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Learning Center Panic, Classical Astronomy, Spelling Lists

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, September 08, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 72 September 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
-- Learning Center Panic
Helpful Tip
-- Chore Sticks
Resource Review
-- Classical Astronomy
Reader Question
-- Spelling List Software
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Learning Center Panic
by Karen Lange

Learning Centers? What are Learning Centers? My mind raced, trying
to stay ahead of the conversation. It was 1987; my oldest son was
five and we were about to officially begin kindergarten at home.
My friend, an elementary education major, had asked me how I was
going to provide Learning Centers at home for my kids. Despite my
inner panic, I responded with something about having a wonderful
curriculum and artfully changed the subject.

My friend left, and I contemplated this Learning Center thing. I
didnt even know what Learning Centers were! How was it that Id
done extensive research on homeschooling, reading books, sending
for catalogs, and listening to radio programs and Id never heard
of Learning Centers? The books all said I could do this homeschool-
ing thing, but none mentioned anything about Learning Centers.
Okay, I thought, I can still do this. I just have to figure out
what Learning Centers are. I cant have my kids suffer from a
Learning Center deficiency.

A short time later when I learned what Learning Centers were, I
had to laugh. My friend made them sound like this big, mysterious
learning tool, only available at school and supervised by real
teachers. I considered the books, puzzles, flash cards, and project
materials that we already had. My whole house was a Learning Center!
Whew. I felt much better.

Dont feel bad if you dont know what a Learning Center is. I had
no clue what this "edu-term" meant, and I came from a family of
professional teachers (another story for another day). You could
define Learning Centers in various ways, but what I learned was
that it was an area that a student goes to and practices a skill,
a new concept, or reinforces facts with various tools such as
worksheets, manipulatives, games, or other learning aids.

With this mystery solved, Id pictured children herded to a special
area in the classroom where they used math wrap-ups, educational
puzzles, or phonics matching games. Well, I thought, our special
area is the kitchen table. We lived in a small house, and that was
where we did any formal schoolwork. Some might consider this a
handicap, but in our teeny kitchen, there was great potential for
learning. My son could not only sit at the table and play games or
review skills with me; he could watch his 3-year-old brother make
faces at himself in the shiny surface of the toaster on the counter
next to the table. So really, not only did he have hands on kinder-
garten lessons, he was experiencing preschool behavior first hand.
Surely, I mused, there is some family bonding benefit here not
found in the traditional Learning Center.

As time passed, I was overly conscious of things that I could do
that would provide this "not to be missed" opportunity that Learn-
ing Centers supposedly provided. If I wanted my son to practice
his phonics, for example, I took a manila folder and construction
paper and created a little matching game that he could do while I
was fixing lunch or putting the baby to bed. I made other simple
games, folders, and activities, and kept an eye out for educational
placemats and such. These things, I realized, could be fun and
interesting, and used in a snippet of time. I came across one of
Dinah Zike's books too, that had some great ideas for making your
own learning tools.

The bottom line, though, was that I discovered that I didnt need
all these fancy educational centers to be successful. Id already
equipped the house to be its own Learning Center with books, games,
puzzles, good videos, craft supplies, etc. I worked with my kids
daily, and had a good grasp of where they were in their learning.
Our official school time was greatly reduced compared to tradi-
tional school since we didnt have the crowd control issues, such
as waiting for all students to finish their work. Homework wasnt
even necessary. The kids got it all done during the day. What
rebels we were!

I was encouraged by an article I read in a homeschool magazine
that talked about equipping your home to energize kids creativity.
It suggested stocking up on simple items such as crayons, markers,
drawing and construction paper, scissors, glue, and other crafty
things. This not only encouraged creativity, but also helped kids
be independent and make their own fun, be productive, and avoid
boredom. Lincoln Logs, Legos, dress-up clothes, puzzles and games,
etc., were also suggested as good stimulators. Aha! I thought,
Im way ahead of the game; I already do this. Hooray!

