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Changing the Game Plan, Electronics Online, Simple Punctuation

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, March 21, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 23 March 21, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible. :-)


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Notes from Heather
-- Changing the Game Plan
Helpful Tip
-- Electronics Course Online
Winning Website
-- Punctuation Made Simple
Reader Question
-- Math Prep for ACT/SAT
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Today I'm featuring an excerpt from Barb Frank's new book!
It is "The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling",
due to be published in April. You might recognize the title,
as it was introduced as an e-book last year, but due to the
popularity she has expanded the content (doubling the size)
and is publishing it as a 'real' book you can hold in your
hands, highlight and dog-ear.

For a short time Barb is also offering a special pre-publica-
tion price with FREE shipping. (You can read all the details
at the link below the excerpt.)

I think you'll really glean a LOT from Barb's 20+ years as an
"imperfect" homeschool mom! :-)

-- Heather


Changing My Game Plan

Like many people, I began homeschooling by imitating the schools
of my youth. I bought a boxful of curriculum, divided it into
daily assignments, and taught my kids right out of those books.
And there wasn’t anything especially bad about that, except that
after the initial excitement wore off, my kids started to get
bored. Instead of being excited about doing school, they ranked
it right down there with making their beds and setting the table
-- something we have to do, so let's get it over with.

That was not in my game plan. I didn’t want them to be bored. I
was bored in school, and I still recalled how bad that felt. I
wanted my kids to enjoy school.

What I soon realized was that while they might have been bored
with school, my kids still loved learning. They enjoyed visiting
museums. My daughter read through stacks of books without my tel-
ling her to do so. And my son drew beautiful, detailed pictures
that were not assigned by me.

I even became bored by the assignments I was teaching the kids,
and it must have been around that time that I came up with the
idea of playing store. I labeled some items in our pantry (using
prices written on sticky notes), then dug up all the spare change
I could find.

I became the storekeeper, and the kids became the shoppers.
They'd choose an item from the pantry and pay me for it. Often
I had to make change for them. Soon they were buying more than
one item at a time and figuring out how much they owed me. Before
long, they started taking turns being the store-keeper. This
became a game they enjoyed for a long time, but I think I prob-
ably learned the most from that experience, because I saw that
homeschooling didn't have to be boring, like formal school was
for me as a child.

This success led me to become more creative with our homeschool-
ing. Since my first two children were only 18 months apart, they
studied most subjects together, and that made it easy to come up
with math games. Their favorite math game came about by necessity.
I was pregnant with our third child, and spending a lot of time
on the sofa. While beached there, I'd hold up a flash card, and
throw it to whichever child gave the correct answer first. The
child who collected the most cards won. Since the kids were very
competitive with each other, they soon learned their math facts
(which I'd been unsuccessfully trying to force into their heads
by using written timed drills, as advised by our curriculum).
This way was much easier and a lot more fun.

Making learning fun started to seep into other areas of our home-
schooling. I made a little game out of putting the books of the
Bible in order. I made small cards with the name of a book on
each, and then let the kids put them in order. This way they were
using their hands along with their minds, which is always a good
way to learn. Soon they could get those cards in order pretty
quickly, so they began timing themselves. Naturally, they began
comparing their best times, and that led to me making two sets of
cards so they could compete directly against each other. Before
long, they could quickly find any book of the Bible. And they'd
had a lot of fun getting to that point.

Such successes led me to loosen up in our homeschooling, and to
be open to using games and other activities. More importantly, I
soon came to see those things as at least equal in importance to
bookwork. I bought Cuisenaire rods for math, which worked so well
that I ended up giving up the formal math curriculum we'd been
using, and buying the Miquon Math series instead (you use rods
with them). Three of my kids eventually worked through Miquon
with the rods, and then went straight into Saxon 54 or 65 with
no difficulty.

I also used treasure hunts to teach them, first to follow direc-
tions (they were small then so I put pictures on the clues instead
of words), and later to read (I switched to clues in short senten-
ces). They begged me to do this all the time. There was no boredom
or sighing in this kind of school!

Of course, as they reached their teen years, our use of games
decreased, and they had to buckle down to more bookwork. I was
concerned that at some point they might have to go to school, and
I wanted to keep them at approximate grade level in case that
happened. Fortunately, it never did, but by high school, they had
regular bookwork and the games had run their course (other than
playing educational games like Rummy Roots or ElementO). But
while they were younger, we had lots of fun learning through play
and games, and I think I learned a lot from seeing that. Maybe
that's what it takes to get a formally schooled mom to let go of
that old training and accept that learning doesn't have to be bor-
ing for kids, and shouldn't be boring, either.

It's a good thing I learned that lesson too, because playing
games has become the backbone of Josh's homeschooling experience.
I've used games to teach him the alphabet, sight words and
numbers. He can't just sit and learn easily from formal school-
work. I've had to get creative when it comes to teaching him:
letting go of my over-dependence on bookwork with my older kids
prepared me for working with him.


