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Daddy/Daughter Dates, Gap Concerns, Biology in Motion

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, April 20, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 31 April 20, 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!




Notes from Heather
-- Good Advice Given
Helpful Tips
-- Daddy Daughter Dates
Winning Website
-- Biology in Motion
Reader Question
-- Concerned about Gaps
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

This week a question was asked on our HomeschoolingBOYS.com email
group and I thought one of the answers given was particularly full
of insight and wisdom. The member who posted the question was at
her wit's end with her dear son, 14 years old. He had displayed
behavior to her that made him appear both lazy and dishonest in his
school work. She was concerned he was spending too much time with
electronic games and she was just truly very beside herself with
frustration. Several of the replies were very good, but mostly the
type of advice you would normally expect. This one reply, however,
really jumped out and GRABBED me. I thought it might have the same
impact on some of my readers, so I'm sharing it here! -- Heather


"When my 13 year old gets like that, one of 2 things normally helps
-- best when both are used together! 1. Taking it easier with
academics and 2. Giving him more concentrated attention. I have
found that he only gets that stubborn, rebellious attitude about
schoolwork when he starts feeling that I care more about the work
than I do about him. I fall into that trap easily, because I don't
think of it as two separate things -- I care about his schoolwork
*because* I care about him. Unfortunately, he does not perceive
it in the same way!

I also sometimes forget that school is not *attention* in his eyes.
Sometimes I feel that I have been busy with the boys the WHOLE day,
so surely they can't complain about not receiving enough attention.
But for each of them (and especially for my 13 year old), the atten-
tion they get with schoolwork just doesn't count! I have started
reading to them at night, before bedtime, to make sure I get in
some school-free time with him. I try to remember to take some
time during the day also, but sometimes I get soooo busy and I just
rush up and down like a crazy person the whole day! It helps to
have a specific time set aside to do something special with him.

Lastly, it has helped me enormously to get to the point where I
could say, 'It's just academics!' It has to be done, but in the
great scheme of things it's much less important than we make it
out to be. It's definitely not worth sacrificing anything important
(such as my relationship with my sons) for. It's so easy to catch
up with school work, but much harder to heal a broken relationship."

-- Elmarie, member HomeschoolingBOYS.com email encouragement group


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Homeschooling Girls - Dad and Daughter Dates

"We have five daughters (and one son). My poor husband who never
had any sisters was totally outnumbered. He taught on his day off
and used to say he had a good day if he didn't make anyone cry! :-)

With the encouragement of our pastor and his wife, my husband started
taking each daughter on a 'date'. They got to choose what they did
and where they went (within reason!). This was special, but once the
girls hit high school they were always a little 'down' because we
didn't allow them to go to prom or homecoming dances with friends
who did go to public or private schools.

One day I pointed out to my husband how much money we had saved over
the years not having to buy prom and homecoming dresses. He decided
that he would ask each daughter out on a really special date as they
got older. He told them to buy a formal dress of their choosing.
He had a tux and wore it, and took them to a very fancy restaurant.

The time got away from us with our oldest daughter, and her special
date came about six months before her wedding. At the restaurant,
the waiter asked if it was a special occasion. My husband responded
that it was his last date with his daughter before she got married.
Later that evening in the restroom, a lady who had been seated at
the table next to theirs commented to my daughter, 'I couldn't help
overhearing, but that's the sweetest thing I've ever heard.'

(P.S... He took our son on special outings as well!)"

-- Joanne M.


Would you like to talk more about this with other parents of girls?
You can join our Homeschooling Girls email group here:



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

Winning Website

Biology in Motion -- http://biologyinmotion.com

Interactive tutorials and activities to help explain various concepts
related to the human body. NOTE: there is one interactive evolution
activity, which some will not want to use. However, the rest of the
material is presented in an entertaining way that helps to understand
what can be some very difficult concepts. I especially like the
interactive activity that allows students to reinforce their knowledge
of biology terms.

