Monday, February 2, 2015

How To Choose The Right Homeschool Curriculum!...Again!

Well It's burnout season...aka February so here's a great blast from the past post from March 2013!  Enjoy!

This is a repost from Renee Ellison of  

It's probably one of the best articles I've seen on this subject...and one of the reasons we switched curriculum.  I could identify with most of what she was saying and I've known for a while things had to change.

I HIGHLY recommend any of her materials!  Teacher's Secrets and Motherhood Savvy for Homeschoolers is just about the best how to book for homeschool moms that I've ever seen....really...and I've seen A LOT.  It's answers a lot of the day to day problems you may have.  I wish when I was a young mom and homemaker I'd had this book.  It's like a crash course in what you wish you had learned but were too busy working a job to figure out.  All of her little pamplets are like vitamins  - short but to the point.  No wading through 100's of pages to get the answers you need NOW.  It's also available at Amazon Teachers' Secrets and Motherhood Savvy for Homeschoolers
 and you can get it in a kindle version for instant  Teachers' Secrets and Motherhood Savvy for Homeschoolers

Are you SURE you have the right curriculum?

The single biggest cause of homeschooling burnout is choosing the WRONG curriculum.  For most homeschoolers, veterans and beginners alike, the illusion is that you will always have
days in which to teach, but the reality is that you’ll SELDOM have even ONE perfect homeschooling day.  If your schooling centers on you as the teacher, it will simply slip through the cracks on days when other demands take over.  Because schooling is THE ONE flexible/negotiable part of the day (no one is watching), it often gets put on the back burner (for far too many days, for months on end), because today we can’t do it RIGHT, using what you THOUGHT was the ideal curriculum.
Now that school is beginning again this fall, mothers are scrambling to make out their schedules, get last minute supplies, etc.  This feels exhilarating…at least, initially.  Aha…a fresh start.  But talk to those same moms one month from now and they are in tears, feeling guilty, and nothing is going according to plan.  Hubby is threatening to put the children back in public school because ANYTHING is better than the fiasco he sees going on day after day in his own home with his stressed-out wife and inconsolable children.  Because they’ve got the WRONG curriculum.
Haven’t seen the big picture
Moms, by and large, because they have never been down this path before (they graduated from NURSING school, or BUSINESS school…), inadvertently choose and purchase curriculums that are heavily MOTHER-dependent.  They purchase curriculum based on TOPICS that they wish they had had in school, or books that LOOK fabulous, or techniques that seem new and innovative and far superior to the way THEY were taught.  But the problem is not the content or style of the program, at all, but rather it is one of ADMINISTRATION.  Is this curriculum going to be easy to get through each day, especially when I’m preoccupied with little Johnny who just threw up, or on an emergency phone call, or have unexpected company?  THEN what happens?  What happens when I’m up all night with another child and have to sleep IN in the morning?  Let’s see…hmm… 5 children times 2 “mom-isn’t-available-to-teach” hours per student equals ten wasted hours for the family that morning.
Because we have been in the movement for over 20 years as vendors, we have seen children who are now the GROWN products of this little daily nightmare, and it isn’t pretty.
Unit studies…the kick with a bite
In far too many cases, these idealistic theories about curriculum have been murdered by a few brutal facts…embarrassing facts.  The children didn’t get thoroughly educated…not even as much as WE were educated in inferior secular schools.  Scores of excited moms who have never taught a child through all twelve grade levels tell me sentences like this: “This fall we are going to study George Washington—in fact, we’ll do a unit study on him!” The problem is that the mom doesn’t see the 12-year big picture that there are over 34,000 concepts to cover to even make your child AWARE of the most rudimentary components of the big wide world out there.  Giving three months to one concept just isn’t gonna cut it.  While mom is fixated on her one euphoric idea of what SHE will teach, time is wasting…sand literally POURS through the hour glass of childhood.  What she is not aware of is that children can learn ten times faster than she can even dream up the topics, let alone provide a newly hunted down perfect book to teach it with.
Moms with extra time, huh?
Go ahead and buy all of the super-idealized curriculum you want.  But this year try teaching it in the evenings or on the weekends when you get that one “supercharged-mommy-moment” a week, but for all the REST of the time, for all those “barely-making-it” hours, get a curriculum that your children can do WITHOUT you.  Waltz onto their page on any day at any time that you want to teach them from your own academic passions…we always teach our passions best…but for all the OTHER days, and the OTHER hours, keep your children’s noses to the grindstone of an established curriculum that gets the job DONE without you.
Ask yourself a question: How much EXTRA time did I have yesterday to write out lesson plans, or to thumb through a textbook to figure out what my child should be doing today?  Was it three minutes?  30 seconds?  Oops, just couldn’t get to it?  Then what makes you think you’ll have that time TOMORROW?  If you’ve gotta read a teacher’s edition to figure out what your child should do, you are already sunk before you start.
All the “not-so-hot” choices out there
Some love those big companies that sell you the huge textbook for every subject, so that your school curriculum can look just like the public school’s.  But quickly you’ll find that the sheer size of the books scares your kids off (they are a pain in the neck to haul around), and parents by the scores have already discovered that they are “drill and kill and over-kill” curriculums, despite the expensive packaging!  They cost too much, weigh too much, take too much preparation out of YOUR hide, and bore your children to tears with excessive unnecessary mental labor.
