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Homeschoolers and Military Academies

Homeschoolers and Military Academies

All the military academies accept homeschoolers! Military academies look for students with three strengths: academics, athletics, and leadership. Their admission criteria are stringent, but they tend to value all three strengths equally. When I was at a recent College Fair, all branches of the military seemed equally enthusiastic about homeschoolers, and even gave me some specific advice on activities in our area that they like to see in their candidates. If your child is interested in going to an elite military academy, I recommend you contact them early in high school, so that you can prepare for their rigorous application procedure.

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Raising Men vs. Raising Boys

Raising Men vs. Raising Boys
There is a watershed moment in high school when it comes to parenting boys. When they are younger, your focus is raising an obedient and confident child. Once they get into high school, you have to somehow transition into developing respect for your son as growing man.

Check out the book "Love and Respect." Instead of reading it as a "husband and wife" book, think about how it pertains to young men. How can you show real RESPECT for your son, when he drives you crazy? Try to find something he is good at, something in his area of specialization, and show him adult-to-adult respect for that skill (as often as you can!)

I also found it helpful when my husband and sons would talk man to man. When they were disrespectful, my husband would say "Don't treat my WIFE that way" in order to put them on a level playing field. Saying "Don't treat YOUR MOTHER that way" is reminding them that they are not men. Instead, even in conflict, try to treat them as men.

Believe it or not, raising men is even more challenging than raising boys. It is made easier of you recognize the transition and as parents discuss how to begin to deal with it.


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What to do with a Hands-on Learner

At the high school level hands-on learning often means using real-life experience: science experiments, geography experiments, etc. We used YMCA Youth & Government for our American Government credit. Speech & Debate, or Toastmasters can be a good English or elective credit. By the time a student is in high school, it may be a good time to encourage the student to help you choose curriculum. That doesn't mean it's a free-for-all with your money, though. What I mean is "choose between these math options" or "choose a science from this website." Look at, or to choose science.If you want to read about other moms who have gone the "hands on" route and survived:

Barb Shelton High School Form+U+LA

Micki and David Colfax Homeschooling for Excellence

And there is the great stand-by for learning styles - Cynthia Tobias The Way They Learn:


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Another School Shooting

A poem my husband wrote after Columbine:

Another Day at Homeschool

No one got shot today,

No one was threatened,

No one packed heat in the lunchroom,

And the only knife spread jam on white toast.

None were disenfranchised,

No jocks, no freaks.

None donned black trenchcoats,

Though we always dress warmly when it rains.

The CD wasn't too loud,

(Mozart, not Manson),

And the fingernails tapping

Sweetly on the piano weren't painted black.

The bed was strewn with books,

Not shrapnel.

Reading on the sofa,

The stairs, the toilet, the dog,

No one kept an eye on the library door...

...and wondered.

Copyright 2008 Matthew E. Binz

Parents, Thank God today that you homeschool.
Pray for those experiencing school violence.


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It Sure Beats Discussing Cap'n Crunch

I am sure many of you have already heard of this idea, but it's one of my favorites! Put a large map on your dining table and cover it with a clear plastic tablecloth (I got mine at Target for $4) It worked great! Once we found this strategy, we would buy maps and educational posters at garage sales, usually included in the big boxes of old National Geographics you can get for cheap. We had a great time discussing the maps over breakfast.


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Losing it in Math

Hi Lee,

Thanks for the e-mail. Even though I'm a few years away from high school yet I know it will come before I know it. I don't know if you can offer any help but I thought I'd ask any way. My oldest is 11 and technically will be entering 6th grade next year which is middle school as you know, my concern is that I'm at a point where I no longer am comfortable or competent to teach him and was considering enrolling him in public school for math only. I can't afford a tutor and I really don't want him to suffer because of my lack of knowledge in this area. I was never a math wiz and it's been a tough year for me helping him get through this year. My husband does two days a week and he grew up in a foreign country where they learned quite differently then here, so any tips you can offer would be helpful.



Hi Sharyn,

You need to know that EVERYONE loses it in math. I had calculus in college and *I* lost it in math after geometry. You're not usual, and your not putting your child at a disadvantage. He will not suffer!

You need to know that our goal is to help our children learn how to learn. That means that in high school, you really want your kids to learn math (more or less) by themselves. You can still provide a quality education in math even though you don't know the content yourself. My son is very mathematical, and he learned algebra 2, pre-calculus AND calculus without any help from me at all! After a while, I didn't even know what the symbols meant anymore! So really, no matter what level your child is at, it's possible learn math independently.

It can help if you buy curriculum designed for homeschoolers. It will assume that the parents know nothing, and it's usually written to the student. For upper math, you can choose a video curriculum like Saxon with DIVE CDs, or Teaching Textbooks, or VideoText. These will allow your student to continue learning at home, and learn exactly at their level, while still being instructed from someone who understands the concepts.

In general, it can really help to invest your financial resources in your weak areas. If you identify that math is your weak area, then I would focus your money there. Strength areas will usually take care of themselves, and can usually be supplemented in the library or through other family activities. Weak areas are different - we don't naturally find the opportunities in our weak areas the way that we do in our strength areas. So I would advise that you spend money on math curriculum first. I think Saxon with DIVE is the most reasonably priced of the options I listed above.