-- Cindy, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"Help! Can anyone recommend a good but inexpensive curriculum I can
work from? I homeschool 4 children ages 6, 9, 11 & 13. After talking
to some of my friends whose children go to school, I'm worried that I
may be missing some things they may need to know. I worry that they
may be falling behind. It would even help if I just had guidelines
to go by. Currently I don't use a curriculum." -- Alisa in Michigan

Our Readers' Responses

[Once again we had so many great responses that I couldn't fit them
all in one newsletter! Instead of trying to pick and choose answers,
I've placed about half of them -- in the order received -- in this
issue. The rest will be published in Monday's issue instead of
introducing a new question. Thanks to all who responded! -- Heather]


"After 20 years of homeschooling, my baby will be in college this fall,
and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. You can request a 'scope
and sequence' from many different publishers, but if you lined them
all up, you'd notice a lot of differences in what years they teach
which subjects. One of the best general guidelines I've ever seen is
in Ruth Beechick's book, 'You Can Teach Your Child Successfully'. It
covers grades 4-8 but can easily be adapted for younger grades. You
can buy a used copy or borrow it from the library." -- Rhonda


"Keep doing what you're doing, Alisa. Please don't compare your
children to school children. School standards are not your standards.
If your children need to know something, it will quickly become
apparent to you, and you can teach it to them. In fact, they might
even perceive the need to know before you do, and research it on their
own, or ask you to help them learn it. If your children are pursuing
their interests, cultivating their gifts, and progressing at their own
pace, they aren't behind. If two cars are heading for different
destinations, traveling on different routes, and getting steadily
closer to where they want to go, we couldn't say one or the other is
'behind'. Likewise, we have different goals for our children, and the
paths they take look very different from the paths of traditionally
schooled children. But that doesn't mean they're behind. It simply
proves that they are pursuing a custom-made educational program
uniquely designed for them.

If you want to double-check your approach, reexamine your goals for
each of your children and make sure the things you are doing are
leading them toward those goals. You should do this periodically
anyway. As your children grow and mature, their needs will change,
and your teaching methods will be adjusted to those changing needs.
But using a traditional curriculum would be like turning their educa-
tion over to a publisher who doesn't even know your child. Establish
your own guidelines based on your family's standards." -- Mary Beth A.


"Rather than looking for a certain curriculum let me recommend using
a scope and sequence book. We all get nervous about whether we are
falling behind or missing things. Over the years (I'm getting ready
to graduate my first), I found two things which helped. First is the
use of a scope and sequence, which is nothing more than a list or
book which shows what kids typically are taught in each subject in
each grade. My two favorites are Diane Lopez's 'Teaching Children'
and E.D. Hirsch's 'What Your Child Needs to Know in (blank) Grade'.
'Living is Learning' is also a good one especially for families
focusing on life skills as well as traditional academic subjects.

Lopez's book is nice in that it truly is a series of lists. At the
beginning of a school year and then usually around January, I would
simply go through it (for my child's grade) and put check marks
beside the things I knew he knew and mentally note the things we
hadn't covered yet that I felt he was ready for next. I was always
surprised at how many things we *had* already covered! Do not be a
slave to the lists however; they are only a tool. If your child is
2nd grade and you know she is not ready for something on the 2nd
grade list, still use your best judgment and just wait on it. It
will still be on the list at a later time for you to refer back to.
The lists do take the guess work and worry out of doing school.

Hirsch's books are not true scope and sequence books, but they are
designed with the intent of 'here's what a well educated child
should be exposed to'. We use them as read-alouds and simply check
mark the table of contents when we have read a section. Since they
are more topical and narrative, they also provide good spin-off
points for going deeper when something we read sparks our interest
(another time saver!).

Finally, my husband encouraged my early on to do a summary at the
end of each year. This sounds daunting, but really isn't,
especially once you get a routine and format going for it. I keep
a small spiral notebook where each school day I note the date and
what we do -- just a few notes, the books we read or work from,
projects, trips, websites, etc. I don't include page numbers or
specific topics, just the simplest notes. At the end of the year
I go through it and summarize. I list the books we used (whether
partially or completely) by subject area, as well as list life
skills, lessons, field trips, and projects. I don't do evaluative
notes or anything else -- just a list. I was truly amazed at how
much we 'covered' in each year, how much I'd forgotten, and how
relieved I felt! I highly recommend it (or something similar),
but keep it simple, simple, simple.

