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Can You Stop Now? Take this Quick Quiz!

Can You Stop Now? Take this Quick Quiz!

Can You Stop Now? Take this Quick Quiz!

Maybe you should just finish up the school year by having a popcorn party. It's fast and fun, and a great way to stop one year and take a break before starting up again.
Finishing School with The Popcorn Party Plan

Not everyone should stop during the summer, but maybe YOU need to stop this summer.  So take the quiz and figure out what is REALLY the best option for you and your children.

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Simple Ways to Count Down the Days

Simple Ways to Count Down the Days
Here are some simple ways to count down until Christmas!  These ideas are great for little kids, big kids AND adult kids!

Our 25 Days of Christmas Countdown
This mom uses things she already owns, and combines them into a daily family tradition. "Each day we will read a Christmas book, watch a Christmas movie, make a fun craft or do a fun Christmas activity, and eat a yummy treat."
Read EnjoyingLifeWith4Kids

Advent Activities
This mom thinks about what they would be doing to prepare for the holidays, and presents them as special holiday activities in an advent calendar.  "Instead of gifts and goodies, I printed little cards for the advent pockets. Each one lists something we can do together each day."
Read Kim McCrary's Blog

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness
This mom focuses on serving others with Random Acts of Christmas Kindness  (RACK). "I made the Christmas season about loving others and in the process, sharing God's love for others, by performing one RACK each day of Advent." She shares some great ideas here.
Read TSJ Photography Blog

Christmas Ideas on Pinterest 
For more great Christmas ideas, check out my Pinterest Board. Holidays Christmas and Winter
Recipes, ornaments, crafts, gifts, stocking stuffers & more!

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Schedule Free Time

Schedule Free Time

I always encourage parents to schedule free time.

We worked our heavy academic subjects 4 days a week.  The 5th day was when we focused more on delight directed learning.  In elementary school, the 5th day was when we went to the park, or roller skating, or met with friends.  In high school, that was the day for my children to do special projects, or work on their electives. They had to get their math and foreign language done in the morning, to make sure they didn’t fall behind.  After that, the day was free to work on their electives – which meant that each week we had a really exciting and successful day, encouraging our children to do what they loved.

My oldest son loves chess.  He spent time studying chess, becoming nationally ranked.  He also taught chess classes to homeschool groups, private schools, and at inner city after school programs.  My younger son loves politics and economics.  He spent time studying subjects independently.  Eventually he was offered a job as a research assistant at a public policy think tank, and was active in politics and economics there.

Remember Mr. Roger's Neighborhood?  Fred Rogers said, "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serous learning.  But for children play is serious learning.  Play is really the work of Childhood." At the high school level, play is delight directed learning, and a source of high school electives.


Learn how to homeschool with confidence with my Preparing to  Homeschool High School DVD.  It will help take the fear away.
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Summertime Reading, Planning, and More

Summertime Reading, Planning, and More

Summer is a great time to compile your student’s reading list, in preparation for college applications.  A reading list is simply a list of books your child has read, including title and author.  Often requested by colleges, and sometimes useful for scholarship applications, reading lists are an important part of your student’s high school record.  Include books you have assigned your children to read over the summer, books they’ve used in their coursework, and books they read just for fun.  Encourage your children to keep track of their own reading, if possible. Unfortunately, no matter what I tried, my children didn’t keep their own lists! They were excellent readers, but they had absolutely no interest in creating a reading list. Instead, I had them bring me the books they read and I added to their list each week.  However it works for your family, the important thing is to make the list.

Summer is also the time to plan ahead for the next school year.  It’s the time when you should purchase curriculum and develop your schedule and goals for the coming school year.  If you have a middle or high school student, think about what courses they’ll need to cover in order to get into college.  If you schedule the upcoming school year now, you can encourage independent learning in the fall—just give them the schedule to follow!  Another way to plan ahead is to read books that you will require your children to read for school. You can read the assigned literature during the summer, when you have more time, and you’ll be ready to discuss it during school

As you think about your homeschool tasks this summer, remember that you are a professional educator. Consider your own need for continuing education too.  Perhaps you can attend a homeschool convention, or buy books and videos that will help you be a better home educator.  Invest in yourself.  This is your chosen profession, and it’s worth the effort.  For some great ideas on summer planning and preparation for the upcoming year, I recommend ordering Getting the Most out of Your Summer.

