The Good & the Beautiful Curriculum in High School


The Good & the Beautiful is a breath of fresh air for your homeschool! The price is very affordable for families, there are morals included in every lesson, and it’s designed for the busy mom with its open-and-go format.  While it is Christian-based, it offers up a neutral world-view, allowing parents to tailor it toward their family’s beliefs.  The print quality is amazing, and the vintage reading material is a delightful change from what our children were gravitating toward before we switched to this curriculum.  At the high school level, the curriculum is set up to reinforce time management skills and responsibility.

The courses combine subjects, using a cross-curricular approach to tie concepts together.  It is faith-based, with a general Christian, non-denominational worldview with the goal of producing not only intelligent minds, but also high character and the ability to recognize and appreciate what is good and beautiful in life and in learning.  The goal is not to teach specific doctrines, but to teach general principles of moral character such as honesty and kindness.  Affordability is another aspect that separates this curriculum from others — namely, it is affordable!  In fact, the company makes their math and language arts curriculum, from levels 1-8, completely FREE for anyone to download

Language Arts

The Good & the Beautiful’s language arts is one of my favorite program components, as it covers reading, spelling, writing, dictation, literature, grammar, vocabulary, geography, and art.  By including geography and art, it takes a bit of a unit study approach.  For example, in High School-1, unit five covers the Arctic areas.  They read a book about the Arctic, and the geography, art, vocabulary, and writing assignments tie in with that region.  You can cover quite a bit with just the one class!  Each high school course is one credit of English, ½ credit of geography, and ½ credit of art.  Pencil drawing is taught in each level. The other mediums taught are watercolor, charcoals, and acrylic paint.

The curriculum is set up to reinforce student responsibility and time management skills in addition to grammar, writing, and reading.  Each year is divided into ten separate units.  The student is able to take a unit and work on it for two to three weeks before turning it in for grading.  However, some students need a little more guidance.  In the online support group, there are course schedules free to download in the files section.  Additionally, Sparks Academy offers live / blended classes for students using the Language Arts curriculum (level 7, and high school levels 1-3 are available).  These classes meet with a flexible schedule on a weekly basis, as well as live meetings quarterly via video chat.  Students have schoolwork assigned each week and work on group assignments throughout the year.  These classes help not only the student, but the parent as well, as it puts the burden of teaching onto an outside source, provides a sense of accountability for the student, and allows for grading from a source other than the parent.  


History

The current history includes read alouds, audio recordings, and accompanying worksheets.  At the high school level, each quarter (each historical era), the student has a short list of research projects to complete before we move on to the next era.  This goes back to student responsibility and time management.  I use the term ‘current’ because TGTB is in the process of re-writing all of their history units, but we don’t know when they will re-release or what they will look like.

One of the things I like about history is that it takes the classical education approach – of four different eras of history – and teaches from all four of those each school year.  Rather than doing an entire year of ancient history, we’re doing one quarter on ancient history each school year (with each year focusing on a different region, such as Egypt or Greece).  It’s easy to get burnt out on a particular era when you’re knee-deep in it for an entire year, so we like that things get mixed up!  The history curriculum has a minimum of four read-alouds each year, so if you don’t like reading together, it might not be a good fit for your family.  However, for us, it’s given the kids the perfect excuse to still curl up with mom in their teen years.

For folks wanting something a bit different, or teacher-led, Sparks Academy offers live / blended classes for middle and high school students using The Good & the Beautiful’s Constitution course for Government and Economics and Notgrass for World and American History.

Science & Math

These subjects are topics that come up regularly in the TGTB with Middle and High School Students group.  The short answer is that TGTB doesn’t currently offer these subjects specifically for high school and there is no one recommended program, but dozens of choices.  You’ll need to choose the one that fits your family’s teaching style, and your student’s learning style, the best. 

The available math courses currently go up through Level 6, with levels 7 and 8 projected in 2023 and 2024.  These are amazing for visual learners!  See what we thought of Math 5 and Math 6.  Sparks Academy provides three levels of science: General Science, Physical Science, and Chemistry.  If you want to use what you already own, there’s also a printable plan for using TGTB sciences in high school.  You can find more vetted online options for math and sciences here.

Record-Keeping & Grades

While you won’t need to keep everything from the courses for a portfolio, you’ll want to keep copies of any essays or research projects, as well as some of that beautiful artwork!  Some states require more record-keeping than others, so always check into your state requirements.  For our own family, we keep one complete language arts unit, in case there is a question of what type of work was completed, in addition to the above list.  Also, you may want to add complete course descriptions (many of which can be found in the files of the high school support group).  These, along with the aforementioned portfolio pieces, will usually satisfy any inquiries from colleges or other outside sources…include well-meaning family members.

If you’re thinking on college prep and being ready to submit all that information, we have created a low-cost program for parents homeschooling high schoolers that covers college-prep topics.  Check out Through the Door: Homeschool to College Success!

Sparks Academy

 Sparks Academy provides live / blended classes for high school students, using The Good & the Beautiful for language arts, Apologia / Berean Builders for science, and Notgrass for history.  These classes meet weekly, allowing students the opportunity to discuss the literature, get additional instruction on concepts covered, and show off their art projects and recitations.  Students receive a grade for these courses from a source outside of the home.

Sparks Academy is not affiliated with The Good & the Beautiful, but is run by parents who use and love their curriculum.  They are providing support, accountability, and community for upper grades families who use this curriculum by creating an online homeschool co-op for high school students.  Currently, students can register for High School Levels 1-3 in language arts.  For families who just need a bit of extra help, there are writing consultation packages for Levels 6, 7, and High School (for those who only want essay feedback).

Visit Sparks Academy to Learn More!

A few Extra Notes

Download a free guide to using The Good & the Beautiful curriculum in the high school years!

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.

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

Graduating a Homeschooled Teen

A lot of folks seem to be intimidated by the idea of homeschooling their teens through high school and graduation.  When we first began homeschooling, we met some pushback, but persisted and even fifteen years later were still got asked occasionally if they kids were going to high school.  While one son did do dual enrollment, the right fit for him, and another did votech classes at the local community college, again the right fit, both boys also took several classes at home as well.  They graduated from homeschool.

If you’re planning to graduate a teen from homeschool, there are a few things you’ll want to plan for first.

Know Your State Law

Be sure that you know the homeschooling laws for your state so that there are no surprises at the end of the journey!  Some states, such as New York, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania, have very specific rules governing how a homeschooler can get a diploma, while most other states simply offer guidelines.  Check HSLDA to find your state’s specific laws.

If a college or program requires accreditation, know that your homeschool and curriculum are not accredited.  Most colleges, however, will accept a homeschool diploma if your students meets the entrance requirements, and it’s worth noting that not all public schools maintain their accreditation either.

Have an Idea of Your Student’s Plan

Start with the end in sight.  Choose courses and a high school plan based on what the student plans to do post-graduation, be that a college major or setting off on a career path.  If college is the plan, check their admissions requirements and plan accordingly.  If career is the goal, you’ll still need to meet basic requirements for graduation, but choose electives based on that future path.

Generally, most students should be taking four years of language arts, three years of science, three years of history, three years of math, two years of a foreign language, and several electives to total approximately 26 credits.  Some states will have additional requirements, such as state history or health and physical education, so be sure to check those laws and your state department of education website.

If your student isn’t sure of the post-graduation plan, homeschool with college as the end goal.  It is easier to go down a career path with a college-prep education than it is to apply for college with only career-prep courses.

Maintain Records

Start keeping the high school transcript in ninth grade, and eighth grade if they are taking advanced classes.  It’s not only colleges who will ask for it, but many first-time employers and scholarship providers will as well.  Be sure to transfer grades from any online programs or outside grade sources to the transcript and keep any certificates your student earns as well.  In Through the Door, you’ll find transcript templates and instructions for putting together each section of this important document.

Standardized testing is another important part of record-keeping, especially if college is the future goal.  Most students will need to take either the ACT or SAT entrance exam.  College-bound students might take the exam more than once, both to get a superscore (where the highest scores from each subsection are combined from across all testing experiences) and for the test-retest effect.  However, even if your student isn’t college-bound, it can be a good idea to take the exam simply to back up the grades you have given in homeschool, just in case you are ever questioned about them.

Stay in the Loop

Make a connection with the local high school counselor and learn where they post information for students.  Get on that communication thread and stay in the loop.  While traditionally-schooled students are often inundated with information about when testing dates are, what career and college fairs are on the horizon, or other opportunities for teens, homeschoolers aren’t usually privy to that information…and you want to be.  This can also be a good place to learn about local scholarship programs or job shadowing events.

Plan a Graduation

After you’ve kept the coursework, met the requirements, and printed the transcripts, it’s time to issue a diploma.  Many families choose to join a local group for a formal graduation ceremony or host their own at home. 

If you want to host a ceremony at home, it can be as simple as playing the commencement song, saying some words, looking over pictures from kindergarten through graduation, and handing out a diploma.  Some families host a reception, similar to a wedding reception, afterward, with food and fun.

As part of your ceremony, you might want to include an official diploma and a cap and gown (for photos!).

Admittedly, rather than hosting or joining a ceremony, we provided our sons with graduation experiences.  England, Germany, South Africa…these travel opportunities provide a lifetime of memories and new cultural experiences.  Travel is important to mom and dad, and we roadschooled across the country with the kids when they were younger, so it was a natural progression to spend that money on an overseas trip of their choice, and they preferred it over a big party event.  Again, the beauty of homeschooling is that each family can make a choice that is right for them!

Seasoned homeschoolers with a few graduates under their belts can easily remember the anxiety of homeschooling that oldest child, making sure to meet all of the requirements and hoping that it was the right move for their future.  We all want what is best for our kids, and by being informed, you can confidently proceed toward a successful homeschool graduation.

Gap Year Benefits – To Take or Not to Take?

