Friday, December 18, 2009

Homeschool Books I Recommend

I've read about every book about homeschooling and education that I can get my hands on and these are the top few books I'd recommend to you:

A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning, by Karen Andreola - This is one of my favorite homeschooling books, which I didn't find until I'd been homeschooling several years. It's perfect for the parent considering homeschooling, as well as the one who already is. I borrowed it from the library, but in hindsight wished I'd bought it so I could have highlighted and referenced parts of it again.

The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease- Buy it, read it, live it! Every parent should read this book, whether they home school or not! It 's an unbeatable resource for understanding the changes we all need to make at home to help encourage a love of reading and learning in our children. It also examines the differences in home life between children who excel and those who lag behind. Regardless of income level, your home environment and habits are the hugest determining factor in how easy and naturally your child will learn new things. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Overburdened Homeschooling

This article is posted with permission from it's author, Jeannie Fulbright, & was originally posted here. Jeanie is also the author of Apologia's elementary science books.

    As an author of homeschool books, I want so much to interact with and bless homeschool moms. It is my heart’s cry to encourage, build up and say "YOU CAN DO THIS!" to every mom I encounter with those weary worried eyes. I seek to untie the heavy burdens they have strung upon their backs which weigh them down with guilt, shame and hopelessness... those rampant lies that say they are inadequate and must be doing this and that, using everything they bought at the last convention, lest they be failures.  

    I can’t count how often I have heard the question, “Am I doing enough?” seep into conversations, emails, message boards and eloops. How earnestly I want to reassure them that they are not only doing enough, they are doing more than they need to do.     The question I want to ask them is, “Can you remember anything you learned before sixth grade? What was the learning environment of that thing which you learned? Was it a rigid school setting, reading passages in order to fill out worksheets? Was it under the supervision of a hurried, harried task master? Or was it in an environment where your teacher (whether it be a teacher, parent, grandparent or neighbor) showed enthusiasm for the subject and a genuine interest in you?" Oh! How I wish we could grasp the fact that it isn’t the curriculum that does it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where's the Breach?

*This article is posted with permission from its author, Brandy Pack, and was originally posted HERE.

If you look up the word "breach" in the dictionary here are some definitions you might find there

1. The act or result of a break; or rupture
2. An infraction or violation of trust, or a promise.
3. A gap made in a wall or fortification; rift or fissure.
4. A severance of friendly relations.
5. The upsetting of the normal and desired state.

I have always know about home schooling, after all my sister has done it for years, but I never thought about doing it myself until a couple of years ago. I didn't think I could home school my kids and give them the education they needed. Jake has always been a very hyper child and people told me that it would be good for him to go to school. My sister told me I didn't have to send them to school, but I was afraid that my smarter than average children needed what the public school could provide. I was ignorant of the many advantages there are for children that home school!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Low Down on Home Schooling

*This article is posted with permission from its author, Krista Besley, who wrote it when a friend asked for the "low down" on home schooling. It is based on her personal experience.

Homeschooling Pros

Free to do things on your own schedule. You can visit the zoo, go camping, go on business trips with dad, anything you want to do and not at the time when all the other families are doing it too. We love to enjoy vacations and things during the off seasons. This includes doctor's appts. You are free to go during the day instead of striving to get after school hours. If a friend passes through town, we are free to take a day off, knowing we can make it up another time.

It just seems natural. After your traditional schooling years, how do you learn things? I usually read online or in a book and gain the knowledge I need at my own pace. If there are some things I already know, I can skip over them. If it is something that is more difficult for me to grasp, I can dwell and reread, or find other sources, etc.... whatever it takes to learn it.

No worries about strict bedtimes and wake-up times, stressful mornings and hasty goodbyes. No getting back together late in the day when everyone is tired, stressed, hungry, and needing to do homework. This seems especially important during gospel meeting weeks or other things that take place in the evenings.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Free Fonts & Clip Art

  • BV Fonts... offers a selection of free fonts available for download (including handwriting fonts) 
  • DaFont... offers LOTS of free fonts of ALL kinds (content warning: some fonts are inappropriate)
Clip Art

Monday, November 9, 2009

Free & Low-Priced Curriculum

Homeschooling doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some of my favorite money-saving teacher tools!

