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Honest Companies, Cute Wikki Planets, Non-Electronic Fun!

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, September 9, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 53, September 9, 2010, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2010, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
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Notes from Heather
-- Companies You Can Trust
Helpful Tip
-- Cute Wikki Planets!
Winning Website(s)
-- A Few Good Links
Reader Question
-- Cold Weather Activities?
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Oak Meadow Curriculum - Input from a HomeschoolingBOYS.com Member

Every once in awhile, when we feature a new sponsor, I'll get emails from readers wondering if I have a personal opinion or my own experience to share about the new company. While Oak Meadow has been around for awhile, and this certainly isn't the first time they have sponsored one of our newsletters, I thought it would be beneficial to share an email that just came through our HomeschoolingBOYS encouragement group as I was preparing this issue!

"I have 9, 7 and 4 year olds and we are using Oak Meadow curriculum. For the younger kids, it focuses on doing stuff alongside your parents, and reading and drawing together, but not pushing them too far. So if my son is excited and into it one day, we do a lot, and if not another day, we read together and work together, but try to focus on staying happy -- and making it fun for him! According to the Waldorf philosophy, in the first stage of 'unfoldment', kids just need to be with their parents and sometimes formal schooling doesn't even start until age 8. We searched a lot of curriculum options before trying this one -- and so far, I really like it." -- Tamara

A note about our sponsors: My marketing manager and I carefully screen all potential sponsors. When you see an ad for a program or curriculum from companies like Keystone, Oak Meadow, Time4Learning or ClickNRead (just to name a few), you can be sure that they are well-established within the homeschooling community for a GOOD reputation and excellent customer service. It is always important to ask about a company or do your own research before you buy, but I want to let our readers know that I personally stand behind the reputations of our regular sponsors. So -- if you are thinking about trying out any of the services and/or products our sponsors offer, please know that I WANT to be personally involved if ever you have the slightest problem. For our sponsors, a good reputation is more valuable than gold -- and they also value their relationship with our readership.

Happy homeschooling! :-)

-- Heather


Another "Veteran" Homeschool Mom Shares Experiences

"I homeschooled 6 children from January 1981 to June 2008 -- 26 and a half years. It was a busy time and, out of necessity, certain projects (ie: sorting photos into albums) and personal interests (batiking, crafting) were laid aside. There were other things I would have liked to do but didn't have time for during our homeschooling years. I figured once our homeschooling days were done, I'd have time to pursue those various interests / activities / involvements.

Well -- reality presented differently than I anticipated! I became a grandmother while still homeschooling our youngest two. Of course, being a grandma has been a great pleasure but it involves time that was already at a premium. Immediately after becoming a grandma, someone rear ended our vehicle and I received a serious whiplash injury. Add in doctor, physiotherapist and massage appointments -- plus dealing with an insurance claim over the next two to three years. By then, both sets of parents (mine and hubby's) were experiencing health problems and, over the next few years, we assisted them with moving help, driving to doctor and other appointments, shopping for groceries and other necessities, helping them with chores and errands, offering support during hospitalizations, advocating for their needs, etc. Three of our four parents have since died... two family weddings... birth of another grandchild... helping our young adults as needed... the list goes on. Also, yo ung adults (still living at home) who are working and/or attending further training or university don't have regular schedules, so that is another interesting factor to balance within the grand scheme of daily living!! Plus, both my husband and myself are older and with age comes the start of our own health challenges. So, while I may have thought that I'd have LOTS of time to do various things once the homeschooling chapter of my life was done, I found out otherwise! The list of projects and activities still awaits my attention.

But... two years after our youngest began college, I can see the possibility of starting to catch up on several tasks (ie: sorting and cleaning out and eventually getting to that list of projects and activities).

And it hasn't all been nose to the grindstone. During the last couple of years, I have had more time to get together with a few friends for a visit over tea or a walk together. I have read more books and watched a few videos; I've attended some lovely music concerts. I've helped some other homeschooling parents with a support group in our province and hosted a small moms support group locally. I was asked (by some ministry of education staff) to provide input based on our homeschooling experiences. I volunteer with a missions group and serve on a housing board. I may still be looking forward to learning to do calligraphy and make quilted wall hangings and do some batiking again -- and especially sort through boxes of photos and do some scrapbooking -- but I am realizing that I am inching closer to the time when I will be able to enjoy those interests and activities." -- Helen C.

Your feedback is always welcome! -- mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net


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Helpful Tip

"Hi -- I just finished a craft project and wanted to share it with your readers. I've attached a couple of pictures, and the text is below. You can also see it on my blog at www.shoddyshirtbooks.blogspot.com.

Planetary Personalities Characters Come To Life!

My box of Wikki Stix just came in the mail yesterday, and I couldn't wait to start building some Planetary Personalities characters with them. I started with Earth. First I wrapped some blue Wikki Stix around a golf ball. Next I added some continents and facial features, but I didn't like the way it looked. It was too bulky, and everything was resting on top of the ocean instead of within it. So I disassembled it, leaving the pieces I liked together. (That's the best part about this project - since Wikki Stix are reusable, mistakes aren't final!) On my second try, I put the continents and facial features on first, then filled in the gaps with the blue ocean. Not too bad for a beginner's effort!

Next I created Saturn, but this time I used Glow-in-the-Dark Wikki Stix! Whenever I read the book to groups of kids, they all "oooh & aaahhh" over Saturn's beautiful colors. Learning from my first attempt, I put the facial features on first, then wound multiple colors around the golf ball until it was covered. For the rings, I attached one Wikki Stix to the back, then attached multiple colors end to end so that they spiraled around Saturn's body. All that was left to do was plug in a blacklight and watch Saturn shine!

