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Art is Fun, Safer Books, Planning/Tracking/Organizing Systems

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, July 26, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 41, July 26, 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.


The Keystone School is an accredited and licensed private school that
offers teacher-supported distance learning courses for grades 6 – 12.
We have partnered with homeschool families for over three decades in
educating children at home through middle and high school. At Keystone
you can enroll your child in a full course load, or supplement another
homeschool curriculum with one or two Keystone courses. Whether your
child’s goal is to become conversational in Mandarin, get a head start
on earning college credit by taking AP courses or brush up on English
grammar, Keystone can help. Visit keystoneschoolonline.com or call us
at 1-800-255-4937 to learn more.


Notes from Heather
-- Your Tips & Wisdom Wanted!
Helpful Tip
-- Books Made 'Safe'
Winning Website
-- Art is Fun!
Reader Question
-- What to Use for Tracking?
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Our next issue (7/29) is a special high school edition!  I would love to have several
reader tips to share!  Please take the time to email a tip (or two!) or any other wisdom
you have to offer.  No thought is too small -- and our readers will appreciate it!  ;-)

-- Heather


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


Absolutely a MUST TAKE class for all homeschoolers!  :-)

"I cannot recommend it enough!  I have been homeschooling for a decade, and last year lost all
enthusiasm for homeschooling.  Terri's class has helped me to refocus my goals, remember why
I wanted to homeschool and get out of the rut we were plodding through!" -- LeeAnn



Helpful Tip

Cleaned Up Books

"Hi -- I have a website that you might like to mention:


It has several classic books edited from a Christian/wholesome perspective --
eliminating smoking, violence, romance, etc.

Have a good day!" -- J. A.


Do you have a website, tip, idea or experience to share with our readers?

Send to: mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

Art Is Fun -- http://www.art-is-fun.com/
I have recently become interested in mixed media collage and stumbled onto this
neat site that offers tutorials related to drawing and painting. They do not have
a huge offering, but what is here is quite good. This would make a great starting
point for your middle or high school student who already has some artistic interest
and wants to explore a few different types of media. Tutorials include pencil,
acrylic, and watercolor, with styles ranging from landscapes to abstract.

Cindy Prechtel, www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I am new at homeschooling and wondering what families use to keep track of
planning and marking?  Is it a book, online program or downlaod program?  Do
you use free programs online or offline... or pay for one?" -- Sylvie in Ottawa

Our Readers' Responses

"We use the free Homeschool Tracker Basic.  I have one child that I am tracking."
-- MaryEllen


"There is no one perfect way of record keeping.  There are now tons of programs
both free and for a fee.  What you do should depend on:

1. Your state laws
2. If you school at home, the type of curriculum you use, whether you are
    under an umbrella school, virtual school, or combination
3. Your own organizational style as well as personality.  If you are a laid
    back person do not attempt to keep a lot of tight knit records.  You will just
    be burned out and frustrated.
4. Your children’s ages and level of maturity.  I always try to have our children
    do at least part of the record keeping.

When I first started to homeschool I kept a record of everything.  As we progressed
my rule became to keep it simple, plus train our children to help out with record
keeping.  One book that helped me tone down what I was doing is The Simplicity of

By marking I imagine you mean grading.  Some curriculum have suggestions and that's
a big help, but you are in charge, so use what works best for you.  A free website
with record keeping suggestions, a planner guide, how to plan a school day, year,
and even tips on grading, etc. is Donna Young, but don’t go overboard and try every
suggestion she has -- I did and it ended up being the worst year ever!

Much success in your homeschool adventure!" -- Judy A. in FL


"I love the weekly and semester planners found at Donna Young's printables website.
Go to www.donnayoung.org and click on the 'homeschool planner tab'.  I print off 18
pages front and back for the weekly and print semester planners for each subject.
Some of these are DOC and PDF files, so you could keep them stored on your computer
and type on them or in a 3-ring binder and handwrite your school planning information.
She also has some other good planning forms, report cards and an Excel grading file
you can download which already has the functions, etc.  By using her forms, I am
able to save a little money, and have a planner that fits my needs." -- Shelly


"For six years of homeschooling, in grades K-5th, I used an 'all in one' curriculum
and didn’t really need to track or keep records (my state didn’t require them).
Once my son was middle school age, however, I went to an eclectic method and also
decided to keep formal records.