Free Pre-School Curriculum:

Free and Nearly Free K-12 Complete Curriculum: 
  • Easy Peasy All-In-One- Homeschool - This is a complete, free online Christian homeschool curriculum! It uses only free material found online, so it's a great choice for those stationed overseas with limited book choices. If you're in the states, you can join Facebook groups to find other families using it in your state. There are also Facebook groups for questions and support. This is probably the easiest-to-use, free choice. (This one does include math but I'd feel best using Khan Academy for that subject) 
  • Old Fashioned Education Christian HS Curriculum - This is a free curriculum available online for you to print off, containing a full 40 week schedule for Bible, math, science, social studies, language arts, literature and history for grades K - 12. It's written by a home school mom using free public domain texts available on the internet. If you need a low cost complete curriculum, check this out! You can read a thorough description about it here

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Best Online Resources for Home Schoolers

Home School INFO:

(The links listed above are also accessible at the top right of every page on my blog.)

Websites to bookmark
  • Shepphard Software is a GREAT site to let kids play on with ALL SORTS of educational games.  
  • Merriam-Webster an online dictionary and thesaurus with audio pronunciation and photos to illustrate. (SO handy for answering kids' questions!)
  • Paper Back Swap!! You can "swap" your books that you no longer want, for books you do want! You can swap paperback or hardcover, even audio books, but they must all be in good condition. This is a great way to get a lot of books for your family! They also have two sister sites for swapping CD's and DVD's, and you can transfer your credits between the various sites. If you do sign up, I'd appreciate it if you tell them I referred you (put "spunkytigrr" in the referral box)! Thanks! :) 
  • Simply Charlotte Mason is probably my favorite homeschooling site. They have a great blog, curriculum guide, free e-books, a message board, free book-finder, and some of my favorite homeschool materials have been purchased from them as well! 


  • Rainbow Resource Center has loads of great stuff for sale, including many curriculums if you want to buy them from one place to save on shipping.
  • Home School Buyer's Co Op for getting some great bargains. Just be sure to read the fine print, because sometimes you're not getting a discount until the number of people involved in "group buys" gets to a certain level.
  • Library & Educational Services  Discounted to home schoolers

Faaaabulous Planners & Printables:

  • Sked Track - This is a handy, free, online scheduler/planner that allows you to enter in the year's  assignments and plans, or enter them in as you go if you like to wing it. It automatically schedules them to a calendar for you (based on the days you choose to do school) and when life happens and you miss a day, it bumps the remaining assignments back a day. You can also print your plans out based on date or subject if you'd like. It even calculates grades, and generates a printable transcript. It makes a great way to safely store your records too. And did I mention, it's FREE? (*Update: I now prefer my DIY Planner, but that's simply a preference of having it on paper rather than online. If you want one online this is still a good one that's free!) 
  • Donna Young... She has printables for just about anything under the sun. If you prefer to do your planning on paper rather than online (w/ Skedtrack), Donna has printable calendars, planners, lesson plans transcripts, attendance, grade forms, certificates, etc. She also has printables organized by school subject.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Home Ec & Money Management Resources for Home Educators

Home Ec for both boys and girls... 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Health Resources for Home Educators

If you need ideas for physical activity, check out the book: The Ultimate Homeschool Physical Education Game Book, by Guy Bailey, a veteran PE teacher who adapted traditional PE activities to become family-sized games, allowing you to teach physical education in the home setting. 

I also recommend checking out The Nutrition Source:  Knowledge for Healthy Eating, maintained by Harvard School of Public Health. They have designed a healthy eating pyramid to be used in place of the FDA's food pyramid, because that one was created by people with strong business interests in its message. This pyramid is reflective of up to date science knowledge and was made by people with no stake in its message, other than trying to promote public health. The have quite a bit of basic nutrition education available online through the site as well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Typing Resources for Home Educators

Typing Courses:

  • Peter's Online Typing course... This is the best option I've found for a good, free beginning typing course, complete with color-coated illustrations showing children where to place their fingers on the keyboard.  It does require Adobe Flash Player (a free download).
  • Good Typing...  This is another option for a free, web-based typing course.  It has 27 guided lessons to learn step-by-step from the beginning.  There are no required downloads, just a required free registration.  You can sample the first lesson without registering though. You can also check your typing speed on this site.
  • After trying both of the two links above (since they're free), I decided it was worth it to buy a more kid-friendly typing course so I ordered Typing Instructor on Amazon. My six-year-old likes it. 

