Using Living Books to Homeschool

When you were a kid, did you learn more from textbooks or from reading books just for fun? I definitely learned a lot more from historical fiction than from any history textbook!

Trying to recreate public school at home, right down to the textbooks, is something new homeschoolers often do (especially those pulling students out of school). But, by using living books in your homeschool, coupled with family-style learning, it can be so much more FUN and rewarding.  Plus, when you use living books in your homeschool, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

What is a Living Book?

Living books are reading material that pull you into a subject and get you emotionally involved with the characters (a la chapter books), so it’s easier to remember the events and facts.  These books literally bring the event(s) they are talking about to life with storylines and imagination! When is the last time a textbook made you feel alive and invested in what was being studied? Probably never.

Living Books….

  • Allow the reader to visit another era and experience the culture or history.  During the ‘Rona, one of the books we read together was Fever 1793. We like to take our read-alouds and turn them into learning units, like this one, to reinforce concepts learned in the story.
    • TIP: If you’re using read-alouds as a base for school, it’s helpful to read multiple books about the same event. Having different perspectives helps students to learn critical thinking skills.
  • Put the reader into the book.  This allows your children to experience different cultures and places that they may not otherwise see. The more detailed the descriptions, the more vividly your child will relate, and it is through learning about and relating to other cultures that we break down barriers. 
    • TIP: Cultural literacy is learning about other perspectives, including across genders, world regions, and historic eras. It is helpful if you have some background knowledge to incorporate the protagonist’s perspective — so if you are going to read a book set during the Civil War, do a bit of research on the Civil War before reading the novel. It will help bring the story to life!

Benefits of Family-Style Reading

Reading together as a family helps to encourage a lifelong love of reading and literature. Whether you begin when your child is a newborn or as a teen, there are so many positive effects!  

Note to parent: If you do not start reading aloud until your child is a teen, there will be a transitional time as they become accustomed. Do not give up!

Tips for Using Living Books as Read-Alouds

1. Do the voices

Sure, you might feel goofy at first, but nothing gets children engaged in a story faster than having a different voice for each character! Through the years, we’ve had many a good laugh as mom tried to pull off several accents, with varying degrees of success. But you know what? They remember the stories!

2. Let them be active

Legos, play-do, and coloring books are great quiet activities to keep hands occupied while ears are listening. It never hurts to pause and ask a few questions, but you’ll probably find that they are more engaged than you think.

3. Read from many genres

Mix it up, with historical fiction from multiple eras, contemporary fiction, and the occasional non-fiction.

4. Keep a home library

Yard sales, Facebook groups, and consignment stores are a great place to scout used books. Even if your child is a toddler, when you find a classic piece for a few years down the road, go ahead and snag it. A good home library will encompass many different topics and genres, including both fiction and non-fiction books.

5. Read every day

Whether you read for five minutes or an hour, set aside some time each and every day to read.  We get it…busy days mean shorter reading times.  But it’s too easy to get out of the habit, so make it a priority!  If necessary, use an audiobook to do the reading in the car.

6. Pass the book

If your children are old enough, take turns reading. Keep it age-level appropriate and for short lengths of time. When my children started reading aloud with the family, they read one paragraph at a time, then a page, and then a full chapter.

7. Read at level AND below level

As an adult, do you only read collegiate-level and above books? Neither do I. Sometimes it’s nice to settle in with a fun book, regardless of the target age range. For struggling readers, this can help them feel more successful, too, as they build those skills.

8. Use picture books.

In the non-fiction realm, picture books are an excellent way to help illustrate and explain difficult concepts… I’m looking at you, science! But also understand that not every book needs pictures. Not having pictures in a book allows children to stretch their imaginations and come up with those mental images.

Choosing Quality Books

As with everything in life, there is yin and yang. When choosing living books for read-alouds, or as a base for studies, keep in mind that not all books are “good” books.  “Good” books…

  • Have realistic characters. They are flawed. They live in the real world. But they often learn to overcome their flaws during the story.
  • Teach a moral lesson. Whether through acceptance or overcoming, the protagonist learns some sort of character lesson in the story.
  • Are engaging. These are not dry reads, but intriguing plots full of details that will keep the reader hooked and involved.

