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Schooling with Cancer, Thesaurus Challenge, New Video Site

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, September 19, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 75 September 19, 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!



Notes from Heather
-- Video Site and Feedback
Helpful Tip
-- Thesaurus Challenge!
Winning Website
-- Vocabulary Coach
Reader Question
-- Homeschooling with Cancer
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

New Homeschool Video Site - HomeschoolViewTube


Similar to YouTube, but all for homeschool families!

Check it out:


The "founding family" has done a good job getting the beta
version rolling and welcomes other families to post videos.

Here is one where they "show and tell" about the varieties of
laying hens their family keeps:


Looks like a promising venture! :-)


More Reader Feedback on Rosetta Stone


"Alise and Barbi did not have success with Rosetta Stone, but my
son has. Perhaps it comes down to learning style? My son (15)
got comprehension very easily from the program, and goes around
making up sentences in Spanish throughout the day. It may be that,
like so many other curricula out there, you have to find, some-
times by trial and error unfortunately, what works best with your
student's learning style. We love Rosetta Stone!" -- Lisa in PA


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



Helpful Tip

New Vocabulary Words Challenge II - An Added Twist!


"My two older boys, who devour books but hate to write, loved the
idea of the 'New Vocabulary Words Challenge' as outlined in your
September 5th newsletter. They have been busily writing down
words they don't understand and then looking up their meanings
in the dictionary, working toward their prizes.

I happened to notice my thesaurus one day, and thought about how
my boys could learn how to use this resource as well. I suddenly
remembered a silly song my husband and I learned at a wedding
reception many years ago. The song is based on 'Row, row, row
your boat'. It goes:

Propel, propel, propel your craft,
Carefully down the aqueous solution,
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically,
Existence is but an illusion.

I thought my boys could take simple nursery rhymes and songs, and
using the thesaurus, come up with silly substitutions. They think
this activity is a hoot, and we are going to print up a book when
we are finished. They have been learning new words, working on
alphabetical order when searching for words, and learning things
like how you have to look up the present tense of verbs, such as
'run' not 'ran'." -- Heather in Ontario


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

Winning Website

Vocabulary Coach

While preparing for standardized tests or the SAT/ACT is never
really pleasant, this site will make it a bit easier. With over
4,000 words, three levels of difficulty, and six games, students
can spend just a few minutes a day and likely improve their
vocabulary skills. The authors of the site recommend students
try to use new or unfamiliar words they encounter in the games
as part of their conversations -- and even make flash cards to
use off-line.

-- Cindy - www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"Would any of you have any tips for homeschooling and dealing
with cancer? My husband has just been diagnosed with Multiple
Myeloma and it is in Stage 3. We are not sure of the future.
He is supposed to come home this week, and have chemo 2 times
per week. We homeschool year round, so we have only missed 2
weeks of school so far. I think we can make those up later in
the year because we have numerous breaks built into our year.
I just wondered how other families may have dealt with this
problem." -- Martha

Our Readers' Responses

"Martha -- I am so sorry to read of your husband's cancer. I
will be praying for your family. Several years ago, my mother
found out she had breast cancer. I packed up my children and
headed to her house in another state and stayed for 5 months
to care for her. My husband visited us as often as he could.
It was definitely a challenge to learn how to balance doing
school and giving my children the attention and care that they
needed with taking care of and supporting my mom. I'm not sure
of the ages of your children, but here are my thoughts...

1) I found that while I did not have much time for teaching or
hands-on study, my children needed the stability of daily routine,
including school work -- especially when the rest of their world
was turned upside down. Before that time, I had been strictly
a hands-on, unit study kind of teacher. What I did was sit down
and think about what subjects were most important, and then
focused on those. I found curriculum to use that did not require
much work on my part but was interesting enough and high enough
quality to be teaching my kids. We focused on the basics -- math,
writing, etc. -- and I had my children do a lot of reading to
supplement the subjects we weren't officially 'doing'.

2) Think of how you can use your new routine to your benefit.
For us, there was a 30-minute drive each way daily for radiation
treatments, and a 20-30 minute wait while my mom was having the
treatment done. This is a good time to use for reading, discus-
sing school work, or just connecting with your kids when you're
having to just sit or ride in the car.

