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Our Charlotte Mason Pond

Our Charlotte Mason Pond


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



 Our Charlotte Mason Pond


Charlotte Mason would have loved my pond. It's only two blocks from my house. The pond has salmon, river otters, blue herons, bald eagles, and a huge variety of ducks and geese. The park will sometimes even see visiting wildlife: coyotes, rabbits, racoons, and more. When we moved here, I thought I would spend hours at the pond with my children doing nature studies. I bought some fabulous books about nature studies that I loved:

A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison



 

More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison



 

The pond is just a few yards from Puget Sound. I fantasized about oceanography units and marine biology studies. I bought great books for a Marine Biology unit:

The Seaside Naturalist: A Guide to study at the Seashore by: Deborah A. Coulombe



 

 

Marine Biology Coloring Book


National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures.



 

I dreamed of examining algae under a microscope and I was positively giddy about the ducklings. I was all set up to encourage my children so they would delight in nature studies and learn naturally in the great outdoors. Except there was one problem...it didn’t happen that way at all!

My boys would whine and complain the whole time we did nature studies. They loved physical exertion and didn’t mind getting out for a bike ride or a swim, but they didn’t want to just “sit there and look at stuff.” All they wanted to do was read books and ride bikes. It’s one thing to focus on delight directed studies, but what about driving “non-delightful” studies? What’s a Charlotte Mason style mom to do?

I finally had to conclude that the “delight” in delight directed learning was about them, not me. My learning style is not the same as their learning style. My interests are not their interests. I had to let go of the fabulous nature studies and focus on the ways my children learned instead. If they loved books... I'd let them have books.

My children are grown now and it's just me and my husband at home. We frequently walk to the pond and the beach, and enjoy our nature studies together. He doesn’t whine at all! You see? Success is just a matter of time!

What are your favorite Charlotte Mason style books in your homeschool? Please share in the comments!

Please note: This post was originally published in February 2012 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Homeschooling is NOT the same as doing schoolwork at home. There is a LOT of freedom! My Gold Care Club will give you all the help you need to succeed!
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Teaching Students to Learn

Teaching Students to Learn

Teaching Students to Learn


As homeschool parents, our plan is NOT to teach something. Our goal is teaching students to learn. I could have taught my kids “at grade level” and they might not have learned a thing. Instead, I offered them a curriculum at their ability level and they had to learn something they didn’t already know.


 
I believe that older teens MUST learn how to teach themselves. If they go to college, they will be expected to learn all the textbook material by themselves. College lectures are most often supplemental to the textbook – not the same. If they decide not to go to college, they still need to teach themselves life skill such as computer skills, how to do online banking, and how to buy a car.

 
My kids taught themselves Advanced Math (pre-Calculus) and Calculus class. They taught themselves physics. I know they understood the material due to the fact I gave them the tests. I didn’t know what the calculus symbols meant, however I knew that my kids answers matched the answers on the key! I could have taught them Biology and Chemistry (because I’m an RN and I understand that stuff) but they actually taught themselves in those subjects as well. It just worked out better for us when they were teaching themselves, while I simply checked up on them now and again. Alex taught himself economics, and went on to perform graduate level work in economic thought (we were told by his professor). He even taught himself psychology and business law, since he got fabulous grades on the college level CLEP exams in those subjects.

 
Here’s my point: kids will teach themselves something when they are interested in it. It’s OK for kids to do that. It works out great with regard to kids that are working on an intensely academic, college-prep curriculum as well as for kids that are in a laid back homeschool environment.

 
How are you teaching students to learn in your homeschool? What does your child teach themselves in your homeschool? Let me know in the comments!


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

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HELP! Homeschooling High School isn't Working!

HELP! Homeschooling High School isn't Working!



Help! Homeschooling High School isn't Working!


I have heard more than one homeschool mom lament, "Homeschooling high school isn't working!" When you're homeschooling high school, if it works, use it; if it doesn't work, then stop using that curriculum and try something else. You don't even have to teach; your children just need to learn. You don't necessarily have to teach ANYTHING in high school, just make sure they learn. Self-teaching is a great skill to develop.