And remember to include a little rest and relaxation. Don’t worry if you’re a little behind on your homeschool tasks.  Summer is here, and it’s the best time to catch up on these things.  Think how great you’ll feel when the fall comes around, and you’re ready to roll!

Your best strategy for keeping all those balls in the air is preparation.  The HomeScholar Gold Care Club will give you the comprehensive help you need to homeschool high school.
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Project Manager of Your Home

Project Manager of Your Home

As the resident homeschool adviser to your children, it’s important that you don’t drop the ball when it comes to deadlines, plans, and requirements. You will need to keep track of the academic calendar and what courses your children need to cover, when they need to study for specific tests, what year to take those tests, and what specific tests they should take.

My husband works as a project manager.  He doesn’t actually build the building, but he manages the people who build the building. As a homeschool parent, that’s your job: you are the project manager when it comes to applying to college and getting into college. You don’t write the essay your child needs for college entrance or scholarship application; the child writes it himself.  But you do make sure that the essay’s done and turned in.  Likewise, you make sure that the test is taken, but you don’t take the test yourself.

As an academic adviser, you also have to prepare the academic records—the information colleges want to see upon application. Academic records are just words and numbers on a piece of paper that represent what you’ve done as homeschoolers. Don’t stress about this part; just take what you’ve done in your homeschool and write it down the way that colleges want to see it. There are lots of resources on my website to help you create course descriptions and transcripts, so don’t be afraid of this step.

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Mix and Match Curriculum

Mix and Match Curriculum

Progeny Press, Easy Grammar, Strunk and White - when you mix and match within a subject area, how many credits should it be?

If you are using two completely unique, completely credit-measured classes, then I would feel comfortable calling it two separate credits.  For example, one year I did Sonlight Language Arts PLUS  we did Learn to Write the Novel Way, so we did have two English credit that year. (We also nearly died trying, but that's another story.... I just DO NOT recommend doubling up that way!)  Another year we did Power Glide French AND Latin Road for foreign language.  So I knew that was two credits.

If you are not using two whole credit curricula, then I suggest you assume it's like a math textbook, and that it's just taking more stuff to teach your children.  When I taught math, I used Saxon, but I added the DIVE Cd's and I added some math games, and I added some Teaching Company college lectures.  All together it took perhaps 2-1/2 hours a day (lot of problems in those upper level Saxon books - plus my son took FOREVER on them).  Still, it was just one credit.  So if you are pulling together things from pieces, I would consider each subject to be it's own single credit.

And can I give a little advice?  I have learned the hard way (VERY HARD way) that it's best to avoid duplicating a subject.  Make sure you aren't piling it on in one subject, particularly in a subject area that is a weak area for your student.  Piling it on is one subject can cause burn-out, but piling it on in a weak area can can frustration and rebellion, which is even worse.

This question of credit value is answered in Chapter 6 of my book, Setting the Records Straight, on Amazon.

Learn more about high school credits and grades with my webinar.
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Important Dates

Important Dates

Seniors – Fill out an application for College and Register for Tests

It normally takes a rather long time to finish a college application form. Get started right now, and mail the application in as soon as the colleges begin taking applications. Financial decisions could possibly turn out to be made “first come first served” and applying early might possibly enable you to obtain the most beneficial financial aid package. Sign up for ACT test by September 16th if you would like to take the test on October 22nd. Register for the SAT online well before September 9th if you would like your student to take the SAT or SAT II subject tests on October 1st.  This time of year, it’s often the seniors who seem to take the SAT, while the younger students put emphasis on the PSAT instead.

Juniors – Register now for the PSAT exam

The PSAT will be offered on Wednesday October 12 or Saturday October 15th this year. You will need to sign-up at a local high school, public or private. Get in touch with them as soon as possible to sign-up – at the very least by the first week of school. Word of caution: Students will have to take the PSAT/NMSQT in eleventh grade to meet the requirements for the National Merit Scholarship!  There is only one chance to take this specific exam each year, for that reason sign up now for the October test!

Sophomores – Give some thought to taking the PSAT

You might choose to take the PSAT for practice, along with high school juniors. It won’t be counted for the National Merit Scholarship Competition at this point, however it is great practice for next year, and at $13, it’s a inexpensive approach to obtain a standardized test if required by your state. About fifty percent of the students who take the PSAT are actually sophomores.

Freshmen – Opt for demanding curriculums!

Select demanding classes this fall, so that you have the most overall flexibility when it’s time to consider a college. Don’t skimp on the math and writing!

