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8 Tips for Buying Homeschool Curriculum

8 Tips for Buying Homeschool Curriculum
I know it's time to buy your curriculum, so let me give you a few quick pointers, for buying homeschool curriculum.  { This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy, I make a few pennies, but sadly, not enough for a latte.} Shop wisel...
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How Do You Know it's High School Level?

How Do You Know it's High School Level?

How Do You Know it's High School Level?

Homeschool students have the wonderful freedom to study a huge variety of different topics, going way beyond the usual high school subjects. My oldest son studied Russian history, and I know other students who’ve studied ornithology, bluegrass music, and U.S. government revenue generation policies! The question many parents wonder about is, "How do you know it's high school level?" How do you determine whether the work your student is doing is high school level, and should earn credit on their transcript?

One way to know is when somebody tells you. A textbook manufacturer such as Saxon will note that their algebra book is appropriate for high school level, a homeschool curriculum catalog may characterize a world history class as high school level, or an accreditation program might explain that a combination of experiences will make up a high school level course. If an educational entity has deemed something high school level, it’s generally safe to take their word for it and award credit.

As an addendum to this, I believe that parents know best when it comes to granting credit. In our home, we used a one credit Bob Jones textbook for world history, but because I supplemented it heavily, we spread it over a two-year period. Based on the amount and quality of the supplements, I knew that my students earned two credits. There will be times when you know best too, because you are your child's expert.

It doesn’t matter how old your child is when they do high school level work, students of any age can earn high school credit. This is, in fact, one of the few things that experts seem to agree on. I did what they said and included pre-high school work on my student’s high school transcripts. It wasn’t until I began consulting and saw transcripts from public and private high schools that I started to see with my own eyes how these schools included credits earned in middle school on their students' high school transcripts.

In addition to age being irrelevant, the way your child learns is also irrelevant to awarding them high school credit. If your student has learned some material on their own, you can give them high school credit even if they didn’t learn from a textbook. Perhaps they taught themselves a foreign language, designed a website, or wrote a novel. Each of these can be counted towards high school credit.

You can also give your student credit based on the number of hours they work on a subject at high school age. In general, 120-180 hours merits a high school credit. A rough way to evaluate this is that an hour a day, five days a week for most of the school year is a credit. Half an hour a day, five days a week, or two or three hours per week, is generally a half credit.

If your student’s on the remedial end of the spectrum, working on basic math or spelling at the high school age, you should still give them high school credit. When students do remedial work in public school, it is included on their transcript, so you should feel free to do likewise.

Whether they learned without using a textbook or were 12 years old when they mastered geometry, when your student demonstrates knowledge of high school level material, you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t give them credit for it. If they’ve earned it, they deserve the credit.

If you'd like more guidance on choosing curriculum and tips for grouch-free grading, check out my Coffee Break Book, Planning High School Courses.

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How Do You Say Curriculum? Curricula or Curriculum

How Do You Say Curriculum? Curricula or Curriculum

How Do You Say Curriculum? Curricula or Curriculum

I pride myself on writing the way that I talk, to make my books approachable and easy to understand. I figure the less you work to read my books, the more information you will learn. I know parents have different learning styles, and like to learn in different ways, so I try to provide books, videos, and social-interaction services that will fit everyone's learning style. But to do that... well, let's just say I use colloquial language when writing about curriculum.

Curricula or curriculum?

It's like data and datum. It used to be everyone knew the difference, but now everyone says "data" all the time for everything, now matter how many or how few pieces of information they are talking about. When was the last time you said "datum" in a sentence?

You see, curriculum is actually singular. Curricula is plural. I can count on one hand the number of homeschoolers who have used "curricula" when talking to me. Yup, I know that it's technically incorrect to use "curriculum" when referring to multiples science book options. At the same time, I'm afraid that it will be distracting for parents if I change to curricula or curriculums. Or worse, they will think I'm some hoity-toity, persnickety, post-doctoral educator that judges and evaluates. That's just not me.

When I was homeschooling, I always had my children reading challenging literature, and wanted them to expand their vocabulary. I was trying to increase the range of their understanding, and challenge them so they could interact with college professors intelligently. For my children, I would have chosen a book using the word "curricula" correctly. But when I was homeschooling, I was too busy to read books that slowed me down with their word choice. I had a hard enough time keeping up with the laundry and feeding my family. When authors made it quick for me to read and easy for me to understand, I was thankful.

I'm really, really sorry to the people who are offended when I incorrectly use the colloquial "curriculum".  But I pride myself on writing the way I speak, so it's approachable. Will you still love me anyway?

Which do you prefer? Curricula or curriculum? Does it bother you when an author uses curriculum when it's plural?