Then there are the super dense SPIRITUAL curriculums.  ALL the family reads this and that and does this project and that project on ONE character trait, TOGETHER.  Fine.  Purchase those and teach one every Sabbath, or work through one for one evening a week to gather as a WHOLE family to study.  But for two-to-six hours a day every day of the week, they require too much of mama…and too much of everyone else.  On most days, one can’t even FIND the whole family to study with, let alone DO it.  If you use one of these programs, you’ll burn out, guaranteed.
Then there is the sensational one book for this and one book for that — the eclectic approach.  I hope you like shopping… because your children will read them and finish them on the way to the car.
Then there is the hands-on…build everything you read about…pyramids under the kitchen table approach.  This approach absorbs far too much time spent on “pyramids”...single subjects… (which a child can readily understand just by looking at a few pictures), to the exclusion of time that could have been spent on other equally important concepts/subjects.  Life isn’t just endless time on your hands.  Time spent under the table is time lost practicing a new scale on an instrument.
Then there is the “read-every-book-in-sight” curriculum.  Just read.  Tons of homeschooling families pride themselves on what good readers their children have become.  They congratulate themselves on having exceptional readers…which they mistakenly think then makes them exempt from producing anything else.  The only problem is,.they just don’t know that ALL homeschooling families produce good readers.  This is commonplace, with few exceptions.  They can’t see it, because they live in ONLY their own house.  Moreover, reading is not the whole picture.  What if your car ONLY had a motor, no steering wheel, no brakes, no seats.  Math is important, writing is important, physics is important, spelling is important, each of them requiring very little reading and a great deal of DOING.  The first time your child hears about atoms and molecules and has only read history books, he is apt to say “Huh?” or worse yet, start FEELING the “Huh?” going on inside himself everywhere he turns.  A general education requires gaining basic familiarity with thousands of DIVERSE concepts.
Grading your children’s work…whatever for?
If you want to grade all your children’s work, go ahead, have at it.  But THEY won’t grow, if YOU do their evaluation.  Weeks worth of stacked papers that mom will someday get around to grading trains your child in absolutely nothing.  When your children get back all your delayed grading with your meticulous and conscientious red marks, they will mindlessly throw those same papers into the trash.  Sound familiar?  If they grade their own AS SOON AS THEY FINISH EACH PAGE, they will be invested in it THEMSELVES, to their own surprise.  It is that simple.  CORRECTING one’s work is where ALL the growth takes place.  Do you REALLY have THIS much EXTRA time?  Would you not rather read a good book, or take a walk with your child? 
A long ride
Go ahead, buy whatever curriculum you want, or insist upon having….but ALSO, this year, try buying ACE to use as your daily work horse.  You can’t see the full extent of it all now, but you’ll ride to the schooling-pasture and back to the barn EVERY DAY for two to six hours a day for 12 years with this schooling business…so you’ve gotta have a dependable horse to get you there and back…unless you want a circus at your house every day, if you didn’t spend two hours last night prepping for some other scenario.
Even if your child is only EXPOSED to this sequential, consecutive, line upon line, precept upon precept material and skips half of the fill in the blanks, or merely answers the questions aloud, or even just hears them read to him by an older sibling on sick days, or isn’t multi-sensing every concept… he will be light years ahead of the child who hasn’t.  He will have at least encountered ALL these thousands of concepts.  Four pace booklets a day, four concepts per booklet, 5 days a week, 36 weeks a year, for twelve years, yields 34,560 concepts.  Ta-dah !!!!  Did you catch that?  This is all done FOR you.  You didn’t have to even get out of your easy chair.  This year, try teaching whatever ELSE you want ON TOP of that… but not in place of it.  Countless very burned out families have switched to ACE after trying everything else they had in mind, and the smiles have returned.  There have been no regrets!
We recommend ACE for these 12 very tight and succinct reasons:
1. ACE is taught using THIN booklets…as in… easy to haul on errands.
2. ACE is comprehensive…as in… nothing will fall through the cracks.
3. ACE is spiritual…as in… you won’t produce an intelligent drunk.
4. ACE is engaging, uplifting and KEEPS their interest both academically and spiritually…as in…children end up LOVING God THROUGH their subjects.
5. ACE is self-taught…as in…not mommy dependent…as in… it actually HAPPENS every day regardless of the chaos mom is embroiled in at the moment.
6. ACE is self-corrected…as in…the student has instant feedback.
7. ACE is the curriculum for tear reduction…as in ...momma doesn’t burn out…she actually likes her children AND gets dinner on the table…and wants to continue homeschooling next year.
8. ACE is priced at the low end of curriculums…as in… you don’t have to rob a bank or incur debt to buy it.  The entire year costs less than one month’s tuition at any private Christian school.  It is so inexpensive, the grandparents can purchase it for you.  You won’t grow bitter halfway through the year because you sank 2 grand into a curriculum and now you hate the stuff but can’t possibly switch because you mortgaged the house to get it.
9. ACE trains OUTSTANDING character, woven into the full page text of every subject…as in…not tacked on as a token at the end of the entire day just to make it LOOK spiritual.
10. Employers love to hire ACE graduates for any type of work, because they have found year after year that these students’ cheerful work-ethic is second to none.
11. ACE is in 135 countries and currently educates well over 3 million children…as in…tried and true…kids actually graduate…they actually score high on standardized tests…they actually get scholarships at colleges.
12. ACE is guilt free…school happens.
Have your children read history and biography and how-to books voraciously in the evenings.  Train them in domestic skills.  Teach them how to earn and save a dollar.  And turn off the TV and videos and stop the endless “goes nowhere” recreational FANTASY reading, and you’ll produce SUPER CHILDREN.