A gap year is a period of time, typically a year, between years of formal education.  Some choose to take a gap year between high school and college, while others might take a break during the college years.  During this time, students may travel, volunteer, or work, as they gain life experience and explore the world.

The concept of a gap year is not new; it goes back centuries to the European elites who would finish their schooling and then take a grand world tour, visiting a variety of places, learning about different cultures and languages, and making connections.  It fell out of vogue during the Napoleonic Wars, but came back into play in the 20th century.  During the 1960s, it became popular in America with the baby boomers.  Their theory was that by travelling and learning about other cultures, they could foster world peace.

The gap year often provides flexibility to explore special interests, travel, do an exchange program, or volunteer.  For students who may not have the same financial resources, it is also an opportunity to explore career options, work to earn money for college expenses, take a rest from academics, and explore special interests or take a trip.  The common thread among nearly all gap years is that they are a time of self-discovery when students can gain practical life experiences that help them make those important future decisions.

Should you take a gap year?

Students looking for more independence will have an opportunity to make their own decisions, manage their own finances and schedule, and cultivate peer connections.

Students looking for cultural experiences and a broader worldview can travel, volunteer with travelling organizations, interact with other cultures, and face new life experiences.

Students who are undecided about their next steps can take some time to explore career opportunities, gain life experiences, explore various fields and interests, and make an informed decision about their future academic or career tracks.

Students looking to cover college expenses without major loans can mitigate those expenses by continuing to live at home and working full time.  While this is the least “fun” of the gap year options, it still provides an opportunity for self-reflection, gaining life experiences, and laying a strong foundation for the future.

There are some drawbacks, however, to taking a gap year.  Some students may feel left out, as their peers head into college and they do not.  Without adequate planning for both the gap year and what happens afterward, students might stall or spend the entire year unwisely, not gaining the experiences they wanted.  If there is a lot of travelling involved, there might be a large cost for the year.  Finally, after taking a year off, it can be difficult to get back into the academic groove to finish out college, and students may not have the same resources they had (to assist with college planning) in high school.

Gap Year Pros and Cons

Pros
Work Experiences
Life Skills
Cultural Experiences
Self-Reflection & Growth
Save / Earn Money
Explore Interests
Rest and Recharge
Cons
Feeling Left Out / FOMO
Stalling
Cost
Lack of Structure
Difficult to Get Back
Potential Lost Time
Restricted Resources

One additional pro of taking a gap year is that students will have fodder for all those college and scholarship application essays!  However, it is of the utmost importance to spend time responsibly planning the gap year.  Map out experiences, break down the months into an ‘experience calendar,’ and research different gap year programs that provide travel, volunteering, and other life experiences.  (Caveat – these can be expensive.)

Before heading into a gap year, remember to get copies of transcripts, letters of recommendation, references, and any other academic resources from the school that will be needed during the transition from gap year to a return to academics.  If the plan is to return to college, remember to keep that end goal in sight, too.  Bon voyage!

Engaging & Grading Your Teen’s Writing

Teaching writing takes time and one-on-one instruction.  It involves modeling, editing, providing feedback, and publishing, something that not all parents feel equipped to handle.   While there are ways to outsource writing instruction and feedback, every parent can master the basics with a little guidance!

Break down the assignment

Whenever they start a new, major writing assignment, I always tell students in the Sparks Academy classes, ‘How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!’

Break assignments into daily goals, and hold your student accountable for meeting those goals.  If they have a persuasive, five-paragraph essay, daily goals might look like creating an outline, researching and citing works, developing a rough draft, writing the first half, writing the second half, editing and polishing, and writing the bibliography.  Need help getting started?  Download this free 12-page booklet on writing a research paper.

Make a Plan

This one goes hand in hand with breaking down the assignment into bits, but I’m big on planning and organization.  After all, failing to plan is planning to fail…and no one wants to fail.

Give It a Purpose

“Why” is not a question that goes away after the toddler years, and you might find it cropping up even more in the teen years than in the previous ones.  With writing, as with anything we’re told to do, it’s important to know the why.  Are they writing solely for a grade, or is there some intrinsic motivation as well?  Will it be published in a magazine, like at Sparks?  Turned into a book, such as these amazing options?  Published in a paper, magazine, or on a blog?  Included in the student portfolio?  Repurposed later as a college or scholarship application essay?  (For the record, I’ve found the last one to be a real motivator for my older teens…who know all too well the pain of writing and re-writing dozens of essays for said applications.)

Write for Fun & Variety…and for Yourself

I’ve found that when I give my teens a choice about what they write, they’re do so much less begrudgingly.  I have one that prefers to write either historic non-fiction or dystopian stories.  Another prefers mystery / crime solving stories and would happily never write another research paper.  Those are their preferences, so when it’s time to just practice writing, that’s what they opt for, but it’s important that they also work on other skills, too.

  • Poetry and symbolism
  • Descriptive writing with vivid details
  • Expressing an opinion (logically and thoughtfully)
  • Process writing / how to do something
  • Research papers
  • Creative writing
  • Making lists
  • Writing a business letter

It’s true that we do many of these things orally, sometimes on a daily basis, but it’s important to also know how to write effectively, without visual aids (emojis, graphics, charts, etc) or tonal inflection from our voices.

When you want to practice writing skills, but don’t have a specific assignment (summer fun-school, anyone?), writing prompts are a handy tool.  There are so many different options to choose from, including pop culture, history, science, animal-themed, anime-themed…you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something that sparks your teen’s interest.  Maybe they’re really into the Hobbit and want to try your hand at writing a fantasy novel of their own

Teach Self-Editing

After writing a rough draft for any type of writing, students should take the time to read over it themselves before passing it off to the parent / teacher.  You can print out the checklists below and let them use it, or just tell them to set it aside for a night and read over it the next day.  (You’d be surprised how many errors can be spotted just by having a fresh set of eyes!)  Reading the paper aloud is another good way to spot issues with flow and communication, too.

Use a Checklist

After self-editing, it’s your turn to read over their paper and provide feedback.  Use these free downloadable checklists to guide you through grading your student’s writing assignments.  Remember that it’s also important to point out all of the things your student did WELL on the assignment.  Editing with grace is more likely to net well-received feedback.  Honey, not vinegar.

Still unsure about grading your teen’s writing assignments?  Enlist the Writing Consultation Service offered by Sparks Academy!  While there are no grades offered for this service, the feedback provided is detailed enough in content, structure, and style for the parent to assign a grade.  Consultations are provided by an accredited language arts teacher with thirty years teaching experience.

Preparing for High School in Your Homeschool

The transitional period from middle sets the tone for the high school years and strongly influences post-graduate life.  I’ve always told my children that they can course correct, but setting the right course in the first place goes a long way toward a smoother path.

In the public schools, formal transitional planning is provided to all 8th graders entering 9th grade, including psychological, academic, social, and experiential preparations, so that they have an idea of what comes next and how to navigate it.  If you’re interested in utilizing the resources schools are providing to students, or at least using them as a jumping-off point, you can download this six-page guide.

Strengthen Areas of Weakness

Every child has his own strengths and weaknesses, and these can be harnessed to form an individualized plan, but it’s also important to note areas of weakness and choose which ones to strengthen during these high school years.  Perhaps your child is not as tech savvy as they’d like (or is that just me?) and wants to learn some additional skills.  Or maybe they are still socially awkward and want more opportunities to explore friendships, events, and other social situations.  Some kids need more experience with writing skills, and this is a good time to take additional writing courses or get one-on-one assistance and feedback to brush up those essays.

Special needs students who have not yet completed a formal IEP and set forth accommodations might undertake this paperwork with their parents, as it can help with standardized testing and other requirements for college entrance.  For more specific information on teaching special needs teens, visit Teaching the Special Needs Child and Life Skills for Special Needs Teens.

All students should also take this opportunity to catalog their strengths.  Where do they shine?  What make them unique?  Whether they plan to go to college, into the job market, or are undecided at this point, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is an advantage…it provides a starting point and allows you to set mini-goals to get to your big goal!

Tailor High School Years to Skills and Talents

Just because most ninth grade students take algebra, biology, world history, and composition doesn’t mean that your student is ready for those courses yet…or maybe they completed them in eighth grade.  One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that we can tailor each individual subject to our students’ strengths.  Maybe they are fantastic at writing, but struggling with math.  In this case, you can provide more advanced language arts classes and a slightly remedial math class.  (Please remember that, especially with math and writing, it’s more important to master the basics before moving on than it is to academically try to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’)

If you have a student ready for a math challenge, then allow them to take that algebra class in early and count it for high school credit.  Two caveats here – first, be sure to note on the transcript that  the course was taken in eighth grade, and second, do not use it as a way to skip out of classes later in the high school years.  If your student took algebra in middle school, then colleges are going to want to see some advanced math courses in eleventh and twelfth grades.

You can tailor academics with any curriculum, but here’s a walk-through for how to tailor them specifically with the SchoolhouseTeachers.com School Boxes…

Let Your Teen Have a Say

“Do a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Allow your child to choose the coursework he’s interested in, and he’ll enjoy his school day.  Granted, you can’t let him choose every single thing, but electives are an easy way to give him that freedom.  Once he finds something he loves to learn about, you might find that he works harder at the basics so that he can get to electives!  

Another way to foster that independence and feeling of self-direction is to allow them to have more control over their day (scheduling).  One of the reasons teens give us attitude is because they are floundering between being an adult and being a child.  They want to be the adult, but they still need you to be the parent.  It can turn into a real power struggle.  Similar to allowing him to choose his electives, allow him to structure his day.  

We used responsibility charts – the kids knew what work must be accomplished each day.  While there were a few things that had to be done at certain times, they had a lot of freedom about structuring their own day.  Math was almost always shoved aside until last, but occasionally one of them did it first, saying “I just want to get the bad stuff done with.”  Lessons being learned…and now they are capable of that same discipline and self-regulation in their college studies.