“Bad” books…

  • Are not real world. In these books, everything is awesome. Or horrible. There are no real-life events. Or they are overly moralistic.
  • Are poorly written. With poor grammar and speech (we’re not talking about the use of dialects, which can add to the authenticity), these books do more harm than good for your student’s mastery of language arts.
  • Have poor characters. They are boring, self-absorbed, and do not learn anything through the story.

Using Living Books to Study Core Subjects

Sparks Academy

The language arts classes at Sparks Academy utilize five to six novels each year to teach history, geography, character, and literary concepts. Each of the four levels builds upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college!  There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1High School 2High School 3, and Level 7(The last one is for 7th/8th/9th grade, depending on your student’s skills.) This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

It’s Time for Holiday Homeschool! {18+ Tips & Unit Studies}

holiday homeschool ideas

The holidays are a time for creating moments with the family.  Many homeschooling parents choose to take the entire month of December off to participate in holiday events, including the Sparks Academy co-op, but there is a way to incorporate holidays into those school days, and there are many Christmas & Chanukah resources for your holiday homeschool.

Even if you live in a state with strict requirements on hours and subjects, there are ways to be creative!  Cooking is home economics; shopping is budgeting and math; writing cards is language arts.  Kids in public schools are spending most of the month of December – particularly in elementary grades – doing arts and crafts, and there’s no reason you can’t, too.

Classified by age group, pick and choose from these resources to create a #HolidayHomeschool plan that’s just right for your family!

Chanukah Resources

Chanukah homeschool resources
  • History of Hannukah (elementary / middle)
    • Learn the history of Chanukah, how it relates to Alexander the Great, and how to play the Dreidel game in this holiday-themed unit.
  • All About Chanukah (family)
    • Each of the ten unit studies in this year-long bundle centers around a book for middle school level and includes videos, cooking projects, hands-on activities, writing assignments, and more.  There are also resources for younger children in eight of the ten units.
  • TalkBox.Mom Chanukah story (family) – This free Hebrew printable also has an English translation and comes with an audio download to assist in pronunciation.   {Bonus:   Get $15 off your first TalkBox when you bundle it with your book! Use coupon: REFGSZXRLU9KL}

Christmas Resources

elementary homeschool christmas resources

Elementary

  • 12 Days of Christmas Math
    • This huge 200+ page PDF is stuffed with hands-on activities and printables to complete 12 fun Christmas themed math lessons!  Each day includes complete directions and printables, plus bonus tips, extension activities, and worksheets to reinforce the concepts your kids are learning. Harness that Christmas excitement to make homeschooling fun this season with this easy-to-use resource!
  • 12 Days of Christmas School
    • Press pause on all the traditional curriculum for an easy to implement and fun Christmas curriculum for homeschoolers! The 12 Days of Christmas curriculum includes: Language Arts, Science, Nature Study, Math, Art, Music, and World Cultures. With over 12 days of lessons, this is the perfect curriculum for those crazy days between the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Give your elementary student a full curriculum for the holidays!
  • Budgeting for Christmas
    • Using catalogs, mailers, flyers, gift books that you collect, students can create shopping lists and budgets for a holiday gift giving.
  • Candy Cane Unit
    • This 23-page unit study includes the history of the candy cane, candy cane puzzles (Math), a candy cane STEM challenge, and funny candy cane mad libs (grammar). You’ll also watch how candy canes are made (both by hand and in a factory), conduct your own candy cane experiment, and finish it all off with a fun treat.
  • Christmas Around the World
    • Your family will love studying world cultures and geography this season with this Christmas Around the World unit! This print-and-go resource will transport your family around the globe to study 7 countries. Kids will use the critical thinking skills of comparing and contrasting as they study what makes each culture unique. And the best part is that all the facts are included- no need to waste hours searching for resources and doing research. Enjoy celebrating Christmas Around the World with your kids this season!
  • {Techie} Christmas Around the World  
    • Learn about 10 countries and their Christmas traditions, create hands-on and digital projects, and prepare an ethnic Christmas feast!
  • Christmas Science Projects
    • This downloadable PDF includes 4 science projects in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering. Each experiment ties in with a popular children’s Christmas picture book. Complete supply lists and step by step directions make it easy to complete the projects. Each project includes a printable observation chart to help kids make observations, collect data, and record their experiment results. Each experiment also includes a brief explanation of some of the science concepts that kids will be learning about. Bonus extension activities are included for 2 of the experiments.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    • Let’s read the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Then let’s go on rabbit trails of discovery about Christmas, Mistletoe, Santa Claus and more! We will toss some magic dust in the air and jump into the book with hands-on adventures. And when we’ve finished the book, let’s throw a party and celebrate like the Whos in Who-ville!
  • {LIVE} How the Grinch Stole Christmas:  Part I & Part 2
    • Jon Miller, Instructor of Humanities at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, has been reading ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ to the delight of students and alumni (and their children) for over 25 years.
  • NORAD Santa Tracker  
    • NORAD has done a great job with video shorts that introduce your children to landmarks and Christmas traditions from around the world! In the Village, kids can play games, build gifts, code Santa’s computer, and more!  
  • Schoolhouse Teachers Christmas Corner
    • During the month of December, there are TONS of great resources for you to cover every subject with Christmas-schooling.  (They have these for several other holidays, as well.)  Resources are available for all ages.

