"" -- 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



Story Creation, Banana Science, Sonlight Users

Added by Heather Idoni

Monday, April 29, 2013
Vol. 14 No. 5, April 29, 2013, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2013, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you enjoy this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend! 

Not a subscriber? Get your own subscription (and a FREE unit study!) here:


And please visit our sponsors -- they make this publication possible! :-)



Free E-book -- Don't Miss This One!

Did you get a chance to download the free e-book about CLEP exams yet? It is written from the perspective of a young lady who is a homeschool grad... and it is really good reading!


-- Heather


Notes from Heather
-- Story Creation
Winning Website
-- FontStruct
Helpful Tips
-- New Multiplication Game
Reader Question
-- Sonlight Experience?
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Dear Readers,

You may (or may not) have noticed that I am not publishing newsletter issues as often as I have in the past. This year we planned to be vendors at 7 conventions -- and that is keeping me very busy! We have 4 left to complete and my travels will take me as far as Omaha, Nebraska this year. We'll be at the "Teach Them Diligently" convention in Omaha, so if you have plans to be there please stop by the Beloved Books booth and say hello! I love to meet my readers on the road! :-)

Do you have a budding creative writer in your home? Here are some valuable tips on story creation. These were shared over a period of time by a storyboard artist named Emma Coats while she worked for Pixar Studios in the animation department.

  • You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  • You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  • Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  • Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  • Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  • What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  • Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  • Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  • When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  • Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
  • Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
  • Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th -- get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  • Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
  • Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
  • If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  • What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
  • No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on -- it'll come back around to be useful later.
  • You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best and fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  • Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  • Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How do you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  • You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write 'cool'. What would make YOU act that way?
  • What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

  • Hope you enjoy the rest of the newsletter!

    Until next time...

    -- Heather


    Your feedback is always welcome! Just send your email to heather(at)familyclassroom.net


    Winning Website


    From the site:

    "FontStruct is a free font-building tool which lets you quickly and easily create fonts constructed out of geometrical shapes, which are arranged in a grid pattern, like tiles or bricks.

    You create 'FontStructions' using the 'FontStructor' font editor.

    Once you're done building, FontStruct generates high-quality TrueType fonts, ready to use in any Mac or Windows application.

     You can keep your creations to yourself, but we encourage users to share their 'FontStructions'. Explore the Gallery of fonts made by other FontStruct users and download them or even copy them and make your own variations."

    Helpful Tips


    "We just launched a beta of our new multiplication game MIKRO-Strike over at Brainormous. It's a fast paced multiplication game that we hope kids will find fun and engaging. Please check it out and let us know what you think. Here's the link:


    -- Aaron T.

    ...and Science!

    Here are really cool step-by-step instructions for extracting some strands of DNA from a banana!

    www.csiro.au/en/Portals/Education/Programs/Do-it-yourself-science/Biological-sciences- activities/banana-DNA-activity.aspx

    -- Heather


    Last Issue's Reader Question

    "We are considering using the Sonlight program next school year for our 11 year old son. He will be in the 6th grade. Can you tell me your positive/negative experiences with this program if you have used it? We'll be using Saxon math with it. Thank you!"

    -- Tamara, HomeschoolingBOYS.com member



    "Hi, Tamara -- This was our first year using Sonlight. I have a 12 year old and an 8 year old. My 12 year old daughter loves to read, but my 8 year old son does not. For him we took turns reading the readers together. Having said that, I think that this is a great curriculum. The readers/read-alouds actually fit together with the history 'text books'. The stories are great, and offer a glimpse of what it was like to live in the time you are studying. I just asked my kids this morning if they wanted to continue Sonlight history next year, and my son was the first to answer yes! It can be time consuming, but you can adjust the schedule to fit your needs. I would even recommend the '4 day' as opposed to the '5 day' schedule. That gives you a day to catch up or do something else on day 5.

    I re-visit my curriculum choices every year, but this year, I have decided to stick with Sonlight." -- Kristen


    "We used Sonlight for 3 years, and tried something different this year, which they hated. My boys loved Sonlight -- the only struggle we had was trying to do a full day of co-op and using a 5 day schedule. We were always playing catch-up. But it was a good fit for them! I have one reader and one 'I don't like to read' reader. You can download a free schedule from Sonlight and request a three week schedule to check them out." -- Geri in PA


    "I don't use Sonlight as a curriculum per se, but I really appreciate what they offer, such as the guides, book suggestions, and supporting materials. I use a combination of programs, and I think Sonlight is one of the best literature-based programs out there. Even if you don't want to buy all the books, you can buy the guides and use the library. It is a bit more inconvenient not to have all your books in one single purchase, but if you already have several of the titles in the program, you could start with those and just purchase a few of the supporting resources. I do a lot of reading aloud with my son who is a reluctant reader, so we take turns reading. It's worth the extra effort to do that so that he has the experience of reading high quality books. The learning is so much richer and better remembered through story format than out of a dull text book." -- Jackie in ME


    New Reader Question

    "I began homeschooling my 7-year-old (first grader) about three weeks ago. When he attended public school, I heard nothing but good things from the teachers on how well he behaved and how well he did his school work. On Monday nights, the teacher would send home 4 pages of homework he was to do during the week and turn back in on Friday. He loved doing his homework and usually wanted to do it all the first night.

    Now I can't even get him to do one worksheet without drama and it taking forever. What he was able to do in about 15 minutes before is taking him an hour or more. It it taking so much longer to get through our lessons than it should. Sometimes I tell him, "You didn't act like this for your teacher -- why are you doing it to me?" He is constantly asking for food or a break or some other distraction and can't seem to stay focused.

    Is this a normal phase when you first begin homeschooling? I know he is testing his boundaries, but I am not sure how to get things running smoother. Do any of you have any suggestions?

    Also, I have a 20-month old son at home and my 7-year-old gets upset that his brother is getting to watch TV and while he has to do schoolwork. Or he gets distracted by his brother in other ways. I am open to any and all suggestions." -- Khadra


    Send YOUR Answer!

    Do you have some wisdom or practical advice to share with Khadra? Please send your answer!

    Email: hn-answers(at)familyclassroom.net


    Ask YOUR Question

    Our 13,000+ readers have a wealth of experience and wisdom. Would you like to have YOUR question featured in an upcoming issue? Please ask it! :-)

    Send your email to: hn-questions(at)familyclassroom.net


    Subscription Information

    Here is the page where you can subscribe to our newsletter:


    And here is our searchable archive:




    There are opportunities for your business to be a sponsor of this newsletter! Read more about our VERY AFFORDABLE advertising here:




    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. [Occasionally your contribution may have to be edited for space.]

    Feel free to send any contributions to: HN-ideas(at)familyclassroom.net.

    Our main website is:



    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 friends or groups via email. For reprints in paper publications (homeschool support group newsletters, etc.) please direct your request to: Heather(at)FamilyClassroom.net.


    >>> EasyFunSchool units are back! <<<

         Site content copyright individual contributors and FamilyClassroom.net 2001-2021 - Digital duplication expressly prohibited.
    Privacy Policy | Advertise