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Homeschooling Curriculum - HELP! It's my First Year Homeschooling!!

>>>This is my first yr to hs. I think I get a handle on what needs to be done for a 4th grader and then I find something else out. On top of trying to weed through all the curriculum choices. I am about to give up. I am so frustrated and overwhelmed. I just want it spelled out for me.<<<



All the choices are so overwhelming! And many of the choices are wonderful, which makes it even harder to decide! I began homeschooling when my kids were in 3rd and 5th grades. We started with Sonlight Curriculum, just for those reasons you stated: I wanted everything spelled out for me! Sonlight was a great start, because it sort of "held my hand" while I was learning to homeschool. It taught me what subjects I might want to teach, reminded me not to forget things, and showed me how much to do each day. Plus it's a great curriculum But really, I only started to use it so that someone would "hold my hand" while I started my first year of homeschooling. It's a little pricey, but lots of things are pricey, and investing in your first year will help you get off to a great start. Their website is:



http://www.sonlight.com/

Hope that helps!

Blessings,

Lee
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Home Schooling Resources - What about teaching homeschool grammar?

>>>>Dorette asked a questions about our Sample Comprehensive Record. "Did you ever do any "intensive" grammar course with your boys? I see that you did a Latin course that includes grammar. Was that enough?"<<<<
Dorette,
Before beginning Latin, we did a one-time through course called "Winston Grammar" that I just loved! It's a hands-on, no-writing grammar program that was perfect for my boys. It does not teach writing, it only covers parts of speech (noun, verb, articles, etc.) It was very helpful, though, because it gave us a common language that we could use to discuss their writing. I could say, "this sentence has two adverbs" and they would know what I meant. After doing Winston Grammar Basic, we moved straight into The Latin Road to English Grammar, and that was the only other grammar we used. It was enough grammar, yes. The boys had excellent scores on the SAT test. Of course, how well they WRITE is the real judge of a grammar program, though, and I had them doing some writing every single day.

Other people like to cover Grammar every year, instead of one time one year, and that's fine. Personally, I felt that we covered enough grammar in their writing each year. I do warn people about it duplicating courses, though. If you are doing Winston Grammar, don't do Easy Grammar and Editor in Chief as well, because the student can get frustrated.

This brings up an interesting point, though, about our Comprehensive Record Solution. You can't really tell by looking at it, unless you know our family quite well. My sons started Latin when Kevin was in 7th grade and Alex was in 5th grade. They continued it for 3 years, and completed the program entirely. I put Latin on the transcript for both children, because I knew that it was a high school level course and that they had succeeded in learning a high school amount of material. We put each high school credit under "early high school credits" instead of 9th, 10th, or 11th grade. It may help you to see how those "early high school credits" worked in our family. I am confident that I did the right thing. Alex has continued Latin in college, and he's getting straight A's, taking senior level Latin courses. Not only did I put that 5th grade class on his high school transcript, the colleges accepted it (possibly because he graduated early, though) AND he went on to successfully continue the course in college.


I hope that helps!
Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschooling Curriculum - How do I "do" Current Events?

>>>>How do I incorporate current events into our homeschool?<<<<
Hi Michele,

In 7th grade we were doing Apologia Biology, Sonlight 100, French, Algebra, SAT prep, and piano. For current events, I bought World Magazine, but that's because my kids are very *into* current events. I think the easiest and most fun way is just to get the newspaper daily. The last two years, I have used a yellow highlighter to circle any articles that they are "required" to read, and I found that they would read other things in the paper as well. You can also ask them questions that they have to answer: What time is low tide today? (Of course, that only works along the coast!) We also listen to a responsible news commentary show during lunchtime. That really helps them to get interested in the topics of the day, and we can discuss the callers opinions. I haven't had them do any written summary, because we do a lot of writing in our homeschool anyway. I usually make current events "required" twice a week. I have found that by using the newspaper, they seem to enjoy reading it on their own more often than I assign. I confess that I sometimes HIDE the newspaper when the stories are especially gross. Hope that helps.

Blessings,
Lee

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Home School Education - Feedback on Homeschool High School Plan

>>>>A mother wanted feedback on the classes she was choosing for high school. Here is what she had planned:<<<<

Bible- Sonlight
Core 200-Sonlight History
Literature-Sonlight
Science-Apologia Biology
Writeshop-English
Photography class at co-op once a week
Smart Money class at co-op once a week
Algebra 1- Teaching Textbooks
She worried that it would be too much - too little! She asked if she should add Spanish, and what to name her Bible class.