3) Don't put pressure on yourself to 'produce' the kind of school
and work load that you normally do. This time is going to take
a huge toll on you, and obviously, you have the uncertainty and
sorrow of your husband's condition. Scale back on everything
you can, and don't be afraid to declare a day off from school at
any time, or to simply take a vacation for a while. You can
always make it up later in a lot of different ways. If your
husband's condition is considered terminal, I know you'll want
to spend as much time together as a couple and as a family that
you can. School will always be waiting for you when you're ready
to pick it up again. It will be a blessing for your children to
be able to be at home with you and your husband instead of having
to leave to go to school every day!

Again, I will be praying for you and your family." -- Mindy


"First of all, I am very sorry for all you are going through.
A dear friend of ours had cancer and still homeschooled her chil-
dren. The year looked a little different for them -- more low
key. Those watching the kids during appointments, treatments
and surgeries, helped with school activities that they were
confident in. I believe it became a special time for them to
have others join in. Remember, homeschooling isn't all about
schooling; it's education at home and can look any way you want
or need it to. They will learn much more than you can imagine
through this. It will be a difficult struggle, but you can do it.
If you decide you can't make it work, it's okay too. You are in
my prayers." -- Shawn


"The reason we were drawn to homeschooling was to meet the needs
of our then 6 year old child with major health issues. We ended
up with a total of 4 children and 2 with major medical problems.
Our situation is a little different in that my goal was to keep
the children on grade level while attending all the doctor's
appointments and hospital stays. In school, if you miss a day,
it was just 'oh, well' -- and the overall attitude was very
stressful for me. It worked so much better to be able to put
our work down for a day or two (or week) and come back to the
same spot, review quickly, and move right back into the work.
In your case you have to meet the needs of an ill spouse, but I
can still see where homeschooling would be your best bet. With
school there is always the stress of last minute projects that
no one mentioned or tests that fall during a time when the ill
person needs a little more time. You will never regret the
children being around to share blessed time with their father.
We were sharply criticized for allowing my oldest to homeschool
because that meant he had to help with every aspect of home life.
I was told he would never want children -- I am glad to say he
grew up to be quite a responsible young man that can't wait to
find the perfect mate and start a family! He is also serving
our country as a United States Marine and he told me how helping
in our family has given him such experience for the battle field.
In any crisis he remembers mom saying 'Don't panic -- address
first things first and move out!' -- that for us meant the hospital.
His commanders have commented repeatedly to me that my son is
always the 'calm, take-care-of-business' guy." -- Carla in GA


"I wanted to encourage you to accept the blessing that your
schedule is flexible enough to spend more time with your husband
during this time. Your children will also need more time outside
the traditional school program, to adjust to the trials and
emotional demands of this next phase of your family's life. The
time you invest in it now will make the difference for how your
family is on the other side, regardless of what the future holds.
Don't expect too much of yourselves during this time - give your-
selves lots of grace around homeschool goals this year, and focus
on each other till the crisis is past. God bless!" -- Suzy


"Martha -- First of all, my heart and prayers are with your family.
I lost my mom to cancer in 2005 while homeschooling my four chil-
dren (age 7 and under). To complicate matters, my infant son was
'failure to thrive' and in critical condition all throughout my
mom's battle.

So, my advice to you is heartfelt and very practical.

1. Learning is not all about facts and figures and spewing out
bits of memorized pieces. I believe that some of the best educa-
tion my children received that year was about love, patience,
prayer, trust -- and even loss. Out of necessity, you may
discover this to be the year when religion and home economics
become your most significant subjects.

2. Of course, as teachers, we do not want our children to fall
behind academically. I spent that year reading many great char-
acter building books to my children. There were days when I was
too tired and frustrated to gather supplies and create lesson
plans, but in that emotional time I drew strength and comfort
from gathering my children together and snuggling close and
reading to them books of famous inventors (science), historical
stories (history) or biographies (religion/history/science, etc.)

3. For copywork and language arts we copied Bible verses onto
cards that we had made for my Mom -- encouraging cards that spoke
of God's love and grace and hope. This also covered 'art'.

4. Math became an everyday exercise. The kids were in the
kitchen helping me to cook and clean. We doubled recipes to put
in the freezer... we baked cookies for grandma... we divided
doses of medicine for the baby. We figured out how much cheaper
a frozen pizza was than delivery or take-out and looked at
restaurant coupons to see if they were worth the bargain.