Transition to Independent Learning

High school is when we begin to transition our students into college life.  A big part of that transition is learning time management.  As a teen, your student is juggling classes, extracurricular activities, athletics, a part-time job, and friends and family.  It can be difficult to remember all of the details!

A good planner works for you and your needs.  What is right for one person may not be the best option for someone else, so take a moment to investigate several options and find the one that works best for your student.  After they have that planner, allow them to be in charge of their day, set expectations, and give guidance, remain actively involved – have regular meetings with them.  These might be daily or weekly, but choose a rhythm that works best for you and your teen.

That said, transitioning to independence doesn’t mean completely letting go of the reins.  Teens still need you to be the parent (as do college-students, albeit with a more freedom), and this is not the time to let them fly without a landing spot.  When it comes to academics, let them have that freedom and responsibility, but read ahead in their textbooks and syllabi so you know what’s coming up.  As the parent, you also know what’s coming up with family and can help them remember to plan for all the things…

Improve Study Skills

Most kids don’t work on note-taking until the high school years, and it’s difficult to remember specific details without good notes.  The process of note-taking cements learning further by involving all three modalities of learning.  The engage the auditory when hearing the information, the kinesthetic by writing the information (by hand, not computer!), and visual when reading the information again.  If this is a new skill for your student or you just want to know why handwriting trumps typing in this case, you can access more specific information on note-taking skills.

The Through the Door: Homeschool to College Success bundle includes several lessons to brush up on specific study skills in addition to inventories, college prep assistance, and life skills for adulting in the early years.

By beginning to work on these five skills during the middle school years, you’ll help pave the way for a successful high school experience and what comes next!

10 Reasons to Love Homeschooling Your Teens

When we first began homeschooling, we met some pushback.  Granted this was long before homeschooling became en vogue and the explosion occurred, but the one thing that seemed to ‘calm’ the fears other people were having was that we were (per their assumption) going to send the kids to public high school.  (No, it was never my intention to send them back to school unless it became clear to us, mom and dad, that it was a necessary change, but why pick a fight years before you have to?)

Fast forward nearly fifteen years and we’ve experienced an explosion of the homeschooling community like no one could have predicted (thank you, covid).  We still got asked occasionally if they kids were going to high school, but simply said they were flourishing at home.  One son did do dual enrollment, and that was the right fit for him.  Another did votech classes at the local community college – again the right fit – but both boys also took several classes at home as well.

A lot of folks seem to be intimidated by the idea of homeschooling their teens through high school and graduation.  They don’t think they can do the academics.  They don’t think they have the patience to be around their teens that much.  Yet there are so many FANTASTIC reasons to love homeschooling your teens!!!

Kids learn to work independently.  Some of the most important things for our kids to learn are work ethic, how to learn, how to ask for help, and independence.  (I realize the last two seem counter to each other, but each is important.)  With these, a person can go much further than someone who has memorized a lot of academic facts without mastering these four skills.  As teens, our kids are learning to step away from the nest, take responsibility for their learning, and find their own groove.  This will help them as they move to college or career, since mom and dad aren’t going to be there at every step to ensure they wake up, get to places on time, and do whatever they’ve been assigned.  Instilling these four life skills will help them, regardless of the post-graduation path.

Kids are exposed to less peer pressure.  True, there will still be times they are exposed to peer pressure through extracurricular activities, events, and other classes (like dual enrollment).  But much like a plant that is allowed to grow indoor for a bit before being hardened off in the spring, the longer we are able to protect that innocence in our kids, the more they will have a chance to learn who they are (and be comfortable enough to express that individuality) and what they believe before facing this tough world.

Rest and health are prioritized.  Most teens in public schools are not getting enough sleep.  Circadian rhythms aren’t really a priority for school systems, who have to juggle running the busses and employing teachers that have students of their own in the system.  However, homeschooled teens have the chance to sleep late, getting the rest they need as their bodies undergo this rapid period of growth and change.  They can work within their natural rhythms, being the early birds or night owls they were born to be!

Parents can still help mold character.  I can remember being out and about and always being told how well-behaved my children were…and thinking, don’t all children act this way?  Sadly, the answer to that question is no, they don’t.  It’s not something we saw on a regular basis, however, and those bad character habits weren’t impressed upon our kids.  (This is not to say that all kids who go to school have poor character, so don’t read that into it.)  As parents, we were able to help guide and shape behaviors based on being there regularly to provide consistent feedback.

Family time and togetherness are a regular thing.  While it’s true that we are occasionally all running in opposite directions as the kids have gotten older, we are all home and together during the day and ‘school time.’  This includes breakfast, morning meeting (yes, it’s even a thing at this age), and reading time.  Mom has breakfast earlier and we still read books together, aloud, as a family during breakfast time.  After breakfast, everyone cleans the kitchen (and if needs be, the house) together and we have a morning meeting to go over what’s happening during the day.  Siblings get to be silly together, and pester each other, and there is a genuine feeling of doing life together.

There is time to read for enjoyment.  True, there is also required reading for history, science, language arts, and other subjects, but there is also time to read for fun.  I started reading to the kids when they were babies, and have been reading aloud to them ever since.  (See the above point on family time and togetherness.)  We’ve acted out so many different stories!  Today, they are also big readers themselves, choosing a ‘fun book’ to read at night, on the weekends, on rainy days, and just whenever they feel like a school break.  Fiction, non-fiction, mystery, history…a little bit of everything dots their reading lists.

Conversations, both deep and superficial, are ongoing.  As I write this, I’ve just hung up the phone with my oldest, at college, who called because he has something weighing heavily on his mind and wanted to ‘talk a bit while he had time.’  During the teen years, there are so many swirling thoughts as they undergo physical and psychological changes, begin seeing some of the not-so-pretty stuff the world has to offer, and try to navigate their own way through all of these things.  Having a parent available, and feeling comfortable enough to have those conversation with them, are not luxuries every kid has, but I like to think that homeschoolers have a leg up here, since we spend so much more time during these formative years travelling alongside them…through the little things and into the big things.

There is time to explore special interests.  Whether it’s a musical instrument, a potential career path, or an extracurricular, homeschooled teens tend to have a little more wiggle room in their school day to fit in special interest activities.  That might look like a part-time job, an internship or volunteer position, more practice time for athletics or music, or (in the case of one of our teens) time to spend in the shop combining his loves of history and tools.

Check out this unique special interest from one homeschooled teen!

Both breaks and spontaneity are factored into the week.  Taking field trips and spontaneous fun aren’t just limited to the elementary school years.  Middle and high school kids love getting outdoors, going to the park or field, and enjoying the day, too!  Sometimes, granted, this also looks like putting school aside to do chores as a family (splitting wood in winter, cleaning house in spring, raking leaves in fall, etc), but it’s a break from the routine.  If they want to take a break and work on special interests, there’s time for that, too.  And when dad was travelling quite a bit, we were able to work homeschooling around that to spend all of that time exploring the world together as a family.

Interested in roadschooling? Find out how easy it is to get started (even part-time)!

Finally, as the homeschooling mom, my hands-down favorite part about homeschooling teens is those private, quiet moments.  Hugs throughout the day.  That kind gesture when they bring me the coffee I sat down and forgot.  Sitting together on the front porch swing and having a one-on-one discussion after lunch…just because.  These intimate moments are possible because of the relaxed nature of our days, which homeschooling allows us, and it’s absolutely the best.

You Know You’re Homeschooling a Teen When…

Because laughter is the best balm for a soul…. Here are ten signs that you’re homeschooling a teenager!

You have an intimate relationship with YouTube.

Gone are the days of stepping on Legos and math manipulatives.  These days, if you want to help your teen figure out how to solve a math problem, you have to YouTube how to do it and hope that it rings even the teensiest of bells from your own schooling so that you can help your teen…or just let them watch and explain it to you.  Check out – Should You be YouTube Schooling?

Your children have turned into Hobbits.

They require second breakfast and Elevensies.  They have their days and nights mixed up.  Granted, some kids start this as early as birth, but it becomes a real issue when they’re teens.  Maybe they’ll work second or third shift when they graduate.  Or maybe their rhythms will even out.  Time will tell.  Got kids who love the Hobbit?  Check out The Hobbit & Writing Fantasy Fiction.

The dreaded question has changed.

Remember how often you got asked about socialization when your kids were younger?  Now you’re getting asked about things like dating, prom, and graduation.  Won’t they miss out on it?  Think back to your high school days…some folks loved those events, others tolerated them, and others skipped out.  The homeschool community has evolved such that, if you want to participate in these events, you’ll be able to find them (unless you live in a superbly remote area).  No one is missing out!

Arts and crafts are less cute and more functional.

Sure, you can’t put a dissected sheep eye on the refrigerator (and who would want to?), and it’s difficult to show off your kid’s vocational skills (which saved you quite a bit on that refrigerator repair), but just because you can’t pin these images doesn’t make them less worthy.  These life skills, fostered in their teen years, can really pay off in the long run when they help you out in the future.  Check out Career-Based Electives for Teens.

Photos become much more unique.

Whether because they’re adding stickers and emojis to digital photos, or just because they can’t seem to pose without making a face, sticking out their tongue, or putting rabbit ears behind a sibling, you haven’t had a decent photo of your kid in a couple of years.  Hold out for those holiday photos – Christmas and Mother’s Day are sacred, and you deserve a smiling photo on these.  Stay strong!

The expensive Legos have been replaced by expensive musical instruments / car parts / insert hobby or sport equipment here.

Gone are the days of kvetching over spending a hundred dollars on a Lego set.  Those are the good ol’ days.  Sporting equipment, car parts, new technology, and musical instruments….these are the things that have replaced those simple building toys.  Check out Should Your Teen Have a Job?

Read: Must-Have Supplies for Homeschooling Teens

Daily life and chores counts as an elective.

