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'Heretical' Homeschooling, Virtual Edison, Volunteer Families

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, February 01, 2010

Vol. 11 No. 8, February 1, 2010, ISSN: 1536-2035
© 2010, Heather Idoni - www.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.


"I am LOVING this curriculum. The kids enjoy it, too. Thank you
for making it easy to remember to review and so LOGICAL that they
can figure a word out even if it's not one they have specifically
learned or practiced."

Find out more about "All About Spelling"!


Notes from Heather
-- Homeschooling Heresies
Helpful Tip
-- Edison Field Trip
Resource Review
-- New from Apologia!
Reader Question
-- Volunteer Opportunities?
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Feedback and Encouragement from a Reader


"I have been receiving your homeschool e-newsletter for more
than a year now and I just want to say 'THANK YOU!'
It is encouraging, informative and helpful in so many ways.
I homeschool an 8 year old boy with Asperger's Syndrome.  I
left a very good career to be at home and at times have
struggled with depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues,
but I wouldn't trade the benefit it has been for my son for
anything.  Also, I have learned to more deeply depend on God
because of this experience.
Anyhow, just wanted to encourage you with praise!"
-- Jamie in North Dakota

[Thank you SO much, Jamie! :-)  -- Heather]


I enjoyed reading this blog post from a homeschool mom named
Anna. I think everyone can find something here worth contemplating.
Even if you don't agree with *all* her points, you will probably
find yourself nodding in agreement with one or more! :-)


Homeschooling Heresies

Along the way, I have often been asked "how" I homeschool, and
especially, what curriculum I use.  I've been teaching my children
at home for twelve years, and in that time I have come to hold some
quirky views -- which I will now share.  Remember, of course, that
this is what works for *my* family.

1. Curriculum doesn't matter.  I don't care what I use to teach my
children.  Give me something, and I will make it work.  I am deeply
wary of the desire for perfect teaching materials, and I view the
search for the magic bullet curriculum as a time and money pit.
Because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you
sat down with your child and together engaged in mastering an idea.

2. Mastery is everything.  If my child can demonstrate that they
understand and can do, we're out of there.  Frankly, I have better
things to do than spend twenty minutes rounding up tongue depressors,
mylar balloons, and exposed light bulbs in order to demonstrate some
science concept I can explain in thirty seconds.  Further, if you can
do the last three problems on the math page just fine, I won't waste
your time asking for all the odd-numbered problems.

3. Diligence counts too.  School isn't negotiable -- we do school
every day.  I don't care if your essay is misspelled, just write it
already!  Just show up.

4. Trust the child on enrichment.  The *idea* of unit studies is just
fine, but my experience says that if my child expresses an interest in,
say, butterflies, that if I jump on that and assign him to find five
butterflies, read about metamorphosis, and create butterfly artwork,
he will suddenly find butterflies the most boring subject in the world.
Leave them alone!  If they're interested *they* will create or request
the opportunities to learn more.

5. Live an interested life.  I cannot put this in bold enough face.
You are interpreting the world to your child.  Is it fascinating for
you?  Are you engaged in creating, in thinking, in knowing people?
Do you make music, take pictures, cook, teach yourself to sew, hike
someplace new, learn to fish, eat at a new restaurant, take the back
way into town?  Are you reading about the history of mental illness,
repairing furniture, learning to oil paint?  *Show* your child how
interesting the world is, and they will love to learn.

And that is what we're after, isn't it?


Anna is the mother of five children aged 18, 16, 14, 12, and 5.  She
has happily homeschooled from the beginning.  She blogs at:



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

Helpful Tip

"Celebrate Thomas Edison's birthday with a Virtual Field Trip to
his 'Invention Factory' in West Orange, NJ.  Meet Edison, portrayed
by Patrick Garner of History's Alive, and learn about Edison's
early life and inventions."