5. We listened to music that comforted and soothed; instrumental
classics, hymns, etc. We sang lullabies to the baby and did our
best to gather our voices in praise and worship. (It didn't
always work... sometimes one of us would just crumble and cry --
usually me.)

My heart breaks for you as I remember my own pain. My advice
is to keep school on the front burner, but turn that burner down
from medium-high to low. There were many days when I felt like
I was a bad mother/wife/daughter, because if my focus was on one
thing, then it was off of the others. I encourage you to put
your family first and let your education come from the things
you experience in the coming months.

May God shine His light of hope and comfort upon you and yours."
-- Kayla in WI


"My father has Multiple Myeloma and is doing well with his chemo.
He gets tired a lot still but has good days, too. He has chemo
treatments for several months, then gets several months break...
all this knowing it isn't completely gone. I'm not sure they've
given him a 'stage', however, so your circumstances may be entirely
different from what we've experienced. As for your homeschooling,
I'd recommend that you just take it one day at a time. Since you
already have your school set up on a year-round schedule, be
prepared to be very flexible with it. Let your days/weeks off be
when he needs you most, rather than when a particular chapter, unit,
or quarter of the year is through. Give yourself permission to
get behind. At this point life itself may be the best teacher you
and the children have. Maybe these are times when compassion, love,
thankfulness and other character traits can be learned first hand,
rather than from literature or poems. Not knowing your children's
ages, I'd recommend that they keep up the basics that they can
do individually. From this they can learn self-discipline and
responsibility. Do your teaching and help them with lessons when
your husband is resting. If your children are young I'd recommend
finding a friend who could help teach them in some subjects while
you are gone with him for chemo, as it is time consuming. Most of
all, pray for God's guidance. He won't let you down. My prayers
are with your family." -- Lynda


"Martha -- We have not experienced cancer recently in our home, but
my experience with cancer was when I was 21 -- prior to marriage,
children, and homeschooling. I found the diagnosis and treatment
painful emotionally and physically, and all I experienced was the
removal of the lymph nodes in my left arm, as well as the lump itself.

More recently, my husband, myself, and my two boys (9 and 7) have
experienced the death of my mother (and also my mentor and my dog)
all within the space of one year -- and the fall-out from my father
having a massive stroke about a year after that.

My experience with trauma has centered around these events. What
we have done is taken a lot of time off, slept in, cried often,
relied on the support of our friends, and homeschooled in a very
gentle fashion. We have acknowledged that life cannot go on as
normal right now (when these things have happened) and that that
is OKAY, because life isn't normal at those times.

When my mother-in-law died many years ago, I found that when I did
not acknowledge the emotional and physical effects of the trauma I
became very sick physically (some form of bronchitis and perforated
ear drums). I learned from that experience -- especially to ask
others for help, and to take time off from almost every activity
in order to recuperate physically, emotionally, and intellectually."
-- Julene


"First, let me say that the doctors don't have the final say in
your husband's prognosis - God does. I will join you in praying
for his complete healing/recovery.

One of the myriad reasons for homeschooling is flexibility. You
didn't mention the ages/number of children, but there are life
lessons to be learned during this difficult time, and isn't that
one of the primary purposes of homeschooling? Personally, I would
not be quite so time/goal oriented right now. I wouldn't quit
homeschooling, but I wouldn't worry if things aren't quite on
schedule. Assisting you and your husband and building memories to
cherish are an education too.

Remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength, and in the
presence of the Lord is fullness of joy." -- Kay in WV


"Martha -- First, remember that God will help you through this
very stressful and scary time. Then, know also that your children
will not 'fail' as you learn to deal with your husband's new needs
along with your everyday life. We lost a son 8 years ago, and then
2 years later a brother-in-law (also my husband's business partner).
With the stresses of these losses, combined with my disorganization
and us having to learn the day-to-day business requirements without
my BIL, my girls received very sketchy schooling at times. When
the girls had to do their standardized testing in these times, I
found out that they had not faltered as much as I had feared. You
might try to do just the very basics, and don't fret when they miss
some days -- or even longer as mine did. You can pick up other
things as life settles down; they also will learn things that are
not in books." -- Kathy in CO


"Hi Martha -- I don't have experience with cancer, but a few years
ago I was in an accident that left me paralyzed from the waist down.
At the time, I was home schooling four children and had a 14 month
old baby. I was in the hospital for three months and then recovering
for almost two years. During that time, a lot changed for our family
as I'm sure your circumstances will change things for your family.