I didn't know the answers to math or science when I was homeschooling, either (you would think I would, because I'm a nurse, but I didn't!) I completely lost it with our math about a month into Algebra 2. Almost eeryone loses at some point in high school math. Just remember it's not our job to learn it all.

My kids worked on chemistry and physics completely on their own. They took Algebra 2, Pre-calculus, and Calculus independently. I only gave them the tests and had to look up the answers. By the time we got to calculus, I didn't even know what the symbols meant anymore, I only knew that the answer had to look like the answer in the book.

Look at what your children are doing well. Are they becoming better writers than you? Then homeschooling is working; they ARE succeeding. In high school, writing is mostly about practice. Edit their papers for spelling and grammar of course, but it's mostly just about having them practice, practice, practice. It's working! Your homeschooling writing class is succeeding beyond measure!

I couldn't keep up with reading all the school books, either. I have confessed before that I didn't do literary analysis with my kids. I just asked them if they liked the book (to which they usually said "yes" and not much more). They have grown up and did a fabulous job on the honors literature courses in college, so I know they weren't damaged by my weaknesses. They read thousands of books for fun, and I didn't stress out about reading those books ahead of them. So why did I stress out about reading their school books ahead of them? I don't know!

Consider public school for a moment. Would the teacher pre-read every book? No. Would the teacher be able to help with writing more than you? No. What about science? I didn't help my kids in science at all, but my two boys got straight As in college science after homeschooling high school, so I know that it works.

My concern with the complaint that "Homeschooling high school isn't working" is that people forget the alternative. Homeschooling may be difficult (OK, it absolutely IS hard) but it is much more effective than public or private school. It is the one-on-one tutoring, the mastery before moving on, the absolute love for the student that makes homeschoolers succeed. None of those things are available at a public or private school.

There are many resources available for homeschoolers: online courses, tutors, co-ops, video programs, and curricula for every learning style. You may need help, but that doesn't mean that homeschooling isn't working OR that putting your child into school is THE one and only answer to your problems. So change things up and find something that works in your homeschool!

Have you had one of those "homeschooling high school isn't working" moments? What did you do to change things up? Please share in the comments!



Please note: This post was originally published in December 2007 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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How Do I Prove My Child is Educated?

How Do I Prove My Child is Educated?

In this video, I talk about how to prove to the colleges that your child's homeschool education is rigorous.




Here are a couple of brief articles that will give you more info on registering for the SAT and ACT tests.

This one has links for waivers from the testing sites: Click on "Register" or "Registration":  Fee Waivers for Tests and Applications

This one has links to Sample tests:  Should I Choose the SAT or ACT for my Homeschooler?

For personal support join the Gold Care Club!



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How Do I Cover the Weak Areas?

How Do I Cover the Weak Areas?

How Do I Cover the Weak Areas?


It's important to invest in your weaknesses, both your child's and your own as a homeschool educator. Click on the video below to get some tips from Lee!

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Facing My Biggest Challenges

Facing My Biggest Challenges


What's one homeschooling challenge you've faced, and what solutions did you find?

 

Fear of failure is one challenge I think all homeschool parents experience.  During the early days of our homeschooling, it seemed relatively easy.  In high school, though, parents are faced with subjects they don’t understand.  My biggest challenges involved calculus, physics, and foreign language.

 

I researched the problem, and found a surprising solution.  I did not have to learn the subjects myself, and I didn’t have to teach the subjects to my children.  All I had to do was make sure my children learned the subject.  Older teens need to learn how to teach themselves. If they go to college, they will be expected to learn all the textbook material by themselves. College lectures are most often supplemental to the textbook – not the same. If perhaps they don’t go to college, they will certainly still need to teach themselves some computer skills, or perhaps online banking, or how to buy a car – whatever.

 

Once I realized I didn’t have to learn calculus myself, I was able to take a deep breath. I didn’t need an advanced degree.  I simply needed a quality homeschool curriculum that assumed teacher and student did not know the material.

