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Your Kids CAN Write, Free University Project, Online Schools

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, January 26, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 7 January 26, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Guest Article
-- Kids CAN Write!
Helpful Tips
-- All Hands On Deck
Winning Website
-- Free University Project
Our Reader Question
-- Online Schools
Additional Notes
-- Archived Newsletters
-- Email Support Group
-- Sponsorship Info
-- Reprint Info
-- Subscriber Info

Guest Article

Your Kids CAN Write!
by Karen Lange

Teaching writing can be intimidating, especially if you don’t feel like
you are a good writer. Here are some tips you can use to encourage
your kids to write. Grade school, high school - age doesn’t matter;
it’s never too late to develop good writing habits. A seventy-year-young
gentleman I know took some writing courses and got published. You’re
never too old to learn!

# 1 - Read to your kids. Make family reading time a priority, if only
once a week. It’s a great way to share quality time together. It
provides opportunities for discussion. The benefits of exposure to
literature are endless. It broadens perspectives and lends to a sense of
adventure. We read the "Little House" series, biographies, carefully
chosen classics, and more. I looked for books that were interesting and
had relevancy to my kids’ lives and studies.

I’ve worked with kids for years and can usually tell which ones have
been read to and/or are readers. Among other things, they often have
imaginations that are more vivid. They have a good sense of what
sounds right when writing because they have been exposed to good
literature. Reading, and being read to, opens up a world for kids that
they might not experience otherwise.

# 2 - Set a good example; let your kids see you writing. Even if the
only things you write are letters, lesson plans, and grocery lists,
you are still writing! It’s important to remember that no matter what
we do in life, it is necessary to write and communicate. The better
we write, the better we will communicate and vice versa.

Keep writing! The more you do it, the more you improve. My husband
is a prime example (and a good sport). When we started in business
twenty-some years ago, writing a business letter was not his thing.
With practice and a little advice, he now writes a professional letter
with very little assistance from the editing department (me!).

# 3 - Find writing projects to do together. Writing activities in a
curriculum are great, but sometimes they don’t spark a student’s
creativity. How many of us plodded through the required "What I did
on my summer vacation"? A group project can be more fun. When it comes
to writing, especially for the reluctant writers, fun is the key.
Engage kids by finding short, interesting activities to start. Projects
can be expanded as their skills develop. Try writing a continuing
story, silly poetry, or a family newspaper together. For ideas, I
recommend "If You’re Trying to Teach Kids to Write, You’ve Gotta
Have This Book!" by Marjorie Frank.

# 4 – Illustrate it! Sometimes kids like to draw but don’t like to
write. Jumpstart imaginations by combining the two. Write a story
together, if only a short paragraph, and then let them illustrate it.
Find a funny picture, or remove captions from cartoons and have the kids
write about it.

# 5 – Just let them write. Let the grammar go while they get their
ideas on paper. It’s hard; I know! But it’s important to let them be
creative and realize that they can write. Don’t hover over them
pointing out errors. Keep a balance with the grammar. Yes, it is
important, and it has its place in a student’s learning plan.
Concentrate on the good things they’ve done first, and then address
issues that need work down the road. A gentle and balanced approach
will reap big results.

We used to choose a few things that my kids had written to revise
and polish. That way, they didn’t feel like they had to produce a
perfectly penned product every time. My middle son kept notebooks
of stories. Most of the stories were composed of one long run-on
sentence. Punctuation was non-existent; the spelling was horrific.
The stories were good but I cringed when I read it. However, if I had
corrected everything, he would not have written at all. So I let him
have his writing space and we worked on things over time. The
approach worked; he’s an adult now who writes and communicates
very well!

Writing is a necessary skill for life. It dovetails with good communi-
cation - and you need to communicate in every walk of life. Your
kids may not become famous novelists, and that's okay. Be patient,
they are works in progress! Help them stretch their writing skills;
you’ll give them an edge for their future.


Karen Lange homeschooled her three children K-12. She is a
freelance writer, homeschool consultant, and creator of the
Homeschool Online Writing Co-op for teens. Visit her website at


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip


" 'All Hands on Deck' is a study about the USS Constitution, a ship
used in war over 200 years ago. The curriculum is FREE and comes
with a DVD to watch first and then individual study material for grades
K-12. It breaks down the study for younger and adds to the study
for older children.

