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Holiday Stress, Cool Science Gift Ideas, What Makes an 'A'?

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, December 03, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 93 December 3, 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!
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Notes from Heather
-- Holiday Questions/Answers
Helpful Tips
-- Science/Nature Gift Ideas
Reader Question
-- How to Grade Subjects?
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Holiday Questions and Answers


Thanks to everyone who wrote in and answered the "Holiday

In this issue I'll share some of the answers I've received

A few families wrote in to let me know how many days they take
off from structured homeschooling -- and the concensus so far
is between approximately 2 and 3 weeks. Sounds great to me!

And how do we avoid stress during the holidays?


"I think it is important to allow time for enjoying holiday
traditions, and for us, those things take time that we can't
spend if we are also 'doing school' at the same time. One thing
that helps eliminate a lot of the stress that can be associated
with the holiday season is turning down some of the holiday acti-
vities which do little to make the holiday meaningful in my
opinion. Scaling back is one lesson I have had to learn and
relearn since we had our first child. Too many things on the
schedule make for cranky kids -- and adults -- and makes Christ-
mas less enjoyable. We have never done a huge amount of shopping,
not only because of our small budget, but because of our values.
Spending less time in the stores makes for a lot less stress in
my mind, and helps us keep within our budget, while focusing on
the meaning of the holiday." -- Jennifer


"We have a very relaxed schedule from Thanksgiving through Decem-
ber. We take breaks when we need, focus on any special activities
as they occur (play practice, caroling, trips, parties, etc.)
Many activities can be included as school work. Wherever we get
in our planned work, we pick up in January and dig in then. We
try to keep our focus on Jesus and the people we share our world
with... and just relax and enjoy each other." -- Cindy


"The Christmas season is a great time to utilize the unit study
approach to home schooling by blending math with measuring out
while making Christmas cookies, discussing the the birth of Jesus
in your Bible lesson, etc. I try and relax a little on the school
work and get in the holiday fun! By decorating during the Thanks-
giving weekend, a lot of the stress is taken away. I did some
shopping online and I go to the mall after 8pm during the week
when it is quiet. I make lists and plan ahead to shop for gifts
and food. I don't do all the cooking for most of the get-togethers
as it is shared and the planning is all done with group emailing.
Extra field trips, outings, family get-togethers are planned out
and get on the calendar, so I know what is coming and plan the
school work that needs to be done, because that is the priority."
-- Nona in Oregon


What specific unit studies have been mentioned as favorites?

Here are the most popular so far!

Symbols of Christmas by Karen Caroe (AKA "A Blessed Christmas")

Christmas Around the World - (various free or for purchase online)

Good Christian Men Rejoice by Karen Caroe

The Names of Jesus by Karen Caroe


You can also find "mini" Christmas units on various topics in the
EasyFunSchool Christmas index:

Next issue I'll include some of the lovely family traditions that
readers have enjoyed through the years!

-- Heather

PS... Hanukkah begins tomorrow night! For those who are cele-
brating the Festival of Lights, may each and every night of this
holiday bring a new miracle of love and joy in your home. :-)


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


Awesome Home School Notebook Planner
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This is a simple program which includes step-by-step
instructions and worksheets for both analyzing your time and
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notebooks for subjects that don't fit well into "regular"
school such as field trips, music lessons, service
opportunities and more.

One of its best features is that it doesn't take a semester
to learn, in fact you could download it today and be
implementing it tonight.



Helpful Tip

Science/Nature 'Game, Toy and Kit' Gift Suggestions!

Below are some of the gifts I have personally bought for my hus-
band and sons this year. A few of the more expensive games I am
still considering have been real hits with friends who highly
recommend them. Thought I'd share my whole list with you! My
husband is so excited about some of the cool science stuff, that
I'm wrapping it up for HIM! He always loved the 'drinking birds'
and always wanted a radiometer! I got my radiometer as a young
girl at the NASA store at Cape Kennedy/Canaveral in Florida and
I played with it for years. I can't wait to share all this cool
science stuff with my boys! :-)

I'll begin with the more expensive games, but don't miss the great
'$2.00 and under' stocking stuffers at the bottom! -- Heather


Science and Nature Board Games - $25 to $45

Polarity - Master the Forces Game - Magnetic action strategy!

Khet - The Deflection Laser Game - Strategy game with real lasers!

The Great North American Bird Watching Trivia Game

WildCraft Board Game - Learn all about edible and medicinal herbs!


Great Science Stuff - Under $12.00

Solar Radiometer - An introduction to thermodynamics - and so cool!

Illuminated 30X Pocket Microscope - This is a bargain! :-)


Under $8.00 -- Very affordable creative science play!

Solar Beads - Make a UV bracelet that goes from white to many colors.

The Famous Drinking Birds!


Under $5.00 -- Really Cool Stuff :-)

Hydrophobic Space Sand - this is the sand that can't get wet!

The Impossiball - Ever see a ball defy gravity? This one does!

The Water Rocket - a classic science toy!

Spy Glasses - Special lenses give you eyes in the back of your head!


Under $2.00 -- Great stocking stuffers!

Magnetic Viewing Paper - View the energy of actual magnetic fields!