Middle

  • A Christmas Carol
    • In this course, A Christmas Carol Online Book Club for Middle School, we will read through the book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. As we are reading, we will go on rabbit trails of discovery into history, science, art, and more. We will find ways to learn by experiencing parts of the book through hands-on activities. At the conclusion of the story, we will have a party school to celebrate this classic Christmas story. This online literary guide has everything you need to study the book. This course includes vocabulary, grammar, rabbit trails, and a writing project. It is perfect for advanced elementary or middle school level literature.
  • Have Yourself a Little Latin Christmas
    • Get into the holiday spirit while continuing Latin studies with these 22 pages of games, activities, and history!  Includes: Crafts, Caroling, Reading, Games, and Puzzles.
  • Budgeting for Christmas
    • Using catalogs, mailers, flyers, gift books that you collect, students can create shopping lists and budgets for a holiday gift giving.
  • {Techie} Christmas Around the World  
    • Learn about 10 countries and their Christmas traditions, create hands-on and digital projects, and prepare an ethnic Christmas feast!
  • Christmas Science Projects
    • This downloadable PDF includes 4 science projects in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering. Each experiment ties in with a popular children’s Christmas picture book. Complete supply lists and step by step directions make it easy to complete the projects. Each project includes a printable observation chart to help kids make observations, collect data, and record their experiment results. Each experiment also includes a brief explanation of some of the science concepts that kids will be learning about. Bonus extension activities are included for 2 of the experiments.
  • Home for the Holidays
    • Homeschool through the holidays with this holiday bundle that includes three full-length history-based holiday unit studies plus several extra crafts and activities!  Full length units include: 1940s Christmas, Victorian Age Christmas, and Christmas in England.
  • Schoolhouse Teachers Christmas Corner
    • During the month of December, there are TONS of great resources for you to cover every subject with Christmas-schooling.  (They have these for several other holidays, as well.)  Resources are available for all ages.
  • Symmetry Snowflakes
    • If you’re looking for a way to decorate for the holidays while also proudly declaring your love of science, here are templates for paper snowflakes with winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics incorporated into the designs.
  • Winter Wonderland: Mixed Media Workshop
    • Includes 20 full-length, step-by-step video art lessons. Each unique art piece reflects a different aspect of winter – Christmas, snowy winter scenes, winter flowers, winter poetry and even a few delicious holiday recipes! And for the holiday season, we’ll be including easy and beautiful handmade gifts to give, ideas for Christmas cards, and simple homemade Christmas decorations and ornaments to create. In this workshop, we explore and experiment with various art forms including: sketching, acrylic painting, watercoloring, collage art, sculpting, hand lettering, art journaling, and MORE!
high school homeschool christmas resources