again...go to her site if you loved this article as much as I did .... 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cranberry Thanksgiving Links!

***If you can't get the book you can watch it being read here:


  • Memory Verse  Psalm 100:4

Social Studies  

  • Geography - New England
                             Map of New England
                             National Geographics New England
                             What's the Time and Weather in Cape Cod   - put it on the thermometer

                             13 Colonies
                             Thirteen Colonies  - **in depth for beefing up

  • Repetition
  • Vocabulary
               Make a Word Search from Vocab words

  • Simile
               Simile game

            Beefing It UP!

                   Grammar-  Noun
                   watch Schoolhouse Rock - Noun
                    Using one of the sentences in the book circle or color the nouns in School Journal (composition book) or Worksheet Works


    • Warm Palette
                Warm Colors
                Warm Colored Pics


    • Measuring Skills

                Beefing it Up!


    • Starch
             Testing for Starch
    • Leavening Agents
    • Cranberries
               How Does It Grow? Cranberries


    Thanksgiving CrosswordMake sure you have an Ad blocker program!!

    Go Along:

    The Very First Thanksgiving

    Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving  ** Excellent but long...shows the providence of GOD


    William Bradford Biography Nest Entertainment

    Plymouth Plantation Virtual Tour

    Virtual Tour of the Mayflower II

    The Real Thanksgiving Story - (The Story of Liberty)

    Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 

    Charlie Brown Mayflower Voyage

    The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't

    The Mouse On The Mayflower

    Thanksgiving On The Muppet Show

    Read Alouds:

    The Story Of The Pilgrims For Children

    Link to a playlist on youtube:

    Thanksgiving - haven't viewed all these but on first glance they look okay..probably more for older kids

    Thanksgiving Hymns:

    We Gather Together (Perry Como) - my son picked this...who knew??  This is the hymn they sing in the book.