Home Economics, Homesteading (if you have a farm), Auto Mechanics, Shop…all of these are elective credits that you can give you child now that s/he is actively contributing to the household management and chores.  Cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, meal planning, and shopping all count toward Home Economics.  Check out A Self-Sufficient Life.

Field trips become a little bit scary.

It’s not so much because they’ve run off at the zoo…again…as it is because they actually drove you to the field trip.  I believe that teaching teens to drive shaves a full year or more off of parents’ lives.  Especially when they nearly miss their turn and take a 90-degree turn at 45 mph, going up on two wheels.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

The house is suddenly very quiet.

It’s not like when they were toddlers, however, and you knew the silence meant that trouble was just around the corner.  Which is not to say that there isn’t trouble around the corner, but it’s most likely happening outside of your home where you won’t know until later.  But then the house is loud at night when everyone is together for dinner again.  Think of this as a transition period for when you become an empty nester.

You become sentimental.

Suddenly you understand what people meant when they were babies and you were told, ‘The days are long, but the years are short.’  We only get eighteen summers, and then they spread their wings and fly.  Savor these four years of high school.  Transition your relationship from parent-child to more of a mentorship, and know that there may be bumps along the path to independence, but you’re supporting them, love them, and will miss them dearly once they graduate.  (Even if they don’t realize it.)

Fun Field Trips for Teens

Field trips are just as important now that your students are teens as they were back in elementary school.  There’s no need to stop taking them, but you’ll want to change how you approach them…and you can do some pretty interesting things!

Here are some field trip ideas for middle and high school students.  There are both local and travel options, ranging from free to need-to-plan-ahead.  What are your teens favorite places to visit, and would you add to this list?

Here are some FREE, local field trip options:

  • Local historic architecture
  • Air Shows
  • Historic Re-enactments
  • Climb Rocks
  • Historic Museums (some are free)
  • Pick-Your-Own Farm Visit
  • Rivers & Lakes
  • Zoo (only free on certain days, or with a pass)
  • Local Newspaper
  • Factory Tours (some are free)
  • Visit the Beach
  • Visit the local Airport

Around Town

  • Most of the free trips listed above are in-town
  • Lots of hospitals offer presentations, and these could count toward a health credit
  • Most teens are able to sit quietly in a courtroom to see how the judicial system works
  • Every city has a history, and most have city history museums – explore yours!
  • A local small business owner may give a tour and explains the pros and cons of ownership

History-Based

  • State capitols are a good place to see the legislative system in action
  • National parks offer both nature and history with one beautiful hike
  • Civil War battlefield locations are often free and relatively easy to find in the eastern US
  • Living history museums (think Williamsburg) are fun for all ages

Science Lovers

  • Amusement parks are a good place to see how physics works in the real world
  • Indoor skydiving spots are also a great place to test physics
  • Caves, caverns, and wildlife refuges are all great outdoor adventures
  • Many aquariums have programming for older students
  • Factories and manufacturing plants are in more places than you’d expect, and very interesting
  • Space centers, including NASA, offer all sorts of programming for older students

Specialty Adventures

  • Symphony and theater performances are cultural experiences
  • Art museums are as well, and you can tie them to history or culture
  • TV / Radio Stations give tours and presentations, and they love going in depth with older students
  • Music recording studios are another great option for sound enthusiasts
  • Our boys really enjoyed a unique adventure to learn about fermentation and physics

After the field trip, take time to debrief.  This may be an art project, an essay comparing or contrasting different aspects of the topic, or even a lab report, timeline, or research paper.  These last few ideas are perfect for high schoolers doing virtual/simulated science labs, deep-diving into history, or creating a senior thesis or research project.  Talk about:

  • The results or outcomes of the field trip.
  • What did they know before they went on the field trip? What did they learn?
  • What new insights can they take from the experience and apply to daily life?
  • What connections can be made between anything at the field trip with other aspects or topics they’re learning about?
  • What was the most interesting or fun? Why?
  • What else would they like to learn about this topic?

More Inspiration

Finally, even though these aren’t free, educational subscription boxes are a great way to bring the field trip into your home.  Here are some of our favorites!

Need some field trip inspiration?  Here are a list of adventures from across the United States – find one for your next local or vacation journey!

Geography / Location-specific
Mississippi
Vermont
Seattle
Chocolate World / Milton Hershey
Frankenmuth / Christmas World
Oklahoma City
San Francisco
Vermont
Seattle

Gettysburg
Mayberry RFD
Cabo San Lucas
Tulsa
Western Oklahoma
Fort Smith / Hot Springs
Orlando / Epcot
Amish Country
Outer Banks, NC
Kansas
Arizona
Roswell, NM
Nashville / Ryman / Parthenon
Niagara Falls
Washington DC / July 4th
Colorado Springs / Olympics
New York City
Cleveland / Rock & Roll
Lake Champlain / Maritime History
Maryland
Louisiana / Cajuns & Creoles
Minnesota Wyoming Colorado / Geology Grand Rapids Eau Claire Ontario / Canada Southern California Hampton Roads North Carolina Piedmont Lowcountry SC / GA      

History
Ancient Mayans
Oil & Energy
Battle of Vicksburg
Cornwall Iron Furnace
Abe Lincoln’s Home
Boston / Revolutionary War
Philadelphia / Constitution
Virginia’s Historic Triangle
Williamsburg
New Hampshire / French & Indian War
Valley Forge
Fort Ticonderoga
Biltmore House Omaha
Oregon Trail / Chimney Rock
Outer Banks / History of Lighthouses Colorado / Gold Rush Mackinac / War of 1812 Mount Rushmore / Deadwood The Lost Colony Pirates of the Outer Banks Patriot’s Point, SC




                      
Science & Math
Real-World Math
Zoo Studies
Johnson Space Center / Christina Koch
Airplanes & Air Shows
Principles of Flight
Kennedy Space Center U.S. Mint Inside a Cave Kitty Hawk / History of Flight US Space & Rocket Center Recording Studio Business of Cookie Making Fermentation & the Physics of Axe Throwing

Career-Based Electives for Teens

Electives are an excellent way to delve into topics and interests – no matter how strange they seem – in your child’s middle and high school years.  There’s your typical shop and home economics, but also specifics like aviation or hieroglyphs.  Think back…when else did you have so much freedom to explore?  As homeschooled teens, the world is their oyster!  

Elective classes give them a chance for career exploration, too.  Your student may discover that he doesn’t really want to be a veterinarian after all….or that he loves to write!

If you want some inspiration or just a quick-start guide, discover several free downloads of elective course curricula for specialized electives in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Choosing electives for high school can be both exciting and nerve-wracking.  If it’s a class outside of the core curriculum (required courses for graduation), then it’s an elective class.  What do colleges want to see?  What does your child really need?  And how do you know what to pick…?

Electives can be a good way to make high school fun, to bring some moments of levity to a day crowded with the intense courses found in these upper grades, particularly in a college prep scenario.  What is your child interested in?  Which hobbies does s/he gravitate toward?  Are there any career interests yet?  This is a good way to let colleges know more about your student, as they see which electives made the cut and ended up on the transcript.

If your student doesn’t know what they want to take and / or doesn’t have a field of interest for a possible future career yet, it might be time to check out a Career Exploration course.  The Career Clusters Student Interest Survey is an inventory that helps narrow down your child’s field of interest based on preferences, hobbies, and skills.  It takes about fifteen minutes to complete and then shows the top three fields of interest for possible careers.  This metric includes sixteen different ’career clusters,’ including jobs ranging from entry-level to professional, and is a great way to determine elective choice!

If you have the opportunity, it will benefit your student to take elective choices aligning with his or her career interests.  This will help with determining if that is a good fit (it’s better to find this out in high school than once you’ve paid for that college training!), and will give them some introductory level knowledge, which can be a leg up in the job market.

Have an open discussion about future goals and plans with your high schooler.  Are they considering college?  Military?  Vocational-technical school?  Starting a business?  Each of these post-graduation paths will benefit from a variety of elective opportunities.

Depending on their future goals, create your high school plan.  First fill in your state graduation requirements.  Then add in all the interest-based ideas your teen has and work toward filling in the elective, and sometimes the core classes as well, with those interests.

Be sure to check with your local and state laws regarding what is required for graduating from homeschool high school.  Note the classes, credits, and other details so that when your student reaches their senior year, your transcript is ready to roll.  If you need help, the Sparks Academy School Counselor can help with creating a four-year plan

Discover more inspiration at:

Hands-On Science & Nature Projects for Upper Grades

Spring and summer are a fantastic time to take your homeschool outside!  Hands-on projects can be completed year-round, but during these times, it’s easier to incorporate nature and do big, messy projects.  Getting hands-on helps students to become more engaged, involve their senses in learning, and prevent burnout.  It also helps to flesh out abstract ideas in a more concrete format, applying difficult-to-understand concepts into a real-world application.  This not only helps the student understand more, but also retain more.

Each of these resources is appropriate for middle and high school students.  If you prefer family-style teaching, they can be tailored down, or you may eliminate some of the more complicated aspects, for elementary students.  Want to create your own hands-on nature study?  Download the unit study planner, and get started exploring your family’s interests!


Exploring the outdoors is a great way to learn!  Soak it all in, homeschool mama, and wear your homeschooling style proudly!


Think Like a Scientist

Mathematical concepts and the scientific method are a good place to start…


Get Inspired

Sometimes we just need a little inspiration to get started!


Take a Field Trip

Here are some virtual field trips that will inspire you to take one of your own…


Get Outside

Unplug and get your hands dirty!


Go Wild

Is it animals, wild plants, the jungle, or the human psyche that intrigues you?


A Little of This; A Little of That

Projects and ideas that didn’t really fit in a box…


Explore through the Pages

A literature study is a fantastic jumping-off point for further exploration.  Pick a topic, read all about it, and then get hands on with the additional projects!


Use a Complete Curriculum

Maybe you’re not quite ready to head outside…or maybe you’re required to have more structured learning.  Either way, these curricula incorporate real-world learning projects into the lessons!