High

  • A Christmas Carol
    • In this course, A Christmas Carol Online Book Club for Teens, we will read through the book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. As we are reading, we will go on rabbit trails of discovery into history, science, art, and more. We will find ways to learn by experiencing parts of the book through hands-on activities. At the conclusion of the story, we will have a party school to celebrate this classic Christmas story. This online literary guide has everything you need to study the book. This course includes vocabulary, grammar, discussion questions, rabbit trails, and a writing project. It is perfect for high school level literature.
  • Have Yourself a Little Latin Christmas
    • Get into the holiday spirit while continuing Latin studies with these 22 pages of games, activities, and history!  Includes: Crafts, Caroling, Reading, Games, and Puzzles.
  • Advent Calendar Project
    • Art meets home economics when your high schoolers create a personalized advent calendar for the entire family to enjoy year after year!
  • Home for the Holidays
    • Homeschool through the holidays with this holiday bundle that includes three full-length history-based holiday unit studies plus several extra crafts and activities!  Full length units include: 1940s Christmas, Victorian Age Christmas, and Christmas in England.
  • Schoolhouse Teachers Christmas Corner
    • During the month of December, there are TONS of great resources for you to cover every subject with Christmas-schooling.  (They have these for several other holidays, as well.)  Resources are available for all ages.
  • Symmetry Snowflakes
    • If you’re looking for a way to decorate for the holidays while also proudly declaring your love of science, here are templates for paper snowflakes with winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics incorporated into the designs.
  • Winter Wonderland: Mixed Media Workshop
    • Includes 20 full-length, step-by-step video art lessons. Each unique art piece reflects a different aspect of winter – Christmas, snowy winter scenes, winter flowers, winter poetry and even a few delicious holiday recipes! And for the holiday season, we’ll be including easy and beautiful handmade gifts to give, ideas for Christmas cards, and simple homemade Christmas decorations and ornaments to create. In this workshop, we explore and experiment with various art forms including: sketching, acrylic painting, watercoloring, collage art, sculpting, hand lettering, art journaling, and MORE!
family style homeschool christmas resources

Family-Style

  • Christmas Around the World
    • Eighteen countries (not including the United States) are addressed in the e-book.  It also includes a recommended reading and activities list, cultural movies, and Christmas music from around the world.
  • Friday Boxes
    • Give the gift of gratitude for Christmas and the New Year to follow!
  • History of the Holidays
    • This includes eight holidays, and each unit has introductory text, which will give the student the holiday’s history and customs. After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students. You will also find a short list of reading books and fun hands-on activities!
  • Spanish-English Christmas Carols
    • Celebrate Christmas and practice your Spanish foreign language simultaneously! This 14 Christmas carols are beautifully printed in both Spanish and English – to help with language learning and for your caroling pleasure.
  • TalkBox.Mom Christmas stories 
    • Available in seven different languages, these free downloads have English translations and also come with audio to help you with pronunciation!

Keep in mind: 

  • Flexibility is good, but try to keep some semblance of a schedule.  This will make it easier when you go back to ‘regular’ school in January.
  • Time spent reading together as a family is never time lost.

Looking for something? Check the Gift Guides for Families

Holiday Homeschool Giveaway!

The last two years have been crazy to say the least! We all know families that have been hit hard with job loss, displacement, and more. In efforts to ease financial burdens and help you further explore your homeschool opportunities, we’re giving away over $1050 of homeschool and educational printables, courses, and curriculum! Thanks to these amazing bloggers and brands that love supporting the homeschool community, we’re able to give back to not one, but 3 lucky homeschool families in the best way! Inside the giveaway, you’ll find more than $1050 spread across 3 prize packages to bless three amazing families! Learn more about each of our prize packages:

Prize Package 1 ($378 Value)

Cover Story Cloud Set (Grades 6-9) from Clear Water Press, 1 year subscription from Connect through Music, DIY Printables for Teachers and Homeschoolers from Living Life and Learning, Planet Voyagers from Simply Fun, a Personalized Name Meaning Gifts & Amazing Name Cartoon from CrossTimber, and a Complete Diagnostic Assessment package from Basic Christian Education.

Prize Package 2 ($391.90 Value)

Annual Family Membership from SkillTrek, 1 year subscription from Connect through Music, God Made Music from Praise Hymn, Inc. (Winner chooses grade level and either CD’s or MP3), The Homeschool Garden Ancient History I morning time curriculum from Everyday Graces Homeschool, Holiday Big Book Bundle from The Successful Homeschool, Year 1 Curriculum + the companion Discovery Pack from Let’s Go Geography, and a Personalized Name Meaning Gifts & Amazing Name Cartoon from CrossTimber.

Prize Package 2 ($391.90 Value)

Online Music course of your choice (up to a $97 value) from Music in Our Homeschool, 1 year subscription from Connect through Music, 2 Titles from The Great Science Adventures series (K-8) from Common Sense Press, The Good Manners Resource Pack (digital edition) from Homeschool Adventure, Julia Rothman Notebook Companions Complete Set from Daily Skill Building, 3 books from Carole P Roman’s diverse cultural and historical series from Carole P. Roman, Mommy & Me Journals (Complete Year) from In All You Do, and a Personalized Name Meaning Gifts & Amazing Name Cartoon from CrossTimber.