 

My kids taught themselves pre-calculus and calculus. They taught themselves physics, French, and Latin. I know they understood the material, because they passed the tests. They studied on their own, referring to the answer key frequently.  Each week, when I went to the grocery store, I gave them the test and took the answer key with me.  When I returned, I compared their answers to the key. I didn’t know what the calculus symbols meant, but my children gave answers that matched the answers on the key. I could have taught them Biology and Chemistry (I’m an RN and I love that stuff) but they actually taught themselves those subjects as well. It just worked out better for us when they were teaching themselves, while I simply checked up on them now and again.

 

I eventually found answers to all of my high school concerns. I found support and encouragement from other homeschool parents who walked with me through this hard part of homeschooling.  And if there is one thing I know for sure, it is this: if I made it through, you can too.  I feel so strongly about this that I’ve now spent years helping other parents homeschool through high school.  Homeschooling high school can be intimidating! I encourage you to take advantage of those who have blazed the trail and can share what they've learned!  If you’re feeling discouraged about homeschooling, I’d love to talk with you and help you get back on the path to success.  I have some great free resources at www.thehomescholar.com/homeschool-freebies.php.



 

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Queen of Crime Course Title

Queen of Crime Course Title


What a great idea!  Take a classic book and turn it into a springboard for English and science!  Take a look at Debbies ideas about a class on Agatha Christie, and learn how to come up with creative, outside the box, class titles and course descriptions.

I am trying to come up with a great name for a course description I'm/we are currently working on with my daughter. She is going into 11th grade next year and is working on putting her learning plan together for next year. She would like to do a study on Agatha Christie the "Queen of Crime". We have started a web of ideas, but have just hit a wall with this course description. Ideas we have so far..... British Literature, Detective Fiction, forensic psychology, forensic science literature, forensic chemical analysis, forensic pharmacology and toxicology.  She is currently working on putting a reading together of her books to read through out the year. We were thinking of making this an integrated language arts class with maybe some science. We would love to hear any ideas you might have to give this class a great name. Thank you,
~Debbie

When you are putting together a class from scratch, sometimes it can help to see what other people are doing with the same topic.  I did a quick internet search to find another class based on Agatha Christie, and here are some things I found:
Danville Community College uses the course title: Detective Fiction
http://www.dacc.edu/courses/index.php?course=LITR112 University of Washington uses the course title: Reading Literature (Crime Fiction of the 19th and 20th Century)
http://depts.washington.edu/engl/ugrad/course.php?crsID=1565Mount Wachusett Community College uses the course title: Mystery Fiction
http://issuu.com/mwcc/docs/2009catalog


For an English class, make sure you cover reading and writing, and that it takes at least 1 hour per day, 5 days a week, all school year.  Often English will take more than 1 hour, but I don't suggest more than 2 hours each day.  If your daughter likes reading, you might consider Learn to Write the Novel Way, so she can write her own mystery!

I like the idea of incorporating a study of forensic science. It's very popular these days, because of all the crime TV shows, so lots of high schools are including the subject. Here are some ideas:

For this to be a science class, make sure it takes 1 hour per day, 5 days a week, most of the school year.  Use the class title "Forensic Science with Lab" if you include chemistry or biology lab work.  I think there are some high school textbooks for this topic....  I'm not a fan of public school textbooks, but looking at one might give you some ideas for content and lab suggestions.

I hope that helps!



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The Greatest Advantages of Homeschooling

The Greatest Advantages of Homeschooling


 


What do you think are the greatest advantages of homeschooling?
Several summers ago my two sons were invited to compete in a full-tuition scholarship competition. There were ten winners out of 108 students. Two of the winners were homeschoolers.  Both were mine.  I wondered later, “How did that happen!?” I believe it happened because of four great advantages of homeschooling through high school.

