Christmas Literature

homeschool christmas literatureThe holidays are certainly a crazy time of year, making it difficult to keep up with any type of routine. Yet, instead of allowing this to stress and give even more insanity to an insane time of year… let the holidays be a good reason to start a thematic reading unit.

I know, it sounds difficult… but really it’s an easy way to incorporate a theme into your homeschool for this month.  You simply choose a book or several books, and your child reads through them. You can integrate this into the other subjects that you are studying as well. For example, to integrate your theme into writing you could have a reading response journal (just a notebook) and have your child record his/her thoughts each day after they have read in their book! For high school students you could have them start a blog (use this easy blog writing course for beginners) and use their blog as a journal for their reading! History and science can be integrated as well by incorporating what they are learning in the book as far as setting or discussion. If the book is set in a past time period, let that be your jumping off place to explore that part of history. It’s easy to make this connect! For the most part, when I use a thematic unit to teach… the kids seem to be more interested and eager to be a part!

Check out this great list of Christmas themed reading books to make finding great books a snap. Some of the books in this list have the complete book itself online!

Homeschooling High School PLUS…

Homeschooling high school has really hit the fan at our house. We now have two of our six children in high school, and the reality that this is a big deal is really hitting me! I have to admit that to begin with I pretty much just stayed “inside the box.”  For the first few years that I home schooled high school we just did our thing. I didn’t worry too much about college, my daughter hadn’t really expressed an interest in what she wanted to do with her life… but now… she has some idea and the fact that college is so expensive has definitely awakened a sleeping giant at our house!

I recently became part of a website that focuses primarily on homeschooling high school. Through this site I found information that really changed how I looked at homeschooling through high school. The site is Homeschool College USA. This site showed me how to get your high schoolers college credit while still attending high school by simply using the CLEP, AP, DSST tests. Amazing!

What we have done now at our house, is to set up our course schedules to match several of these CLEP and AP tests. We will go through our studies as we normally do, but as we finish each course our finals will be taken as the CLEP or AP tests. I have reviewed the suggested course of study that my daughter will need to follow for the degree that she has in mind, and I have aligned her studies with those requirements. Hopefully, as she finishes high school she will have at least half of her college credits completed.

We’ve also begun to rely heavily on LetsHomeschoolHighSchool.com which has an amazing assortment of homeschool resources. Our favorites being the homeschool report card template, high school diploma templates, and high school transcript forms. I am so excited about this new discovery… how do you handle homeschooling high school?

Take a Break… read a book!

My life is usually the definition of busy. Even when I purposely try to slow things down, they still seem to whirl out of control. Yet, during the summer… we do slow down a bit… and in between visiting relatives… I like to take a little vacation at home. I sometimes call it my “book-cation.” I just gather all the books that I have been wanting to read all year… and take time off to read them!

This isn’t just for me though, I try to get the kids all into the reading mood as well. We try to gather their favorites and make sure they have a comfy place with no interruptions and just dive in. It’s a great way to encourage them to read and relax. It’s also a great alternative to the heat.

If there’s no room in your budget for a vacation… try this! A book is an awesome way to visit new places, participate in exciting adventures, and even visit other worlds. There is lots of great literature out there. In fact, there is a ton of great homeschool literature out there. You can join homeschool literature’s online book club and even access lists of great literature written by homeschoolers. A great place to jump start your little “book-cation!”

Home School Record Keeping… Making it work!

Some people just have that gift to organize, schedule, and record…while others were just born without that gene. If you’re a homeschooling family, whether or not you have the “gene” doesn’t matter… record keeping is a must. So, for those who just aren’t organized and who hate to keep records… there are some simple ways to keep you “official” without driving you crazy. Here are a few tips…

1) Pick a record keeping method that suits you… some like technology – others hate it – here are some ideas

  • Use a daily planner to record what you do in your homeschool that day.
  • Use a journal and just let your words freely describe what homeschool was for your family that day.
  • Use an online media such as blogging to record what you’ve done
  • Use a record keeping system such as a teacher planner/grade book
  • Use an online form or software to record grades and assignments

2) Hang on to important pieces of work that your children do.

  • Use a rubbermaid container to store things until you feel up to organizing it…
  • Use a pendeflex file folder. Has tons of pockets and is usually big enough for one child per year,
  • you can put the words in ABC order – so that you can find everything easily later.
  • Use the notebooking or portfolio method and then keep their notebooks on a bookshelf
  • Make a photo library of what your kids do… and then post it on a blog!

3) As my children get older and into high school, I have them keep a single notebook for each subject. Then we keep everything that we did for that subject in that notebook, I keep them until I know they are safely through college.

4) It is also very important to begin establishing a transcript for your older child. You can do this simply by finding a copy of one and making a Word document like it, by purchasing on online version, or using software to develop a transcript.

Tying it All Together

Well, we are in the final stretch… I am actively trying to get the children to finish their workbooks, courses, and projects… to get the school term to a GLORIOUS conclusion. It is never easy to get it to come together, but with patience and planning it does. We do battle with spring fever, and the great desire to be swimming instead of reading…really puts up a fight!

Yet, with this last month of school… keeping it fun, engaging, and interesting is vital. In our finishing up each subject I try to plan a little celebration. This week we are celebrating the completion of our history study of the American Revolution. For our celebration we will be having a special dinner in which we will serve authentic Colonial period foods. The kids are creating menus, and planning it out. In some way, we try to do something similar for each subject.

In these last few weeks we also try to find engaging ways to drill and practice what we’ve been learning. A great way to do that is by using online language games such as hig pig games. If you’ve never tried them… take a spin. Even adults can have fun with some of these!