Want to enter to win? Simply enter by following as many sponsors on the form below, and you’re in it to win it! You are responsible for reading the Terms and Conditions before entering. Entering this giveaway confirms that you have read and understand the terms.


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How to Begin Homeschooling in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is considered to be loosely regulated in terms of homeschool laws.  Oklahoma law does not require parents to register with or seek approval from state or local officials, conduct state testing with their students, or permit public school officials to visit or inspect homes.  

beginning to homeschool
  • If you want to start homeschooling and your child is not yet enrolled, you do not need to do anything. 
  • If you want to start homeschooling during the school year and your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, you need to formally withdraw your child from that school.
  • If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, and your child is considered enrolled for the following year, you should withdraw your child before the next school year begins, so that the school does not mark your child as absent or truant. 
  • Some schools may have you sign a form that releases them from the responsibility of educating the student and also stating that you are assuming full responsibility for the education of your child.

The compulsory age to begin school is five, so children between the ages of 5 and 18 years old must attend school or comply with the homeschool laws.  The state law says homeschoolers should school at least 180 days per calendar year, with at least six hours per day.

As an Oklahoma home educator, you have the freedom to choose the subjects, curricula, and educational methods that will guide your homeschool plans.  Required school subjects under Oklahoma law include: reading, writing, math, science, citizenship, Oklahoma history, United States constitution, health, safety, physical education, and conservation.

While you do not have to be a certified teacher to homeschool, the instruction provided must be supplied in good faith and must be equivalent to the education provided by the state.  Although not required by law, it is recommended that academic progress be recorded via attendance records, information on textbooks used, samples of schoolwork, portfolios, and test results.

If you are uncomfortable or unprepared to do the leg work to teach a particular subject, consider outsourcing it. This is particularly true for upper grades and advanced level work.

Schools are not required to furnish textbooks, resources, or other materials to home schooled students.  They are also not required to allow student to participate in extracurricular activities.  Homeschooled students are also not eligible to receive special education services from the school district.

Finally, homeschooled students are required to take a standardized test upon re-entry to the public school system to determine grade placement and / or course credits. However, the requirements are extremely stringent, and most public school officials will tell you that, if you intend to send the student to public high school, they should begin as a freshman. There have been many instances of students having to start their high school career anew as a freshman, so plan accordingly if at all possible.

For more information, visit the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

Homeschool Planning for Parents & Teens

Homeschooling is a big job!  If you’re trying to be mom, wife, housekeeper, chauffeur, and teacher…you’re going to tucker out quickly.  Homeschool planning can help you start off on the right foot! 

Remember this, you can be flexible and creative with your schedule.  There are as many different ways to homeschool as there are homeschooling families.  Also, your home is not a school, and you don’t have to re-create school, so don’t be afraid to do what works for you!

Homeschool Planning: Getting Started

You’ve heard the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Some folks may think they don’t need a planner (I’m guessing these folks are under 40), and truthfully, failing to plan may not be quite that bad, but it does mean forgetting important things.  Maybe you’re a tech person, or maybe you prefer pen and ink, but find a planning method that works for you!

Start by outlining the year.  Make a note in each month of birthdays, holidays, vacations, and any planned time off.  This could include upcoming moves, pregnancy due dates, or other big events.  After noting these, make sure you have the minimum number of required school days for your state (usually 180). 

While you’re planning, include some field trips.  If you like routine, maybe plan a specific day each month (eg, third Friday), or you can just wing it!  Also be sure to leave some blank spaces – days for catching up, following bunny trails, and for those #LifeHappens moments.

Homeschool Planning: Choosing a Groove

Now that you have an idea of what your calendar year looks like, decide what rhythm you want the school year to have. 

  • Do you want to follow a traditional school schedule, mimicking the public school calendar of August through June, with similar breaks?  This might be a good option if your children have cousins or friends that they want to see on school breaks.
  • Do you want to school year-round, spreading out the work at a relaxed pace and taking time off regularly?
  • Do you want to have a four-day school week, leaving one day each week free for field trips, appointments, and playdates?  This can be a good option if you need to schedule regular appointments, as you’ll know you always have this day of the week free.