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Changing Curriculum - Don't Start from the Beginning

Changing Curriculum - Don't Start from the Beginning

Changing Curriculum - Don't Start from the Beginning

One problem I sometimes see is parents who repeatedly start over every time they buy new curriculum. That's what I want you to avoid. Instead, keep your focus on "challenging, not overwhelming." Their work shouldn't be boring, and they should be actively learning, but the work should also be easy enough so they can be successful - and not in over their head.

If you have needed to start over in math, don't start at the very beginning. Give them some credit for remembering bits and pieces of what they have learned before, using the prior curriculum. Just because they are starting a new curriculum doesn't mean they learned NOTHING previously. If you keep starting over, you will never reach your goal! Instead, you want to switch curriculum in a way that maintains some forward momentum throughout the subject.

Let me give you an example. If you changed math curriculum, and now you are using Saxon math, you don't need to start at first grade math. Choose a placement test that might be appropriate, and see what book they are placed into. Start with that textbook, but try to figure out where in the textbook they should begin. Here's how to do that. If they can pass the test for a chapter in Saxon, don't make them repeat that lesson. You don't need to needlessly slow them down in math, just give them the chapter test. If they get 80% or better on the test, skip those lessons. The next day, give them the NEXT chapter test. If they get 80% or better on the test, skip those lessons and go to the following chapter test. Eventually they won't pass the test anymore. At that point they will be actively learning, and that's what you want. You want to keep them challenged, not consistently reviewing or overwhelmed. One nice thing with Saxon is that they review in every single lesson, too - they use a circular learning style. So once you get into the place where your children are actively learning, they will still be getting review problems every day to fill any gaps they have.

It's only very, very rarely that you need to completely start over. Give credit where credit is due. Even if your child is starting with a new curriculum, you can still give them credit for the work they have already done in the subject.


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My Top Pick for New and Struggling Homeschoolers

My Top Pick for New and Struggling Homeschoolers

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy I may make a few pennies, but not enough for a latte.

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Including Online Classes

Including Online Classes
Many homeschool students are taking online classes these days, either to supplement or cover all their coursework. If your child is one of them, I encourage you to remember that online classes are great TOOLS you can use in your homeschool, but they can easily become an unpleasant taskmaster. 

Including Online Classes

Think carefully before you cede your authority as a home school parent to another person or institution, and be aware of the potential constraints when you enroll in these programs.

If you are using an accredited program for an online class, then you are not the teacher in charge. The accredited teacher will provide a grade you can’t alter and your child will receive an accredited transcript that must be submitted to all the colleges where your student applies.

If you are using a non-accredited program, however, YOU are the teacher. Whether it’s a casual co-op, an online classical education class taught by a teacher, or a scheduled weekly live class by a science expert, if it’s not accredited, you are still the teacher. That means you can decide which assignments are important for your child to complete, and what will improve their learning experience and their love of learning.

Online classes are one tool you can use to educate your children, and one tool you can use when you formulate your grade. Don’t let an online class become your taskmaster. If you are feeling stressed over a certain time of year such as the holidays, you don’t need to feel MORE stressed because online classes are piling on more homework. You can pick and choose from the grades they provide to determine a true grade that reflects your child and your child’s learning experience. The class grade does not have to include grades you (as the teacher) choose to drop.

If you are feeling like a square peg forced into a round hole, then you might enjoy my article, Cooped Up in a Co-op. Generally, co-op teachers and teachers for online classes are willing to be flexible. If you need to drop busy work over holidays or vacations, tell the online teacher and they will probably accommodate you. Using a co-op can be a great supplement to your homeschool, as long as it’s a good fit for you and your child.  But use it in a way that meets your child's needs.

Choose a curriculum meant for homeschoolers, and you can be successful with any subject you teach in your own home. As I always say, you don't have to know the subject and you don't have to teach it, you just have to make sure they learn it! If it works, keep doing it. If it's not working, stop! Do something else!

Are you incorporating online classes in your homeschool? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in November 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Homeschooling is NOT the same as doing schoolwork at home.  There is so much freedom in homeschooling!  My Gold Care Club will give you all the help you need to succeed!
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Literature-based vs. Reality-based Homeschool

Literature-based vs. Reality-based Homeschool
We used a literature-based curriculum for high school. My children read TONS of books! What does literature-based learning look like in a REAL world, where parents are faced with the demands of homeschooling, housework, and household economics?

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy I make a few pennies, but not enough for a latte.

Literature-based vs. Reality-based Homeschool

Wouldn't it be nice to have the ability to pre-read every book and have thoughtful conversations about everything your children read? Yes, but our children are only in high school for four years.  That's NOT enough time to read all the books suggested in a literature-based curriculum, and not enough time to thoroughly digest each book to the degree an English Major in college might.