Shawn,
Every student is unique, of course, but your plan looks great to me. I think that as long as your student works reasonably well, it should all go OK. If you want to add Spanish, I would just make sure to stick with only 15 minutes a day, and not try to do any more per day than that. I
think it sounds like a great freshman year!

I counted Bible as...... Bible! In Christian schools, they will list credits for Bible. I gave my boys 1/2 credit for their Bible courses each year, because they did about 1/2 hour of work each day. Christian colleges like to see that the Bible is covered as a subject. Secular colleges like to see "electives" that provide a variety to the course work. You COULD have the Bible course be part of your literature, but Sonlight Literature is plenty for that. I did combine my Literature and my writing course to make ONE English credit, not two. It did make my English credit pretty beefy, but it seemed somehow unnatural to me to separate writing from reading - maybe because of the years of elementary school or something, I don't know. If you want to be sure it's two credits, you can estimate how many hours it will take to finish it. Generally 150-180 hours is one high school credit, so two credits would be a total of 300-380 hours of work to be two full credits. I did actually give two English credits one year. That year we did Sonlight history, literature AND their entire English program, and at the SAME time we did Learn to Write the Novel Way. That was nuts! It was crazy! What was I thinking! LOL! I made sure to never do two complete English programs in one year ever again! LOL!

It is overwhelming to look at the big classes like high school level courses. Remember, though, that "literature" is really just "reading good books", so it doesn't seem like much work. My kids felt the same way about Sonlight History, that it was FUN and not work. Remember, too, that high school is supposed to be harder than younger years. It's part of becoming an adult, this working harder business, kwim? I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, though. High school is fun! Try to make sure that your daughter knows "THIS IS HIGH SCHOOL" so that she's expecting it to be a bit more challenging.

Remember, each student is unique. For my kids, this schedule would have been perfect. I hope that helps to soothe your nerves.


Blessings,
Lee
ds Kevin 18yo
ds Alex 16yo
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Home School Education - Is it possible to homeschool college?

>>>>One woman was expressing frustration with community college, and said that he son asked if it would be possible to "Homeschool college." <<<<

Hi Debra,
Ironically, one of my squidoo lenses is "How to Homeschool College"
http://www.squidoo.com/How_2_Homeschool_College/
I would encourage you to buy the book "Accelerated Distance Learning." Another good one is Bear's Guide to Earning College Degrees Non-traditionally" by John Bear. Both books are available on my Squidoo website for purchase. Check this you-tube to give you a jump start:


You Tube on Affording College
http://youtube.com/watch?v=evJeAAJedbY
The presenter, Gary North, suggests 7 alternatives that will help defray college costs. He has a website with additional information. www.lowcostcolleges.com



I hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions!
Blessings,

Lee
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Public School Jumps in Front of Homeschooler's Parade!

Public School Jumps in Front of Homeschooler's Parade!
>>>>The following was a letter I wrote to our local school district after discovering an email they sent out identifying my son as a National Merit Commended Scholar from a local public high school.<

Dear Highline School District,

I was online looking for an article that my son had published in the newspaper, and I came across his name in Highline School District newsletter. In the March 30, 2007 edition of Highline eHighlights, http://www.hsd401.org/ourdistrict/publications/eHighlights/033007/ you said this about my son:


National Merit Scholar Finalists Named

Highline and Mount Rainier High School Students Recognized

Three students from Mount Rainier High School and one from Highline High School have been named finalists in the National Merit Scholar program. They are: Anna Cunningham, Maxwell Ferguson, and Jacob Schual-Berke from Mount Rainier, and Kari Olson from Highline.

In addition, Eva Ghirmai from Mount Rainier and Alexander Binz from Highline were named Commended Scholars.


My son Alex never attended Highline. Although he took the test at Highline High School, he was NOT a Highline student. At the time of the PSAT, he was 15 years old and doing Running Start.

Alex is now 17 years old and has senior status at Seattle Pacific University, on a full-tuition scholarship. He has interned for two years at a national think tank and won the Olive Garvey Fellowship from the Independent Institute. His writings have been published in the Seattle P-I and in Liberty magazine. This summer will be the third consecutive year he has presented his research at an international economics conference. This year he is a candidate for the Truman Fellowship.