Don’t despair… you can keep these energetic bundles of wiggles engaged and learning if you’ll make it practical and fun!

A Homeschool: Self Assessment

How’s it goin’? We hear this every day. Most of the time they are just asking about our general welfare, but wait a second… shouldn’t our homeschool get that question now and again?

Sure! How do you assess your homeschool progress? First, never make the mistake of comparing your homeschool accomplishments with someone else’s accomplishments. Each homeschooling family is different and different is good. I can’t believe how many homeschool moms believe they alone are the only ones “making a mess” of their Christian homeschool endeavors. I think we all feel that way from time to time. Allow yourself to be inspired by other’s successes, but never discouraged by them.

Set your own homeschool goals and be pleased when you and your family meet them. Never measure your weaknesses against another’s strengths.

Questioning for Learning

Did you know that how you ask questions really determines how your learner will process infomration? Sure, if we as parent/teachers ask only simple recal questions our children will learn only to gobble and spit out facts. It is so important to think about how we question in order to direct our learners to apply, analyze, and evaluate information. If we can do this within context and by using questioning and context games we can raise their level of understanding drastically.

There are six different levels of questioning that we can use. We almost always begin with the first level… it’s the simplest… just rote memory or recalling facts. What is the capital of Texas? is a good example. Yet, there are 5 more levels of questioning that we can use to enable our children to apply the knowledge and ultimately be able to evaluate the knowledge for themselves by internalizing the information. Here is the jist of these 6 levels. (For people who like big words… these levels are also known as Bloom’s Taxonomy 🙂

Level 1 – Knowledge – simple recall/rote memory
Level 2 – Comprehension – questions that require the learner to exhibit an understanding “compare and contrast” “explain the main idea”
Level 3 – Application – uses words like “classify”, “illustrate”, or even “write an example”
Level 4 – Analysis – requires the student to take apart what he has learned and assimilate the knowledge – “summarize”, “categorize”, draw conclusions”
Level 5 – Synthesis/Creation – has the student creating something from the knowledge obtained – “produce”, “write”, “design” “hypothesize”
Level 6 – Evaluation – enables the student to give an account of knowledge in their own words – “judge”, “argue”, do you agree”, “would it be better”

Get Hooked… on classics!

A taste for great literature doesn’t just happen… it must be cultivated. Yet how?
With all of the shallow and poorly written books out there it becomes an increasingly difficult task for parents to get their children reading the classics. But the good news is… there are a few easy things you can do to get them hooked…
1. Read aloud – read your children great works of literature. Choose a great classic that is exciting and adventurous. They’ll beg you to read more…
2. Use SSR – Silent Sustained Reading to form a reading habit. Consistently require your children to read for a set amount of time. Do this each day, and it will become a habit.
3. Require a variety of genres. Make sure your children don’t get stuck on one particular type of book. Have them read Newberry Award Books, historical fiction, biographies, folk tales, etc. In fact, encouraging them to be well-read is a great SAT strategy.
4. Use reading strategies to encourage your children to read critically. From the time they first begin to read, they need to be reading with understanding. Ask them questions as they finish each sentence, and encourage them to think while they are reading. Grow this process as they mature into a student who can analyze complex literature.

Standardized Testing…

Standardized testing can be a very controversial topic within the homeschooling community. Some look at the homeschool standardized testing as a way to see where our children are at… others view the tests as intrusive and simply a means to impinge on our privacy.

As a previous teacher, I do take the standpoint of using these tests as a means of determining where my children are. I enjoy seeing if they are at or above their “typical” grade level… which most of the time they are above grade level… to me it is a way to do a little “victory dance.” I can see that my goals and objectives are being met, and my children are exceeding the states’ expectations.

If you are interested in getting your child tested there are plenty of options. You can contact your local school to see if they allow homeschoolers to test with their students, you can contact a local private school (these tend to be more accomodating to homeschoolers and charge a reasonable fee), or you can locate a private testing agency. Whichever route you choose, please realize that this is simply a single test, and not an all inclusive indicator of your child’s learning. Simply use it as a single tool. One that can help the parents see what they need to be doing, and one that can help the student see how they can improve.

Finding Your Homeschool Record Keeping Niche

Homeschool record keeping is one of those necessary evils. It really isn’t fun, but you MUST do it. However, there are many ways to go about keeping records for your homeschooling endeavors. You can be extremely detailed or a bit relaxed. Whatever your family’s personality – there is a record keeping method out there to match it, you just need to find it!

Here are a few handy examples of record keeping that just may inspire you.

1) Be official and use a teacher planner. These books often have a little grade book built in, and you can keep you lesson plans and grades all in one handy place.

2) Use a calendar to keep track of your lessons and your grades. Use the daily spaces to record what happened on what day.

3) Use Microsoft Word to find a gradebook template that works for you. I do this, and am able to print my children report cards to use for “perks” at certain restaurants and kid fun places.

4) Homeschool record keeping and lesson planning software make this super easy!

5)Use a plastic rubber maid container to store examples of all your children’s work.

6) Assemble a homeschool portfolio to keep records. Some of the best homeschool records I’ve seen have been this type. The portfolio is simply a collection of the student’s work over a period of time. You can choose some, and then let you child choose some to put into their portfolios. Parents can keep a grade sheet and other pertinent info within the book as well. Typically a three ring binder is used.

7) or you can use an online curriculum that keeps records for you! Parent work is kept at a minimum and when the time comes, all you need to do is print out your portfolio.

Whichever method best suits your family is the way to go! If you don’t keep records at all, I hope that this article has motivated you to keep track of all your hard work homeschooling. If you are going to do the work, you’ve got to have proof!