Barbara Frank has four children, ages 15-24. "The Imperfect
Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling" is packed full of Mrs.
Frank's advice gleaned from over 20 years of homeschooling her
children, including one who has Down syndrome. Learn more about
this book at:


Copyright 2008 Cardamom Publishers/Barbara Frank


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



Helpful Tip

Snap Circuits Electronics Course Online!

From a Reader:

"My son, age 11, has had a terrific year learning about elec-
tronics in a fun, hands-on method. The program is 'Quick Study
Labs' and it is specifically designed for homeschool children.
Here is a quote from the website:

'Parents of Homeschool Kids -- Difficult to get your home or
church school students excited about math, science,and physics?
I would love to change all that! My name is Joel Phillips and
I have been teaching electronics to Mobile and Baldwin County,
Alabama kids and adults for over 17 years. I am currently the
head of the Electronics Engineering Technology Department at
Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Alabama. By teaching
these classes, I hope to spark some interest in choosing Elec-
tronics Engineering Technology as a career. Electronics Techno-
logy is one of the fastest growing career opportunities available.'

The first year program uses a snap circuit electronics kit which
can be found at Radio Shack. Log on to his website for much
more information.


-- Kathy in California


[NOTE -- Here is the link to see the Snap Circuits set:

If you are thinking about buying a set, you can use the follow-
ing coupon code for FREE shipping -- "MCSciEdge" -- Heather]


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

Winning Website

Punctuation Made Simple

This easy-to-navigate site explains in surprisingly simple terms
the rules for when to use the "trickier" punctuation marks: colon,
semi-colon, comma, dash and apostrophe. An older student can read
the site on their own, or mom might want to present the material
as a lesson and make up some sample sentences for practice.

-- Cindy Prechtel, www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com


Cindy's website is a great place to browse through reviews of
curriculum resources, read helpful articles about homeschooling,
and learn all about the books she has authored!

Check out her Bible and Character Building resources on this page:


Last Issue's Reader Question

"My daughter is getting into higher math and I am looking for
some advice as to how to proceed. Right now she is in 7th grade
and doing pre-algebra. Though she is doing well, (she works
independently and rarely needs anything explained to her) math
is her least favorite subject.

My question is two fold. In what order would you recommend her
learning the various courses in math? Also, I am wondering if
it would be wiser to work slowly through the math so that it is
still fresh in her mind when it comes time to take ACT's/SAT's
-- or just get it over with so she can focus on the subjects
she enjoys more." -- Sandy

Our Readers' Responses

"Hi, Sandy. A lot is determined by the curriculum you are using.
I use Saxon as it is the most traditional approach. I recommend
Level 8/7, Algebra 1/2, Algebra 1, then Algebra 2. This
encompasses the algebra and geometry required for the first three
years of high school. Abeka uses a similar approach, however I
have never used it. I have learned that it is so important to
keep the children doing a little math daily during the summer.
They do tend to forget.

I am the mother of seven children 3 of whom are in high school.
It is definitely nerve-wracking with high schoolers and wondering
if we are doing the right thing. Good luck!" -- Becky


"You did not specify what math curriculum you are using. Saxon
is an excellent curriculum, and would allow your daughter to
progress precisely as needed for the SAT/ACT testing. Another
idea is to have her take online or on-site courses at your local
community college." -- Kathy in CA


"I'm just a year behind you and had some of the same questions.
Another homeschool mom with experience in this area pointed me
to Teaching Textbooks for math -- www.teachingtextbooks.com .
They have some short video clips to watch and great samples to
view on their website. They cover 5th - 7th grade math, pre-
Algebra, Algebra I and II, Geometry and Calculus at this time.
If your daughter is an independent learner this may be great
for her, and it might help her enjoy math a little more.

On the website the FAQs page explains that most all of their
problem sets in the geometry book were modeled after the SAT
and ACT test problems. The writers are two brothers, one a
Harvard grad and the other a former Harvard math tutor, so that
gives me confidence in their math knowledge. As for what math
courses she should take, I am of the opinion that no matter
what a student's future plans are for college/career they
should get as much exposure in all areas of math as possible.
It definitely won't hurt them to have learned all of that math
if they don't choose a college major that would require it."
-- Missy

Answer our NEW Question

"I currently am homeschooling my daughter through the local
school district. She is in Kindergarten, though she tested in
1st grade for most subjects. We use their curriculum, and we
meet with a teacher once a month to discuss our progress. The
problem is, she is bored with their work, and I am having to
supplement heavily just to keep her interested and learning!
I am doing so much outside research and finding so many mater-
ials for her, I almost feel like why am I bothering with the
school anymore?

The problem is, my husband is worried about me going solo. He
doesn't trust that I can make sure she covers what she needs to
cover without the oversight of the teacher. I just can't even
figure out an approach to start the discussion with him, because
I am so close to the subject, that I can't seem to be objective.
I make it a point to show him what we did that was 'school' and
what we did that was what we wanted to do -- outside studies,
and he can see how much I do. Can anyone recommend an approach
or a resource that I can show him that we are and can continue
to meet her educational needs, without the need for the school?"
-- Beckie


Do you have any words of wisdom and/or resources for Beckie?
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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