying for Classical Conversations Memory Master.  It was a big enough goal that my daughter had to work on every day.  Therefore, it was easy for her to remember the incentive.
  6. Go on an educational field trip. Recently one Friday, we just decided to take off and go to Gettysburg, PA.  It was what both of us needed.  We came back refreshed with a better understanding of the Civil War.

 

Pray to Jesus! He loves my daughter more than I do.  He knows what she needs more than I do.  When I am frustrated with the 20 remaining math lessons…I need to trust in Him who loves her more!

 

Have a wonderful day!

Laura

 

 

Reading a Really Good Book

A group of reading books on a bookshelfMy homeschool daughter is an avid reader.  She can read books faster than I have time to review them. I find that I am always trying to play catch-up on the books that she is reading.  As if this was not enough, I have another challenge. My daughter reads well beyond her years.  Finding good wholesome books can be very challenging.

What I have found is that there are many books that are not appropriate for my daughter.  I have pretty high standards on reading.  I really do not see the need for books that boast of a supernatural hideous world or a highly elevated dysfunctional family.  We need to be concerned about the influences our kids are exposed to through reading.  There are good books that have wholesome character and values without all the violence, language, lack of respect for parents, and lack of plot.  Call me old fashioned, but I think we need to stand up and insist that our children read quality books with Christian values.

I know that many parents will say, “At least my child is reading.  You do not understand.  Your child likes to read.”

Actually, I do understand.  I cannot tell you how many countless hours I spent reading with my daughter.  Then, there was a long period that I could not get her to read much of anything.  One day, she mentioned that she enjoyed reading the “historical novel stuff”.  That was enough for me.  I scoured for historical fiction for young readers that would be appropriate at every book sale, library, and auction.  I strategically placed the books throughout the house. I created opportunities for her to read.  Little by little, she began to read on her own time.  Now, I can find her curled up in a chair reading books.

My desire to provide reading opportunities has led me on this path of finding good books.  Here are a couple places that I have found some good reading books.

  • Sonlight  –  Sonlight creates reading curriculum based on different levels including American History, World History.  While I like Sonlight reading curriculum, the parent needs to be sure to read Sonlight’s statement about the type of books that they use.
  • Drawn into the Heart of Reading provides a listing of books that they recommend.  They created a curriculum that works for different genres of books.  There are curriculum guidelines with worksheets for Bibliographies, Adventures, etc.  We used Drawn into the Heart of Reading for one year.  I still like using some of the worksheets.
  • Christianbook.com Summer Reading Lists

 

I want to encourage my daughter to read.  So, I try to read as much as I can.  I love curling up in our big old over-sized chair and half with a great book and a mug of coffee.  It is one of my favorite things to do.  The funny thing is that since homeschooling, I spend a lot of enjoyable time reading my daughter’s books!

Have Fun Reading!

Laura

Writer’s Block: 7 Stimulating Ideas to Help

What was that word…Do you ever have one of those moments when you are trying to think of a new topic or even a word to write and nothing comes?  I do. I think that is perfectly normal. It is a classic case of writer’s block.

 

I think our kids have writer’s block at times, too.  Breaking through the writer’s block is important whether you are trying to produce a book report, an article, or simply an email.  So many times, we want those all-important words to come to us instantly so that we can finish our project and move on.  However, sometimes, we need help.

 

I use a couple methods to help me with writer’s block.  Having writer’s block can be frustrating.  I find that when I am frustrated. I cannot write. I get more frustrated, which does not help and is not productive.  Here are 7 ideas to stop writer’s block.

 

  1. Start writing an outline. This is my number one line of defense for writer’s block.  I find that if I starting writing my ideas in a vertical form, just one idea after another.  That I start to develop my paper, project, or article.  At this stage, it can look messy but as long as I am listing ideas and facts in some order, I can start to think of the article that I would like to write.
  2. Pray. I know that sounds simple.  And, it is.  Sometimes, we just need to get down on our knees and pray.
  3. Take a deep breath. Writer’s block happens to best writers.  Sometimes, a writer needs to walk away for a few minutes.  I really do not suggest walking away from the project for more than a couple hours.  I find that if I walk away for over a day, that I lose momentum and it is easier to procrastinate.
  4. Index card or sticky notes ideas. I have an ideas box.  When I have an idea for an article, I place my idea on an index card and put it into an index card box.  Many people use a sticky note and storyboard method as well.  I find that there are times that I go to my Ideas box for inspiration.
  5. Draw a picture. Illustrating an idea and seeing what I would like to say in visual form can be stimulating to writing.
  6. Change writing location. Most of the time, I write in my office.  However, when I have writer’s block, I change rooms.  Many times, I will change to a room that is more comfortable and relaxing.
  7. Change the type of writing. Normally, I write using a computer and software.  When combatting a writer’s block, I will change to pencil and paper.  I try not to have fancy paper with cute drawings on it.  That tends to be distracting to me.  However, your student may be inspired with fancy paper.

 

These are just a few ideas that have helped me over the years.  Good writing comes with effort.  There is no quick and painless way to write.  It takes years to develop your style and quality of your writing.  More importantly, we are always learning to write better.  I am constantly learning and perfecting my writing skills.  I have a lot to learn and improve.

 

I hope some of the methods above will help you and your student.

 

Have a wonderful day!

Laura