"" -- A Homeschooler's Notebook Subscriber.
An interactive, FREE, twice-monthly ezine packed with great reader tips, reviews, & practical encouragement for homeschool families.


Some of Our Sponsors


Landry Academy

Math Mammoth

Great Homeschool Conventions

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Resource Links

All About Spelling
Homeschooling ABCs
Upper Level Homeschool
FIRETIME Notebooking
FREE Funschool Units
Homeschooling Help
More Homeschooling Help
HS Gifted and Talented
Homeschool Country Life
Beloved Books & Audio



A Textbook Response, Unplugged Play, Piano at Home

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, September 29, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 78 September 29, 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. :-)


Save Money with Easy Way to Budget

Unique budgeting system helps you stop unwanted spending
and effortlessly get control of your personal finances.

"BudgetMap is compact, tidy, and amazingly effective."
- Mary Hunt, author of Debt-Proof Living.

Carry it with you - it replaces your checkbook and fits
in your purse or pocket. Instantly see your finances as
you make each transaction. Eliminate month-end surprises.

See it now at:



Guest Article
-- A Textbook Response
Helpful Tip
-- Unplugged Play Ideas
Resource Review
-- Opal Wheeler Books
Reader Question
-- Piano at Home?
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

A Textbook Response
by Kim Howe


How did you learn social studies? Most likely, you learned it
the same way I did:

First you read a chapter in a book,
Then you answer the questions at the end of the chapter.

Information is memorized for a test and then quickly forgotten
because it is not used. This approach is not likely to develop a
"love" of social studies.

The Problem with Textbooks

Homeschooling families have been aware of this for years, and as
a result tend to shy-away from textbooks. This is especially true
for their young children. Schools are also beginning to recognize
the downside of textbooks as well and are slowly making a move
away from them.

Here are some of the drawbacks of textbooks:

They are rarely engaging and exciting for children; they are
written from one perspective; a small number of pages are dedi-
cated to a concept that could be studied for days or even weeks
(i.e. five pages on the Civil War or three pages on magnetism);
In history they lack authenticity - unlike personal narratives,
letters, and original documents; they only appeal to one learning
style. Auditory and kinesthetic learners are left out. They lack
creativity and rarely stimulate critical and creative thinking.

If Not Textbooks, Then What?

Let's look at social studies. Let's say that children in third
grade are suppose to learn about pioneer life. So, the social
studies book has a chapter that gives the facts about this era in
American history. Most students read the chapter and at best
remember some of the important facts.

Now let's say we read "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura
Ingalls Wilder. This is a first-hand account of pioneer life
through the eyes of a young girl. The author appeals to all of
our senses as she describes the time period, the work, the dangers,
and the environment in which the pioneers lived. How can a child
forget her experiences?

The rainforest is another important social studies topic. In a
textbook children read about the location of the rainforests,
maybe see a map, read about products from the rainforest, and
the animals from the rainforest.

What if that same child reads the book, "Welcome to the Greenhouse"
by Jane Yolen. "The Greenhouse" is such a great analogy for the
rainforest (again stimulating higher-level thinking). The words
in this book are like poetry, the illustrations of the animals
are beautiful, and the meaning unforgettable. The rainforest is
home to many of the most beautiful and important things found on
our planet.

Then we give the child "One Day in the Tropical Rainforest" by
Jean Craighead George, a short novel that follows a child who
lives in the rainforest on an adventure where he helps scientists
locate and save a newly found species of butterfly. The people
in the rainforest are presented as real people with emotions,
gifts, and ideas. Contrast this experience with that of a text-
book where people from different cultures are often portrayed in
stereotypes and seem somewhat absurd to a child.

Why Do Most Schools Still Use Textbooks?

If real books and authentic documents are a better alternative,
why do many schools still continue to use textbooks?

It is a cheaper option that providing a "hands-on" and literature-
rich approach to education; it provides a level of accountability
for teachers when administrators know they are teaching what is
in the textbooks (good teachers usually hate textbooks); having
hands-on demonstrations and experiments is time consuming and
takes away from math and reading (which is what students are being
tested for); parents are comfortable with textbooks; -- and it is
less work for the teacher.

The great news is that in a homeschool setting we do not have to
follow the status quo. We can do what we know is best for our
children. We can make learning a positive and engaging experience,
sparking our children's curiosity and interests.