Was I being arrogant? No. I was just encouraging myself in the
good things we were doing. We homeschool moms have a tendency to
see what were not getting done, what others are covering while
we seem to be lagging behind, or where we fall short in educating
our kids.

I encourage you to resist the temptation to cave into Learning
Center or any other kind of panic. Do your homework; keep yourself
focused and informed about whats available and best for your
homeschool. But dont stress. Focus on the positives as you move
forward and trust the Lord for wisdom for each decision. And keep
your toaster shiny.


Karen Lange and her husband Jeff homeschooled their three children
in grades K-12 while living in southern New Jersey. Now living with
her family near Louisville, KY, she is a freelance writer and the
creator of the Homeschool Online Writing Co-op for teens. Visit
her website at www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com or email her at


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


Learning Through History

Geography sale at Learning Through History's History Shop.
Rand McNally Schoolhouse Geography & Map Activities Books
and Atlases are a terrific new series designed to make
learning geography fun and memorable.

This series is available in Beginner (ages 6-9) and
Intermediate (ages 9-14)levels.

Learning Through History also stocks a large selection of
atlases and maps certain to increase a student's knowledge
of the world.

Take 10% off of all geography products through September 30th.
Use coupon "HN-Geography" at checkout.



Helpful Tip

Chore Sticks

"We write individual chores on tongue depressors.We have
Daily Chores, Weekly Chores and Monthly Chores.We place them
in separate containers and then Monday thru Friday our kids
choose a stick from each Daily and Weekly Chore container.On
Saturdays they choose a stick from each Daily and Monthly Chore
container.We don't do chores on Sundays.At the end of the
day, week or month the sticks are put back in the containers
and we begin over again.We don't include bedroom chores --
they are always expected to keep their rooms clean.

This has helped our family tremendously.We do not allow them
to put a chore back, but they are allowed to trade with other
siblings.The kids are excited each morning and even ask to
pick a chore stick!This also spreads out the many things that
never get done -- when was the last time you cleaned under the
sofa?Ours gets done monthly."

-- HomeschoolClassifieds.com member wisdom


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

Resource Review

Signs and Seasons - Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy
Author: Jay Ryan

For more info or to order:

For generation after generation, people have watched the signs
in the day and night skies.They have understood the rhythm,
patterns, orderliness, and beauty of God's creation.In our modern
world we use clocks and calendars to keep us on task, but in the
process we have lost a sense of wonder and awe about the universe.
In times past it was not just the well-educated, but even the
poorest were taught to observe the sun, moon, stars, and planets.
Thank you, Jay Ryan, for bringing us a fantastic tool for reclaim-
ing that knowledge. "Signs and Seasons" is a wonderful book to
explore together with our children.

Different from many astronomy texts, Mr. Ryan explores more than
stars and planets. He explores and explains Classical Astronomy,
which all can use and enjoy through our visual observations instead
of Modern Astronomy which depends on high tech equipment and
scientific research. He clearly explains the development of time-
keeping and calendar creation. Observing the movements of the sun,
moon, stars, planets and constellations, he heightens our awareness
of God's glorious design. One does not need any prior knowledge
of astronomy, nor do you need to have a telescope. Parents and
children can observe the skies and learn together in the evenings
and/or weekends.The hardcover book is beautifully laid out with
artful fonts, descriptive pictures/diagrams, a wonderful glossary,
and many scriptures and quotes from classical sources.The pictures
do a remarkable job depicting the spherical view ofthe sky.They
are excellent aids in understanding how the earth's rotation affects
our view.All field activities are in the back of the book, so the
book does not have a dry textbook feel.It could sit out on a
coffee table for everyone's enjoyment long after the lessons have

The field activities are quite varied, covering many areas of
classical astronomy.A family or student could keep a field journal
for recording the activities completed and any observations made.
As stated, a telescope is not needed or even recommended.Some
activities are very in-depth and may require parental assistance
to accomplish, particularly with 8 to 11 year olds.Older children
could work independently, although this subject will be intriguing
for adults to do with their child.