Learn the SECRET to getting your student placed at the TOP of the stack for college admission consideration as well as one of those MASSIVE university scholarships.  Get the Comprehensive Record Solution!

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Homeschool High School: How Much is Enough?

Homeschool High School:  How Much is Enough?
How much is enough?  How long should they work?  It's not always easy to know!  One mother asked me to review her school plan, wanting to know if her expectations were appropriate.
We're off to a rough start this year due to bad attitudes (both kids and mine!).  In 10th grade, how many hours/day/subject should she be doing?  So far here's what's suppose to be done:

*Music - 1 hr,
*English (IEW student writing intensive B) - 30-60 min,
*History (watching Teaching Company World History and reading ancient Greek & Roman library books) - 30-60 min
*Science (Apologia's Marine Biology, Teaching Company Chemistry videos  - are they stand alone or should they be a supplemental, and what do you recommend we use?) and possibly switching to them instead. - 30+ min
*Technology (typing) - 10-15 min
*Health (Total Health book) - 20-30 min
*Foreign Language (Rosetta Stone Spanish) - 15 min
*PE - walking or general outside time - 15-60 min

PE "class" is taking several "sanity" breaks from indoor school and getting away to the outside and swing on her swingset! She would be out there all day if she could!  I wish I could find how to combine her lessons while she was out there swinging! Also, when I schedule reading assignments, how much can I expect her to get done?  She's a great reader but when I told her to have a 300 page book done in a week, she pitched a fit and didn't get it done.
~Karen in Maryland

Hi Karen,
I'm so sorry it's a rough time!  In general, high school kids might have about 6 to 8 hours of school each day.  Let's see what you've got here!

Math looks good, but to be honest it usually takes an additional hour of "homework" in the evening and that's OK.  History is good, and about the right amount of time.  Do either marine biology OR chemistry, but don't do both.  The marine biology is a stand alone course.  The chemistry is more of a supplement.  It would be a great supplement to Apologia chemistry, but again - just don't do both! Science should usually take about an hour each day, but be sure you aren't doing both kinds, because that would be doubling up!

Technology is fine - is it required by your state?  Can she already type?  If so, you can drop it.  Health looks good, it's 1/2 credit usually.  Foreign language, can you work for 1/2 hour per day?  That will allow more forward progress. You might not get a level done in one year at the reate of 15 minutes  a day.  PE is fine, but not required for everyone, or by every state.  You can consider Health to be part of your PE class, and cut down on the amount of time spent outside.  On the other hand, fitness is the #1 priority sometimes, so you know best.

It looks like your expectations of her time are just right!

Combine lessons while swinging?  She must be a kinesthetic learner!  I often suggest listening to Teaching Company lectures on audio while doing vigorous activities.  It works with aggressive boys and kinesthetic learners alike!   The Spanish would be GREAT - she would REALLY do a good job if you had her listening to Spanish out there!   Check out audio courses and audio books that she can do while swinging.  I was watching the Pride and Prejudice movie the other day, and the Jane Austen character spent a lot of time reading while swinging on a swing!

Reading varies WIDELY WIDELY WIDELY between kids.   If she is concentrating on her reading, then I asked for about 1/2-1 hour a day - it's part of an English credit.   My kids liked reading, so they did it at night and I didn't usually "count" the reading hours, but that's just my kids.  Some kids only read 6-8 books in a year and others read far more.  My kids were able to read a long book (Pride & Prejudice) in about 3-4 weeks.  They might read a short book (Old Man & the Sea) in just one week.  You may be able to lighten up on that requirement, and she could end up reading more than you hoped for.  Include any reading for pleasure on her reading list, but you don't have to "assign" reading for pleasure.

Homeschooling is NOT the same as doing schoolwork at home.  There is LOTS of freedom!  My Gold Care Club will give you all the help you need to succeed!
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Homeschooling High School: The Joy of Delight!

Homeschooling High School:  The Joy of Delight!
When did you start the Delight directed Learning?  Did you find it hard to get through a year-long school course when doing it 4 days a week?  Did you just tell the kids they could do whatever they wanted on the non-school day, or did they have certain things they always did, like going to a class in a homeschool coop?  Did you allow them to watch TV or play video games during the free day?

Dear Diane,

What a GREAT question!  When I speak to groups, I usually try to mention that we homeschooled 4 days a week, and the 5th day was for specialization - also called delight directed learning.  When my kids were young, that 5th day was the day we went skating, swimming, bowling, or to park day for fun.  When my kids got older, that was when Kevin studied chess and taught classes, and Alex studied economics and charcoal drawing.