Kim Howe is the author of "Moving Beyond the Page", a comprehen-
sive research-based curriculum designed to challenge and stimulate
gifted and creative homeschoolers. Learn more about this exciting
curriculum and read the complete article at the following link:



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



Helpful Tip

Unplugged Play

"I recently got a book called 'Unplugged Play' by Bobbi Conner.
It has over 700 ideas for games and activities, and the only
'plugged-in' item the book recommends is some way of playing music.


It has ideas grouped by age, number of players, and outside/inside
so it's very easy to find something that fits your need."

-- Angie M., HomeschoolingBOYS.com member


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

Resource Review

Sebastian Bach, The Boy from Thuringia
Mozart, The Wonder Boy

Books, Study Guides, and Companion CD
Author: Opal Wheeler (books), Judy Wilcox (guide & CD)
For more information or to order: www.zeezok.com


For years families have enjoyed the once out-of-print biographies
of composers by Opal Wheeler. Now families can enjoy them afresh
and anew with hard and softcover versions, along with a helpful
study guide and companion CD from Judy Wilcox of Zeezok Publishing.

The biographies feature large print and are written especially
for young children. The guide for each book begins with an
outline map so your family can visualize the place (or places)
where the composer lived. Each chapter of the book is supplemented
in the guide with comprehension questions, a corresponding time-
line, character qualities, and interesting tidbits. What I like
best about the guide is that the character qualities include a
reference to the page in the chapter they are found on, so you
can quickly go back over that section of the story if you choose.
All of the biographies in the Wheeler series begin when the composer
is young and do a wonderful job of showing what their family life
was like, in addition to their schooling and early 'career'.

Throughout each biography, the reader will find snippets of compo-
sitions in the form of sheet music. This is where the companion
CD comes in handy! The mp3 files are easy to locate once you put
the disk in your computer. Above the sheet music, you'll find
the title and the track number. The quality of the excerpts is
very good, and composed of simple piano with other instruments
occasionally added. The CD also contains printable sheet music
and coloring pages for each chapter. Young children can color
as they listen to the book and any music included in the chapter.

The books, guides and CDs are available as a set or individually.
If you already have access to the Wheeler biographies, the guide
and CD will aid in your study. I am very impressed with the study
guides for these classic biographies. They add depth and lots
of information for further discussion.

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

Last Issue's Reader Question

"My question has to do with piano lessons at home. We can't afford
piano lessons at the moment and so I thought there must be an afford-
able curriculum out there, or even a website, that could help us.
The thing is I'm not sure what I should be looking for; what is a
good way to learn piano? I know one of our newsletter sponsors is
a piano lesson provider, but is their method a good way to learn?
Thanks -- and I hope you can help." -- Judy

Our Readers' Responses

"Our family has used Piano Discovery (ordered through Timberdoodle
many years ago). It is computer software that comes with a keyboard.
It gives the basics -- and by the time your child has gone through
the program you know if piano playing is something they want to
develop further. Four of my children have used it -- think of how
much money I have saved in piano lessons!" -- Lori B.


"Hi Judy -- You have posed an excellent question. I found myself
in the same situation a few years ago. I went to a music store with
a question mark on my face and wallet. I looked around, spoke to
the owner and came out with this material: Progressive Piano Method,
Book 1 by Andrew Scott and Gary Turner.

There are 31 lessons and a total of 92 exercises. It did not major
on scales and all the tedious fingering. They are worked with, but
not obsessed on. It includes a CD to play so you and the student
know how it is supposed to sound. When my daughter thought she had
it down she would push herself to play it exactly like the CD by
playing along.

She worked through about 1/2 or so of the book when someone observed
her singing ability and recommended piano lessons (their treat).
She took a little under 2 years of lessons from a teacher. When she
started with this teacher she was extremely impressed with my daughter's
ability and working knowledge of the piano. She did not need to start
on other simple music, but continued on through more of the book and
began simple versions of classical music.

I would highly recommend this book. It was a marvelous experience
and set her well on her way to being a good player. Now, after 2.5
years of playing, she has well surpassed all her friends who started
anywhere from 1-2 years before her in lessons by the same teacher and
working in lower-middle advanced material." -- Debra


"I found this website: pianoiseasy.com. It's a piano by numbers and
my kids are having fun playing on the piano. You put stickers on the
keys; then they start out playing songs -- then they learn the chords
and then how to read music. I don't know how old your kids are, but
my 7 and 10 year old love to play, as well as my husband! My husband
is somewhat musical; he can hear the notes and tell if they are right
or wrong, but I have no musical talent at all. This has helped us --
and the kids enjoy doing piano! Good luck in your search." -- Beth


"Judy -- You need a pupil, a piano, a method and maybe a teacher,
depending on your aim. Which method depends also on what your aim is.