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

Resource Review

Who is God? And Can I Really Know Him? 
Published by:  Apologia Press 
Authors:  John Hay and David Webb 
For more information or to order:

If you spend much time at all in conversation with me, you'll find
that one of my passions is incorporating worldview education into
our family learning model.  Imagine my excitement when I was contacted
by one of the co-authors of a new worldview series published by
Apologia Press, titled "What We Believe".  There will eventually be
4 books in the series, but only volume 1 is currently available. 
Laying the foundation for a Biblical worldview, the title of the first
volume is, "Who is God?  And Can I Really Know Him?".  This curriculum
is unique is several ways, the first being that it is family-inclusive
-- meaning it is designed to be studied by multiple ages.  This first
volume introduces children ages 6 - 14 to the basics of the Christian
faith.  Also, instead of just spouting doctrine, families are challenged
to not only learn important tenets, but to then apply these to their
lives.  It is easy to teach our kids what the Bible says, but quite
another to help them take what they know about God and use that to see
why things do or don't work in the world around them. 
Each of the 10 lessons begins with a question such as "Where am I
building my life?”", "What is God like", and "Why did God create me?".
Parents are given easy, step-by-step guidance in using the curriculum,
with each lesson progressing through the same basic sequence.  There
is an emphasis on students creating notebooks (including assignments
to get them thinking), engaging stories, activities and, of course,
time spent in the Word.  The suggested schedule is to spend 2 weeks
per lesson, teaching 3 days each week.  This means that each volume
in the series can easily be completed in a school year. 
When it comes to teaching a Biblical view of God and truth, some
concepts may be difficult for younger children to grasp.  However,
the authors have done a great job making these "deeper things"
understandable.  Of course, some things will go over a 6-year old's
head, but they will still pick up some concepts at their own level
while you go into more depth with your older children. 
Since the few other (excellent) worldview curriculums available
primarily target older teens, this new series from Apologia fills a
much needed niche in the homeschool community.  Highly recommended!
Of course, knowing my passion for worldview education, would you
expect less? :-)

Cindy Prechtel, www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com


The Nine Week Home School Entrepreneur Course

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Having an entrepreneur education early helps define life goals and
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most of them had no idea how to get started!

Then there are kids who make it very obvious they are bound for their
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The first course of it's kind, we've made it easy to teach your teen
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Last Issue's Reader Question

"I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations for volunteer
opportunities for homeschoolers. My oldest is 12. I am looking
for right now and in the future. Please share good and bad experiences.
We want to know things you are glad you did... things you would never
do again; we are willing to learn from your mistakes." -- Christina

Our Readers' Responses

"Christina -- I can share with you what my daughters did as they
got older.  If you have boys these may not be as helpful.  My oldest
has a heart for service to those in need, so she has worked at a
local soup kitchen that serves during the week, and one that only
serves on the weekends.  Our local homeschool group has a regular
rotation for the weekly kitchen, but she is welcome any time.  She
has also spent time working at a local thrift shop that supports
a women's shelter.  Each year she has made boxes with Operation
Christmas Child, and this past year she organized a service
opportunity for others to do the same.  She has also helped process
incoming boxes at our local dropoff center.  Another area where she
has volunteered is church.  She has taught children, helped clean,
helped with the bulletin.  On a different note, she asked to
volunteer at a local family-owned business when she was 15, and
spent 9 months working each Saturday (6 hours) to learn how to keep
a shop, track inventory, help customers, and run a cash register.

Another good place to check (my son is waiting for this one) is the
park center.  Our town has a small nature center and park with a
fishing pond and trails, and they take voluteers from the age of 14
to do all kinds of things -- clearing trails of debris, cleaning
animal cages, policing (picking up trash) the grounds, working on
construction projects.
We found opportunities by asking.  Some turned us down -- my second
daughter wanted to help at a pet shop or the local animal hospital,
but they had age restrictions, and she had to wait.  She also asked
to help at our special needs child care center, and found out she
had to be at least 13.  No one was unkind, but we did have to make
our own opportunities in some cases.  Good luck!" -- Anne


"My girls just signed up at church for the lend-a-hand program.  It's
a program where they can go for a couple of hours a week and help the
church prepare for VBS, like cutting things out and getting craft kits
ready.  They also signed up to help with Sunday School classes."
-- Shelly T.