We received our curriculum yesterday and I am so impressed! It is
awesome -- my 7 year old is really into this. If there are any other
studies like this that others are aware of, please share!"
-- Linda - HomeschoolingBOYS.com YahooGroup


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

Free University Project - http://www.freeuniv.com/

The mission of the Free University Project on the Internet is to
produce directly, or through links, guided independent study
materials that can lead to college credit by examination. On this
incredibly rich site, you will find resources and encouragement to
pursue college credits - and even an entire Associates Degree,
without ever setting foot in a classroom. Although written for 'Adult
Learners' - the information can definitely be applied to motivated
high school students. There are guides for many of the tests that
can be taken for credit, as well as tips about preparing for and
taking the exams.

-- Cindy at HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"We are currently in our 8th year of homeschooling. We are tossing
around the idea of enrolling our 9th grader in an on-line school.
She wants more freedom to schedule her days and to be finished
with school more quickly than the usual four years. I would also like
for her to have a transcript and high school diploma - though I am
not convinced of the importance of these pieces of paper. What do
you think of on-line schools and the value of High School Diplomas?"
-- Gina

Our Readers' Responses

"It really depends on the student. Our 2 younger children (now in
10th & 12th) wanted the social interactions, dramas, volunteer
opportunities, etc., that being in a home school co-op offers. The
highschool class in our homeschool co-op offers a heavy prep load
in 8th, 9th, and 10th grades preparing them for dual enrolling at the
local community college for 11th & 12th. Our co-op has graduated
6 or 7 this way, getting their high school diplomas and their AA
degrees at the same time. Even at the community college, there
are lots of online courses offered so I can keep an eye on what they
are learning. My younger kids have taken several CLEP tests as
well, which gets them college credits and high school credits at the
same time. When they pass a CLEP test, I list it on their transcripts
as having taken an Honors Course in addition to the regular course.
Homeschool veterans and Conference Speakers, David and Laurie
Callihan, have a lot of helpful information about finishing high school
earlier using CLEP credits on their website: www.davidandlaurie.com

We enrolled our oldest son in North Star Academy back in 2001.
Nathan really loved the interaction with the other online students,
many of whom were from other countries. He took their full load of
courses, but did not graduate any earlier than any regular high school.
He was very self-motivated and loved getting up early to set his own
agenda. Their website is www.northstar-academy.org." -- Rhonda E.


"We are in our first year of homeschooling my 11 year old daughter.
We utilize an on-line school that uses the k12 curriculum. In addition,
my sister, a public school teacher, provided numerous books to us.

My daughter and I love the on-line school. She happily and quickly
finishes her school work. Although the school provides the subjects,
she also attends enrichment and PE classes. The school provides
a weekly study hall via the Internet. She has a teacher through the
school, also. Additionally, the teacher does a conference call every
other week. The school also has field trips and other social events.
They also provide the test prep and the state test. They provided
so much to us, I could not believe it. She has all materials to
complete each and every class. The support has also been amazing.

I would suggest that if you do sign her up for an on-line school, make
sure that she will be allowed to complete the course quickly. When
my daughter first started the school year, she spent a lot of time on
the subjects each day. She just loves to read and learn. As I
understood it, for funding reasons, the school wanted her to spend
only their estimated time to complete a lesson on each subject daily.
With her teacher's assistance, we were able to find a happy medium.
May God provide a clear answer to you!" -- Jill G.


"Be very cautious about on-line schools. Our family has never used
one, but several of our friends have, and they did not experience
more freedom in scheduling; on the contrary, they had far less
control of their time, and less control over establishing and achieving
their educational goals. Several people we know who shopped
around for on-line schools were promised support during their
inquiries, but after they enrolled, no support was actually available.
On-line schools defeat many of the advantages of home schooling.