Alex was homeschooled independently since the second grade.

Had he been in public school, he would still be in high school. He would have graduated high school this year - if he passed the WASL, of course.

Please check your National Merit Scholarship awards each year before listing them, and ensure that you don't claim homeschoolers as if they are your public school students. Homeschool families work hard, and they deserve the credit.

Sincerely,

Lee Binz
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Homeschool Transcript - What grading scale should I use for my homeschool?

>>>>Melissa wanted to know what grading scale I used, because she had seen
a wide variety of scales used in books and other schools.<<<<

Melissa,
I used this grading scale:

90-100=A
80-89=B
70-79=C
60-69=D

I chose it because I wanted my kids to work for mastery, but not necessarily perfection. If they demonstrated mastery, with 90% or more, then I gave them an A and a 4.0.

I also chose that scale because it made the math on the transcript easier.

I don't think it matter WHICH grading scale, I think it just matters that you have one for the purposes of your transcript. Just choose a grading scale - ANY grading scale. If you simply can't decide, then throw a dart at it!

When my children started college, I saw the different teachers all choose different grading scales for each class. The college itself chooses another grading scale. There is a huge variety out there! Just do what's right for your child.

Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschool Transcript - How to Give Homeschool Grades

Sometimes it is hard to figure out how to give homeschool grades if you don't always give tests. This article suggests an approach.

read more | digg story
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Homeschooling Curriculum - Upper Level Math

>>>>Karen asked me what my family used for upper math. Every family is different, of course, but I described what worked for us.<<<<

Karen,
We used Saxon Advanced Math with DIVE CDs and it was very successful. Advanced Math is supposed to be a 1-1/2 year program that includes Pre-Calc and the bulk of formal geometry, but since my son had already had Geometry before switching to Saxon, we figured he could skip those lessons. He did it in one year, and it was his first time ever using Saxon. The next year, with Alex, we also supplemented with The Teaching Company lectures "Calculus Made Clear." I don't think it helped him too much with Advanced Math until the end of the year, but it did help him with calculus the following year, so I think it's a very useful supplement. My kids like those lectures so much they actually watched the whole thing twice, and some sections 3 times. Very few curriculum choices actually go all the way through calculus, and fewer still have some visual tutorials - that's how we ended up with Saxon. The boys did use it completely self-taught, however, and that CAN be done. I only corrected the tests, and even that was difficult for me, since I didn't even understand the symbols! I can tell you that IN GENERAL pre-calculus is the most difficult level of math to learn. At least that is what the college and high school kids I know have told me. I think that Saxon IS self-teaching, so that's good. As for concise, I've talked to a lot of people that say even at the pre-calc and calculus level there are too many problems in each lesson, and have done odds or evens for the problems sets. If it works, do it! I always made sure that Kevin passed with an 85% or better on every test, or we repeated the lessons.

The only other alternative that I can suggest is community college, but even at that you never know if you're going to get a good teacher or not. My advice would be to start with Saxon Advance Math plus DIVE CDs. Call the Saxon help line if you have any questions (we did that 5-6 times that year, and they were VERY responsive!)


Hope that helps!
Blessings,

Lee Binz
Web: http://www.TheHomeScholar.com


Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheHomeScholar
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Homeschooling Teens - How in the world do you homeschool boys!?

>>>>Cindy wanted suggestions for her Junior High boys. She said "Until now, I haven't talked to anyone who has successfully homeschooled boys. I am really looking forward to it, but of course, I'm a little nervous. My son is a sports NUT!!!!!"<<<<

AHA!!! A sports nut!!! Now I have all sorts of ideas for you! Listen, Cindy, with guys, you really need to wear them out, sometimes, before they will sit down and study. Keep him REALLY active in sports everyday, and I think you'll be more likely to succeed in getting him to curl up with a good book. We also did weekly skating/bowling, etc., with our support group, and that was a GREAT way for my boys to meet other homeschooled teens. We didn't do "coop classes" per se, but I did sign them up for a "World War II Naval History Class for teens" in the hopes that they would meet other homeschooled boys - and that worked great for getting to know other friends. Is he involved with a church? That can also provide for that social outlet.

There are some curricula that are geared toward sports (Baseball Math comes to mind.) It could be that your "sports nut" is also a hands-on learner. You might want to use Moving With Math or other hands-on math program. For art, we did a local art class called Teen Pottery Wheel that was a fun way for them to do art in a messy way. Look carefully at ideas that are hands-on. One art curriculum we really liked was "Discovering Great Artists." It's a book that has art projects based on famous artists - a very hand-on way to study the history of art.

I would also encourage you to look at Sonlight, especially since it's your first year. I used Sonlight my first year, and I really felt like it "held my hand" while I was figuring out how to homeschool. After a few years of using Sonlight, I decided I could make my own curriculum
schedule by myself, and I was able to do it more cheaply after that. But at first, having Sonlight hold my hand - well, it was worth its weight in gold! You might want to try it for a year, and then branch out after that - then it will seem a lot easier.

Take care!

Blessings,
Lee

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Home School Education - HELP! My homeschool daughter is reading too much!!!

Homeschooling mothers can have panic attacks about many things. This mom worried that her daughter was reading too much.... and her math book was too easy. Sure these are nice problems to have, but it can still be stressful! Here is what I suggested.

>>>Is there any reason I should have her stop reading so much? She is not avoiding any other assignments. I just want to make sure I am not overlooking something.<<<

Hi Kelley,

It sounds like your daughter would be a PERFECT fit for Sonlight! My kids were like that, reading like crazy. The nice thing about SL is that it exposes the kids to a LOT of different kinds of books to read. I mean, I don't think my kids would have naturally picked up some of the books on our SL schedule, but once they did they loved the books. That really helped us, because then I could assign more books from the same author. For example, once they read ONE of the Little House books, I had them read the WHOLE series. In high school, when they read ONE Agatha Christie book, they read about 20 of them for fun. Sonlight is just GREAT that way.

Things to look out for? I notice that my son had some problems with pronunciation. Because he was advanced in reading, he would see words in print LONG before he ever said them aloud, or heard us say them aloud. My Alex, the economist, even said the WORD economist wrong for the longest time, because he'd read so much about them before he learned how to say the word. My advice for that is to make sure you read aloud every day, so that you come across a varied vocabulary. That should help.

The other problem we had was that even though my kids COULD read a variety of books, and WANTED to read a variety of books, some of the books were just not appropriate for a kid their age. That was a very difficult situation to handle, because even though they liked to read a lot every day, I didn't have the time to do that as well. I did pre-read all the books that I assigned for school. I didn't pre-read all the books from the same author, though. Be careful of assigning books that are too mature in content level. Get the book by Jim Trelease, called the Read Aloud Handbook. It helped us choose books as well.

>>>So far she isn't having problems with Saxon math but I may have her in too easy of a book. I picked the one that corresponded to her ps grade level.<<<

We started homeschooling when my kids were in 3rd and 5th grades, and I picked a grade level math book for them as well. I quickly realized that my youngest was pretty bored. You can easily determine if it is too easy for her. Just give her a TEST from the book each day. As long as she passes the tests with, say, 90% or better, then move her along to the next test. Remember that your job is to make sure she learns. You do not have to make sure you TEACH it. If she already knows it, move forward. Pretest her in the book, and start teaching the concepts once she gets below a 90% on something. A couple of years, my son was able to do 2 math books in a year doing it that way.

I graduated both my boys after homeschooling for 8 years. We used Sonlight for 5 of those years. I hope that helps!

Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschooling Resources - How Can a Booklist be so HUGE!?

>>>>A clients asked:
"I really enjoyed the Comprehensive Records! It really helped to see how you scored your grades, particularly in areas where you did not use a textbook. I also enjoyed your booklists. I have two question about books. How do you select the books for your courses? Do you have any favorite resource? "<<<<

Hi,

First of all, I'm really glad my Comprehensive Record is helping you. Of course, every family will have completely different records, and they will (hopefully) demonstrate each students unique area of specialization. That's why the book lists look like that on my records - because that's how my kids love to learn. I can't KEEP them away from books. This summer, when Alex was home from college, for fun he read Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie, and Shakespeare. He didn't just read ONE of each of those, he read the whole SERIES of each one. That's what they love to do, and that's why the book list looks like that. In fact, I actually didn't quite manage to capture ALL of their books, because they were much better about reading books then actually writing down the titles for me.

For example, with our Bible class one year, I set 35 books in front of the kids, and told them to read for just 1-2 hours a week from those books. I was expecting them to read, perhaps, 10. They read them ALL. It was amazing to me, but that's what they loved to do - and they still love it.

We started homeschooling with Sonlight Curriculum, and that started them on reading. I supplemented using Jim Trelease Read Aloud Handbook. By the time they were in high school, we included book lists from The Well Trained Mind, and various college reading lists that I found online.

We didn't use literature guides, really. They mostly just read the books. When I would ask them about it, the just said it was good, and asked for the next one. It's nice like we dissected each book in an intense way.

The classes that I failed in (art, state history, etc.) I found that it worked better when my kids learned from literature. So when I got completely frustrated by a subject, I just schedule them to do reading. So instead of studying art, we read art history. Instead of studying 3rd year french, we read french books, and books about France. It's like it's my kids' love language. You're kids may not have the same love language.

Don't feel like you have to read that many books with your kids. Many kids may be doing good to have 1/2 of one page of books on the reading list. It's all about encouraging your kids to do their best, and then be satisfied.

To keep a reading list, you can have the kids write down every book they read, but that didn't work well for me. You can also keep all the receipts from the library and from the bookstore. Keep all your assignment sheets, if you use them, because that may have the names of books you have used. You can include books on tape, and you may want to include plays that are books (like Shakespeare, Death of a Salesman, etc.)

I hope that helps! I'll get to your scheduling questions next time, OK?
Blessings,

Lee Binz

Web: http://www.TheHomeScholar.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheHomeScholar

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Home School Education - Question about CLEP Exams

Lee,
I read with interest your article on CLEP exams and have a question. How does taking the exams affect your GPA in college? I understand that in some instances you can get college credit for passing the exams, but are you assigned a grade that factors into your GPA?
Thank you, Maureen

Hi Maureen,


I'm glad you found the article useful to you! Every college has its own unique policy about CLEP exams, and some colleges give a grade that affects GPA and other's give credit but not grade, and others don't give credit but do give placement into upper level classes. 3 of the schools we applied for provided CLEP credits, but none of them gave a grade, so our GPA was not affected. I haven't read about many college giving an actual GRADE for a CLEP exams.

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Homeschooling Curriculum - How valuable is a formal literature program for my homeschooler?

>>>>A reader asks: I am considering doing some sort of formal literature with my 7th and 8th grader. We have never done any formal literature.......Or should I just assign them some reading and have them write about it?<<<<

I vote for just reading good books :-) I always felt guilty that we didn't do a "literature program". We just read lots and lots of books. I rarely thought to do intensive discussion. I did read ahead all the books they read - I wasn't a total goof up! But really, our discussions were something like, "what did you think of this book?" answer: "it was good!" I wasn't sure I had prepared them well, but then Alex took the American Literature CLEP exam and passed it with flying colors. Plus the books they choose in the library and at the bookstore tell me that they do appreciate good literature. The only really formal literature we did was to do "Learn to Write the Novel Way" which teaches information about character development and setting and stuff. I just want to give you the freedom to NOT do a formal literature program if you don't want to. It's all about the books, in my opinion, and not so much about the program part.

Hope that helps!
Blessings,
Lee

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Homeschooling Resources - Are "Great Illustrated Classics" Worthwhile?

>>>>I was asked if using "Great Illustrated Classics" was a good idea...<<<<

I'm very familiar with those books, and I have actually suggested them for parents to use when their kids simply won't read college reading list material (which can happen for a variety of reasons.) They do have illustrations, which can help remedial readers but annoy older teens. I believe they are written at a 5th grade reading level. An adult reader can get through each book in perhaps 1-2 hours. The editing isn't in beautiful prose - in other words, they aren't that well written from a literary perspective. They ARE true to the story line, however. I really think a student will get a sense for the book by reading them, and that can benefit them. They just won't be getting the vocabulary or the "ear" for great literature.

A similar idea is to have kids read the GABB, "Great American Bathroom Book" which has a concise 2 page synopsis of great literature. You may be able to find that at Amazon. They don't have pictures, and it's meant for adults, so the reading level is more challenging.

Again, you don't get the vocabulary or the "ear" for literature, but you do get the story line.

Hope that helps!
Blessings,
Lee

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