Typing Resources & Games: 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Writing Resources for Home Educators

My favorite resource about teaching children to write is Bravewriter. I bopped around her site, taking notes and making use of all I could find for free in the Bravewriter Lifestyle section.  After implementing her ideas one or two times, my oldest (who had previously "hated writing") told me "You know.... I think I'm actually starting to LIKE writing." You could have blown me over with a feather. 

She has an assortment of products (way more than I'm interested in purchasing), but what I had my eye on was The Writer's Jungle, which teaches you how to teach writing yourself- without the need for a year-by-year curriculum. I ended up majorly lucking out and got a free copy of it from my sister-in-law. I'm still not even done reading the whole thing, but it's written such that I was able to jump right in after reading a couple chapters. It's a major game changer. I just really can't say enough good about it... if you're struggling with writing in your homeschool you need to get your hands on a copy. If your kids are so young that you haven't struggled with writing yet, you need to get your hands on a copy. Check over at Homeschool Buyers Co-Op before purchasing though, in case you can get it discounted.  

If you'd like to know what the very best thing you can do to help you children be better writers... the answer is to read good books with them more!! Students who read the most recreationally are generally the best writers. They absorb quality language through their reading, and then it flows out more effortlessly when they're given opportunity to write. 

"The way to write good English is to read it and hear it... In a child, the selection of the better from the worse is not conscious; he is the servant of his word-experience"(5:304) Our speech and writing abilities are highly reflective of the literature and speech we're exposed to. In other words... everything we read and hear becomes a part of our word bank. So, think about what all your children are exposed to. Though some people are more naturally gifted in writing then others, "the inborn gift of style can be starved or stimulated. No innate genius can invent fine language. The stuff of which good style is made must be given to the mind from without and given skillfully. A child of the muses cannot write fine English unless fine English has been its nourishment."(5:292) Be wary of "juvenile literature" which "belittles the language under pretense of being simply phrased for children; as if a child's book like, Treasure Island or Robinson Crusoe or the Jungle Book, be in good style."(5:293) (See "Choice of Reading Material") 

As far as teaching writing, meaningful, real-life opportunities are much more valuable than a drudgery of worksheets. Some of these include journaling, notes, cards, or letters to friends and relatives, and even list-making for the beginning writers. "Encourage creative urges when they poke up their heads... It works well to let children write their own material when they have something in their heads to write. But it does not work well to regularly require original writing. Too many school children have written "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" and "What I Would Do if I Had a Million Dollars." The natural method frees you from having to find or think up writing topics to motivate your child to do original writing..." (2:49) 

What ever you do, don't overly-criticize a child's original writing!!! Use copywork to analyze and correct spelling and grammar... NOT creative writing. It takes time to grow as a writer, and as Julie of Bravewriter points out, you should be their coach and writing allyIf there are misspelled words or grammar errors, simply make a note to to yourself of areas you may need in your future teaching. Don't break down their creative work and mark them up over mechanics. Your feedback will greatly affect their future endeavors, so keep it as positive as you can. 

If your child is very young or tires easily when writing, let him dictate what he wishes for you to write. Afterwards, read it to him, or let him read it to you (some children learn to read this way). Then, the child may illustrate as well. If he as a favorite story that he's proud of, find an audience for it. If you think you need extra help with establishing your home writing program, check out "Any Child Can Write," by Harvey S. Weiner.

Copywork is another useful writing tool. It is a natural method of practice to increase vocabulary, reinforce language usage and grammar rules. "Just as the child learned to speak by copying your correct speech, so he learns to write by copying fine writing." (2:42)  As ability allows, the child can then progress into dictation work. This is where you read aloud what he is to write, and he decides on punctuation and capitalization based on your voice inflections. In both copying and dictating, let him compare his writing to the original work to receive immediate feedback. This is when you should discuss words, punctuation, grammar, rhyming, style, etc and why it was used in the selection. You may discuss what images it conjures up, then let the child illustrate it. You may also discuss practical application. Since there are many different things you can learn from one selection, you may use that selection over the course of several days, and in teaching multiple children each on their own level.

Works Cited...
1 David & Micki Colfax,
 Homeschooling for Excellence
2 Ruth Beechick, The Three R's

3 Charlotte Mason,
 Home Education 

4 Anne Sullivan, in Helen Keller's The Story of My Life 
5 James Berger's Supplementary Account in Helen Keller's The Story of My Life