"Christina, you are so wise to do this.  It will possibly prove to
be the best part of your children's education.  We have involved our
children in volunteer services since they were very small.  It has
been a rich and rewarding experience for all of us, and I believe
it has contributed tremendously to some positive character traits:
unselfishness, consideration for the needs and feelings of others,
and a spirit of cooperation and respect between the children.  Working
together to help others cuts way down on sibling squabbles.
When the children were small, we simply took them with us when we went
to help people -- usually the elderly.  As the children grew, they
began to participate.  We take elderly people to doctor appointments,
to get groceries, to the cemetery on Memorial day, and to community
events and concerts.  We provide household and lawn maintenance and
repair.  We make extra servings with our meals, and share the surplus
with them.  The children provide musical entertainment for retirement
homes.  We also help a handicapped (blind and retarded) man by bringing
him to our home and finding things he can do; he doesn't like to sit
idly in his apartment.  A lot of the people we serve have vision
problems.  We read to them, and occasionally do things such as sewing
on buttons, polishing shoes, and other things that require good eyesight.

My daughter gives manicures in the local nursing home and retirement
village.  She started when she was eleven.  Sometimes her brother goes
along and plays dominoes or checkers with some of the men while she's
doing manicures.
We have no regrets.  I wish we had time to do more.  We would like to
spend more time just going to visit elderly people.  They are so lonely.
The only bad experience that we've had is that one of the retirement
homes has taken advantage of our willingness to come and perform, and
they asked us so often that the children were beginning to burn out.
So we have now placed a limit on the number of programs we will do for
each nursing home, and a limit on how many total we will do each month.
Some people have offered to pay the children, and we ask them instead
to make a donation to the Salvation Army.  We do accept reimbursement
for mileage from the nursing homes if they offer.  Sometimes they invite
us to join them for a meal or refreshments, and we occasionally do that.
We recently found out that Big Brothers Big Sisters now has a program
where an entire family can be a Big Brother or Big Sister, instead of
only one person.
Take note that in some areas, there are food services that offer very
reasonably priced food to people who do volunteer work.  Your volunteer
hours count toward your food purchase.  Prairie Land Food and Share
Colorado are two that I know of.  If you do a search for Prairie Land
Food along with the name of your state, you can probably find out whether
they serve your area.  For the other, go to www.sharecolorado.com.  They
are based in Colorado, but serve many other states." -- Mary Beth


"Try working for Gleaners, or a humane society or other animal rescue
group.  They could be mentors at a local 4H group -- even try hospitals
and libraries." -- Deidra


"My 2 boys and I volunteered at the local soup kitchen bagging bread.
That was a good experience, but I did try to keep an eye on them because
there were a lot of people going in and out.  They were only 7 and 8 at
the time.  The boys really liked helping pack boxes at the Feed the
Children factory.  This is fast-paced factory type work.  They still ask
when we'll be going back.  Lots of hard, fun work. 

Right now, we volunteer at a thrift store that sends it's proceeds to
overseas missions.  The boys have learned to run a cash register, count
change, and deal with customers.  Very rewarding." -- Lisa


"To be a great volunteer, please understand clearly why you are doing
this work and have a defined objective.  When my family volunteers to do
something, it's because we understand that in our work, we are reflecting
God's love for all.  So whether it's a short-term (one day or afternoon)
opportunity, or a longer-term opportunity, we always strive to show
Him to those around us. 
Long-term opportunities around us are plentiful -- moreso if you are
in an urban area.  My 11 year old son has a strong interest in pet
birds.  We found a small pet bird sanctuary and once aweek for an
afternoon, we go (with his 8 year old tag-along brother) and help
clean cages, play with and take care of their birds.  When they were
younger, we helped sort food (stacking cans, filling 'orders' and
boxing those orders) at our small local Catholic food pantry.  Other
options we're looking into now include helping at an 1840's historical
farm museum (taking care of poultry and small livestock, as youngest
son is interested in having a small flock of chickens to sell their
eggs to neighbors and friends -- entrepreunership!); volunteering at
the local Children's Museum in exhibit design (they'd get to try
out design prototypes -- this is very short term and haphazard in
scheduling, not a plus for me!); aiding the local library during a
special event coming up (Lego build day -- helping  to supervise the
younger children); the options are endless when you start looking
We always start with a '6 months' commitment for long-term volunteer
work.  This is long enough for us to learn the work, get proficient,
and then advertise by word of mouth loud enough for someone to take
the job from us!  I always try to replace ourselves prior to leaving,
as all these places have greater need of help than they have people.
Good luck!  My sons have learned incredibly valuable business skills
from working around others; others have seen the Light of Christ
reflected in them!  It's a win-win!  And no, we don't do 'school'
very heavy on volunteer days -- they're learning so much more!"
-- Jennifer in Illinois


