Click here if you have "No Fear"

FROM MY PERSONAL FILES AND EXPERIENCES
(14+ years worth!)

Copyright © 1999 Linda J. Coyle--Do not reprint without permission

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Click to go to LETTERS TO LINDA--more tips from personal experiences are shared!

Here is the greatest tip of all:



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    Tip #1:    EACH YEAR THAT YOU HOMESCHOOL HAS ITS OWN SPECIAL CHALLENGES.

    Maybe there is a move on the horizon or a new baby.  Maybe a child is entering puberty  (research shows that academics take a plunge during this time) or you have to return to work part-time.   It is important to realize the old adage, "Rome wasn't built in a day."    Likewise, overall homeschooling success is not determined by one year's or one day's efforts.

    I have found that each year I prayerfully take a sort-of "inventory" of my child.   Did we not have enough Bible memorization or art last year?   Maybe I should put an emphasis on that THIS year.   Did my child score lower on "Map Skills" on his standardized test this year?   Then maybe I want to really highlight that area by ordering extra workbooks in that skill in addition to my regular curriculum.   Did my child, while watching T.V. one night say, "Where is Scotland anyway?"   Maybe it is time for a World Geography emphasis.   You get the idea by now.

    By taking this "inventory" I am actually getting a clear GOAL in my mind for that child for this particular year.   Having goals help in two important areas:   (1)  If I do not have goals for each year, how will I know if I reached them?,  and (2)I can stop playing the "I wish I would have" game.   You know, "I wish I would have gotten this book or that".   By setting my mind before the Lord that this year we will do extensive World Geography work and play Geography games, I am focusing myself and my child.   Next year?   Look at your child again and set new goals. Don't try to do everything all at once!   You or your child can't handle it!   Believe me, I know from experience!

    Now that you have done this, work toward your goals for your child.   Don't compare yourself with another.   Scripture warns that we should not "compare ourselves among ourselves."   It is a no-win situation to do so and very depressing.   This frame of mind can lead to quitting homeschooling.   There is always someone doing things a little better than you and someone doing things a little worse than you.   Minding our business as the Lord directs is an important part of homeschooling.





    TIP #2:   WATCH OUT FOR HOMESCHOOL CONFERENCES AND BOOK FAIRS!

    Along with Tip #1's lines, let me say a word about the wonderful Homeschool Conferences and Fairs available to us now.   These Fairs are very helpful and necessary in their place.   Be careful that you do not come away so depressed that you can not afford that curriculum and wish you could, or that you bought the wrong curriculum and now what are you going to do?   If you have prayerfully set goals for your child before going to the Conference or Book Fair then the Lord can direct you to the workshops you need to attend or the books that you need to buy.   Then, stick with the plan as you go and don't get distracted and side-tracked (as is easy to do at these things!).   You can see books and keep them in mind for next year maybe.   But too often I have seen people buy this and that because "so-and-so" said it was great only to not use it after they buy it.   They succumbed to "impulse buying" and that is not what you should do at a homeschool fair.   With me, I was always too poor to buy much anyway.   But, by having goals before I went to a conference,  it kept me from despairing that I couldn't buy all the "stuff" there is out there.   I looked for what I needed in order to achieve my goal.   That helped immensely and made the conference more profitable.

    Tip #3:   BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE.   DON'T LET A LACK OF MONEY FOR HOMESCHOOL THINGS GET YOU DOWN.   GET CREATIVE!

    Scripture teaches contentment also.   Carefully consider the alternatives in your situation.   Do you love the LEARNING WRAP-UPS but can't afford them?    Could you make them?   (I did with the plain side of cereal box cardboard, yarn, and masking tape).   Of course I had to have time to do this.   Maybe you don't.    If you have teens in your house, sometimes you can get them to help you.   This keeps them from being bored in the summer, gives you the help you need and gives your 3rd grader a neat, new item to help with multiplication facts for the next homeschool year that cost next to nothing.

    When the kids were young, I spent my summers looking through Teachers' Supply Catalogs and figuring out how I could make the same thing.   I made what are called "ATTRIBUTE CARDS" by dyeing macaroni different colors and making index cards to go with them so my preschooler could sit for their "school" and make the same patterns with the macaroni.  (For instance the card would have a blue dot, a green dot, a green dot, a red dot.   My child would have to put on the card a blue macaroni, a green macaroni, another green macaroni and a red macaroni.)   Why buy these things if you have time to MAKE them? And kids love to help dye macaroni!

    I made a neat ONE HUNDREDS board out of a manilla folder.   I used an exacto knife to make the slots and the 100 pieces were made out of cardboard and those little hard plastic bread "thingies" that keep bread closed but have no other purpose.   This made the bottom of my hundreds board pieces sturdy so they would slide into the slots.   I laminated the pieces with see-through packaging tape.   Yes, it took time.   But since no money was available to buy a board and I really need one to teach skip counting and adding, I was quite pleased with the product.   It is still around here to this day.