Concerning diplomas: Regardless of where you get a diploma, it is
only as good as the transcript that backs it up. Anyone can print
a diploma, but a transcript showing what the student actually studied
is the documentation that supports the claim that a student has
finished her requirements. There are many resources available to
help you develop professional transcripts and portfolios. I like
Barbara Shelton's book Senior High: A Home-Designed Form-U-La.
There are also various software programs that will help you compile
a transcript on your computer. The one I've seen is from

I'm not aware of the motivation for your daughter to be in a hurry
to finish high school, but there are reasons to consider taking
longer than four years to complete high school studies. Allowing
an extra year takes much pressure off the student and the parents,
and allows time to study areas of special interest, to be involved
in community service, to pursue hobbies, and to start a business
or work at a job. If your daughter delays graduation a year or two,
she will have that much more maturity and will be likely to make
better decisions concerning what she wants to do after graduation."
-- Mary Beth A.


"We homeschooled our children, and as soon as they turned 14,
we ordered the high school course through ICS. Three of our five
children received their diplomas, the other two got their GED. My
oldest went to flight school and is currently flying leer jets with
people like Meg Ryan and Antonio Banderas. The youngest is
wanting to go to nursing school this fall. The three in the middle
are doing good on their own, married, children. I planned to do the
same with the 2 granddaughters we are raising, but now that we
are into lapbooking, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I'm having
way too much fun with the lapbooks, and the girls love them. We
will cross that road when we get there. But tokeep your daughter
going, I suggest a course like that, online or through the mail.
They will learn and they can get through by the time they are 16,
then they can be out in the workforce or going to college. My
children were happy with what they did." -- Jan in Missouri


"I use a curriculum called eTap for my middle school and high
school children. I have found it to be very effective and is well
worth the low fee. The only draw back is if you choose to print the
work -- it can be a real cost in printer ink. My children just sign
on to the website, read the material and the extra links provided,
then test over it. I print and keep the tests. It is also not
Christian-based material if that is important to you. If I feel like
a lesson needs more instruction, I will add to it myself. But it
seems very thorough and even condensed. My children are able
to complete their lessons in a timely fashion. The web address is:
http://www.etap.org. It has been my alternative to expensive
satellite schools." -- VM


"What is the value of a high school diploma? It may depend on
what your child wants to do next (after high school.) Many times
that child doesn't know what plans God has for her. Over the years
we have discovered several interesting things about having a high
school diploma. Our first daughter did nothing conventional -- her
entire schooling was bits and pieces of jobs, entrepreneurial efforts,
distant learning, etc. She was, at that time, the second home-
schooled student to be accepted at Focus on the Family's Institute.
They accepted a portfolio of her work -- so the high school diploma
was not as important.

Our second born daughter attended Patrick Henry College in Virginia.
She was in the inaugural class. Once again the high school diploma
was not as important, because Patrick Henry understands home-
schooling. (The majority of students come from a homeschooling

Our third born daughter took a 'gap' year, then was accepted to a
four year college who accepted our high school transcript without
any problem. Our fourth born son went to a two year junior college
on a golf scholarship. Since he had taken dual enrollment classes
as a high school senior, he had no problem being accepted by the
college. However, the Junior College Athletic association would not
recognize his diploma. He wound up having to take the GED in order
to be eligible to play golf and receive his scholarship.

Our fifth born, a daughter, has just been accepted to a state four year
college. The high school diploma was very important. Even though
the university had one person in their admissions department who
works with all the homeschooled applicants (We've come a long way,
folks. Admissions departments used to look at us homeschoolers
like we were a two-headed cat!) her high school diploma had to look
like everyone else's. We had to speak their language. With our sixth
child, who will be attending a four year college in two years, we are
already working on her transcript.

This has been a long answer to your question -- how important is a
highschool transcript? As you can see, its importance is in relation
to what lies ahead. Since we don't always know what that will be,
my suggestion is to go ahead and make sure that you have one --
that way you are prepared no matter what the future may bring.
Believe me, it is much easier to keep up with a transcript each year
than trying to go back and re-construct one! (Suggested resource:
Transcripts Made Easy by Janice Campbell -- everyday-education.com)"
-- JOM in Alabama


"I don't know if you're talking about an on-line virtual charter school,
but I am assuming you are. Although I can see how they may be
very appetizing, I also have my own personal concerns. This is a
public school even though it takes place in your home. This means
you give up your rights to choose how your child is educated, and
what you feel is appropriate at what times. This also may allow
more government regulation into your home life, as well as open
doors for more government regulation of home schooling in the future.
I personally would like to keep government regulation out of how I
educate my children as much as possible! Also, from what I've
heard from a mom who's been there and a home school evaluator
(in my state we must have our children evaluated annually), the
diploma, whether parent issued or not, is rarely an issue with
college admissions. High school truly is just an extension of what
you are already doing. I have a ninth grader, and debated some of
these same issues recently." -- Lori