 

The Curriculum Advantage

Many homeschoolers have a very rigorous academic plan. Whether they choose to unschool or follow a classical education model, homeschoolers will succeed when they learn on purpose. They will succeed when they do the “next thing” and keep moving forward. They can invest their money and time in weaker areas, as well as areas of strength. Homeschoolers can tailor curriculum to suit their students. They can make sure students are always challenged yet still understand concepts before moving on. They can provide broad exposure to a variety of subjects.

The Testing Advantage

My sons had great SAT scores because we studied for the SAT test, two or three times a week. It’s not a waste of time to study—students learn vocabulary, essay-writing skills, and get a great math review. In his first quarter of college, my son said “I’m so glad you taught me how to write a quick essay! It really helped on my midterm today!” With test scores, homeschoolers have the advantage. We can use SAT prep as part of our curriculum, and study during school hours.

 

The Comprehensive Records Advantage

When we applied for admission, I gave the colleges a lot of information. While the minimum information they need is a transcript, I chose to provide more, which really helped. For everything on our transcript, I included a course description, the books we used, and how I graded the class. Homeschoolers have the advantage here—we control our homeschool records and determine how much information we provide to colleges. If you’re interested in seeing my records, you can find out more at www.ComprehensiveRecordSolution.com.

 

The Character Advantage

My sons were invited to participate in the scholarship competition because of their comprehensive records and SAT scores, but that’s not why they won.  I was nervous about them competing in something so intense, but they had fun. When they came home that day, they both said, “I don’t know if I won, but I had a great time! All the kids were so nice!”  Later I was told that the evaluators were looking for character. The students were observed when they walked between events. Were they friendly and kind to others? How did they interact with their peers? When character and socialization are evaluated, homeschoolers have the advantage! We can shape the character of our children while they are at home, instead of them being conformed to their peers.



 

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Sonlight for Good Readers

Sonlight for Good Readers


I try to be very careful about what curriculum I recommend, because different approaches will work for different families, but Sonlight is one of the curriculums I have made a point of praising, because we used it in our homeschool for about five years, and really enjoyed it.  The only reason I stopped using it was because I had prolific readers and they read all the books!  I especially recommend Sonlight to people that are new to homeschooling, because I find that their curriculum is one of the easiest curriculums to find. If you’re interested in Sonlight, you can find a link on my website, and they’ll know that I sent you.

Sonlight is very literature-based, so at the high school level the books can be pretty tough reading.  It’s important, then, that your student is a good reader. Even if your child doesn’t like to read but is still a good reader, I think Sonlight can still be a good fit, because the books are so varied.  With such variety, Sonlight offers more of an opportunity for students to learn, because they are more likely to find things that interest them.



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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Invest in Your Weaknesses

Invest in Your Weaknesses



Invest in Your Weaknesses


One key to high school curriculum is to invest in your weaknesses. This means that you put your curriculum budget money towards your area of weakness. Identify your weaknesses, perhaps math, foreign language, or art, for example, and spend your money on strong curriculum in that area.  Your weakness should also be the area where you’re most willing to make mistakes in curriculum. If you make a poor choice in math curriculum for instance, and your child hates math and has a fit every single day, that’s a weak area where you need to be willing to really invest and try something else.

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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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Keys to Choosing High School Curriculum Part 1

Keys to Choosing High School Curriculum Part 1


 

When thinking about curriculum for your high school student, you want to do what works--whatever you have been doing through elementary and junior high-- if it’s working, keep doing it. If the curriculum is working, keep using those curriculum choices.

At high school level, it helps to make sure you’re using a curriculum that is made for homeschoolers. If you have to teach a subject you’re not familiar with, buy a curriculum that is meant for homeschoolers.  Otherwise, most curriculum assumes that the teacher already knows the topic.  Make sure to keep forward momentum too. When you’re faced with something challenging, like Geometry or Chemistry, and you’re in a bind, that’s a good time to remind yourself what it was like when your children were learning to ride a bike and it was time to take off the training wheels.   Learning to homeschool high school is very much like letting your child learn how to ride a bike.  Keep going forward—even if it means you have to do Calculus next year.  As long as you use a homeschool curriculum, you will not fall down.