When you’re making your plan for the year, you’ll want to put in scheduled appointments and schedule out the first few weeks of school work, but don’t plan too far in advance.  Why?  Because life happens.  You might need to adjust the class work load, adding more or relaxing it, depending on your student’s progress.  No need for you to waste time planning every single day of school when it will change.

Each month, reevaluate where your student is and plan out schoolwork for the next month around the appointments, field trips, and blank spaces.  Oh ya.  And write in pencil.  Because things change.  When it comes to planning, we follow the Robinson’s advice with curriculum lessons and just, “Keep Moving Forward.” 

For older students – in middle and high school – it’s never too early to help them start their own planning as well.  This teaches personal responsibility and time management.  Check out the Five Best Planners for Teens to find an option perfect for your teen. 

Homeschool Planning: Ages & Stages

Depending on the age of your student, you’ll need to plan a little more or a little less.  In general, the younger the child, the laxer you can be.

Birth to Age 3

This age is about learning through play.  Life skills, motor skills, and language development are the primary goals.

Preschool and Kindergarten

While children should still be focusing on learning through play, there can be a slight switch to academic goals.  Learning letters, numbers, sounds, how to print their name are the primary goals.

Elementary School

There is still some learning through play, but more focus on academic goals.  This is the time to decide what type of curriculum you want to use – classical, traditional, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, etc – and be sure to cover reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as introductory science and social studies.  Follow your student’s interests and curiosities!

Learn more about types of curriculum here 

Middle School

This is when students really begin to buckle down in academics, becoming more intentional about learning.  Classes become more difficult, electives are added into the day, and students begin to think about career options for down the road.  Students become more independent and start taking more responsibility for their learning at this age, too.

High School

Start with the end in sight.  Have an idea of what your child might like to do after graduation, and plan courses around this.  Classes are divided into core subjects (science, math, language arts, history) and elective classes.  Don’t forget to plan for standardized testing if college is a possibility.  Internships, hands-on projects, and volunteer hours should all be recorded, too.

Find more specialized advice and inspiration for a variety of lifestyles and challenges in the Homeschooling the Upper Grades series.  If you are confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated by the thought of tackling homeschool planning in the high school years, Sparks Academy offers academic advising and college planning assistance.

Homeschool Planning: Outside of School

Meal Planning

You may not consider meal planning part of homeschooling planning, but it’s really important!  Without having a plan in place for dinner, it’s suddenly five o’clock and you have nothing thawed out.  This leads to a lot of take out, going out to eat, and stressed, hungry family members.

Consider your weekly schedule when meal planning.  If Tuesdays are a full, busy day with evening activities, plan a freezer meal.  Or make a large meal on Monday and serve the leftovers the next day.  Save those time-consuming family favorites for days that are more flexible.

Freezer meals and slow cooking are two easy methods for getting healthy dinners on the table every night AND doing so while saving money.  Try these simple meal ideas to help you get started!

Take a Deep Breath

You have everything in place to have a wonderful homeschool year!  But don’t forget to attend to yourself, too.  Homeschool moms are notorious for wearing twenty hats at once!  We go and go and go and go until we just can’t do it anymore…it’s called burnout. 

Plan a few ‘blank spaces’ and Moms’ Night Outs in that yearly calendar.  Pick up an encouraging book specifically for homeschooling mamas.

homeschool coffee

Frequently Asked Questions About Sparks Academy

frequently asked questions

FAQ Answers

What’s a blended class?

So glad you asked!  These are classes hosted online that include textbook and video elements, discussion feeds with peers, So glad you asked!  These are classes hosted online that include textbook and video elements, discussion feeds with peers, and live, virtual meetings.  Each week, the students are interacting through facilitated discussion in a private forum.  Rather than labeling these live classes, we have labeled them blended because we will not be meeting live every single week.  

How and when will the class meet?
Each class has its own class join code in Canvas. Classes “meet” weekly via shared assignments and moderated discussion during the school year (August 15,2022 – May 5, 2023 for the ’22-’23 school year). Most classes are pre-recorded with community discussion and group chats. Periodically we have live class meetings. These are on the syllabus for your student to plan ahead. If you are unable to attend a live class, it will be recorded for later playback. Self-paced coursework will be assigned between classes. Scheduled classes are posted in Central Standard Time.

What it my student is absent?
Since the coursework is assigned on a weekly basis, students have the flexibility to complete it on their own schedules. If your student will absent for an extended period of time, or you are predicting an act of nature (eg, hurricane at your home), please contact us so we can make arrangements. If a family emergency arises, please do the same. We understand that life happens occasionally.