That's ok! I did not read every book ahead of time. I looked over many of the books in advance in the Sonlight CatalogJim Trelease Read-Aloud Handbook, The Well-Trained Mind, or Tapestry of Grace Catalog.  These sources gave me a clue about the content of each book, so I would know if reading in advance was necessary. Some books I chose to read in advance just because I wanted to read them myself!

I did take the time to read aloud to my children almost every single day of high school. Once or twice they would express concern that I was treating them like "babies." I would honestly tell them that my own Honors English teacher in the public high school read aloud to the class. It was a non-negotiable. We read aloud in our homeschool. Hearing me pronounce words would help their pronunciation. Sometimes I would begin a book by reading aloud. Once they were hooked on the story, I would allow them to finish reading it on their own.

Every parent has to weigh the pros and cons for themselves. "Which book is important to read myself, since I can't read them all?" You also need to choose which books to discuss and which to enjoy separately. A lot of factors go into those decisions. How many pounds of laundry per week do you have to do in a week? How many load of dishes? How many younger siblings are you juggling? How much do you value personal time?

I know one thing for sure; the love of reading and the love of learning will stay with them forever.  You can instill this love without reading books in advance or analyzing literature. You can even instill it without having a two-way discussion ... just listen to them express their joy in reading each book.

Wow, I'm such a radical! For more on my radical views of literary analysis, read this article: Do Great Homeschools Really Need Socratic Dialog?

What does a literature-based curriculum look like in your homeschool? Do you read aloud in high school? Please share!

Please note: This post was originally published in January 2011 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehension.

If you need any extra help, you will really appreciate my Gold Care Club, with templates and tools that will help you along.
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Games Across the Curriculum: Christmas Gift Suggestions

Games Across the Curriculum: Christmas Gift Suggestions


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Is My Curriculum Rigorous Enough?

Is My Curriculum Rigorous Enough?

Is My Curriculum Rigorous Enough?

Are you concerned that your curriculum may not be rigorous enough? Click on Lee's video below to learn how to tell your curriculum is rigorous enough for high school!

How did you choose your high school curriculum? What's your favorite curriculum? Please share!

Subscribe to my YouTube channel. You will be notified when I create new videos on homeschool high school topics!

Looking for help with high school courses? Check out the Planning High School Courses (Online Training) class, just $15!
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Apologia Science is Great College Preparation

Apologia Science is Great College Preparation

Apologia Science is Great College Preparation

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy I may make a few pennies, but not enough for a latte.

img class="aligncenter wp-image-14863" alt="Apologia Science" src="" width="553" height="414"

Apologia Science is a very rigorous college preparation series. I don't usually recommend specific curriculum because I know it's more about how it fits your child than the textbook or curriculum itself. When it comes to science, though, we had such great success with this curriculum that I do recommend it. Even though it has a Christian worldview, I still recommend it to homeschoolers who are not Christian because it is such a thorough curriculum.

I know for a fact that Apologia science programs make for great college preparation because my son Kevin was an electrical engineering major in college. He even referred to his Apologia Physics book while he was in college and used his Apologia Chemistry book to review for a college class! Apologia science was one of my "best buys" because my children used them for 5 years. Kevin earned a fabulous GPA in engineering at least in part because he was so well prepared through Apologia Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.




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Will Changing Curriculum Mess Up My Kids?

Will Changing Curriculum Mess Up My Kids?

Is your curriculum just not working? Is everyone miserable and learning just isn't fun anymore, but you're worried about changing curriculum mid-year? Click on the video below for a stress free way to change up your curriculum when it just isn't working!

Do you have concerns about changing your curriculum? Have you ever changed your curriculum mid-year? Let me know in the comments below!

Subscribe to my YouTube channel. You will be notified when I create new videos on homeschool high school topics!

If you're changing up your curriculum, or planning for the fall, you might like my online training class: Planning High School Courses (Online Training) - only $15.00!
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How’s it Going?

How’s it Going?
School has been going for a while, and now is a great time to take a step back and assess your situation. Have you handled the important things?  Character, college applications, core classes and PSAT registration? Do you need to make adjustments? Change curriculum, adjust (or make) a daily schedule?  

If you think things could go better, smoother, or easier, sometimes it just takes a small adjustment.  Remember to put your weak areas first - even if that means replacing curriculum that isn't working after only a month.  And remember to have a morning meeting with your children, so they stay on task as much as possible.

Get help and support for homeschooling high school!  Join my Gold Care Club and start your year off right!

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Help! I need opinions for my book title!

Help!  I need opinions for my book title!