Mr. Ryan does an excellent job of handling the topic of astrology
and the zodiac.He explains that the false science of astrology
is "a thief that steals elements and terminology from the legiti-
mate study of the sky".He explains how the zodiac signs, as
Gods creation, are used to keep track of the seasons.

The study of Classical Astronomy is very practical and enjoyable;
with it will come a lifetime of understanding and delight as one
'reads' God's signs and seasons.I highly recommend this book -
not only will the entire family benefit from the acquired knowledge,
but it should instill a heightened awareness of God's design.
The heavens declare the glory of God!

-- Reviewed by Kelly and Tom Mamott
for www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

[A note from Cindy:This text is great for the whole family, but
older students can also use it to earn a High School credit in
Astronomy.To further facilitate this, the author has recently
published a 192 page softcover workbook for recording field observa-
tions.It also includes time sheets for the student to track hours
as they work toward their credit, tests, and an answer key.]

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I'm looking to either purchase or use a free interactive spelling
software that I can add my child's spelling words to.I would like
for them to be able to play games, do worksheets and other cool
things to help them with their spelling.I have tried Spelling City,
but the online program locks-up while my child is working in it all
the time.I also have a software package called Success Deluxe 2008;
it comes with a spelling DVD, but it's pretty boring and you have
to make your own spelling questions and put in answers.I just
don't have a lot of time for all this added work.Are there any
out there you can recommend?" -- Renee

Our Readers' Responses

"Renee -- This is not software, but it's pretty easy to use.
It's 'Apples' Daily Spelling Drills for Secondary Students.


There are 150 daily spelling drills.'Apples' presents one
spelling rule each week and covers many of the spelling rules.
It doesn't dwell on the exceptions to the rules.The worksheets
only take a few minutes each day to complete.We purchased
through a company called Timberdoodle." -- Noreen


"One of the things that my children love to do are crossword
puzzles and word searches.This site - www.armoredpenguin.com -
allows you to make them for free using your own list. They also
have a section with ready-to-go lists on things such as the
state names, state capitals, etc." -- Randi


"Dear Renee -- This year our family purchased the Spelling Power
program by Adams-Gordons, fourth edition, from CBD.


The program is based on just 15 minutes a day with each child
and covers the 5,000 most frequently used words. You can also add
words to it, if you so choose.It is good for ages 8 to adult.
This particular edition comes with a Spelling CD Digital Tutor
that will create worksheets for your list, play interactive games,
and reinforce the skills you need.It also includes a printable
CD-Rom with over 300 spelling games!My kids are begging to do
spelling now, and we are loving it!There are so many pluses to
this program it would be hard to name them all.I thought the
$65 price was very reasonable considering all you get, plus it
is the only purchase you will need until they graduate.One
curriculum covers all grades!" -- Melissa


"Calvert School had a spelling program (Calvert Mastery Series)
on CD for the middle school grades.It had neat activities and
games and my son really enjoyed it.This was a few years ago so
I am not sure if it has been redesigned.I also remember that we
found a spelling bee board game in the CBD catalog." -- Barbi

Answer our NEW Question

"Is anyone homeschooling their daughter with the idea that she will
not be going to college?I don't think my daughter is/will be
college material.However, I feel like being a keeper at home and
wife/mother is a noble calling.IF your daughter will not be going
to college, do you still have her take courses such as chemistry and
calculus?Are there courses that we could skip?We are in NC."
-- Elizabeth


Do you have some experience and/or wisdom to share with Elizabeth?

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!

Need Immediate Help?

Visit our Homeschool Encouragement Center!This is a live 24/7
'chat' area where you can talk live to our homeschool counselors
by typing in a box.When you get there, just introduce yourself
and let them know that Heather sent you!

This ultra-safe chat is supervised by experienced moms who are
there to serve and share their wisdom... or just offer a listening
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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