Feeling a Little Burnt?

The excitement of the new school year has most likely worn off by now. Are you and your kids feeling a little burnt out? It might be time to relax just a little. Since the holiday seasons are upon us, try taking a break from your regular school routine. Add online educational games, holiday baking, holiday songs, holiday themed lessons and such to the mix. Let the kids help you shop for groceries for Thanksgiving and Christmas by putting them in charge of comparing prices. Have them write a Thanksgiving poem to share with the grandparents. Let them design your Christmas card this year. The possibilities are endless.

Just remember to take the hard-core learning a little slow and enjoy the ride. They have a lifetime to explore the world of learning, besides, they learn even when you are cooking in the kitchen, driving the car, or cleaning house.  The old saying about only being young once is very true. Before you know it, your fourth grader will be a senior.

Reasons to Homeschool

According to the latest surveys, most families say they homeschool for religious or moral reasons. The next biggest reason for homeschooling is because families don’t feel their children are safe at school. The third most common reason folks choose homeschooling is because they are dissatisfied with the curriculum choices or academic instruction in the schools. Trailing close behind the dissatisfied parents are folks who cite reasons of family issues, finances, travel distances, or because they are on the road quite a bit. Bringing up the rear are those who believe their child will benefit from a nontraditional style of learning that is simply not offered by the public or private school, or because their child has health issues or special needs that are not being met. Homeschooling is growing by leaps and bounds and will continue rapidly growing in the next several years.

Test Tips

Test Taking Tips

Tips for Multiple Choice Questions:

~Read the question before you look at the answer.

~ Come up with the answer in your head before looking at the possible answers, this way the choices given on the test won’t throw you off or trick you.

~ Eliminate answers you know aren’t right.

~ Read all the choices before choosing your answer.

~ Don’t keep on changing your answer, usually your first choice is the right one, unless you misread the question.

~ In a question with an “All of the above” choice, if you see that at least two correct statements, then “All of the above” is probably the answer.

~ A positive choice is more likely to be true than a negative one.

~ Usually the correct answer is the choice with the most information.

Tips for Essay Questions:

~ Read the directions carefully. Pay close attention to whether you are supposed to answer all the essays or only a specified amount (i.e. “Answer 2 out of the 3 questions).

~ Make sure that you write everything that is asked of you and more. The more details and facts that you write, the higher your grade is going to be.

~Make an outline if you have time.

~ Budget your time, don’t spend the entire test time on one essay.

~ If the question is asking for facts, don’t give your opinion on the topic.

~ Don’t write long introductions and conclusions, the bulk of your time should be spent on answering the question(s) asked.

~ Focus on one main idea per a paragraph.

~ If you have time left at the end, proofread your work and correct any errors.

~ Budget your time. If you have an hour to write 3 essays, spend no more than 20 minutes on each essay, then if you have time left over at the end go back and finish any incomplete essays.

~ If you aren’t sure about an exact date or number, use approximations i.e. “Approximately 5000″ or “In the late 17th century.”

~Write legibly. Sloppy writing consistently scores lower marks.

~ If you make a mistake, simply draw a line through it, it is much neater and quicker than erasing it.

Tips for True/False Questions:

~ Usually there are more true answers than false on most tests.

~ If there is no guessing penalty, then guess. You have a 50% chance of getting the right answer.

~ Read through each statement carefully, and pay attention to the qualifiers and keywords.

~ Qualifiers like “never, always, and every mean that the statement must be true all the time. Usually these type of qualifiers lead to a false answer.

~ Qualifiers like “usually, sometimes, and generally” mean that if the statement can be considered true or false depending on the circumstances. Usually these type of qualifiers lead to an answer of true.

~ If any part of the question is false, then the entire statement is false but just because part of a statement is true doesn’t necessarily make the entire statement true.

Tips for Short Answers Questions:
~ Use flashcards, writing the key terms, dates and concepts on the front and the definition, event, and explanations on the back.

~ Try not to leave an answer blank. Show your work/write your thoughts, even if you don’t get the exact answer, partial credit is usually awarded.

~ If you don’t know the answer, come back to it after you finish the rest of the test and make an educated guess. Other parts of the test may give you clues to what the answer may be.

~ Read the question carefully and make sure that you answer everything that it asks for. Some short answer questions have multiple parts.

Tips for Math Questions:

~ Work on practice problems for each topic ranging in levels of difficulty.

~ When practicing, try to solve the problem on your own first then look at the answer or seek help if you are having trouble.

~ Mix up the order of the questions from various topics when you are reviewing so you’ll learn when to use a specific method/formula.

~ Make up a sheet with all the formulas you need to know and memorize all the formulas on the sheet.

~ When you get your exam, write down all the key formulas on the margin of your paper so if you forget them when you’re in the middle of the test you can look back at the formula.

~ Read the directions carefully and don’t forget to answer all parts of the question.

~ Make estimates for your answers… i.e. if you are asked to answer 48 x 12 = ?, you could expect a number around 500, but if you end up with an answer around 5000, you’ll know you did something wrong.

~ Show all your work (especially when partial credit is awarded) and write as legibly as possible.

Even if you know the last answer is wrong, don’t erase your entire work because you may get partial credit by using the correct procedure.