I work best from the computer -- and with typing, not handwriting, so paper and
e-book planners don’t work for me.  I looked at all the available free, and for-fee
online and software programs.  I downloaded samples and demos and tried each one.
The only one that came close to doing what I wanted it to do was Homeschool Tracker
.  You can start out with their free, simple program if you just want the basics.
If you ever upgrade to the paid 'Plus' program, all your information will import in
and you won’t lose it.  They also have a 30-day trial of the Plus program for $5,
which can be applied to the full purchase.

The cost of the Plus program, at $49, is incredibly worth it.  You get free software
updates for life!  HST also has the absolute best customer service of any company,
homeschooling or otherwise, that I’ve ever purchased from.  You can contact them
multiple ways, and they also have a wonderful users forum.

There is a bit of a learning curve to the Plus program, but once you get it figured
out, it is well worth it.  There are so many features -- no one can use every one
of them.  It’s like a buffet; you take what you need/want and leave the rest.  It is
very customizable, too.  For this visual learner/worker, that is very important!

One incredible feature of the program is that you can share 'Lesson Plan' files with
other homeschoolers.  There are Yahoo Groups set up for file sharing.  So let’s say
I use XYZ Curriculum and have already set up Lesson Plans (LPs) for it in HST+ plus.
You come along and also use XYZ and don’t want to take the time to set it up.  You
just import my file, tweak it if you want to, and it’s ready to use!

If you don’t want to use planning features, you can just record assignments, reading,
field trips, memorization tables, etc., after the fact.  There are multiple options for
printing reports, including transcripts, reading lists, grade reports, standardized
testing, and so much more!

You can view the 200+ page user’s manual, see screen shots, view the training videos,
and much more from the HST website just to see all the wonderful content.

I’d truly be lost without my HST+.  Now that my son is doing high school level work,
it’s become even more important as I build his portfolio and transcript." -- Julie C. in IL


"Syvlie -- I have been very happy with Homeschool Tracker Basic.  It is a free download.
They also offer the Plus version that does a bit more and is a one time purchase of $49.
The biggest reason I take the time to put all the lessons into the program is that I
can print out daily checklists for the children to work off of.  It helps them to do
their work independently and be responsible for completing their work on time.  I have
records of attendance, and time spent on lessons, reading logs, field trips, and more."
-- Sue


"For my lesson plans, attendance and grades and 'everything except the kitchen sink' --
with loads of fantastic customer service -- I use HomeSchool Tracker Plus.

They have a free basic program, or you can try the Plus version for a short time for
$5 or so, and you can buy the Plus version for a fee with lifetime free upgrades and
awesome customer service.  The program is set up to have everything in it that all of
the U.S. states require for their home school laws.  They have a link to download the
program and they will still mail you the CD with all the info as well.

I can't say enough about this program.  I have used it for the last 5-7 years and
totally love it." -- Kristina B.


"I’m old-fashioned... I print out blank monthly views of the calendar from Microsoft
Office and use a pencil to plot appointments, park days, classes, field trips, count
school days, and set goals (memorize multiplication tables) or plan units (Oregon Trail).
I can easily see our schedule to write in additional activities and play dates or
realize when we have enough and to start saying 'No' for a bit.  I can easily erase
things without having to 'log on' to something.  And I can easily flip backwards to
see all that we’ve been doing when those feelings of 'we’re behind' come creeping in.

We have a daily 'school' schedule that’s pretty standard, which we keep updated on a
dry-erase board.  A typical list for one of my kids might look like this:  exercise,
empty dishwasher, math, reading, spelling on computer, copywork, watch DVD (a history
or science choice, usually).  This is kind of our minimum daily schedule, which can
be supplemented with a hands-on project, depending what we’re reading about or what
the current interest is.  Sometime during the day we get outside too, but it depends
when/what/where or what the weather’s doing." -- Christine in VA


"Hi, Sylvie -- It may depend on what grade your child is in and how complicated your
lessons are, what methods you are using, etc.  There are lots of teacher's logs/journals
out there, but I discovered with my Kindergartener that a simple notebook was sufficient.
You can see an example here:


If you are unschooling, you might check out Simple Homeschools' post on 'Record Keeping
for Interest Led Learners'

But I have heard that Homeschool Skedtrack is good for keeping up with lessons, too.
And I've also heard good things about the assignment calendar at 4Teachers.org, but I
have not actually tried either one." -- Monica H.

Answer our NEW Question

For the 7/29 High School Special Edition...

"Do our children really need a high school portfolio?  If so, what do I put in it?
What does one look like?" -- J. Z.


Would you like to share your best answer with J. Z.?

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

Ask YOUR Question

Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to mailto: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 with 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.


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