I need some opinions on a book title!  I'm just about done with my next book.  This one is about college application, admission, and scholarships.  It's going to include information about curriculum, testing, finding colleges, elite university admission, check lists for junior and senior year, merit and need based scholarships, letters of recommendation, application essays, competitions, interviews.  Tons of college admission stuff.  Very different from my last book about homeschool records.

We decided we like having the main title called "Courting the Colleges"  because we are including a scripture verse and a quote from the Princess Bride on every chapter.  So what I'm really looking for right now is a subtitle.  I need something long that clearly spells out exactly what is in the book, but hopefully in a fun, catchy way.  For example, this title is HILARIOUS and so it's very catchy:  The Neurotic Parent's Guide to College Admissions: Strategies for Helicoptering, Hot-housing & Micromanaging (I just about died laughing!)  I don't need something THAT funny, though.  I guess I'm not thinking "hilarious" so much as "catchy."

Can you please share ideas for a neat title and subtitle?  Do you like "Courting the Colleges"??

Here are some ideas we are pondering:
How to Win the Love of Your First-Choice University and Earn Quick Admission and Huge Scholarships
Secrets Homeschoolers Know about Wooing and Winning University Admission and Scholarships
A Successful Homeschooler’s Secrets for Wooing and Winning University Admission and Scholarships
How to Help Your Homeschooler Woo and Win University Admission and Scholarships
Help Your Homeschooler Woo and Win University Admission and Scholarships
A Homeschooler's Guide to College Admissions: Strategies for Finding the Perfect College for Your Unique Child
How to Prepare your Homeschool Student for College Admission and Scholarships
How to Find a University that will Love your Child and Shower Them with Huge Scholarships!
A Homeschooler's Guide to College Admissions: Strategies to Woo and Win the Perfect College for Your Child
Learn a Homeschooler's Secrets for College Admissions and Scholarships: Strategies for Finding, Affording, and Loving the College of Your Dreams
Secrets for College Admissions and Scholarships: A Homeschool Family's Guide to Finding and Affording the College of Your Dreams

Here are some other books on amazon on the same subject - don't want to sound too similar:

College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step
Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College
A Is for Admission: The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges
Countdown to College: 21 To Do Lists for High School: Step-By-Step Strategies for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Graders
What You Don't Know Can Keep You Out of College: A Top Consultant Explains the 13 Fatal Application Mistakes and Why Character Is the Key to College Admissions
College Admissions - A Step By Step Guide Through the Process
How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)
The Neurotic Parent's Guide to College Admissions: Strategies for Helicoptering, Hot-housing & Micromanaging
College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step
How to Make Colleges Want You: Insider Secrets for Tipping the Admissions Odds in Your Favor

I am now the Seattle Homeschool Examiner.  You can read my homeschool articles here.
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The Great Courses: Honors, or Just High School Credit?

The Great Courses: Honors, or Just High School Credit?
Homeschoolers use lots of different resources, and one of the ones I’ve recommended in the past are The Great Courses.  With choices in science, mathematics, business and economics (just to name a few), many homeschoolers are utilizing these classes.  Parents have asked me whether the Great Courses should be considered AP Honor’s classes or high school level, but it really depends on how you utilize them.

Obviously, the high school courses they offer are high school level. There are two ways to think about how to put one of those courses on the transcript: one method is to count the number of hours that you spend listening to lectures.  For instance, if you combine a bunch of different classes on a history topic and you end up having 120-180 hours, then that would be your history class and you’d give your student one high school credit for history.

A second method is to determine how much your student actually learned from the course, measured by whether they can pass an AP or CLEP test. If they pass one of those tests, then you could call it an honor’s class. Indicating an AP course on a transcript is kind of frowned upon, because the letters “AP” have been copyrighted by the College Board and they do not like it when you put “AP Course” on a transcript.

The easiest way to reflect college-knowledge is to label a course an honor’s course, such as ‘Honor’s History’. If they’ve taken an AP test, then you can put that test score on the transcript, which would show their college-level learning.


What's your favorite homeschool curriculum resource?

When you are applying for colleges, you will need a great homeschool transcript.  The good news is you can “do-it-yourself” and save thousands.  Discover the Total Transcript Solution.
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Keys to Choosing High School Curriculum Part 2

Keys to Choosing High School Curriculum Part 2


Always at Their Level

As you choose curriculum for your high school student, it’s important to always teach them at their level, for every subject, all the time. One of the reasons why public schools and classroom settings have such a hard time educating kids is that they look at a student’s age and then put them in an age-based course with no regard to ability. Just because your child is 14 or 15 does not mean that they should take American history, Algebra, or this and that in English. Make sure that each course you teach your child is at their level.

Want to know more about the keys to success?  Check out my online class: Keys to Homeschool High School Success

Learn more about steps you can take right now to meet all of your homeschool high school goals.
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