These two tools helped me keep the homeschool strength of flexibil-
ity while also giving me some guidance (and lots of reassurance)
as to 'what to do' from year to year." -- Babette in Colorado


"Try www.schoolspecialtypublishing.com, especially their Spectrum
Series. Lots of Workbooks for under $10. I thought they would be
incomplete because they are shorter than textbooks, but they
covered everything and were quick and easy to use." -- Sandy


"I have two homeschool graduates, a senior, and a junior; four
homeschooled kids in all. My oldest has just been accepted into
the Air Force on a homeschool diploma. My next oldest has just
been accepted to Moody on the same type of diploma.

It is easy to find the 'what they need to know in which grade'
stuff on a search engine, and you will see that it varies. The
things that drive those details are the tests the person will be
taking. When in third grade, my oldest son went to the school
for his legally required testing (PA). I was worried, because
his 'curriculum' at that point was interest-driven. He wanted to
learn how to program the little Texas Instruments 99-4A computer
we had, so we found a 'kid's guide to basic programming'. He
wanted to make paper airplanes, so I bought a book on how to make
them. I figured he was reading for content and comprehension

We had a print-rich home, with daily papers, regular library use,
and daily read-alouds at that time. Both parents read; my hus-
band tends only to read the Bible, the newspaper, and non-fiction;
I add fiction to that list because that's my preferred entertain-
ment. We had lots of maps on the walls, played lots of games
with math, and may have had started 'Math-U-See' by then. That
was IT at my oldest's third grade testing, and being new at the
game, we did it at the school for two days.

His HIGHEST score was in social studies -- something we didn't
'teach'. His LOWEST was well above average. He told me, 'Mom,
all you have to do is know how to read. If you can read it,
you can figure it out.'

I did not use a curriculum to teach reading -- other than Ruth
Beechick's excellent advice in her books. Each of my four
students learned differently, so I saw myself as 'facilitator'
rather than 'teacher'. I answered their questions, encouraging
their explorations. I think writing was important -- to have
standards so that communication could be effective (another
skill), and I'm not sure I did as well there since penmanship
isn't my boys' forte.

Mathematics does need a curriculum because it builds on past
knowledge. Each math curriculum varies slightly and you have
to decide what works best for your family. We have used
Math-U-See, Saxon, Teaching Textbooks, and assorted workbooks.
I am NOT a mathematician, so I really needed the help of a
curriculum. Right now, we are using the Teaching Textbooks for
Algebra II and it is wonderful for us. My kids, by the way, are
far better at math than I have ever been. Skill in numbers is
essential, particularly if a dollar sign is involved.

In the high school years, a curriculum in a subject makes it
easier to figure a credit and harder to be flexible. There are
many excellent articles about homeschooling in high school and
reading them will give you more confidence in talking to critics.

If you are not daily praying for wisdom, I'd suggest it heartily.
Wisdom is far more important than knowledge. Wisdom is the
foundation of a house; knowledge is the stuff you cram in the
rooms. It can help, or it can get in the way. The facts will
change (Pluto being kicked off the planet list is one recent

Skills will be valuable forever because if you know how to teach
yourself you can always figure it out. If you are enabling your
kids to learn skills, they will be prepared. If all they know
are facts, they will be outdated as soon as new facts arise.
I'm not saying facts are irrelevant, I'm saying that skills give
facts context and usefulness.

