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My Game Plan, Robot Building, Vocational Training

By Heather Idoni

Added Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 63 August 8, 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!




Guest Article
-- Changing My Game Plan
Helpful Tip
-- Hands-On Robot Building
Winning Website
-- Homeschool Share
Reader Question
-- Vocation Training Tools
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Changing My Game Plan
By Barbara Frank

(Excerpted from 'The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling'
by Barbara Frank, published by Cardamom Publishers, April 2008.)


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 telling 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

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 probably 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 homeschooling.
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
sentences). 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 boring 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 schoolwork. 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.

Copyright 2008 Barbara Frank/Cardamom Publishers


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. "The Imperfect
Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling" is now available at
Amazon.com, BN.com, Rainbow Resource Center, CBD and other fine
booksellers. Learn more about this book at:

Use the link below and The Homeschooler's Notebook receives
12% of the sale from CBD!



Personal note from Heather:

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me these past months.
I need to ask for your prayers again as I face the imminent passing
of my father from cancer. It will not be long now and I'm hardly
recovered from the grief of losing my baby. God is holding me up
through all of this, but 2008 has been very tough! I receive your
love and cyber (((((hugs))))) with great joy. Please pray that my
sweet father can go home to the Lord with the least bit of discomfort.
He is struggling to breathe and I don't want to see him suffering.

Thank you for your love and tender care -- you are family to me!!



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



Helpful Tip

"I want to recommend the best hands-on science project that my
kids have been involved with -- building a robot. Last year,
we got a group together and competed in the BEST, Inc. robotics
challenge. What a roller coaster! Your team is given a box
of parts and a mission, and you have 6 weeks to build a robot
that can complete the challenge (usually picking up something,
moving it somewhere else, and unloading it), learn to drive it,
create an oral presentation about why your robot is the best,
build a display to show your team's efforts, and write an
engineering notebook documenting the process. An imaginary
storyline provides the context for the mission and your team
is a 'company' trying to sell your robot. Talk about a cross-
curriculum learning project. It culminates in a tournament
day competition as loud and exciting as any sporting event.

BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) provides all
the robot materials free of charge to participating teams. You
are encouraged to find mentors in the community who can help
teach the kids to brainstorm and use the tools to build the
robot. Some training is also provided. Although originally
designed for public school teams, the competition is very home
school friendly, and many home school teams compete successfully.

Look at www.bestinc.org for more information. The link for maps
and locations will show you the nearest hub to where you live.
Because the program originated in Texas, the hubs are concen-
trated mostly in the South, but they're scattered across the
country as far as Connecticut and North Dakota. Full information
is provided for starting your own HUB (a bit more complicated
than simply joining a hub).

Feel free to contact our local team -- www.wfmars.com -- if you
have any questions." -- Jean Hall, www.makingthisup.wordpress.com


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

Winning Website

Homeschool Share - www.homeschoolshare.com

Because many minds make light work, the creators of Homeschool
Share invite moms to share free, quality unit studies for others
to use. The list of units and notebook/lap book projects is
pretty impressive. Most of the units are based on literature
titles, organized by grade level. There are also a good number
of topical unit studies, many of which utilize notebooking
techniques. In addition to providing lists of units by grade
levels, users of Five in a Row, Sonlight and other literature-
based curriculums will love having a list of the available units
that correspond with their curriculum.

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

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I homeschool my four grandchildren. My grandson, the oldest,
is entering high school. He doesn't enjoy, or excel at, reading
much, especially fiction, or writing. He's already working with
his father, when possible, and is planning to continue in that
direction as soon as he can finish his schooling, which I'm hoping
will include technical college. I'm planning on allowing him to
tailor some of his schooling around his vocation choice, which is
construction contractor. He's a very kinetic learner and has his
father, grandfather, and great-grandfather teaching him the
hands-on stuff. I'm looking for books on various topics like
business writing, auto mechanics, building anything, reading
blueprints, etc., but it's hard to find books at his level. Does
anyone have resources to explore or suggestions? Thanks for your
help." -- Karen

Our Readers' Responses

"For a 1/2 geometry credit, we used 'Blueprint for Geometry' with
my son. My husband is a general contractor, so this was apropos
for our family. One day, my son was in the street in front of our
house drawing a blueprint of a bathroom with chalk (our driveway
has too many cracks). My husband came home and scolded us for
not being inside 'doing school'. Was he ever surprised to find
his son was learning the building codes for electrical outlets,
doors, windows, etc."