I don’t think I quite understand how a pre-recorded class works with group discussion? If it isn’t live, how do they get to interact with the instructor and each other?

  • That’s a good question, and one our test group grappled with, but currently what it looks like is: periodic live classes (once per quarter), discussion threads, peer reviews, and digital interaction through the platform with face-to-face interaction in those live classes (which will be recorded for any students who miss attending). Some of the classes also contain a group project component, where they will be working together, virtually.
  • Our original plan had been to stream every class live as live interactive, but the internet capability where we live simply isn’t up to the task. And I’m not moving just for streaming. 🙂 However, we are able to secure a place up in the city every so often to hijack their net for those live streaming classes.

What technology will we need?
Required technology: Digital notebook (Google Docs or One Drive), internet access, Canvas (you will be sent access instructions), and the ability to use camera & microphone during class discussions

Who is teaching these classes?
History and language arts classes are taught primarily by Yvie Field, a homeschool mom with close to twenty years of educational experience (both homeschool and classroom), as well as some adjunct appearances by parental figures who are retired teachers, particularly in high school language arts. We may bring other, experienced and vetted, teachers on board, as well as guest speakers who are experts in their field and / or bring a unique perspective on the material. As the academy expands, we are looking to licensed teachers for our science and math classes.

Where can I see a sample class?
Currently, there is a Language Arts 1, a Physical Science class, and an American History class for sample on the Academy page.

What if my student has questions?
Within our online platform, Canvas, there is an email icon which will allow your student to directly contact the teacher with any questions.

How do you ensure students’ privacy?
None of our students’ personal information is revealed in the online classroom. Students log in using a screen name. They do not provide last names or any contact information in the online classroom. Only teachers can see any personal information about each student.​ Work assignments are submitted via email and will only be shared with student permission for educational purposes. Teachers are not responsible for archiving data, so be sure to keep a copy of your work. Sparks Academy uses security protocols, but is not liable for data breaches or lost data.

Do I have to buy the curriculum, or will it be provided?
All co-op members are required to purchase the PDF or physical copy of each course that they are participating in. (Purchases are verified. There are a few different options for verification.) In most cases, you will only need the student textbook. This information is provided in the course description. The student text for Economics comes as part of the enrollment fee.

Grading
All students receive a grade based on projects, quizzes, journals, and class participation.

Why is it called Sparks Academy?

Our oldest son is a blacksmith, and also a fan of word play. When we were hanging out in his shop one afternoon, watching him work (and making sparks), it just developed. Then he came up with the slogan, and the rest is history…

What if I just want someone to help with writing assessment, but don’t need an entire class?

We offer writing assessment and feedback packages for The Good & the Beautiful Levels 6, 7, and High School. If you are using any writing curriculum other than TGTB, please purchase the high school level.

If you usually use The Good & the Beautiful, why did you choose Notgrass for history?

TGTB is currently revamping their entire history program. Once they release it, we will examine the changes to see if it is still a good fit. In the meantime, Notgrass is an amazingly comprehensive program that will prepare your high schooler for further academic challenges! There is still a possibility that we will offer both Notgrass and TGTB history options for you to select from in the future, but we simply cannot say for sure right now.

What if my student just needs assistance with focusing on college prep?

One of our new classes is College: Applications & Essays, but if you’re more of the DIY type, you can pick up all the information in one easy download, here!

Behind the Scenes at Sparks Academy…

The new year is always exciting, but for us 2021 was a time of looking forward to this new endeavor!
January kicked off our recording sessions
In February, writing options were created for parents who just need writing assistance.
Finally, the skeleton was rolled out for six classes, and our test group began to work their way through the system, noting kinks and places for improvement so we can bring you the best experience!
Our February poll showed just how many people were craving quality teacher-led programs in high school science and math!
With folks expressing interest in science, we decided to share the lesson plans we developed for our own children.
March showed that recording was happening, but slowly. Technological quirks made for a steep learning curve!
Some folks wanted to know what a class looked like…so before there were sample classes, there was a peek inside the ‘making of a class.’ Students can find citations and links for every class in the lecture video.
….and then those sample classes went up! You can find them at the Sparks Academy tab.

We’re glad you’re here and hope to see you in class soon. Have a wonderful day!