If you would like to try this project, here's where you can get the materials:
Planetary Personalities, a fun rhyming story about the characteristics of the planets in our solar system: www.shoddyshirtbooks.com
Wikki Stix, the One-of-a-Kind Creatables: www.wikkistix.com

Contributed by Jen Ulm -- Thanks, Jen! :-)


Do you have a website, tip, idea or experience to share for our next issue?

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

Winning Websites

Ten Steps to Multiplication Memorization!


Print your own graph paper in multiple sizes and colors!


And here's a really-quite-good LONG list of FREE homeschooling curricula and resources online!

Last Issue's Reader Question

"Hi -- I am very thankful for your newsletter and website; it has been helpful to me. We have two boys, ages 10 and 13. As the school year is starting next week I am wondering what can I do to keep them busy, happy, safe and away from electronics. We live in Michigan and it is already getting cool outside. As soon as we are done with school my boys want to use computers or Wii, so what would your readers recommend? Thanks." -- Betty in MI

Our Readers' Responses

"Hi, Betty -- Boys need to stay active. Active. And more active. This is why it is so hard for them to concentrate in school because their minds and bodies need and want to be moving and creating and exploring.

If you have simply recreated the school environment at home, expect to be frustrated with them.

Have a system in place that schedules their day. Once learning/schooling is done (no more than 3-4 hours) then engage them in 'boy' activities such as building things, tearing things apart, figuring out how they work, creating, etc.

Only allow 'screens' for maybe 30 minutes per day for fun. Get them engaged in fixing things around the house.

Buy them some old hammers screwdrivers, drills, scrap wood, nails, screws, etc, and let them go for it!

Train and supply them with what ever they need so that by age 16 they are young men capable to take care of everything around the house, inside and out.

What great satisfaction you will see in your boys' faces when they are able to fix or make something of their own accord -- and for someone else!

David Kimball, www.household-budget-made-easy.com


"This is a great time for productive hobbies.

How about strategy games like chess or checkers? Board games (Monopoly, Apples to Apples, and Lego Build-It are favorites here). Card games (we get crazy competitive with Nertz and Phase 10). Handcrafts (whittling, leather working, painting). Domestic skills (cooking, baking -- my boys don't mind making 'manly' denim quilts like this one). Building sets (Legos, Magnetix, and Knex keep my guys busy for hours). Free reading (books that arent quite 'worthy' of assigned school reading like fantasy novels), art (drawing, painting, cartooning, calligraphy), photography (digital cameras mean tons of pictures for only the price of batteries!) Give them a digital scavenger hunt! Or here's a neat 100 picture challenge that should keep them occupied for awhile. More ideas are: pet raising (ferrets need lots of playing and small dogs need lots of training), learning a musical instrument (an electronic keyboard is cheap and easily stored if you don't have much space), writing pen pals, creating weapons (pvc pipe and duct tape look out!).

I've also found that posting a list of recreational activities to choose from reminds my kids of what's available if I've set a time of day when they're not yet allowed on the video games." -- Jean H.


"I have boys about the same age. I look forward to hearing what others have to say! For the moment, we don't allow any computer games (unless they are for school learning) or electronic games during the week. They look forward to weekends so they can play. This helps them keep their minds on their school work, and also helps them come up with other creative things to do." -- Lisa


"Hi, Betty -- I too have boys who LOVE their electronics. I have a few ideas that have served us well through the years:

First, an obvious one would be board games. If they are itching for gaming, it is still a 'game' but many board games still require you to 'think', so we allow our boys to play these. Card games, too -- teach them the classics, like rummy and solitaire -- again, good for thinking skills.

Puzzles - I am talking the big ones that take a while to finish! Try to set up a card table where it can be left out and the whole family can get involved in putting it together. It might seem lame to them at first, but it can be rather addicting trying to put those things together!

A musical instrument -- one that they choose. We recently purchased a drum set for one of our boys and he loves it. Our oldest was already playing guitar and I have a keyboard. Now it is very common for me to find my three oldest boys working on a song together down in the homeschool room. Their friends are starting to show up for 'jam sessions' -- all 'screen' free! :)

Okay, now these next two are not technically electronic-free, but they worked so well for our kids that they are still planning personal projects. Even my 16 year old gets involved:

Claymation - we have a program that we purchased for claymation on the computer that our kids use to make movies with the video camera. They get the most creative ideas and take off with them! It engages them for hours and they LOVE it, even my 5 year old is included in voicing the characters. And to celebrate completion, we usually have a viewing on family nights with the whole family.

Live movies - We also have video editing software for live movies and my kids took it one step further and began learning about green-screen techniques -- again of their own initiative! It is pretty amazing what your kids will come up with if they are given some resources and room! We have had many of their friends come in and play parts, do voices, help with props; it has been so much fun for the family. If you do not own a video camera, you could always do basic drama and possibly introduce them to plays to perform.

ART - Drawing and painting, etc. on a more in-depth level.

Woodcarving - One son of ours used to whittle for hours on a hunk of wood creating something of his choosing. Wood burning can also be a rewarding skill.

The last one is Winter Sports - whenever it snows or is cold enough for frozen ice, we try really hard to encourage our boys to get outside, whether it is building snow forts for snowball wars, snowboarding, sledding or ice hockey, getting out in the fresh air is good for everyone. We now live in Wyoming where winter sports are pretty common, and outdoor recreation is BIG year round, but when we lived in Michigan we still looked for opportunities to get our kids outside as much as possible. Either way, it is good to practice wherever you reside!

Hope these help, have a blessed day!" -- Nicci in Wyoming

Answer our NEW Question

Ack! We are completely OUT of reader questions again! :-)

Do you have a burning question to ask? Just need some practical help or advice? Send in YOUR question and you'll be next in line! (See instructions below...)

-- Heather


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