-- Cindy Powers


"Try Christian Light Publications. They have some great high
school elective courses dealing with automotive mechanics, elec-
tricity, plumbing, woodworking/carpentry, as well as home economics,
computers, etc. They use textbooks written by professionals and
then use paces (or Light units as they call them) for evaluation.
These are great for the non-academics students you have that are
interested in a vocation rather than college." -- Bobbi in NC


"Franklin Springs has a video on carpentry called 'Measure Twice,
Cut Once'. Available from www.franklinsprings.com

You might also look for some of the Reader's Digest books on basic
skills. Boy Scouts have books on all kinds of manly skills.
Keepers of the Faith -- www.keepersofthefaith.com -- has a book
on small engine repair, and you might like some of their other
resources as well." -- Mary Beth


"My suggestion to Karen would be to check out www.HomesOfOurOwn.org
to order a free copy of their CD-Rom. I received it and plan to
use it this year with my 16 year old son who sounds much like her
grandson. My son has been working his own little property main-
tenance business for a couple of years and plans to go to trade
school to become a certified heavy equipment operator. He hates
to read and is also very kinesthetic. The only true school time
he enjoys is done on the computer, so I was thrilled to find this
program. It does teach business writing and reading blueprints.
The student also learns about choosing a location and applying for
permits, grading and site prep, creating a floor plan and calcula-
ting costs, choosing styles for the home, writing and running ads,
selecting a buyer and checking credit, and receiving offers and
selling the home. It is really very comprehensive.

Of note, too, other than formal Bible in the morning, my son will
be spending his last two years of high school doing a typing
program on the computer, the 'Building Homes of Our Own' program
I've explained above, and a GED prep computer course. His senior
year we will take a look at some small business administration
classes through our local community college.

My oldest son is beginning his second year at a private university,
where he attends courtesy of scholarships, and he did earn a
diploma from me. His high school years were spent focusing on
advanced math, advanced science, foreign language, and community
volunteerism and leadership opportunities. However, my second
son's goals are different, and I'm adjusting our home education
high school course appropriately. I've noticed with my boys that
it is very important to not allow other people's opinions to make
one son feel that his choices are somehow inferior to the other's.
Your grandson is so fortunate to have the support of his entire
family." -- Lisa H., Oregon


"I don't know what reading level your grandson is on but I have
found the books written for boy scouts cover many of the areas
you mentioned. These are short inexpensive books that boy scouts
follow in order to get their badges, you do not have to be a boy
scout to use them. They can be found at local hobby shops or
through the boy scout counsel. Also don't forget to ask at your
local library; they can be very helpful." -- Laurie


"Karen -- One fantastic resource is 'A Blueprint for Geometry'
(Dale Seymour Publications). It does exactly what it says:
teaches geometry by using blueprints. My husband is a carpenter.
He used it with our oldest daughter and they enjoyed it. You can
also check out Christian Light Publications. They are a wonderful
Mennonite company in Harrisonburg, VA, and I believe they have a
course on carpentry. Haven't used it, but venture to say I will
pretty soon with my youngest. God bless you for your love for
your grandchildren!" -- Noreen

Answer our NEW Question

"We have 4 boys (15, 13, 4, 2). The older two are in public
school, but we are planning on homeschooling the younger ones.
The 4 year old has been talking about 'going' to school for about
a year. He sees his older brothers going, the school bus, the
school building (the playground!), etc. The library is full of
books about the first day of school for public schooling. Does
anyone know of a book about being homeschooled for a child his
age? Is there such a thing?" -- Lacey


Do you have a resource to suggest for Lacey... or just some thoughts?

Please send your email 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!

Need Immediate Help?

Visit our Homeschool Encouragement Center! This is a live 24/7
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and let them know that Heather sent you!

This ultra-safe chat is supervised by experienced moms who are
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ear and encouragement.


[Note: This ministry is especially for Christian parents, but
all are welcome. Email Luanne@educationforthesoul.com if you
have any technical difficulties.]

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