Hands-On Subscription Boxes You’ll Love!

Learn about forensic science and methods. Go hands-on with techniques like fingerprinting, collecting shoe prints, and more. Use the same tools the pros use to detect the presence of blood and identify theft suspects. Each box comes with gear that real investigators use along with activities designed to let you learn by doing. Your first box contains a free one-year subscription to our online detective game. Examine the evidence and solve the case.


MATTER

We search planet Earth for the most interesting forms of matter. Each month we ship fossils, tools, specimens, materials, or artifacts that have been carefully selected as some of the most interesting pieces of matter in our accessible universe. Part museum, part laboratory, perfect for quarantine! Feed your curiosity or spark someone’s else’s. This one is for the kid who knows everything!! It will spark an interest for further research…

Beautiful Discovery

Beautiful Discovery kits use visually and kinesthetically engaging patterns of nature to unleash your hidden pattern power and give you STEAM skills. Items include eco-games, art, origami, drag and drop code, models, natural wonders, full color informational cards, full color picture books and booklets, paints and colored pencils, drawing sheets with art lessons on patterns seen in the natural wonders.

Perfect for the student who is hesitant about math, but all about art! This box combines the beauty of nature with real-world math through projects with seashells, crystals, dried leaves, flowers, for their beautiful patterns. There’s even an computer coding element with simple drag and drop block coding that will simulate the patterns seen in the natural wonders studied in each box.

Spangler Science 

Let’s make science fun one month at a time! A subscription to Spangler Science Club is a guarantee that we’re working together to prepare your young scientist for a future STEM-based career. Choose from one of three levels of hands-on science kits and subscribe to amazing science delivered every month!


Groovy Lab in a Box

With Groovy Lab in a Box, you will receive boxes full of everything you need to learn about and do hands on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiments for ages 8+. We blend Scientific Inquiry and the Engineering Design Process, which allows children to create ingenious inventions, enhance problem solving skills and FUN!

Homeschooling Teens: College or Career Track?

For the last few generations, the collegiate years have been a crucial part of the growing up experience.  The system has changed, however, since my generation attended college, and it’s failing.  Inflated costs have driven up student debt so high that many cannot fathom how to escape it upon graduation, even with a good job lined up.

Also, because so many students are still being funneled into colleges, even with the prospect of crippling debt, there are too many graduates for the available jobs.  Students are either going on to graduate school, in the hopes of getting a job in their chosen field, or taking whatever job they can find.  Simply put – there are too many professionals being graduated, and not enough professional jobs.  

Or as Mike Rowe put it —  “America is lending money it doesn’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.”

Rowe continues, “Schools have done away with vocational training to focus on academic learning, creating a one-size-fits-all model of college-to-workforce that doesn’t recognize the real opportunities in the workplace and the real needs of society.”  And while it’s true that there are many careers which do require advanced training, such as those in the medical field, but not every career will require that four-year degree, and companies are just now starting to respond to this realization.

See the four traditional paths from high school – university, technical college, military, and career – in this article on ways to cut down on the cost of college.



General High School Help

As the homeschooling community continues to grow, one of the biggest concerns we hear from parents is that they don’t know what to do for high school…
  • Must-Read — Teens’ Guide to College and Career Planning 
  • Before this homeschooling life, I worked with eighth, ninth, and tenth graders…and loved it!  Teens are so exciting.  They are old enough to have a real, heavy conversation with (and it’s really fun to explore the basis for their opinions), but young enough to still need and want guidance (even if they won’t admit it).  From those years of experience, my experiences with my own children, and just the sheer memory of being a teen myself….here are five suggestions for motivating your student.
  • The Homeschooling the Upper Grades e-book is a collaboration project with bloggers from around the world, covering a wide variety of topics and issues facing the homeschooling parent of teens.  Twenty-two topics spanning special needs learners to academically gifted, and college to career-oriented students, are covered in this free download.
  • Worried you’re going to miss one of the pieces for moving from homeschool to college?  Here is the help you want with transcripts, scholarships, and making the transition!  In Through the Door, you and your teen will work through thirty-three modules to smooth the way from homeschool to college life.
  • Looking for high school help?  It’s not the academics for high school that are nerve-wracking so much as it is all of those ‘special things,’ like testing, applications, and deadlines that must be met for a smooth transition into college.


Career Exploration

Maybe your teen knows exactly what s/he has wanted to be since childhood.  Maybe they have no idea.  A little career exploration is good for both scenarios, as it helps to better understand what those jobs truly entail…

  • Must-Read — Career Planning for Teens: Discover The Proven Path to Finding a Successful Career That’s Right for You!
  • Career-focused electives can be a good way to make high school fun, to bring some moments of levity to a day crowded with the intense courses found in these upper grades, particularly in a college prep scenario.  What is your child interested in?  Which hobbies does s/he gravitate toward?  Are there any career interests yet?  This is a good way to let colleges know more about your student, as they see which electives made the cut and ended up on the transcript.
  • Career Exploration guides seventh through twelfth grade students to discover their career path or college major.  This eight-week elective course provides possible directions to the next step.  Each lesson includes informative articles, self-inventory worksheets, relevant links to additional information, and inspiring true stories.
  • The Career Center offers a whopping fifty-five different courses, ranging from eight weeks to full-year, to help your student further explore their interest and see if it is a good fit.
  • Parents can also pull together resources to create a year-long, career-based course for their student’s interest – such as this one on Architecture.  For technical or hands-on careers, check with your local community college to see if they have dual-enrollment high school programming.


Maturity / Relationships

Teens are navigating a tricky time of life, caught between the worlds of adolescence and adulthood.  Now is the time to talk about all those hard things…before they take the next step.

  • Ask Powerful Questions
    • Explore the clarity of intent, connecting through rapport, creating openness, reflective listening, and empathy. How can we explore the space between ourselves and others, and exchange meaningful perspectives? Just ask—powerfully.
  • Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen 
    • The fourteen essential conversations to have with your tween and early teenager to prepare them for the emotional, physical, and social challenges ahead, including scripts and advice to keep the communication going and stay connected during this critical developmental window. 


Read Prior to Graduation


Organizational Skills

Whether it’s a bedroom, an office, or digital life, having a good system of organization can save your student time and trouble down the line…


Life Skills

Resources for a wide range of students and their needs…


Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is something every parent should help foster, age-appropriately, from the earliest years.  We want our teens to go out into the world with eyes wide open…

  • Must-Read — Do the Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
  • Looking to focus on critical thinking skills?  This Guidebook Set features four books, each with multiple lessons that are direct, concise, and help students relate concepts to their daily lives. Two of the books are designed to make students think about thinking and thought processes.  The other two books are motivational and inspirational in nature, showing examples of people who trudged through difficult times to make a difference in the world.
  • Literary Adventures for Kids is a language arts curriculum that fosters both writing and critical thinking skills.  There are five different year-long classes to choose from, each including a blend of classic and modern books and encouraging students to ‘think beyond the book.’


Technology Skills

We live in a digital world, and any path your student chooses is going to require certain technological skills…beyond the cell phone.

  • Must-ReadFuture Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World
  • Regardless of the path, all students need to become familiar with the Microsoft Office family. This elective curriculum uses project-based learning to teach critical thinking, problem-solving, research, and out-of-the-box thinking skills. It celebrates students’ creativity and innovativeness and allows students to learn by creating solutions, all while introducing learners to a full range of Office skills.
  • Using short, online unit studies, this site introduces your student to apps, online programming, and other ‘new tech’ being used currently in both educational and on-the-job settings. Students develop skills and practice through short, fun projects.
  • The Guide to Digital Student Projects is an excellent starting point for learning how to organize via computer (as opposed to the old-school, paper method).


Test Skills

We all know that test skills are a must for college entrance exams, plus academics in general, but many careers require occasional training and testing as well.  It’s good to brush up on those skills…

  • Must-Read — Mind Over Scatter: Conquer Any Test with Sharper Focus and Less Stress
  • Do you have high school students who are considering college?  One of the steps they’ll need to take is standardized testing.  This is especially important for homeschooled students as it helps to provide outside validation to the grades on their transcript.
  • Even if you know the material and are prepared for your test, it’s completely normal to experience test anxiety.  In fact, to a degree, anxiety helps you perform better on the test!  However, too much can prevent you from doing your best…so what test skills do you need?

Three Out-of-the-Ordinary Homeschool Goals for Your Child with Special Educational Needs

Today’s post comes from Sharon Czerwien, who loves homeschooling her two children, one with Sensory Processing Disorder. Sharon is the author of the children’s book, “Bumps Are Okay for KIDS and Other Biblical Lessons Learned from Monster Trucks!” She blogs at www.bumpsareokay.com.

Does the following conversation sound familiar to you:

-Child: “I hate school! I don’t want to do school today!”

-Parent: “Well, at least you don’t have to be in school for 7 hours every day. You should be glad that I let you have so many breaks and give you the opportunity to bring your favorite things to the school area…”

I have had these conversations with one of my children (on several occasions!), and I have not always said the above part in the most patient of ways. I am a work in progress.

One of my children has Sensory Processing Disorder. School can be hard, frustrating, angering, and discouraging for this elementary-aged child.

The Understood Team writes that Sensory Processing problems involve:

“…Trouble managing information that comes in through the senses. These issues, sometimes called sensory processing disorder or sensory integration disorder, can have a big impact on learning and on everyday life.” [1]

No matter if your child struggles with this sensory need or with any special need that directly affects all-things life and school, I hope you can find encouragement from the Understood Team. Online, this team makes it their mission to guide those who think and learn in ways other than “the norm.”

Encouragement for Special Need Families

If you have a child who has special educational needs, please take hold of the following:

YOU are the best person to help guide your child through his or her different adversities. Whether in educational hurdles or life challenges, you know your child best. You are your child’s greatest cheerleader and support system. YOU are just what your child needs!