Why and when you want to have your children learn to play piano is
important -- and many factors need to be considered. The age and
physical ability of the person -- can they read yet; can they count
and match numbers yet? Do they want to learn -- yet they cannot
read and match? Very important -- what do you want to be able to
do with what you have learned? As you mentioned, cost in its
entire scope (effort, money, etc.) needs consideration as well.

A few methods are out there -- The Piano is Easy method, the
Suzuki method for non-readers, the conventional music theory
reading method, Simply Music." -- Juanita in WI


"I am a piano teacher and former public school music teacher/band
director. I don't recommend those 'learn at home' curriculums
unless you (the parent) have piano experience that you can draw
on to help the child. Every week, my students come to lessons
making mistakes (playing a wrong note or incorrect rhythm) that
they had no idea they were making. It is my job to point out their
mistakes and help them learn from them. If there is no one with
at least some experience working with the student, how will they
be assured to learn things correctly?

I have a suggestion for you: bartering! One of my students is a
high-schooled homeschooler whose parents can't afford lessons. I
teach her in exchange for some light housecleaning. She comes an
hour before her lesson and does simple chores like dusting, vacuuming,
and mopping. Believe me, it is greatly appreciated by me!!

Find a piano teacher and see if you or your child could clean their
house, wash their car(s), babysit, tutor their children, cook a meal,
or make a weekly dessert in exchange for piano lessons.Do you or
your spouse know a trade (auto mechanics, plumbing, etc.) that you
could do in exchange for lessons? I once heard of a piano teacher
who taught a doctor's children in exchange for medical care when her
kids got sick. There are lots of possibilities." -- Andrea


"Hi Judy - We started out with Piano Is Easy (I think which was a
sponsor at one time) and loved it. The kids loved being able to
play right away and the transition book from numbers to colors was
a great start. After they were able to do the colors, we found a
High Schooler (a junior) that was willing to do piano lessons at
the High School (at $10/half hour every other week). When he grad-
uated, he recommended his replacement which is where we're at now.
Good luck!" -- Jenn

Answer our NEW Question

"We have a small homeschool group that meets once a month at a
central location. We normally try to have something different for
the kids each month -- like a speaker or hands on activity. But
this year we are running out of ideas. Most of the children are
getting older (5th-8th grade) and we need some ideas since they
are getting too old for the party/goody bag sorts.We throw in a
few field trips just for fun, but try to be cost effective also.
We already have a local electric company coming to speak, but any
ideas to spark our brains would be appreciated! Also -- we are in
a rural area and have to drive at least 1 hour or more to get to a
larger city with more resources. I'd love to hear suggestions!"
-- Renee


Do you have some practical and creative ideas for Renee?

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.


Our Newsletter Archive

Access the Homeschool Notebook issues you have missed...
at our archives! http://www.FamilyClassroom.net


There are opportunities for you to be a sponsor of this
newsletter. If you are interested, drop an e-mail to
heather@familyclassroom.net with "Notebook Sponsorship"
as the subject. We'll send you some information on how to
become a part of this ministry!


All contributed articles are printed with the author's prior
consent. It is assumed that any questions, tips or replies to
questions may be reprinted. All letters become the property of
the "Homeschooler's Notebook". [Occasionally your contribution
may have to be edited for space.]

Again, I welcome you to the group! Feel free to send any
contributions to HN-articles@familyclassroom.net or

Our main website is:

We also sponsor an incredible site with over 1,500 pages of helps!


No part of this newsletter (except subscription information
below) may be copied and/or displayed in digital format online
(for instance, on a website or blog) without EXPRESS permission
from the editor. Individuals may, however, forward the newsletter
IN ITS ENTIRETY to *individual* friends (not email groups). For
reprints in paper publications (homeschool support group newsletters,
etc.) please direct your request to: Heather@FamilyClassroom.net


To subscribe, just send a blank email to the following address:

To unsubscribe send a blank email to the following address:


Next - How Can My Son Work More Independently?
Previous - Can You Recommend a Structured Pre-School Curriculum?

     Site content copyright individual contributors and FamilyClassroom.net 2001-2011 - Digital duplication expressly prohibited.
Privacy Policy | Advertise