    Thanksgiving Hymns  Playlist - just like being in a cathedral!

    Thanksgiving  Playlist - this has some classic moderns in it

    And For Mom:

    The Thanksgiving Promise

    An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Another Celebrated Dancing Bear Links!


    • Memory Verse  John 15:12-13

    Social Studies  

    • Geography - Russia
                                 Learn about Russia
                                 Flag of Russia
                                 What is the Time and Weather in Russia?   - put it on the thermometer
                                 Dance of the Russian Nesting Dolls
                              Shaping A Russian Nesting Dolls -  fun chance to hear russian
                              Russian Palaces
                              Samovar Pictures
                              What is a Samovar?
                              Brewing Tea Russian Style with A Samovar
                              Trans Siberian Railroad Pics
                              Transiberian by Private Train -   Long but beautiful , ***There is a reference to                                           Bolshevik Revolution and there is a small vodka scene.


    • Vocabulary
                   Play game
                   Make a Word Search

    • Drama

            Beefing It UP!

                       Grammar-  Adjectives
                       watch Schoolhouse Rock - Adjectives
                        Using one of the sentences in the book circle or color the adjectives in School Journal     (composition book) or Worksheet Works


      • Architecture
                  Russian Architecture
      • Etchings

                 ***block printing or potato printing is pretty much the same idea so you can do potato prints if you want
      • Draw a picture in the style of the artist

      •      Russian Dance
                      The Dance of the Officers


                  Beefing it Up!


      • Boiling Point  
                  Watch this video

      Tuesday, November 11, 2014

      Apps VS. Online Games???

      I've been asked several times recently what I thought about eduapps vs. online edugames and which ones I think are's what I think:

      First let me start with apps.  We have LOTS of IDevices so we have apps...oh boy do we have apps.  But the thing I see over and over with apps is that they have some crappy game you're suppose to learn from and then **** you finally get to play a game the kids like*** ....and they may never get off that game again because there is no time limit or anything for the reward game.  So my point is...what's the point??  My kids are only doing the cruddy game because they "have" to and I think that's sad.  That's really most of the problems I see with educational apps....boring...and only fun if you get to the reward game.  Why not just play a board game and have fun instead??? or play a chess app?  or tangrams app?? or...    well you get the idea.  Kids will learn in spite of us if we just let them play what interests them instead of manipulating them with what we think they "should" learn.  Those board and app games I just mentioned include logic, geometry, math and that's just the start since I don't know what board games or apps you personally have.  The other problem that I have with math and math apps in general is that it takes math totally out of the context of why we use it.  Math is ALL around can't escape it so why do we have to bog kids down with math that is OUT of context (apps, worksheets etc).  If you want to learn measuring then bust out the tape measure with the kids and build something.  Or measure everything.  Now you may say "hey,  I did that and he didn't remember", well that may be because he/she wasn't really interested or they weren't ready for the amount of information they were receiving.  They got what they needed...not what you wanted.  Next time you build or bust out the tape they may get more or you may have to wait again. 

      Another problem I have with apps on IDevices is that most kids use their finger for writing.  I wonder how this will affect a young child in their ability to write when they've been using their finger for everything.

      As far as apps for little kids like toddlers...I think that as long as you don't view it as educational as in "here learn your ABC's" it's probably okay.  The problem I have with it is when it's just used to babysit the kid....kinda how TV has gotten.  Mommy needs a little time so pop on the TV or computer.  We should be living our life with the kids not trying to escape them.  Now don't get me wrong...there are days when the wheels are falling off and I've discussed that in other posts so when that happens just STOP and either make brownies (mmm...chocolate) or stream a video (or listen to a book on tape) and watch/listen together...not try to escape them.  They need you and that's probably why they are going nutz, so stop, regroup and enjoy time together relaxing and cuddling.

        The other problem I have with toddlers and apps is that it's up close eye strain on little eyes that haven't developed.  Dr Raymond Moore discussed this years ago.   His study was with indigenous people and how they don't exhibit near sightedness until they adopt the western standard of early reading and boom....the kids start needing glasses.  So up close stuff needs to be kept at bay...for a LONG time.  