Home Educational Goals for Special Need Families

When it comes to homeschooling goals for special needs families, here are some “goal traps” that may creep up unexpectedly. By “goal traps” I mean homeschool goals that may accidentally be given too high of a priority for a child with special needs.

  1. That your child stays at grade-level in each subject
  2. That your child goes through the same amount of material each year as your other child
  3. That your child needs to learn basic math facts or phonics principles in the “correct year”
  4. That you as the parent must cover everything on your child’s daily school checklist

Hopefully, removing these “goal traps” will open you up for these “out-of-the-ordinary” homeschool goals.

*Here are three “out-of-the-ordinary” homeschool goals to think through:

  1. For your child to not hate learning—as much as possible!

I know—you have the right to say, “Wait! At the beginning, you said that your child hates school. Why is your own homeschooling goal not being met?”

My child would honestly tell you how much he hates school. That is why I included the phrase, “as much as possible.”

Hard school will be hard for your child. Your child’s special needs will be hard, and understandably, you cannot remove all hardships from your child. However, throwing out the above “goal traps” will immensely help your child not to hate school more than necessary.

It is okay if your child is not on “reading level” or cannot start learning multiplication facts during the same year as other age peers. You know your child best, and a slower pace may be necessary AND be just what your child needs to have personal educational success in your child’s right educational timing.

In my case, I need to not overly push my sensory child beyond what my kiddo is capable of in that moment, resulting in needlessly causing my child to hate school even more. I must give priority to my child’s sensory needs before any educational goals can be met.

  • For your child to learn to persevere!

I view it as more important that your child have experience and practice in what true perseverance looks like than to learn division rules in the “right” year.

Your precious kiddo has more opportunities to stretch in this area of perseverance than many other children. Look for any (even small!) examples of your child having a persevering attitude and highlight these in a special way.

You can keep track of perseverance moments in a special-to-you way and review these with your child often. Encourage your child that he or she is doing great at doing hard things!

Perseverance examples do not have to only happen in school. Your child may show perseverance in a big way outside of school time. These can be highlighted, too! (In the picture, you can see how we document perseverance moments through our “perseverance notebook” filled with example pictures.) [Insert Picture]

  • For your child to learn to self-regulate!

Having your child be the top speller is not nearly as important as he or she learning to deal properly with frustrations.

I like the book, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. The main character in the story learns about the importance of breaks when her anger gets too strong. With this book as a springboard, you and your child could work through ideas to help when your child feels the anger boiling inside.

The Takeaway

Home education is a beautiful way to work with your special needs child at the right pace, to take the right breaks, and to reach more than just the traditional school goals.

I cheer you on! There is nothing more exciting than seeing your special child succeed. Plus, “success” may look different but be just as extraordinary!

Exploring Beliefs for World Religions Day

The Encarta World Dictionary defines religion as “people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities and divine involvement in the universe and human life.”  In a world that is constantly struggling for peace, having a better understanding of belief systems and values can help us to understand different people and cultures…which may lay the foundation for a thoughtful progression amid a multitude of complex cultures.  Studying world religions can lead to a better understanding of the relationships between religion and politics, economics, and social structures..


Novel Studies & Curricula


Short Primers


Art: Stained Glass Windows

Supplies

Directions

  • Print out the picture that you want to copy. We used shields and crests.
  • Trace the picture on the tracing paper with the black marker.
  • Color it with crayons. Use bright colors. Don’t color too hard, or the wax will run!
  • Cut out your shield and laminate it to make the colors even brighter. 
  • Hang it up and let the sun shine through!
Find more history-themed art projects in Recycled History!



    

Literature: G.A. Henty & Comparative Books

  • Beric the Briton
    • This tale of the Roman invasion of ancient Britannia remains one of G.A. Henty’s most popular novels of all time. Join Beric and his best friend Bodouc as they live the adventure of a lifetime – captured by the Romans, trained as gladiators, and placed in the service of Emperor Nero himself! When the story of a mysterious “Christus” begins to circulate the Roman Empire, Beric and Bodouc are forced to confront their pagan past. Will the two young prisoners be able to overcome their thirst for revenge and discover the source of true forgiveness?
  • For the Temple
    • The troubles in the district of Tiberias, the march of the legions, the sieges of Jotapata, of Gamala, and of Jerusalem all come to life. In this impressive and carefully studied historic setting, you will follow a lad, John of Gamala, who passes from the vineyard to the service of Josephus, becomes the leader of a guerrilla band of patriots, fights bravely for the Temple, and after a brief term of slavery at Alexandria, returns to his Galilean home with the favor of Titus. The fall of Jerusalem is brought to life in this classic.
  • The Kids Book of World Religions
    • By gaining a greater understanding of the cultures and beliefs of people around the world, children build respect and tolerance for the differences that make each of us unique.With objectivity and accessibility, this title in the Kids Book of series looks at the histories, scriptures, places of worship, religious leaders, gods and major festivals that are the foundations of many of the world’s religions.
  • Investigate the World through Religious Tradition
    • Over 7 billion people live on the earth, and 84 percent of them describe themselves as being religious. Few topics incite such passion as religion. What does that mean? Why are humans invested in ideas that may never be proved? Why has religion played such an important role in history?



It’s NOT Ancient History! Making Connections with World History

Although the people we study in history lived decades or even centuries ago, their actions impacted how we live our lives today.  Names, dates, facts…these are some of the things that I hear students complain about when they talk about disliking history.  It’s too confusing…they can’t put it into context.  A visual display, however, can help tie everything together in an easier-to-digest format!  Our two favorite, visually-appealing ways to link historic events include this book (fantastic for those with small spaces) and this wall chart (for those with a dedicated homeschool area).

But it’s not just faceless names and random dates; history is full of transitional events that have altered the world’s story.  By learning about different eras, you start to see what changes might happen in the future and what would drive that change.  For example, learning about the fall of Rome teaches you that even the most powerful society can fall apart—and what happens to cause that crumbling.  

By studying history, humanity has a chance to learn from its mistakes, theorize about alternative options based on correcting past mistakes as it moves forward with future events.  After all, history rhymes…so it’s likely that there will be a chance to act differently in the future.

There are five concepts – or 5 Cs – of history.  These are at the heart of every question historians ask as they seek to better understand the past, and they include (from most easily understood to the more complex): change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency.  The strangeness of the past enables us to step back and look at our society and ourselves from a new perspective—indeed, we might start to look a bit strange to ourselves!  (Think not?  Check out Motel of the Mysteries)

General Ancient History

Classes

Printables

Extras

Egypt

Greece

Rome

Asia / Middle East

Medieval

Mythology

Rabbit Trails

Innovative Ways to Study World Geography

Geography gets a bad rap for being boring, but usually that’s just because it’s not being taught in an engaging way.  After all, who wants to look at a bunch of maps for places they’ve never been (or possibly never even heard of) and think about people and things they will never see?  To really get kids interested in geography, you have to bring it to life!

Why study geography?

Geography is the study of humans and people through space, throughout time, and how those spaces have shaped history.  Every place has a history behind it, shaped by humans, earth, and climate.  By studying geography, we gain meaning and awareness to those places, which also puts history in context.  It helps us see the why, when, and how of what happened in history.  Learn more about History, Mythology, and World Cultures.

Studying countries also helps with spatial awareness and mapping skills.  If you don’t know where a place is, or the physical context of the area, how can you understand what is being reported on the news?  Learning about land, resources available, and how that has shaped a culture of today helps you understand the uniqueness of each local culture.

Geography helps us to explore and understand the differences in cultures, political systems, economies, landscapes, and environments across the world.  By understanding these things, we can explore the connections between them.  As we learn how all people are interconnected, it makes the world a little bit smaller, making us care just a bit more about our fellow man…even if he is halfway around the globe.


Read All About It

  • Living Literature Units


Walk through the 50 States


Play a Game


Rabbit Trails


Experience It

Rabbit Trails & Child-Directed Studies

Unlike traditional schooling, homeschooling affords you the opportunity to jump down rabbit trails! What’s a rabbit trail? This is when your child develops a sudden interest in a topic, and you spend the whole day (or week, or month) exploring that topic in-depth, following the trail as far as it goes, or until your child moves on to another interest. Regardless of age, this is a valuable tool to add to your homeschooling toolbelt!

Educational Philosophies Encouraging Rabbit Trails

Charlotte Mason
Developed by a 19th century educator who believed in reading ‘living books’ rather than ‘twaddle,’ this approach involves living learning. It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests. Nature walks, art museums, and living books are all a part of this approach. 

Unit Studies
This approach takes all of the subjects and smashes them together in an in-depth study of a topic. For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era).  Units may be literature-based, and this is a great style for teaching multiple grades together.

Unschooling
Definitely for the Type B family, this is a child-centered approach to schooling. There are no formal lessons, or even formal curriculum, but the children follow their interests and learn from life experiences. Schedules are not utilized, and there is much flexibility and freedom. This does not mean that they don’t read, write, and do math, but that they follow their interests. Math might be adding up the tab at the restaurant, or figuring the tax.

Places to Find Rabbit Trail Ideas


Parent Guides & Resources

Do you have an early learner? Are you looking for some amazing resources to help make your year even better? Whether you have or will soon have an early learner, I am positive you’re going to love the Early Learning Giveaway!

Thanks to these amazing bloggers and brands that love supporting the homeschool community, we’re able to give back to homeschool families in the best way!

Check out this AMAZING Prize package!