"There are many different ways to homeschool, and an online
school is one of them. Many homeschool families have used
various online schools and done well with them. My only caution
is to make sure that the online school is NOT a public-school (i.e.,
government operated) virtual type of charter school, because those
enrolled in such schools are by most state laws not considered true
homeschoolers and generally lose the independence of making their
own choices as to curriculum, testing, and such like. There are
many good private online schools which still allow the parent to be
in control rather than the state. Yes, they are often much more
expensive, but if one is going to go this route, the cost is worth it
to maintain independence. As to the value of a high school diploma,
it all depends. There are many circumstances where it is helpful,
and a few in which it is perhaps even necessary, but many colleges
are now accepting homeschool diplomas and even just homeschool
transcripts. However, if an 'official' looking diploma is desired,
then I say go for it, but I could never compromise with the government
educational bureaucracy to obtain it." -- Wayne W. in Affton, MO


"While I don't have experience with an online school per se, my
oldest daughter did take online classes through the local community
college. She learned some valuable lessons on time management.
Maybe the most valuable thing she learned was that her learning at
home had been about her choices and her likes, etc. In the college
classes sometimes she had to learn stuff that really was just to pass
the class. She also learned how our college system works. She had
to learn to play some of their games. Those were lessons I was able
to help her through while she was in my home and she learned that
the world is not always such a nice place. She has in the last year
taken a few courses at the local community college. It is our plan
for her to go on to college next year.

I did her highschool transcript for the college she has applied to.
My thoughts were that not only could they see the scores she made
at home but that the college had a transcript for her too. We gave
her dual credit for the college classes. She got high school credit
from me and college credit from them. The college, which is a private,
Christian, liberal arts college, accepted my transcripts with NO
problems. She also had to take the ACT for entrance. I figured if my
transcript was questionable to them, since we are a homeschool, then
she has the college transcript and the ACT scores which show the
same basic results.

I will make her a high school diploma. I can get one free from our
State Homeschooling Association and I will probably get that too,
just to see what I like better. But, all in all, these are just pieces
of paper. It was really quite fun making her transcript. I had intended
to keep up with it on the computer when she started high school. I
am a procrastinator though. So we had written down all the info
about a month before she needed it to go the college. Then I typed
it all up the weekend before it was due." -- LaRessie


"My son was accepted into Iowa State University on the basis of
his ACT scores and the home made transcripts we submitted.
(The transcripts were very simple -- subjects and grades -- no credit
hours.) He received scholarships based on the subjects he took
and his ACT scores. He did take three academic courses at the
high school his senior year -- AP calculus and two college courses.
If you're concerned that an institution of higher learning may not
accept your word for her grades, you could have her take these kinds
of courses so that you have an outside source verifying her abilities.
I do know of other families whose students have been accepted into
a college or university based only on college entrance exam scores
and their homeschool transcripts." -- Donna

Answer our NEW Question

Advanced Math in Color?

"I am a homeschooling mom of an 12 year old girl. She is very
advanced in math, as she is currently using Teaching Textbooks
PreAlgebra, which is for 8th grade. We used colorful curricula for
math previously, because she is a very visual learner. However, as
we move into the more difficult/advanced maths, we are finding that
everything is just black and white. This Teaching Textbooks
curriculum has a black and white book, but the CD-Rom features
a 'colorful' lecture, but she is extremely bored (and annoyed) by
the voice of the lecturer. So, here's my question: Is there a math
out there that is COLORFUL in the upper math levels?" -- Cyndi


Do you have a resource to share with Cyndi?
Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!

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Tags: tips for teaching writing, homeschool writing skills, Homeschool Online Writing Co-op, Karen Lange, online homeschooling, CLEP tests, high school credits, Barb Shelton, high school planning, high school homeschool diploma, tips, support, advice

Next - High School the 3rd Time Around, Museum Units, 'Colorful' Advanced Math
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