An important key to choosing curriculum is to allow your teen to have input. This becomes more important as they get older, because when kids grow up, they’re not just kids growing up; they’re starting to be adults. It’s not just about their learning style or teaching style anymore.  All of the sudden this thing called ‘personal preference’ comes into play.  Sometimes this means that a child no longer likes watching their video tutorial because they’re using a white board instead of black board. Sometimes the problem is that the person teaching on a particular video has a Southern accent, which drives them batty; or sometimes it’s the clothes or the hair. Your student may not be able to verbalize why they don’t like a particular resource; they just have personal preferences the same way adults have personal preferences.  Math is one of the biggest areas where you need to let your student have input. Almost everybody will rely on a video tutorial for math at some point and since you’re not the one who will be learning Calculus on a video tutorial, it should be your child’s choice.

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



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Planning High School Courses: Part Two

Planning High School Courses: Part Two


Planning High School Courses: Part Two



In this second half of planning high school courses for college preparation, we’ll consider what’s needed in the areas of Math, foreign language, PE, and electives.

Math
Math is such a cornerstone for other subjects, careers, and college majors that I believe it’s important to have four years of math. Most colleges want at least 3 years, and many want 4 years of math. They like to see kids moving forward in their math studies, so just teach your student consistently at their level, and keep moving. As long as you “do the next thing,” working on math at your student’s level, you can’t lose.

Foreign Language
Many colleges require a foreign language for admission. Most colleges demand two or three years of a single language, so the student becomes reasonably fluent. Whatever curriculum you choose, do a little bit every day. A daily 15 minute study period is much more effective than once a week for an hour. Use a foreign language curriculum designed for homeschoolers, so you aren’t expected to already know the language. Find a good curriculum, let the student learn independently, and check on their progress now and then.

Physical Education
Some children find it very easy to get the required two credits of PE, while others balk at physical exercise. Some unique ways to obtain physical education credits include yoga or weight lifting (try the YMCA). Your kids could also take CPR classes or study health. Some kids who “hate” PE will love swing-dancing or computer games requiring movement. Any physical activity that breaks a sweat counts!

Electives
Electives are credits that don’t fit under the other categories and can include driver’s education, typing, logic, and technology. Electives may be things your student does for fun. One of my kids loved chess and studied it for hours each week. Other students I know specialized in ornithology, mycology, economics, and musicology. Specialization is one of the benefits of homeschooling, so seize this opportunity!

How can you do it?
Parents may wonder how to teach children upper level math or foreign language when they don’t know the subject themselves. Find resources, such as video tutorials, at a homeschool convention or curriculum fair, where you can compare choices side-by-side. Remember, one of our goals is to teach our students to learn the way adults do - by teaching themselves.

For more help in planning your child’s high school courses, check out Part One and see my Planning High School Courses online training!



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Struggles with Daily Math

Struggles with Daily Math


What do you do when your child struggles with daily work? It can be confusing! Let me suggest a few ideas:

  • check the curriculum

  • try to motivate kids to work more carefully

  • consider using a test to inform you on a grade, or provide a grade that reflects their poor scores.


Karen asked a question about her son's math, and I will illustrate how she can use these strategies to help.

Hi Lee, I bought your book, Setting the Records Straight and want to ask what to do on my son's records (age 14) when his math (Saxon) scores on his daily work are about a C- to D- grade, which he has to fix on his own and score 100% before he passes, but this is a consistent problem he is unable to correct. If I say he is an A or B grade because he self corrects and eventually gets 100%, that isn't going to work w/ college because they only give 1 chance, and the truth will be known. I don't test him--just give him daily work. What grade should I give him? I am confused and really think he might have some learning problems.
Thank you,
Karen

If your son is doing very poorly on daily work, then that may not be the best math program for him. I know that Saxon is rated very highly, but he will learn more if he uses a curriculum that's a good FIT - even if it isn't rated quite so highly.  Check out my article on "Love of Math" and see if you can find a curriculum that's a good fit for him:  For the Love of Math

If you believe the curriculum is a good fit, then you might want to reward him for working carefully on his daily work.  Ask him to do half the problems (odd numbers or even numbers).  If he gets a good percentage correct (say 90%) then he can skip the other problems.  If he gets less than 90%, then he needs to correct the problems he gets wrong and do the other half of the assignment.