      So what apps do "I" think would work ....the ones your kids like.  Sounds like I'm being evasive but I'm not.  Only your kids will know what interests them and what doesn't can download a couple and see how it goes by letting them play and asking them.  

      Now for online edugames.... I think these are a LOT more fun for kids since the games actually have to be fun in the first place to be played.  For sites like Sheppard Software I just let my kids pick what they want to play or I strew a couple and if they play great!...and if be it.    Sometimes I just play myself and they'll come and join because they hear the "electronic" sound and come to investigate.  Kids are so naturally curious it's a travesty that we ruin it by telling them what to be curious about and telling them how to learn it!

      So math seems to be the biggie in game/app learning and a great place to find math stuff for the younger crowd is over at Easy Peasy Homeschool.   Math Playground has got some cool games for older children and then another favorite is ABCya & Mathchimp.  I do recommend that if you go the online edugame route that you use an ad blocker and we use AdBlock Plus.

      I've recently discovered Zondle where you can make a school for yourself and then make yourself the teacher and whala!!  You can enter info and then the kids get to pick what games they want to play using that info.  Yesterday alone my kids played for 2 hours and they were learning their times tables.   I played some of the games with them and they were FUN!!  They loved it so much that they are asking to play first thing this morning!   The really nice part is the info is just part of the game not something they have to trudge through to get to the fun stuff.

      When Discussing online stuff we've got to talk about safety.  I've now seen 3 posts in 2 days about kids viewing inappropriate stuff for MONTHS without the parents knowing.  So I think it's an important point  that I can "see" what they're doing vs. apps which can be on their laps where I can't view what's going on and they can switch to viewing stuff they're not suppose to....even with parental controls & spyware type stuff.  Again it's about being connected to your kid not just leaving them alone all day with the computer.  Once you've built trust and they understand and have maturity to handle making good decisions...maybe it's time to free up but not until you know for sure.   :)  It's also important to let them know that there is ugly, horrible stuff on the web and how to protect themselves but that conversation needs to be age appropriate of course not something that arouses their curiosity....cause you know the old sayin'...curiousity killed the cat.  Anytime you tell a kid no and then give them no reason or a bad reason it's going to cause problems and usually the kind that is behind your back.  Think about how it would feel if you wanted to go grocery shopping and your husband said no and then gave you no reason...ya...that's what it feels like to be a kid.

      Now let's do some REAL math (as in why you do math in the first place!) Lets say were talking about something like liquid measurement since we're baking and I let them measure things and then search an online game for measurement like this one.  See...math done in context to what it's for (no more why am I learning this questions).  You've made something yummy AND you had fun!

      My biggest point is that eduapps and edugames are just part of our fun arsenal of learning that we do during the day and not just "you need to play this so you can learn".  It's like TV or's just part of the fun and not one thing is better than another to discover stuff.

      Now go play some games with the kids and have FUN!!

      Saturday, November 8, 2014

      How to Make An Apple Pie And See The World!

      Social Studies - Italy, France, Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica, Vermont

                                Lapbook for Italy
                                Lapbook for France   **you need to click on the France tab it downloads automatically so I
                                                                  link it here"

                                Sri Lanka

                                Flag of Sri Lanka
                                 England/  Great Britain
                                 Lapbook for England


                                Lapbook for Vermont - take your pick :)

                                Color FIAR Disk
                                Color Flag of Countries


      LA - Repetition - make ups stories with repetition, look at poems with repetition 
             Vocab -  Crossword puzzle maker
                           word search
                           make a game on Zondle

      Art -  Street Scenes, Apple Pie
                Make a Picture in the Style of the Artist
                Make an Apple Pie
                Make an Apple Pie online - Make sure you have an Ad blocker program!!

      Math - Liquid & Dry Measurement
                  Liquid Measurement Song
                  Liquid Measurement Game - Make sure you have an Ad blocker program!!
                  OJ Game - - Make sure you have an Ad blocker program!!
                  Gallons, Quarts & Pints - play with water
                  Make up Math Story Problems

      Science -  Salt, Cinnamon

                       Making Salt Crystals

                       Mighty Machines - Deep Underground

                       Salt Facts, History & Science

                        The Cinnamon Story

                        Introduction to Cinnamon Industry in Sri Lanka  - For older students  

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