An Early Learners Introduction to the 50 States from In All You Do – The Early Learners Introduction to the 50 States is a fun and simple way to introduce your little ones to the United States. In these simple pages, they will color the state name, state shape, state bird, state flower and state flag. They will also be able to trace and copy facts and do a simple word search puzzle about each state. This is perfect for preschool and kindergartners.
KinderBach Level 1 from Music in Our Homeschool – KinderBach is an early childhood online piano and music theory program for children ages 2 to 7 where young children thrive in learning from fun characters and animations, songs and chants, games, playing simple instruments, and more.
Number Tracing- My First Number Workbook – Spring Edition from Monkey and Mom – “My First Numbers Workbook- Spring Edition” is a digital workbook offering preschoolers a fun way to learn numbers 1 to 10 through spring-themed tracing, cutting, coloring, and interactive counting activities. With over 70 colorful pages, it enhances fine motor skills, number recognition, and foundational math skills, using visual exercises and number patterns, all designed to make number learning engaging.
24 Shark Teeth & Printable Pack from The Homeschool Scientist – This learning pack includes 24 shark teeth from Florida and our DIGITAL 65+ page study of sharks. Topics covered include the unique features of sharks, shark anatomy, shark teeth, shark identification cards, food webs, and more! Use this with a range of grades K-6. We have also included some fun puzzle pages.
Seasons PlayDoh Mats Bundle from Our Crazy Adventures In Autismland – Use this different seasons PlayDoh mats bundle to teach your autistic child all about what to expect for upcoming events while having fun.
 

Learn more about each of the 2024 Early Learning Giveaway Sponsors

This giveaway wouldn’t be possible without our amazing sponsors! We encourage you to visit their site and take a look around at all their wonderful products perfect for homeschoolers! Thanks to these amazing bloggers and brands that love supporting the homeschool community, we’re giving away more than $110 in Early Learning products!  
 
 

Want to enter to win? Simply enter by following as many sponsors and partners 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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Going Behind the Scenes — Factory Tour Field Trips!


Factory tours are a fun and frugal way to add unique field trips to your homeschooling year! You get an educational glimpse into the inner workings of companies and how products are made, and you never know what is going to spark an interest in your kids! Always be sure to check if there is a minimum age requirement to visit, to make reservations if required, and see if there is a nominal fee. If the tour is free, and their store sells inexpensive items, consider purchasing something as a thank you and to help support the company in their educational outreach.

Join us on these Factory Tours!


We don’t JUST go to food factories…though it may seem like it.  What can I say?  When you’re driving all day, roadschooling, you want to stretch your legs and eat at the same time!  Here are some non-food factories.  Be sure to use the Field Trips Planning Pack for all your factory tours, and make those school days count!

Related Resources

Celebrating Spring Holidays in Your Homeschool

It’s spring – time to dance with the flowers and soar with the birds!  By spring, we’re starting to think about summer break, finishing out the homeschool year (unless you’re year-round),, and thinking about upcoming holidays…  Here are activities, books, and resources for incorporating the holidays into your homeschool.  Pick and choose what works best for your family.  Bloom in springtime!

All of these resources are appropriate for middle and high school.


Books to Incorporate


Unit Studies


Online Unit Studies


Hands-On Activities


Download the entire holiday bundle of book lists for free.  Can’t get enough of the holidays?  Incorporate the Bricks Through the Year and History of Our Holidays bundles into your homeschool year, too!  

I know many of us are still in the thick of winter weather, but you’re probably starting to dream about spring right about now. Soon enough warmer weather and longer days will be here. But in the meantime, now is a great time to start planning some fantastic activities!

This week I’ve teamed up with some of my fellow homeschool bloggers to bring you some fantastic Spring themed tips, resources, and even a few FREEBIES. Be sure to check them all out below!

Gardening Homeschool Curriculum

Gardening Homeschool Curriculum

Celebrating Spring Holidays in Your Homeschool

Celebrating Spring Holidays in Your Homeschool

Birdwatching Resources for Homeschoolers

Birdwatching Resources for Homeschoolers

Valentine’s Day Unit Study and Ideas for All Ages

Valentine’s Day Unit Study and Ideas for All Ages

5 Tips for Navigating Spring Sensory Triggers for Neurodivergent Kids

5 Tips for Navigating Spring Sensory Triggers for Neurodivergent Kids

101+ Low Prep Spring Outdoor Activities for Kids

101+ Low Prep Spring Outdoor Activities for Kids

5 Ways to Celebrate Spring with Nature Study

5 Ways to Celebrate Spring with Nature Study

10 Blunders That Are Sabotaging Your Student’s Productivity

Are you struggling to find productivity in your day-to-day? Are you feeling like you are constantly putting out fires and not making any progress on the things that matter most to you? If so, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with productivity because they are making some common mistakes. In this blog post, we will discuss 10 blunders that are sabotaging your personal productivity. Once you become aware of these mistakes, you can start taking steps to correct them and finally get stuff done!

Blunder #1: Not Having a Plan

One of the biggest productivity killers is not having a plan. If you don’t know what your goals are or what steps you need to take to achieve them, it’s going to be very difficult to get anything done. You will likely find yourself spinning your wheels and getting nowhere fast. Take some time to sit down and figure out what you want to achieve. Once you have a goal in mind, break it down into smaller steps that you can take to get there. Having a roadmap will help keep you on track and prevent wasted time.

This will get you nowhere fast on both the little things AND the big things. When looking at the major life decisions for what comes after high school, it’s easy to get stymied by all the “what ifs.” Do a little research and choose a path, you can always course correct later. Download the free Homeschooling Help book or pick up the High School to College course.

Blunder #2:  Not Breaking Down Tasks Into Smaller Steps

Another common mistake people make is not breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. When you have a big project or goal that seems overwhelming, it can be tempting to just try to power through it without taking the time to break it down. However, this usually leads to frustration and a feeling of being stuck. Instead of trying to tackle the entire project at once, break it down into smaller steps that you can complete one at a time. This will help you stay focused and make progress until the task is done.

Something I’m always telling the students at Sparks Academy, particularly as they begin to tackle large assignments, is – “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” A racer runs a marathon one mile at a time. And a good student tackles a large project one chunk at a time.

Blunder #3: Not Scheduling Time for Important Tasks

If you don’t schedule time for the things that are important to you, they will likely never get done.  It’s easy to fill up your day with busy work and put off the things that really matter, but this will only lead to frustration. Make sure you schedule time for the tasks that are most important to you, and stick to that schedule as much as possible. This will help ensure that you are making progress on the things that truly matter.

The ability to prioritize important tasks, culling the wheat from the chaff, is a hallmark of a good leader, and leadership skills are important for all kinds of successes in life, from employment to relationships. See how to boost your leadership skills here.

Blunder #4: Not Having a Dedicated Workspace

One of the biggest productivity killers is not having a dedicated workspace. If you are constantly working in different locations, it can be difficult to stay focused and get things done. Make sure you have a designated space that is just for work. This will help you stay focused and avoid distractions.

It’s possible to work from your kitchen table, but having a private workspace makes getting into the study zone much easier. Having set work hours and visual cues, such as a small sign or wearing headphones, will let well-meaning family members know you’re working.

Blunder #5: Not Taking Breaks

It might seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can actually help you be more productive. If you are working non-stop, you are likely to get burnt out and make mistakes. instead of trying to power through, take a break every few hours to recharge. This will help you stay focused and avoid errors.

Your break can be a walk around the block, shooting some hoops with a sibling, or picking up a musical instrument for a bit. It could be having a snack or taking a field trip to town — after all, every field trip doesn’t have to be long and / or exotic…

Blunder #6: Not Staying Organized

Another common mistake people make is not staying organized. When you are constantly trying to find things, it can be very frustrating and time-consuming. Make sure you have a system in place for organizing your work so that you can find things quickly and easily. This will save you time in the long run and help you stay on track.

Get a hold on this with the Rise & Shine Student Planner. Each month contains an at-a-glance calendar, with space for notes and a to-do list. Weekly pages are broken down by day, and daily pages provide space for habit tracking, notes, meal planning, and an hourly planner.

Blunder #7: Trying to Do Too Much

One of the biggest productivity killers is trying to do too much at once. When you are constantly jumping from one task to another, it can be difficult to focus and get anything done. Make sure you are prioritizing your tasks so that you are only working on the most important things. This will help you stay focused and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Having a plan will help you keep on task.

Blunder #8: Procrastinating

One of the biggest productivity killers is procrastination. When you put off tasks, they tend to pile up and become even more daunting. Make sure you are staying on top of your tasks by setting deadlines and holding yourself accountable. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and ensure that you are making progress.

Are you easily distracted, noticing every sight and sound around you? When working on a task, are you often side-tracked and have a difficult time focusing? Procrastination is one of the hallmarks of distractibility. Learn how to focus more easily, which will help your studying.

Blunder #9: Not Getting Enough Sleep

One of the biggest productivity killers is not getting enough sleep. When you are tired, it can be difficult to focus and get things done. Make sure you are getting enough rest so that you can be productive during the day. This will help you avoid feeling exhausted and ensure that you are able to focus on your tasks.

Eliminate this blunder with the New Year, New Me Habit Tracker. This reusable calendar features monthly at-a-glance pages and weekly pages with space for notes and planning. Each week also has a habit tracker grid to help keep the momentum going with your new habits!

Blunder #10: Not Eating Healthy

Another common mistake people make is not eating healthy. When you are not getting the proper nutrients, it can be difficult to focus and stay on task. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet so that you can maintain your energy levels and avoid feeling sluggish. This will help you stay focused and productive throughout the day. 

It may take some adjustments in your shopping and cooking habits, but eating real food (and not nuking it in the microwave) is so much healthier for you!  Your body will appreciate the difference, and after a little bit your mood will improve as you begin to feel more energized. Check out the No Sweat! Cooking Bundle for quick, easy, and healthy meal ideas.

There are many common mistakes that people make that can stand in the way of their personal productivity. By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure that you are able to stay focused and get things done. Make sure you try to implement some of these tips so that you can increase your productivity and achieve your goals.

Teaching Civil Rights and African-American History

Studying the civil rights movement helps students to better understand American history, making connections between the past and the present.  Though the struggles have changed, the song remains the same, and we want a new generation to learn these principles of civics and how to be an active member of society.