I think that having a 4 day homeschool can help provide a much-needed "margin" to our busy American lives.  It gives kids a time to be a kid - especially if you have very academic children anyway, they need to be able to lighten-up sometimes!  I don't think it's necessarily for everyone, but it was GREAT for us.  I didn't do a co-op with my children.  Once in a while we would take a class at a local group, just for fun (like "World War 2 Naval Battles" so they could meet other boys their age) but we never used co-ops for their primary courses.

During our fifth day of the week, the boys were still required to get their math and foreign language done.  Later in high school, when I would assign them a week of school at a time, they could choose to do school during that 5th day, so they could take part of Friday off instead.  But the "free day" did come with some rules and regulations.  It was meant for "margin" for "specialization" and independent study.  So there was NO TV allowed - unless it was an educational video from the library.  There was NO COMPUTER or VIDEO GAMES unless those were educational games (as determined by ME, not as determined by them!)   On our "free day," after dad got home they day was the same as every other day, and they got their usual amount of TV and video game privileges.

My husband has written a series of articles about encouraging delight directed learning called "Raising your Own Superheroes" here:
Part 2:  Observing Passion

Part 2:  Catching Fire

Part 3:  Providing Opportunity

I also have an entire chapter in my transcript book devoted to Delight Directed Learning, and how to incorporate that into a transcript.  Check it out!
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More School in Less Time!

More School in Less Time!
Audrey asks:
How do you balance what you feel they need to know and do with what they feel they want to know and do? There are not enough hours in the day!

This question is actually TWO questions!

Q1: How can you get more hours in your day?

To some extent, homeschoolers will ALWAYS feel like there aren't enough hours in the day!  It's part of parenting, and even more a part of homeschooling.  There are some things that can help.  I read the book "Managers of Their Homes" and it really helped me.  It is a book about scheduling your homeschool, so that you do the most important things FIRST.  Determine what your priorities are, and then start with priority #1.  The less important things may need to be less frequent.

A schedule will sometimes tell you what is going wrong.  Sometimes parents will tell me what they are "trying" to do each day.  When I add it up, they are trying to do too much!  I remember one mother I met with was doing nine and a half hours a DAY doing academic subjects with her 9th grader.  Maybe you are simply trying to do too much!  So prioritize, and make sure you aren't attempting too much.

It can also help to cut back on some of the things you do outside the home: co-op classes, sports teams, and music lessons, volunteering, employments, Boy Scouts, and church.  Sometimes it's all just too much!  Again, try to decide what you really need and what's important to you.  Scale back your activities if you can.  I encourage you to have your teen be part of the conversation, though.  Their interests should carry a LOT of weight.

Q2: What do they need to know?

It's important, as you say, to balance what they need to know, with what THEY want to do.  If you can focus on just the basic, core classes, with limited fluff, then even in high school you can still get their schoolwork done in a reasonable amount of time.  Math does take a long time each day, and it's important because it builds on itself, so you can't quickly regain math skills if you don't keep up with it.  Other things can be handled a bit more quickly, and with less stress.

Core subjects means one hour (not more) on English, social studies, science and math.  Add some foreign language or PE or fine arts or electives.  But focus on the core classes, and let the other things be more delight-directed, so that the child hardly even realizes they are doing school.  Fine arts could be knitting and crochet.  Foreign language may be successfully learned in 15-30 minutes per day.  PE can be what they do for fun; dancing or sports.

Electives are the things you don't assign - the things they just want to do!  Maybe that's animal husbandry or interior design - let them decide as much as possible.  What do they need?  Core classes, and the freedom to choose the supplemental classes that will encourage their love of learning.

I hope that helps!

If you enjoy this blog, please vote for "The HomeScholar Helper" in the 2008 Homeschool Blog Awards.  Voting ends on Friday!  We need about 20 more votes to win!  Please help!
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Off the Beaten (Down) Track

Off the Beaten (Down) Track
Moms are often their own worst enemy.  When my eldest was in public school, he didn't stay on track, didn't finish his textbooks in the year, goofed off much of the day - and other kids didn't turn in their homework or finish the reading, yet nobody cared. (Gifted program, Top Washington State school district, 4th grade.)  If you find yourself struggling with staying on track in your homeschool, remember that even the best public school situation wouldn't necessarily improve things.

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