    My point is this, don't just give up if you have little money.   Your child can have "neat" things too with some effort on your part.   Maybe grandma can help or a friend.   Then, importantly, these things that you have made should be put in a special place and brought out only under supervision.   Too often parents allow children to get out whatever they want and play with it whenever and however they want. Then, SURPRISE!   It gets ruined!   Teach respect for the materials that you DO have (especially important if you have more than one child).

    Tip #4:   HAVE A "BANANA DAY" FROM TIME TO TIME!

    I didn't come up with this idea...a homeschool friend in North Carolina did.   When she and her son had had too many school days of textbooks and little else, and they were both feeling "burnt out", she would declare a "banana day".   The concept was a good one so I adopted it too.

    On our "banana days" we put away all of our text books and did educationally-related activities for our whole school day.   Things like educational movies were viewed,  interesting articles in magazines were read,  educational games were played.   Longer art projects or home economics projects  (like making bread)  were also a part of these days sometimes.   Sometimes I would just say, "today is a banana day";  other times I would actually plan one or two into the month...I would save all those longer neat science experiments,  or art activities for this special day.   These "banana days" would help us gain fresh perspective and give us that extra boost we needed to get back to the textbook work...try it!   You'll like it.

    We would use "Highlights for Children",  "American Girl",  "Ranger Rick",  "Clubhouse Jr.",  "3-2-1 CONTACT",  and other magazines for project ideas.   Sometimes we would read and discuss several interesting articles in these magazines and we would learn a great deal in an area we weren't currently studying.   This idea not only renews you and your child but alot of "incidental" learning goes on in areas that your textbooks may never cover.   You can find alot of these magazines in your local library and many times they can be checked out.   Maybe you can find a book in the children's non-fiction section that is really interesting that you could use on "banana day".   The possibilities are endless. Don't be surprised if your child asks alot for "banana" days!They are great fun...a little more work for Mom perhaps,  in getting ideas on how to fill the required 4 1/2 hrs required by law for school, but worth it in the long run!

    Tip #5:   HAVE A "MAGAZINE DAY" FROM TIME TO TIME!

    This is a variation of Tip #4.  Since there are so many magazines out there with so many good articles in them,  have a day where except for math,  all of your educational material comes from magazines. The  "Reader's Digest"  magazines are written on a sixth-grade level  (the last I heard)  and they have many articles that could spawn all kinds of discussions between you and your child.   "National Geographic"  (although evolutionary to the tee)  also has alot to offer also (see if you and your child can spot the evolutionary statements--promotes thinking).   Use these kinds of magazines and others found in the library and you can have a very interesting non-textbook day.   You could even use a  "Good Houskeeping"  magazine and cook up something interesting for supper together.   Having a "Magazine Day" also promotes lifelong learning.

    Tip #6:   NOT EVERY PAGE IN A TEXTBOOK IS SACRED AND HAS TO BE DONE!

    Don't be a slave to a textbook or curriculum guide that you have chosen to use.   This is such a hard concept for new homeschoolers to grasp.   They think that something terrible will happen to their child if they skip a section.   The wonderful thing about homeschooling is its flexibility!

    An illustration:   For quite some time I made my children do every problem in their math and grammar books. Then,  I learned from another homeschool Mom who had her children registered with C.L.A.S.S.  (Christian Liberty Academy Satellite School),  that her kids were only required to do the "odd" problems in their math and grammar books.   So,  now I decide what is best.   If my child is great at finding verbs and doing addition,  maybe I can skip some of the work.   Maybe every third problem even.  Then,  if I was wrong and they need more practice,  I just go back and assign the ones we did not do.

    This is also a great motivator for your kids.   I can say,  "If you get 90-100% on this section,and do all this work in 15 minutes,  you do not have to do the rest of the problems on this page."   Talk about speed,  accuracy and motivation!  This gives them incentive and gives you a chance to spend more time on areas they need more help in or enrichment activities.

    This year,  I even used Laura's addition,  subtraction,  multiplication and division review exercises as daily drill material.   This way we could spend more time on those new areas she was learning--percentages.   And,  we still got practice in "old" well-known areas.

    One caution though--remember that children's standardized math tests test not only concepts but speed in computation.   Don't just "give in" to your child who is pouting that he has so many math problems to do.   Sometimes it is necessary to make them do all the problems to develop speed and accuracy.   It is also good character training to let kids know that sometimes we all must do unpleasant tasks well.   Just don't be so dogmatic about EVERY page,  EVERY day,  in EVERY subject.   Talk about freedom!   (By the way, even Christian and public school teachers practice this concept...so why not us?)

    Tip #7:   MAKE SURE YOUR TODDLERS FEEL A PART OF YOUR HOMESCHOOL

    How in the world does one do that!   Since that is a major concern for all homeschoolers,  I have devoted a separate page  (one that is always growing too) as to how I have done that over the years.GO TO "WHAT DO I DO TO KEEP MY TODDLERS OCCUPIED DURING HOMESCHOOL?


    Tip #8:   THERE IS A LIST OF WHAT CHILDREN OUGHT TO BE STUDYING FROM YEAR TO YEAR AROUND WHICH YOU CAN DESIGN YOUR OWN CURRICULUM.