In some states and counties, part time enrollment is an option for upper math classes (as well as other subjects.) These classes aren't always a panacea, and you need to think the issues through when you are considering them. The biggest issue that I see with public school classes is the "conveyor belt" mentality. In other words, once your student starts in the class, it moves along at the same rate as the bulk of the students. Your student may be faster or slower than average and end up either bored or frustrated and lost. It's an important issue to consider. Thankfully, as the parent you will know what is best for your child.

I hope that thoroughly answers your question. Let me know if you need more help!


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Spelling Woes? Try Spelling Power!

When you begin Spelling Power, you start by assessing what how well your child spells. Then you start your child at that level. When my child was in 3rd grade, he tested at level G (about 7th grade level,) so I started him there. So the words are exactly as hard as they should be for your particular child regardless of how well, or how poorly, your child spells. There is an alphabetical list of 5000 words in Spelling Power.If you come across a misspelled word in your child's work, you can look it up on the list. It tells you what grade level that word is, and if it is in a SP level list or not. That helps you decide if you want to add it to their spelling list or not. If the word is a 9th grade word, and your child is in 2nd grade, you probably don't want to add it to their spelling list. But if it is a 6th grade word, and your child is in 9th grade, then yes, you would include the word in their spelling list.


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Composer of the Week

One year I purchased a Costco 10-CD pack of great composers. Neat, because each CD was a different composer. My idea was to have a "composer of the week." We would just play a CD during lunch and maybe during math. I found portaits of the great composers on the web, that I would print. We read about them, sometimes online and sometimes from library books.

Another idea for music appreciation is "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music" by The Teaching Company, It was our favorite lecture series. The teacher has a wonderful vocabulary, and my boys would take college level lecture notes in real time, while listening to the wonderful music content.



Visit Heart of the Matter to read my February column on Planning High School Courses.
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Teach Poetry to Homeschoolers

I recommend a series of poetry books for children called Poetry for Young People. The series has Poe, Elliot, Shakespeare, Hughes - there are perhaps 10-12 books in the series. You can get them at the library, but here is an example from Amazon:

By using real poetry, they learned early that poems don't always rhyme, etc. It was fun. I know I learned a lot :-)

For more fun, we also used the Shel Silverstein books, including "Falling Up."

For writing poetry, I used a simple book called "How to Write Poetry" by Paul Janeczko. It was fine, but I thought the kids learned more by enjoying the real poetry rather than writing it.


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Making School Fun!

I tried to incorporate games into our homeschool whenever possible. My kids didn't enjoy many of the hands-on projects that we did, but they do love playing games. After a while I gave up trying to find unit study projects that they enjoyed, and I focused more on what they loved - games. We played math games, art games, economics games. They would giggle when I wrote on the assignment sheet "Play 30 minutes of Masterpiece" or "Play SAT Game." Making homeschooling fun is a great way to instill the love of learning.


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The Best Advice in Every Situation

The best advice in the world never changes: Know your child and trust yourself. You will figure out what's best, you can make these decisions. Nobody knows your child like you do. Nobody loves your child like you do. Nobody wants the best for your child the way that you do. You were made for this purpose. You are the perfect person for this job and for this decision you are facing now.


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Math for the Artistically Inclined

I have noticed (non-scientific poll) that the artsy type tend to enjoy geometry more than algebra. If you are dealing with a lot of frustration with algebra, then geometry may be a bit easier (probably depending on the geometry text.) Geometry can apply to art in a way that algebra.... well.... can't.

There is actually a lot of art in Jacob's Geometry, by the way. Although I notice it was also heavy on logic, so check it out and see if it is the right match for you!


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501 Writing Prompts

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to judge your student's writing quality, I liked the book "501 Writing Prompts" by Learning Express. It has (remarkably!) 501 prompts that you can use, but the great part is the sample essays! About every 25 or 50 essays, they will show a what a student essay would look like with that topic. They will give a perfect example, a middle-quality example, and an example of what NOT to do. That really helped me because I'm a visual learner, and I really needed to see for myself what a good essay would look like. Don't feel like you have to "grade" your kids essays, however. The grades aren't that important. What's important is practice.


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Geometry, Trig and Calculus - Oh My!

Geometry, Trig and Calculus - Oh My!

Geometry is the basis for trigonometry, which is the building block for calculus. You have to understand the angles of a triangle to get to sine, cosine, and tangent. Many college majors require math, even those your might not expect, and you don't always know ahead of time what major your child will choose 4 years from now. That's why I think that math is important - and that includes geometry.The geometry most of us remember from high school is "formal" geometry with proofs. Saxon approaches geometry in a more integrated fashion, combining it with other discipline - mixing it up a bit.

Our engineering professor friend says that there is a huge and growing deficit of kids that can do math - which has led to a decline in engineers and scientists. This is something they talk about at their professional engineering conventions, because it's a huge problem nationwide that affects our national security and national economy. This is something that engineers get very worked up about it :-) See more of my friend's comments here.

If your child gets frustrated by words, have them look at Saxon for math. It's mostly numbers, which can sometimes be encouraging to kids that hate reading and writing.

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College for the Learning Challenged

Don't be overly concerned about getting into college if your student has a learning challenge. Colleges are used to dealing with these issues. There are a lot of colleges that SPECIALIZE in dealing with such students. At a recent college fair, I was amazed at how many colleges used this as their "come on" line. I know a homeschooled young man who was very good at math and extremely below grade level in verbal abilities, and he got into a nationally ranked engineering school.Don't be discouraged if your student has a learning challenge. Your student can have a bright future in college! Continue to encourage the areas where they are strong and look for a college that will support their areas of weakness.

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