"My oldest son, now a junior in college and majoring in political
science, volunteered with a local political group to hand out
educational materials at parades, worked their sponsored events,
and manned an information table at our community college.  He also
volunteered to work the phones for a gubernatorial campaign.  A
friend's daughter who is interested in nursing has volunteered at
the hospital for years.  We found that it was very helpful for
college admission and scholarship opportunities that our son's
volunteerism matched his major." -- Lisa in Oregon


"My daughter just started getting involved with our city's Youth
Council.  This is like a city council but for teens.  They are
involved in doing service projects and helping with city sponsored
events.  You might look into what your city has in the way of these
leadership opportunities." -- Sandy


"My sixteen year old volunteers at several places, and has for three
years.  She volunteers for the Red Cross, the local Christian radio
station, the local park district, at a veterinarians' office (she
wants to be a veterinarian), and now the local animal shelter.

There are always places that need volunteers.  She looked up
volunteer opportunities online herself.  She then proceeded to find
the opportunities she was interested in.  It does take up a lot of
our time to run her places.  We met all of the volunteer coordinators,
bought her a cell phone, and always know where she will be.  It has
been a very good experience for all of us.  She also has gotten me
involved in some volunteering projects, so we have fun doing them
together." -- Debbie B.


"Our family serves dinner once a month at a local homeless shelter.
We began doing this with a group from our church 17 years ago.  The
shelter is Catholic-run and they allow us to sing praise songs with
the men and then share a devotion with them after the meal.  We have
seen many saved over the years.  Our church has a homeschool co-op
that gets together for field trips and service projects.  The homeless
shelter where our family serves also has a dining room that is open
for lunch for homeless and the less fortunate.  Our co-op director
contacted the dining room and arranged for our co-op to serve lunch
(they prepared it, we just served it).  It was at Christmas time, so
we also solicited donations from church members, Walmart, and others
for gloves, blankets, hats, scarves, and candy to give to them.  The
people were blessed by us, but we were blessed even more when we saw
the joy on their faces that somebody really cared.  My children help
an elderly couple that live near us by doing chores around their house
and just visiting with them.  They clean their yard -- mow, rake, etc.
My son's job is to carry in their groceries when they return from
grocery shopping.  Check with elderly people in your church.  Many
could use someone to clean up their yard or help with housework or
cook a meal.  Another thing that my children do is on Sunday nights
after church they scour the sanctuary for church bulletins and trash.
We have a janitorial staff, but every little bit helps.  Pray about
what the Lord would have you to do.  I ask the Lord every day to show
us those whom we can serve." -- Lawana


"In my area the local animal shelter is always in need of volunteers!
They do have age restrictions at some shelters.  Good luck!" -- Amy in FL

Answer our NEW Question

Confused about how to best homeschool...

"My son is an only child; he is gifted and kinetic and active.
He is currently in public school and is miserable.  We tried
homeschooling last semester and he did okay, but got too lonely
for other kids.  Then when he went back to public school this
year the teacher said that he was behind because I did not do
heavy skills based education.  I focused more on content and
kinetic activities.  Do you have any suggestions for a new
curriculum for kinetic boys?" -- Katie


Would you like to share some insight with Katie?

Please send your email to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

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if we can help you out in a future issue!

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