Occasional tests can provide some college preparation. You're right, in college you can't just get a bunch of problems wrong all the time and still end up with a good grade. Colleges use a lot of bubble tests, so it's important for kids to do well on simple tests. In fact, some of my friends with college kids tell me they wish they would have prepared their children for test situations.  Not that you have to test in every subject, but having a regular test in something like math can help kids figure out what tests are like, so they don't become fearful.

If you are happy with your strategy and curriculum, and you just want some ideas about grading and how it will work when he gets in college, that's a different issue. It's hard to decide what an appropriate class grade will be for him. I think your best bet is to give him a test once in a while, so he knows it "counts" and will actually help determine his grade for the class based on comprehension.  Without a test, I think I would consider whether this level of math might be too hard for him. With poor daily grades, the grade for the class will likely be poor as well.  Your goal is comprehension, of course, not a grade, but if daily work doesn't show understanding, it won't be a good grade.  At the most, I would only increase his course grade slightly, perhaps by half a letter grade.

In general, focus on comprehension and mastery - not working at a certain speed. The grade isn't as important as his understanding.






 

 

If you need any extra help, check out my Gold Care Club, with templates and tools that will help you along your homeschool high school adventure.   
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Happy Valentine's Day! Freebies from Institute for Excellence in Writing

Happy Valentine's Day! Freebies from Institute for Excellence in Writing


 

I hope you had a Happy Valentine's Day!  Here is my heart-shaped sweet for you - Freebies from the Institute for Excellence in Writing !  IEW has a wonderful online catalog, called a Magalog.  This year, if you sign up for their 2012 Magalog before February 14th,  you get some GREAT freebies!  This is pretty cool stuff, and I just HAD to share it!

Request a 2012 Magalog and receive four free downloads HERE.

These are the four great downloads you can get.

  1. Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing Audio Download

  2. Nurturing Competent Communicators Audio Download

  3. Reaching the Reluctant Writer Audio Download

  4. IEW's Recommended Read-Aloud List


The 2012 Magalogs should arrive in your mail box by early March.  By then you should be all done with your freebies!  I love Andrew Pudewa's common-sense, low-stress encouragement in English.  Here is the description of each of these free classes.

Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing Audio Download

We’ve all suffered it at one time or another: Frustration about writing assignments. Either on the receiving end, or perhaps now on the giving end, there can be a few distinctly discouraging aspects to teaching and being taught writing. The tough questions include: What to correct and how to give a grade? How much help is too much? Isn’t the assignment clear enough? Why don’t students find their own errors? Learn and avoid four teaching mistakes that contribute to this frustration: Overcorrecting, Holding Back Help, Unclear Assignments, & Over-Expectation. Play time: 65 minutes.  You may also download the article The Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing.

Nurturing Competent Communicators Audio Download

Many parents think that good readers will naturally become good writers. Others think that writing talent is just that—a natural ability — some have it, others don’t. Both are myths. History and modern research show very clearly how good writers develop, and demonstrate the two most critical things needed for a high level of aptitude in writing. With humor and insight, Andrew will share the two easy but unbelievably powerful things you can do to build language patterns and nurture competent communicators in your family.  Play time: 76 minutes

Reaching the Reluctant Writer Audio Download

Many children do not like to write. Why? This workshop will answer that basic question and teach a specific and successful method of separating the complex process of writing into the smallest possible steps, making it possible for even the most reluctant writer to produce short but complete compositions. He will be proud and motivated to write again. If you remove the problem of what to write you will be free to help your child learn how to write, using source texts, key word outlines and “dress-up” checklists. Results guaranteed! Play time: 75 minutes

You will also have a IEW Reading List added to your downloads.


My A la Carte courses can provide you with the tools you need to homeschool high school successfully.
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