    Every year it seems the Lord puts a new homeschooling family in my path. Inevitably,  the question of where one gets curriculum to use comes up.   There are many homeschooling web pages where one can get lists of curriculum vendors--See my Other Helpful Homeschool Web Sites Page and surf to find these.   But,  every year I get into a discussion with someone about how I know what should be taught each year.   Usually,  I break out my WORLD BOOK TYPICAL COURSE OF STUDY booklet  (henceforth referred to as booklet/site)  and loan it out.   Guess what?   I can do the same for you now because it is ON-LINE!!!!!    See the bottom of this tip for the link.

    This booklet/site contains the  "the results of ongoing research  (done by WORLD BOOK)  into curriculum requirements and standards.   The learning levels include preschool through grade 12.   Naturally,  there are regional and local variations that cannot be accounted for in every detail.   But the typical course of study reflects general curriculum requirements across North America.   The information is categorized by grade level and general skill type or discipline."

    Never wonder any more what is USUALLY taught at Grade ____.   Now you will know.    I usually take this information and either:   (1)  select a text which covers most of what is outlined on this list or,  (2)  go to the library and check-out non-fiction books in those areas my child's text does not cover, or,  (3)  just throw out a text book altogether and create my own course of study using this survey as a guide.   This third option particularly works well in Science, Health and Social Studies.

    I usually recommend first year homeschoolers to stick to a particular vendor's curriculum while the idea of  "homeschool"  is being established especially when a public or Christian School child is being taken from their usual system to homeschool.    It helps  "buy"  some time for Mom and kids to get rules and routines established for their homeschool and to  "unlearn"  bad behaviors from previous study systems.   It gives Mom some  "breathing room"  to decide where her children really are academically.   Then,  the second year of homeschooling you may want to explore  "doing your own thing" with a variety of curriculum like most of us homeschool Moms wind up doing!

    I followed this advice myself even though my background is in teaching!   After pulling my oldest child out after 6 years of public school,  I put her and her brother, who was pulled out after 3 years of public schooling,  in ONE set curriculum--Alpha & Omega's7th and 4th grade materials respectively.  Boy,  did I learn alot!  My 4th grader had no problem adapting to the higher standards of the Christian curriculum--he hadn't been totally "ruined" by public school yet!--but for my 7th grader the story was not the same.   I found out the curriculum I had chosen was too hard for her...I even HAD given the diagnostic test ALPHA & OMEGA recommended for placement purposes.   That didn't matter...study skills had been affected by the poor learning environment of the public school she had gone to.    I had to pull her through this curriculum our first year--we did alot together--and the following year I KNEW EXACTLY what my children needed in their curriculum and could "design my own".   Other homeschoolers I've met tell similar stories.) Another good curriculum to use for the first year,   perhaps a little easier than Alpha & Omega is ACE's School of TomorrowFor either of these programs,  the PACES   (ACE)  or the LIFEPACS   (Alpha  &   Omega)   can be purchased separately or as a set.     Both programs have easy-to-administer diagnostic tests to   "place"   your child correctly into the right level of work.    In summary,  both the School of Tomorrow and Alpha   &  Omega are good curriculum choices,  especially for the first year while you are learning about homeschooling and about where your child is academically.

    Now I can just hear some of my homeschooling friends getting a little uptight here.   Do we really want to mirror the curriculum topics used in national public schools in our homeschools?   Maybe sometimes,  maybe not at all.   That is for you to decide.   Remember what most of us don't like about the public schools is not always WHAT they teach but HOW they teach it, WHAT they leave out and what level of expertise they expect their students to have after a topic is taught.   I usually refer to the TYPICAL COURSE OF STUDY when I'm planning my school year and the materials I will buy to make sure my child is at least covering basically the same topics his public school peers are covering.   But,  I do not have to feel that I MUST do a particular unit by GRADE THREE or else I've ruined my child!   If my child studies ROCKS in Grade 4 instead of 3, so what?   This  "booklet/site"  is a GUIDE and a RESOURCE...not a taskmaster.   Remember also,  standardized tests are created from national norms of curriculum.   So,  it doesn't help to be an  "ostrich"  and totally fail to look at what the public school kids are getting at certain grades.   I have always felt my kids could GET MORE THAN their public school counterparts or GO DEEPER into a subject than their public school counterparts...so that is why I recommend taking a look at this booklet/site.   Of course if you are one of these homeschoolers that STAYS in ABEKA or BOB JONES curriculum all the way through,  you really won't need this site as major curriculum vendors have already taken into consideration what each grade level USUALLY studies in preparing the SCOPE and SEQUENCE of their materials.   Want to know how a particular curriculum vendor has designed their materials?    Ask the vendor if they have a copy of their SCOPE AND SEQUENCE that they can send you.   They usually will provide this free-of-charge.    Compare it to this booklet/site and you will usually find that the same kinds of concepts are covered approximately in the same grade. An interesting study for Mom to do!

    Ready to go to the site?    Here it is.... Just click here to go right to it now!.


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