Hand Blasters - Hear and see a combo friction and chemical reaction!


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

Last Issue's Reader Question

"My son is now in 9th grade. We've been considering using a diploma
'program', but at this time feel like we should continue what we've
been doing all along... homeschool our own way! Now that he's in
high school, that means we'll be needing to make up a transcript.

My question is grading. We've never given grades. Some courses
will be easy to grade, such as math, where he's using a specific
curriculum that includes tests. But how do folks give grades for
other courses, like English or art? My son spends 2 or more hours
a day writing, and about that many reading, which is lovely, but
does that mean he's an 'A' student? I don't think so - it just
means he enjoys doing those things!

Any help/suggestions on how to assign grades to those courses for
which a 'number' isn't so easy to come up with?" -- Lisa K. in PA

Our Readers' Responses

"I am also a PA home schooler doing high school. I think we are
the only state that even offers diploma 'programs'... or one of
very few. From what I've been hearing from moms that have gradu-
ated children, the diploma program is largely unecessary. The big
advantage is that it is an easy way to apply for state financial
aid. PHEAA (state financial aid in PA) requires a diploma from a
'program', a signature from your school district (not easy to get),
or a GED. As far as college admissions, good records and tran-
scripts are all that is needed. Also, a very helpful book for me
as far as grades and transcripts is 'Senior High: A Home-Designed
Formula' by Barbara Edtl Shelton. Sometimes grading (especially
in more subjective classes) is a matter of a job well done and a
great attitude. For instance, if my son has a good grip on the
information and has shown me he knows it, that's a pretty solid B.
The A may come from extra papers or projects. Barbara has lots of
good information on how to quantify those things that seem fuzzy.
There is so much I could write on this subject as it seems to be
the burning high-school question in our local home school support
group right now!" -- Lori in PA


"A goal in high school humanities classes should be to build a
good basis for further study, writing, and discussion of English,
History, and Politics/Government. The curriculum should include
lots of reading and instruction in writing, not just writing.
Mr. Robert Watson, www.smarrpublishers.com, has articles on his
website regarding writing and evaluation criteria. Check the link
under 'Rhetorical Correctness'. Also, Mr. Watson's 'Boring English'
is another great article. We used the Smarr Program for English
with my first son (now a freshman in college) and employed the
in-class essay ideas for History and Government exams. Son #2 is
now in high school and learning to write essays for history tests.
I really like the Smarr Program, although I've modified it to
include more reading and to exclude a few books. Mr. Watson is
somewhat eccentric and at one time used 'southern spelling'. We
have not always agreed with his philosophy, but have used that
disagreement to further our discussion and thinking skills.

I am also from Pennsylvania and did not use a diploma program. Your
evaluator usually sees your student once a year and would not be a
help in daily writing instruction or grading. To the best of my
knowledge, the diploma program doesn't have much or any contact
with your child. Most people and all colleges outside of Pennsyl-
vania don't even know what a diploma program is." -- Kathy M.


"Great question, Lisa! I've just begun my journey of teaching high
school, so I'm telling you what we're planning to do, not speaking
from experience. We believe that if a topic is important enough
to include in our program, it is important enough to master. So
we have only two grades: A and Incomplete. We start with an Incom-
plete, and continue working toward mastery as long as we need to.
Exceptions are those topics of which the children don't need full
mastery, but want to be able to discuss intelligently. Those sub-
jects are given a grade of I/E, which stands for Introductory Expo-
sure, indicating that they were given only a basic introduction to
the topic. They receive only one-quarter credit for I/E courses.
When I design their transcripts, I'm planning to put an explanation
of our grades at the bottom.

At the beginning of each unit, we try to make sure our daughter
knows what she is expected to accomplish. You're right -- English
is one of the hardest, because it's so subjective. I set goals.
For example, my daughter uses way too many passive sentences, so
one of the goals for her right now is that no more than 5% of
her sentences will be passive. Avoiding redundancy is another.

Time spent on a subject is irrelevant as far as grading is con-
cerned, but we do give additional credit units for more difficult
subjects, and for subjects which we feel will be more valuable
to them as adults.

You might also be interested in the grading system used by some
friends of ours: They outline the requirements for an A or B in
each course. (C and D are not options.) They must master the
concepts fairly well to earn a B; for an A they must do extra
projects such as a term paper, oral presentation to a group,
research project, or something like that. The children sign a
contract for the grade they wish to earn.

I would recommend that you continue homeschooling your own way. As
the saying goes, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it!'" -- Mary Beth

Answer our NEW Question

"I have son who is 12 years old and is a visual-spatial learner.
I am really thinking about implementing a living math method
instead of just using a textbook, which he usually finds boring.
I was wondering if anyone here approaches math in this way and
how do you do it? Could anyone give me a sample 'schedule' of
how they structure it? Would love to hear from anyone with some
advice in this area." -- Heather L.


Do you have some experience and/or suggestions to share?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

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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Check out our schedule of daily chats and jump right in! :-)


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Next - Holiday Traditions, Playing Board Games, Living Math!
Previous - First Grade Math Woes, More on Diplomas, Holiday Questions

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