~ Check over your test after you are done with it. If you have time, redo the problem on a separate piece of paper and see if you come up with the same answer the second time around. Look for careless mistakes such as making sure the decimal is in the right place, that you read the directions correctly, that you copied the numbers correctly, that you put a negative sign if it is needed, that your arithmetic is correct and so on.

Seasonal Spelling Lists

Fall is a great time to include fun seasonal words in your child’s spelling list. Harvest spelling words, Halloween words, fire fighter terminology, and Thanksgiving words are just some of the themes you can include. One of the benefits of homeschooling is flexible learning. That flexibility includes choosing your own spelling words and creating lists based on the season or the topic you are currently studying. A child who has trouble learning spelling words might benefit from you teaching the words visually. Have your child draw a picture of the word on an index card and flip the card over to write the word in color on the back. Vowels or tricky combinations should be in a contrasting color. My daughter did well learning her words visually. There are lots of fun ways for a visual learner to practice spelling words. Enjoy the festive season and all the fun things you and your child can do together.

What’s Your Style?

Learning styles are simply various approaches or ways of learning. While some people are auditory and learn by hearing, others may learn more effectively by visualizing or seeing pictures in order to retain images. Still others learn by physically manipulating an object to fully understand them. Knowing your child’s learning style will help you select the best curriculum suited for your child and also help you develop coping strategies to compensate for their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths. There is no right or wrong learning style. Most children show a preference for one of the following basic learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic/ manipulative. It is not uncommon to show a combination of two learning styles; the primary and secondary learning style. Parents also show a preference for one of these learning styles. It is not unusual for parents to prefer a different style of learning than their child. In order to work effectively with your child it is important to understand your own learning style.

What’s The Problem?

Some kids don’t have a solid foundation in the basics, so math becomes a chore for them. Children with learning differences may experience a greater degree of frustration in math or any other subject. Maybe the math curriculum you use doesn’t meet the needs of your child. Maybe they need the steps broken down into even smaller steps. Maybe they have trouble focusing. Perhaps their memory needs a little help.

Try to discover the root cause of your child’s frustration with math so you can search for a solution. Guessing what the problem is  usually doesn’t help very much.

The long division problem, 6,327 divided by 23 requires up to 20 steps in order to reach an answer. No wonder a child may get lost along the way. They must be able to stay focused, recall the rules required, process language, be able to handle scattered visual tracking, have a strong memory. Maybe your child simply copies a problem incorrectly on his paper or writes down the wrong answer he was holding in his mind. Maybe your child doesn’t understand the concept he is working with.  If you don’t identify the step or steps causing the problem, your child will continue to struggle.

Desires and Interests

The Internet allows kids (with supervision) to explore so many different areas of interest. My daughter loves to research astronomy because she wants to be an astronomer. She once built a science fair board about the 10 brightest stars. Did I mention there was no science fair for her to enter at the time? It was her inward desire for knowledge driving her to find answers. If I forced her study stars, it would have been dread for her. By allowing her to choose her own methods and topic, she was very creative and can still tell you all about stars.

Life is exciting and that is what I want my daughter to experience, life, her life, not the life someone else prescribes for her. I would like to leave you with this short message:

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience.” — Anne Sullivan


We use a few different styles of homeschooling around our house. One is unschooling. It is becoming more and more popular, and hopefully, the bad feelings associated with it are disappearing just as quickly.

It is very fulfilling to watch my child in pursuit of learning, rather than trying to force specific knowledge down her throat. I can guarantee you it wasn’t always that way. When we started homeschooling, I taught her using “traditional” methods because I was a trained classroom teacher. Boy, that was a huge mistake I wish I could go back and correct. I have since learned it is best to step back and let her teach herself, after-all, teaching is just presenting material. Learning is internal.

Unschooling does not mean that my child never uses a textbook or takes a class–she does. Unschooling does not mean that parents do not teach anything to their children, or that children should or must learn about life entirely on their own without help and guidance from parents or others. Quite the contrary. Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen. Unschooling does not even mean that children will never take a course in any kind of school.

Vocabulary Power

A strong vocabulary makes a huge impact on your child’s education. Even if your child has a good vocabulary, it is really good to continue to improve your vocabulary, no matter your age.

My daughter has a rather large vocabulary and has since she was very little. I think one of the main reasons is that her father and I were older when she was born, plus, we never talked baby talk. We chose to teach her the real names of things and expose her to as much as we could. If we were working in the garden, we talked to her about compost, trellising vines, or maybe the ways sulfur helps in the garden. We included vocabulary lessons in her early years of homeschooling.  Back in the day, we weren’t aware of online classes, online curriculum, or online educational games. Today, there are so many free educational resources available online,  there is no excuse not include vocabulary lessons in your daily homeschool lessons.

Where to Go, Who to Talk to

Do you know your state’s rules for homeschooling? Have you ever wanted to talk to other homeschooling families in your area about things you have in common, learn new tips, share ideas, or just to garner a little support?

Where to go? Who to talk to? It doesn’t matter if you are located in one of our great 50 states, Canada, the military, or elsewhere, sometimes you simply want or need to talk to others who can relate. Time4Learning has an awesome forum that does all that and more. I love it there! They even have a neat guide just for new homeschooling families.

Here is a list of free resources they offer at the forum: