Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What’s Your Homeschooling Style?

5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Parents

Most of us public school graduates come to the idea of homeschooling with one vision of school. We see school as sitting at a desk, working through pages of a workbook or text. We may even envision those alphabets around the walls, colorful educational and motivational posters, bulletin boards, and an American flag!

Traditional schooling is certainly an option. There are plenty of companies that can sell you a complete set of books for each grade. Your child works through the books and when the lessons are completed,  he’s ready for the next grade. Many parents do feel most comfortable with this method when they are starting out. They have less research and planning to do and they can feel confident that their child is covering more or less what the typical child will cover for that grade. But there are many more ways to homeschool.

  • Traditional schooling looks a lot like what most of us did in public or private school. Kids use textbooks and workbooks that are designed for their own grade levels. This style can lead to burn-out and the idea that education is equivalent to completing a workbook page or memorizing facts just long enough to pass a test. On the other hand, it can make planning easier for mom, and may be ideal for those who plan to homeschool for just a year or two and want to make sure their children learn the same skills each year as those in a traditional classroom.
  • Unschoolers believe that allowing children to follow their own interests is the best way for them to learn. They don’t use textbooks or require their children to follow a schedule. They don’t assign schoolwork. Unschooling can range from no parental direction at all to spending considerable time obtaining materials and creating experiences that follow a child’s “delight.”  The idea behind unschooling or delight-directed learning is that when a child’s love of learning is nurtured, he will eventually learn all that he needs to and will gain the skills, ability, and desire to become a life-long learner.
  • Literature based homeschooling uses “living books,”—interesting novels, biographies, and other quality books to teach topics. This works especially well for history, but can be used for other subjects as well. This can be ideal for students and parents who love to read, and can nurture a love of reading in those who are more reluctant readers. Children tend to retain knowledge better when it comes wrapped up in a great book. This works well in families who want to have several children of different ages working together, since read-alouds or great books as readers aren’t limited to one grade level. A 7 year old can be reading an easy reader about George Washington while his older brother reads a longer biography.
  • Computer-based education can involve a variety of styles. Some programs resemble traditional education, some are interactive, or even use live webinar technology. Others feature videos. Online courses are often self-grading, which makes the parent’s job easier.
  • Unit studies take one topic and incorporate all subjects into the topic. While studying bridges, for example, a family could read about the history of various famous bridges and what was happening in the world at the time they were built. A study of simple machines and other physics topics could be covered and the students could build different types of bridges from household materials. Making scale models would incorporate math, and writing a report would pull in language arts. Some curricula, such as Konos, will help you do the planning or each topic could be purely interest-led, beginning with a trip to the library to check out a stack of books on the chosen topic. This style of teaching is ideal for use with multiple ages.
  • Charlotte Mason homeschooling involves short lessons that include great books, art, music, and nature study. Children narrate what they have learned in order to help cement the knowlege.
  • Classical educators use a rigorous program that includes memory work, logic, Greek and Latin, and an emphasis on Western civilization. Topics covered and methods used are divided into 3 learning stages: grammar, rhetoric, and logic.

Many homeschools, including my own are “eclectic,” using components from many of these styles. I believe that it is important to determine what style or styles fit your personality and the learning styles of your children in order to best facilitate the ideal homeschool experience for your own family. You can find a quiz to help you determine your family’s homeschool preferences at: .

Read some more homeschooling tips this week at these blogs!

Annette @ A Net In Time

Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool

Brenda @ Counting Pinecones

Carol @ Home Sweet Life

Cassandra @ A Glimpse of Normal

Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm

Crystal @ Crystal Starr

DaLynn @ Biblical Womanhood

Danielle @ Sensible Whimsy

Monday, March 28, 2016

Homeschooling Tip: Take it Easy!

5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Parents

As homeschool moms, it is easy to burn ourselves out. It is easy for us to burn our children out. If you start teaching Kindergarten with a stack of textbooks, a rigid schedule, and feeling the pressure to offer a rigorous education, you will probably do just that. But homeschooling, especially in the early years, doesn’t have to be hard, rigorous or time-intensive.

The main goals for the first few years of school should be:

  1. Learn to read.
  2. Learn basic math.
  3. Learn about the world around us while developing a love for learning.

Some children are ready to read at 4 years old; others are not ready until several years later. While they all should work on reading or pre-reading skills for a short time each day, lessons don’t have to be long. Private tutoring is so much more efficient than classroom learning! And all those pages in the workbooks? Think about whether your child really needs to do them. Maybe you could go through them orally. Or maybe many of them are busy work designed to keep a classroom of children occupied.

My favorite mode of education for kindergarten through second graders includes reading lots and lots of good books together and hands-on exploration—art, science experiments, and nature study. I loved using Five in a Row with my little ones. The lessons were short and varied, and there was little writing required. The ties made between the well-written stories and history, geography, science, and art concepts helped my children not only retain the knowledge but to love learning. Even now that they are grown, they speak fondly of many of those beloved FIAR books! And as a mom, I have precious memories of times spent cuddled on the couch reading and of the little projects we did as we learned.

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Learning about steam power with Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel!

You could accomplish the same goals even without a full curriculum. After short lessons in reading and math, use the rest of your school time to explore your child’s interests. Check out stacks of books from the library on anything that interests you and your child. Get outside, take walks, collect leaves and flowers and bugs. (And turn off the screens!)

If your children are still young, please cherish these times. They will pass quickly. Teach your children that learning is fun! There is plenty of time later for hard-core academics and your children will learn so much more anyway with fun, hands-on activities and great books than they will from a workbook!

These other bloggers from The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew are sharing their favorite homeschool tips this week! I hope you can visit their blogs too!

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Latonya @ Joy in the Ordinary

Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures

Lori @ At Home: where life happens

Meg @ Adventures with Jude

Megan @ My Full Heart

Melanie (Wren) @ finchnwren

Melissa @ Mom's Plans

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Free Audio Downloads from Compass Classroom

You Are ThereMr. President

I LOVE everything that Compass Classroom offers. Visual Latin, Dave Raymond’s American History, Word UP, and so on. They’ve just added some new products to the site that are FREE for a limited time.

These audio downloads—Mr. President, You Are There, Democracy in America, American History Songs and American History stories include up to 89 30 minute radio dramas in each set. I think they will be such a fun supplement to our history studies! The regular price for each set is only $5, which is still a fantastic bargain, but be sure to grab them now while they are free!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Homeschool Conference Fun!

We just got back from a fabulous 3 days at the Teach Them Diligently Conference in Nashville. Some friends went with us this year, which made it even more fun. The conference was held at the Opryland Hotel, which is an amazing place full of tropical plants, bridges, waterways, and so on. Our room was quite a walk from the conference center, but that just meant I got some good exercise in (over 4 miles a day as recorded by my FitBit!).


I browsed through the huge vendor hall and found a few goodies to take home for the next school year—Cat and Dog Theology, a cartoon SAT vocabulary book, as well as a few others.

There were over 200 sessions to choose from, so it was very hard to choose. I ended up buying mp3 downloads of all the sessions since there were so many that I wasn’t able to make it to. We IMG_20160318_1325482_rewind[2]did get to hear Kirk Cameron and Andrew Pudewa. Emily was excited to see Mr. Pudewa wandering around the convention center and she even went up to talk to him as well as listening in on parts of his sessions on the way to her teen programing.

There was a teen program (with over 300 teens participating) for the entire weekend as well. Emily was happy to see some of the friends she made last year. She also attended a science workshop where she was able to dissect a sheep’s brain and to learn about the human body.
















I came home tired, but also armed with a few new ideas and refreshment.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016 and Agenda 2 (Schoolhouse Review) Review offers a large selection of Christian and inspirational movies and documentaries. Most of their selection is discounted from list prices (with an additional 10% off for signing up for their newsletter), making it a very reasonable place to purchase videos. While browsing the site, I discovered an assortment of recent movies (War Room and Woodlawn), TV series (When Calls the Heart), nature documentaries, Bible-based cartoons for kids, and much more. I was sent the documentary, Agenda 2, to review.
Agenda 2: Masters of Deceit addresses a myriad of issues that concern conservatives: Common Core Standards, socialized medicine, Reviewthe failing economy, terrorism, and the increasing intolerance of Christian. While examining these issues, it links them all to one “agenda” or common cause.
I found the beginning of the movie a bit disjointed and hard to follow. It began by discussing the success of Agenda (a previous documentary) and the award and public reaction to it. Then it jumped into discussing various issues in society. It actually took me about 15 minutes to start following the movie. After that, though, I learned a lot of interesting information!
Agenda 2 asserts that not only is Communism not dead, but in practice is much the same as Fascism, Nazism, and Islam. Although these ideologies may vary, the central goal of each is government control of its citizens, a dependency on the state, and the ultimate goal of a one world government (and one world religion). Furthermore, the United States is moving toward this mindset, which much of the world is pushing on us, and most US citizens are oblivious to the threat. In the past, the US acknowledged the threat of communism, but we seem to be oblivious to the threat of Islam (other than seemingly isolated terrorist groups). One of the people interviewed on this video, a man who grew up in Iran as a Muslim (but is now an American Christian) states that “Islam is 15% religion and 85% government.” But we naively view Islam as merely a choice of religion, which of course we must tolerate and accept, but minimize Islam’s close connection to oppressive government.
What led to these assertions? (Note: I have fact-checked most of these points made in Agenda 2.)
  • We are all aware of Nazi and Communist agendas to mold the minds of the children—Once you have the children, you have control of the next generation. In the US, we are moving toward a national curriculum that is heavily influenced by a world core curriculum (Common Core, preceded by No Child Left Behind, and Goals 2000). Schools focus heavily on teaching tolerance and acceptance of other religions and cultures, while they neglect to give students a solid grounding in Western Civilization, the basis of our own ideals and government.
  • Terrorism was heavily used in Russia in the 1970’s. It was exported to the Middle East when Russia sent KGB agents to train Muslim groups in this practice. Al Qaeda and the KGB are connected.
  • The National Council of Churches was actually started by 2 members of the Communist Party. The Methodist Federation for Social Action was formed in the 1950’s with the goal of transforming the Methodist church into “an instrument for the achievement of socialism.” 
  • For generations, Communists have infiltrated colleges, schools, teacher training programs, and seminaries with the express goal of weakening democracy.
  • The cause of environmentalism is intended to “harmonize” the US with the rest of the world. Did you know that Gorbachev  has the job of writing environmental rules for the UN? That the word, “ecology” was coined by a disciple of Karl Marx? That the date for Earth Day was chosen to coincide with Lenin’s birthday?
  • “Agenda 21,″  according to the UN’s own website, is a “comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations system, governments and major groups, in every area in which human impacts on the environment.”  Under Agenda 21, the UN would have control of land in all member countries to determine where people live and what they do, all under the guise of “sustainable development.”  This would be paid for, of course, by member countries. The UN (aka: future world government) would have control of the world.
Those who ascribe to “the agenda” hate the US. They hate the ideals of limited government and individual freedom. They will not be satisfied until they destroy it. Agenda 2: Masters of Deceit ends with some suggestions of what we can do to slow down this world government agenda, beginning with prayer. Frankly, I found this video, or rather the premises quite frightening and depressing, but I was glad that it ended with a message of hope. 
In the days since I watched this, I’ve been mulling over the information, and relating it to the upcoming elections. I think this is a message that everyone with an open mind should hear.
Schoolhouse Samples-1
Enter to win a 5-Movie prize pack – including War Room, The Ultimate Gift, Superbook: A Great Adventure, My Son, My Savior and Owlegories 2.  Over $80 in DVDs! 
To enter the drawing, just join the email list at this link: Review
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Peace for Today (Book Review)

I have always enjoyed books by Sheila Walsh, so when I saw her newest devotional book, 5 Minutes with Jesus: Peace for Today, I knew that I wanted to read it.

5 Minutes with Jesus: Peace for Today is 5 1/2 by 9 inches with a heavyweight cardboard cover—sort of a hybrid softcover/hardcover book. The inner pages are decorated with a flowered border. It’s a nice little book to curl up with.

This volume contains a couple of month’s worth of devotional readings. Each one begins with a personal story or a retelling of a Bible story. The story is followed by a theme byte or  “thought for the day,” such as “We don’t need perfect faith when we have a perfect Savior” or “Honor God in all your ways, knowing that He will take care of you.” The final page or two of each daily reading contains several Bible verses to meditate on or pray over.

I really liked this format. Most devotionals consist of a single verse followed by commentary. I enjoyed reading the story or lesson first, then the verses. Because there are always several verses, and because they are the last thing the reader reads, the focus is more on scripture, making it more natural to end devotional time by meditating on or praying over the scripture passages. Each reading could be completed in 5 minutes, as the title suggests, but could also be extended a bit with additional meditating on the set of verses for the day. I also enjoyed the mix of personal stories (Sheila Walsh is very vulnerable about sharing her hardships and fears) and the Bible stories each week.

If you’re looking for 5 minutes of peace to start out your day, this book may be just what you need.

I received a free copy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Curiosity Files..FREE!

Looking for something fun to add to your day? How about a short unit study as a break from those textbooks? The Old Schoolhouse is currently offering the whole set of Curiosity Files Unit studies free with the code, “Celebrate.”  We used several of these when Emily was younger and she loved them. Where else can you spend a week learning about dung beetles, slime eels, quicksand, or zombie fire ants while practicing math, doing crafts, and learning vocabulary and science? This is usually a $125 set, so get it while this offer is still valid!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Our New School Name



I’ve homeschooled 4 children for over 23 years and we have never chosen a school name. In our state, we use cover schools rather than register as private schools, so we’ve never been required to have a name. On occasions that I was asked for a school name I would write “Lott Homeschool” Borrrrring!

I was recently asked to do a review for (Watch for the full review in a few weeks!) and I realized that we should have a school name to put on the diploma. Although just having a heading of “diploma” or “high school diploma was an option, I felt that an actual school name would be best. So Emily and I started brainstorming.

I really wanted a name that would be meaningful and would convey our values and reason for home educating.  Not just something cutesy. Our last name isn’t very interesting as part of a school name. My first thought was to center around the idea of wisdom. My goal for Emily is for her to be wise, to be knowledgeable about the world and about our Christian and Western Civilization heritage, to think critically and to be able to spot and counter faulty logic. And to acknowledge that all knowledge comes from God. Using a concordance, I searched the Bible for passages on wisdom, searched the internet for translations of the word, but didn’t come up with anything we liked.

We finally decided on the name “Oak Tree Academy.” Although the name isn’t meaningful to anyone else until we explain it, it does have an origin that reflects our goals and values.

  1. Psalm 1: 1-3 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.  I want Emily to stand firm in the Lord, focusing her life on Him.
  2. Isaiah 61:3 … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. We have been through some hard trials over the past ten years. Yet God has sustained us through it all. If Emily graduates from high school as an “oak of righteousness,” standing firm and confident in God, then our years of homeschooling and training are a success.
  3. We do have many oak trees in our yard, so the name is fitting in that respect as well!



Saturday, March 5, 2016

Teach Them Diligently Conference—Discount!

Have you ever been to a homeschool conference? They are so much fun. I love being able to actually look at and leaf through books and curricula. The speakers provide inspiration and new ideas to help me plan the next year.

Last year, Emily and I went to the Teach Them Diligently conference in Nashville, held at the Opryland Hotel. I’ve never taken children to a conference before, but this one is a bit different. There is a children’s program, a teen program, a drama workshop, robotics course, and a science workshop/lab to keep kids and teens thoroughly entertained and learning as their parents attend sessions and browse through the exhibitor hall. With all of this held at the fabulous Opryland Hotel, it really was a mini-vacation.


We’ll be attending the Teach Them Diligently conference in Nashville again on March 17-19th. I considered skipping it this year, but Emily begged to go—she wants to meet up again with the friends she made last year! This year a friend and daughter are going with us, so I expect double the fun!

2015-03-20 12.34.41The view from our hotel room!

If you are interested in attending a Teach Them Diligently Conference, you can get a $5 discount through this link:  Teach Them Diligently.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Dragon and the Raven (Schoolhouse Review)

Having had the pleasure of listening to several of Heirloom Audio Productions recordings before, Emily and I were thrilled to be chosen to review their newest adventure, The Dragon and the Raven. Heirloom Audio productions takes the classic historical novels by G.A. Henty and turns them into fantastic audio dramas. Currently available dramas bring  listeners into the worlds of Frances Drake (Under Drake’s Flag), William Wallace and Robert the Bruce in their fight for Scottish independence (In Freedom’s Cause), the American Civil War (With Lee in Virginia), and now the Viking invasions of England (The Dragon and the Raven).  More audio dramas are in production.
Like previous Heirloom Audio Productions dramas, The Dragon and the Raven is a top quality production, featuring vivid sound effects and well-known actors. It tells the story of a young man fighting to defend his homeland against the Danes, who are tough, ruthless warriors that destroy and capture everything in their paths. The listener becomes acquainted with King Alfred of Wessex, bravely fights battles, witnesses the difference in worldviews between the  Christian England and the pagan Scandinavia,  and experiences the power of forgiveness offered to one’s enemies as he is drawn into the story.
Listening to audio dramas is a bit of a different experience. In today’s world, we are accustomed to experiencing stories through sight—either reading or through television, computers, and other media. Listening to an audio drama takes more focus and imagination, which  is beneficial for developing concentration and listening skills. With the multiple voices and sound effects telling the story, and less actual narration, it’s even a different experience than listening to an audio book.
This drama might be my favorite yet (of the three that I’ve heard). We put the cd’s in the car and listened to them as we drove around town to our various activities. Emily and I both enjoyed the story and the presentation of it. Because of the speakers’ British accents, the numerous characters with unfamiliar names, and the telling of the story primarily through dialogue, I think it might be difficult for younger elementary aged children to follow. As it was (probably because of road noise, since we listened in the car), we occasionally missed part of the action and had to ask each other, “What just happened?” We did enjoy the story and the Christian-themed message throughout, though.
There is an accompanying PDF study guide for The Dragon and the Raven that includes comprehension questions, “thinking further” questions, and definitions for each audio segment. These would be very helpful for families who wanted to make the drama into a unit or “literature” study and would help younger children follow the story more easily. What I enjoyed even more in the study guide, though was the background information about Alfred the Great. As this story illustrates, he was successful in defending his country against the invasion of the Danes and making peace with the nation. He was also instrumental in promoting literacy in England by insisting that the nobles learn to read and by translating the Bible from Latin into Anglo-Saxon. He also rewrote laws for his country, incorporating the Ten Commandments and moral law into the law of the land. The study guide also includes three short Bible studies that reinforce the themes of the story (God’s law, loving your enemy, and literacy).
I appreciate that Heirloom Audio Productions makes this study guide available. As a homeschooler, I love to use exciting stories instead of textbooks whenever possible, and the study guide fleshes out the story even more. We will be looking forward to more audio dramas from Heirloom Audio in the future!

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.