SO, in summary, if you can name the skills your kids are learning,
you can explain your homeschool philosophy more effectively.
Your kids do not need to know most facts in the order that the
schools do because they are not tested to the books the schools
use. The schools are becoming more standardized as testing is
standardized and huge fields of knowledge are ignored for lack
of class time. If your kids want to do some placement tests to
reassure themselves, there are free or inexpensive tests available
they could do for fun -- but you need to know how to explain
testing to them so that they do not put higher value on the scores
than deserved. Tests are indeed limited! I like the WRAT best,
because it is more like a yardstick measuring skill than a
multiple-choice assessment of facts retained. Compare the scope-
and-sequence of several sources, and ask the school for their
'objectives' in the grade levels of your kids. Note how small the
percentages are for who learns how much of the material! I had
thought that 100% of the class was to learn 100% of the material
when I first started homeschooling and was amazed to see that I
was wrong, relieved to know that teachers understand limitations,
and glad that we were doing what was best for our family in
schooling them at home." -- Nicki Jacoby


"Here are some free guidelines: The World Book Encyclopedia
website has these Scope and Sequence guidelines for all academic
subjects, grades K-12. Here is the link for Grade 7, and the
links for other grades can be found on this page also:


There are many other wonderful free resources online also. I'd
recommend starting with http://amblesideonline.org/ , especially
for ideas on good reading material and sources for online books.

With four children, it would really help if you can group your
children together for several subjects. Require more of the older
ones, but the younger ones can learn, too.

Using either of the above approaches, you can put together lessons
using books you find at the library. You could even use thrift
stores as a source of books. Find out if your local homeschool
support groups offer any used curriculum sales at the end of each
school year, because often you can pick up some real bargains there.
You can read some great curriculum reviews (free!) at
www.homeschoolchristian.com and at The Old Schoolhouse magazine's
website. Even a 'bargain' price is too high if you don't use the

I would also recommend Donna Young's website: www.donnayoung.org.
She has many ideas and forms available for free there which are a
great aid to organizing your homeschool subjects, lessons, and
even housework.

To encourage you, I'd mention that many great homeschool resources
available to us now were born out of a homeschool parent's necessity
to provide something a little different for his/her children when
they were on a limited budget. You, too, could come up with some-
thing creative, and maybe be able to share it later with others."
-- Cathy


"I use a free curriculum from www.amblesideoniline.org. Most of the
books can be found at your local library. In addition, I highly
suggest www.classicalconversations.com. You can have your child
tutored once a week (if you have a program in your town) or just buy
the Foundations manual and teach them yourself at home. You will
also want the audio CDs as it helps with the memory work. These are
not expensive materials and can be used for each child at the same
time. The material is broken out week-by-week so it is very easy to
use. My 5 year old son learned how to read by watching Leap Frog
DVDs but I have heard a lot of good things about 100 Easy Lessons,
also. At www.donnayoung.org there are free print outs for it and
many other subjects. For math I have used lots of free website
printouts and workbooks from Wal-Mart." -- Kris in FL


"If your children were in public school, they would certainly be
missing things in the curriculum. My dear son was interested in
science, but the only science taught (5 years in a row!) was about
batteries. Why? Because the teachers did not coordinate their
efforts and lacked hands-on activities in other science areas. More-
over, many students in public schools get no music past kindergarten,
and no art instruction other than coloring. It takes special effort
after school -- and a lot of parental outlay of cash -- for talented
art and music students to obtain the instruction that they want.
Many get the bare minimum sports and phys ed, while others (with
natural talent) are pressured to go light in academics while
focusing on sports.

Don't worry about your kids missing something important! If you
follow their interests, they will get what they individually NEED.
No two children are alike and neither should their education be
perfectly alike. Their maturation rates vary, too. May I suggest
using the Charlotte Mason method? It involves reading aloud to the
children, personal observation of the community around them
(especially the natural world), notebooking, and copywork (think of
it as a combo of penmanship and great quotations). Of course,
setting up your home as a great place to learn is also part of it.
Educational games and toys, time in the kitchen, personal and family
chores, all contribute to a well-rounded individual. Teaching them
how to patiently interact with one another and how to speak kindly
to people outside of the family are also vital (and something that
public schools are unable to duplicate!)

Enjoy your family. They are young for such a short while!"

Answer our NEW Question

[We're postponing our new question until Monday's issue!]


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Tags: dads and daughters, daddy dates, biology curriculum, classical conversations, cheap inexpensive curriculum, Ruth Beechick, scope and sequence, Diane Lopez, homeschool military, math-u-see, teaching textbooks, Ambleside, Donna Young

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