For the three months I was in the hospital, we had dear friends that
helped to keep the children's studies going. They may not have
schooled every day, but it was enough for them to not completely get
out of the groove. On that line of thinking, I would suggest to
gather your resources. Any family friend or relative that would be
able to help out would be a great asset at this time of instability
in your life. Don't put a time frame on school. If it must be done
on someone else's schedule, then work with it. Many nights our
children did their work when someone else was available to help,
because many days and nights I was too weak to do anything and my
husband was at work.

If you don't have any help, I would say to take time to figure out
how to best school in very small blocks of time and around your
husband's needs. Your husband's health could very well be a blessing
in disguise, because family tends to refocus on what is truly
important at times such as these. Everyone's character qualities
will be tested and expanded as they must die to self in order to
care for your husband; and that is a great education in itself. That
life does not always seem fair, and that our wants and needs sometimes
have to take a back burner as we meet the needs of someone else, is
an education that textbooks cannot teach.

Our children also took up a lot of the slack. My oldest daughter,
who was nine at the time, was one of the biggest blessings in my life.
Even at their young ages they were able to help out a lot, taking on
chores and watching out for smaller siblings. To this day our oldest
daughter and youngest son have a bond that is much stronger than that
of the other siblings. She became his second mother during that time
and their relationship is truly special. So don't fear giving them
more responsibility than you normally would. They will meet the
challenge of life if they are encouraged to do so.

Another very important part is to not pity your husband, even on his
bad days. Your children will sense the negativity of it all and that
will affect their actions. Try, though it will be hard, to have an
attitude of cheerfulness and hope. The best thing my family and
friends did for me was to always have hope. Though I knew that I
would never walk again, I never got depressed. (For that I am truly
thankful to God.) And even at the thought of death (I nearly died
twice), they always spoke life into me. I had times when I was so
sick or in pain that I couldn't sit up for days. Those times are
rough, but it gives you time to meditate on things. And one thing
I know -- all the academics in the world do not replace time spent
together. All the knowledge a person can have does not replace the
love we have for one another. This is a time of making memories with
your family. We always thing of making memories as fun times, but
making memories in hard times is just as special. I can't remember
one thing that was said to me that would have discouraged me from
living life day to day. And that is what life is -- one day at a
time. Focus on the important things: Relationship, Unselfishness,
Kindness, Faith." -- Jill


"Martha -- our hearts go out to you! We have not dealt with sickness
in our immediate family, but for several years helped my parents as
their health failed. We learned that no matter how carefully we
choose our curriculum, sometimes God has a different program in mind
for us. Although we would not have chosen the path God directed us
on, we would not exchange the blessings for anything.

If you are a structured person, you might find that you will need
to build more flexibility into your routines. Be assured that your
children will be learning a great deal, and they will grow in char-
acter, in faith and in practical skills which are far more important
than the academics at this point. None of us can be sure of our
futures; it's a shame that it often takes events like this to make
us aware of it. Be sure to maintain relationships above all because
you're going to need each other as you make this journey -- advice
which we all should heed, whether or not we're dealing with serious

I also recommend that you read 'Cancer: Step Outside the Box' by Ty
Bollinger. You can find it at www.CancerTruth.net ." -- Mary Beth

Answer our NEW Question

"I am at a point where I need to make some income. I thought
tutoring math and/or reading would be something I could do. I
have homeschooled three children since day one and now they are
in grades 6, 9 and 11. So, I have taught K-6 math three times
and have taught reading three times. I think I could tutor,
maybe. Are there any homeschool moms that tutor public school
children? How do you do it? How did you start? Would you have
to have a degree in teaching in order for people to respect your
tutoring? Do you do it at home or away from home? Is there a
program you use? How much do you charge? I need advice! Thanks."
-- Jennifer


Do you have experience and/or suggestions to share with Jennifer?
Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

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Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
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[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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