The most well-known of the civil rights movements started in the mid-fifties and went into the late sixties. The goal was to eliminate racial discrimination and segregation in the United States. The civil rights movement had its origins in the post Civil War / Reconstruction era and was a in response to the Jim Crow laws prevalent during the time immediately after the abolition of slavery. Over the course of the century, various less successful civil rights movements were formed, but the one started in the 1950s saw the most success. Most of the movement’s members tried to employ forms of nonviolent mass protest and  civil disobedience. These entailed things such as boycotts, sit-ins, and marches through public places.

Civil rights exist to protect individuals’ freedoms. These include freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, privacy, and they protect individuals from being discriminated against based on race, age, gender, religion, and social class, etc. Also included are political rights such as right to fair trial, due process, self-defense, and the right to vote. These are freedoms which are called by many basic human rights and should not be infringed by any movement or agency. Many people have differing opinions on what are considered basic human rights, but human rights as we define it in a public setting are comprised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document was written in 1948 and includes definitions of various such civil and political rights.

Interactive Curricula

These online literary guides have everything you need to study the book. They include vocabulary, grammar, free-write questions, videos, rabbit trails, and project ideas.


The Written Word

Beef up your homeschool library with these additional helpers.


A Novel Approach

Using spine literature, novel studies incorporate research, writing, hands-on projects, and video to bring a unit to life.


Course Curricula

Go in-depth with your studies, covering a full semester or more with lessons, videos, readings, and projects.



Download the FREE World History Timeline with Study Connections!


Meal Planning for the Busy Homeschool Family

Meal planning is essential for the busy homeschooling family. It not only helps you save time and money, but also eat a bit healthier. After all, who wants to eat frozen pizza and chicken nuggets every night? (Maybe that should say ‘what adult,’ rather than ‘who.’)

Your weekly meal plan might be broken down to the day, or you might plan for five days worth of meals, and then choose what you’re in the mood for each day.  This is a personal choice, and will depend on how much structure you and your family need.  When you’re meal planning, keep in mind:

  • Your family’s food preferences — no need to make breakfasts if no one eats that early
  • Your weekly schedule — have some quick and on-the-go options for busy days
  • Family dynamics — older kids can help with prep, cooking, and cleaning
  • What’s on hand — for less waste / spending, create menus that use on-hand ingredients


Online Meal Planning

Ordering groceries online isn’t an option where we live, but it is for many people in urban and suburban areas.  If you want to order online, start a grocery list and keep adding to it throughout the week (similar to if you have a paper one on the refrigerator to take in-hand to the store).  Some folks swear by online shopping, saying they prefer to spend the extra money for someone else to do the shopping because it saves them from impulse purchases.  You know whether you tend to impulse shop or not, so again, this is a personal (and potentially geographic) preference.)



Appliances & Early Meal Prep

Kitchen appliances are a huge time saver today…something our grandmothers would have cherished!  You’ll want to take some time to get to know your appliance, but utilize them for convenient, healthy meals.  Incorporate appliance-specific recipes into your meal planning each week to save time.

If you have them on hand, use your crockpotair fryer, and InstaPot.  However, if you’re in the market for a time-saving kitchen appliance, you can’t go wrong with the Ninja Foodi.  This is the one we have, and it is A-MAZ-ING!  (It does even more than the famous InstaPot.)


This little guy is a powerhouse – and barely takes up any room on the counter!  It does the job of eleven different appliances, making it not only a time-saver, but a space-saver in the kitchen.  As a former roadschooling family, I highly recommend this to any travelling families…it takes up just a little extra space in the car, but is very much worth it to have healthy meals while on-the-road.

So what all does Ninja Foodi do?  Pressure Cook, Air Fry/Air Crisp, Steam, Slow Cook, Yogurt, Sear/Sauté, Bake/Roast, Broil, Dehydrate, Sous Vide & Warm.  At 6.5 quarts, it’s large enough to feed a family of 4-6, but probably won’t work as well for larger families. It makes up to three pounds of fries, and can hold a six-pound roast, so it will depend on ages and how much food is needed.

I love it because of its versatility and efficiency.  The other night, we made arroz con pollo – from dried rice and frozen chicken – in less than 45 minutes!  For this and other great recipes, we picked up a very handy book called Ninja Foodi Complete Cookbook for Beginners.


Freezer Cooking

If you know you’re going to have a busy period, try freezer cooking.  This is essentially cooking everything ahead of time and then pulling it out of the freezer to reheat.  Not all recipes lend themselves to this method, but many recipe PARTS do.  You can prep taco meat or spaghetti sauce ahead of time, making dinnertime easier.  Check out the freezer cooking resources below to get you started!

  
A Slow-Cooked Year
This book includes : the whats and whys behind crockpot cooking, how-to tips and tricks, safe crockpot guidelines, printable planning sheets, and more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!
Another Year of Freezer Cooking
For anyone who wants to get a leg up on getting healthy meals on the family table, without much fuss…this book includes : the whats and whys behind freezer cooking how-to tips and tricks pantry freezing guidelines, printable planning sheets more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!

Snag this adorable tee to tout your homeschool status and celebrate the #HomeschoolMomLife!


Resources for Meal Planning


Novel Studies & Hands-On Helpers


Recipes to Get You Started!


Take the 30 Day Challenge!

Thirty days of whole foods, at-home workouts, and spiritual rest…you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain from hitting the reset button.  You’ll get a month of grain-free paleo menus, plus Life Made Full’s 30-day guide will enrich your life physically, emotionally, and spiritually, setting you up for your best year yet!



How to Be a More Effective Homeschooling Parent

Can we be honest for a moment?  Homeschooling is a HARD JOB.  It’s a huge responsibility.  There’s the part that everyone sees, and then there’s all the other stuff underneath the surface, which takes a lot of mental energy.

Homeschooling has the potential to place an enormous toll on a your mental mental health.  You might become excessively tired, cranky, or sad, or have difficulty concentrating, or have lethargy that leaves you not even wanting to teach at all.  (aka, burnout)

Taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, is so important to being an effective teacher and enjoying happy homeschooling days.  You know these, but it never hurts to be reminded, especially if you find yourself needing to re-center.
  • Acknowledge that this is a busy season of life
  • Create a routine to reduce stress
  • But be flexible with your routine, when needed
  • Ask friends and family for help
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Exercise both your mind and body
  • Take a moment all to yourself
  • Remember to have fun
Try incorporating some of these other methods for a healthier, happier homeschooling life!

Outside (the body)


Physical


Mental

Foodie


Herbs & Herbal Remedies


Resources for Further Learning



Make this year YOUR year! This reusable calendar features monthly at-a-glance pages and weekly pages with space for notes and planning. Each week also has a habit tracker grid to help keep the momentum going with your new habits! Just print and reuse each year for your planner.


Come Fly With Me!! Aviation & Flight Resources for Your Homeschool


Aviation history is over two millennia old, with earliest forms existing in China’s kite-flying.  DaVinci dreamed of man flying in the 15th century, and the Montgolfier brothers began manned flight with hot air balloons in the 18th century.  Lilienthal experimented with gliders in the 19th century, but it wasn’t until two brothers took a short break from gravity, in December 1903, that flight really ‘took off!’

Since that time, modern scientists and aviators have worked together to grow the industry by leaps and bounds, including zeppelins, jet engines, flying boats, pilotless drones, space flight, and long-distance space travel…

Aviation Field Trips


Space-Themed Field Trips


Aviation / Space Unit Studies


Aviation / Space Resources


Hands-On Learning  

       (we have both of these…and love them!)



For more AMAZING flight-themed resources and projects, check out the Flight Unit Study
Aerospace Engineering collection, and the FAA Aviation Curriculum (all grades represented).



Learning the Art of Discernment

Nike says, “Just do it.”  While spontaneous decisions work well at some points in life, there are other choices that require a depth of thought and consideration that won’t allow you to ‘just do it.’  Maybe something doesn’t feel right, or maybe it feels completely right…how will you know?  This is where discernment comes in to play.

To discern means to judge, evaluate, and distinguish.  Some people come by this naturally, while others must develop it, yet those who are gifted with discernment are often seen as judgmental, critical, and unloving.  However, we live in an age when ideas are spread globally within an amazingly short period of time, and discernment is the only way to cut through the noise and find the important, and correct, information.


A good discerner understands falsifiability and knows the difference between an argument and an assertion.  What should you know?

  • Argument – a claim supported by reason or logic
  • Assertion – an unsupported claim, often an opinion
  • Falsifiability – capacity for an argument or hypothesis to be proven wrong
  • Did you know – Facts can be both true AND false!!
  • Nice and charming do not equal honest.  Often when someone is accused of teaching something false, someone else will defend them by saying “But they are such a nice person.”

Decision-Making

In decision-making, the three steps of the discernment process are awareness, understanding and action.  All three are important — if you make a good decision, but fail to act, you’ve ultimately made a poor decision.  If you fail to apply consideration, and act hastily, you’ve not chosen well.  Therefore, it is important to go through the process completely.

Some decisions will be personal, such as where (or if) to attend college, where to move to, or whether to take that job.  Other decisions will be more general, yet no less important, such as who to vote for or how you feel about a particular issue of national / world importance.

Awareness

Know yourself.  This includes your hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.  How do you perform under stress?  What is your ideal career / future plan / {insert decision here}?  How do others see you?

Start at the beginning.  What do you already know about the decision ahead of you?  What are the pros and cons, or the various factors?  What kind of support do you have?  Are there multiple perspectives involved?

Understanding

Give it time.  Not all decisions will have the luxury, but if you have the time to wait, do more investigating, and ruminate upon your decision, you may find that you do better.  No one is impervious to this process — folks familiar with scripture will remember that even Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Spend Time in Thought / Meditation / Prayer.  After making a decision, but before action, you should feel a sense of inner peace with your decision.  This is a feeling of tranquility about the next steps, and not just relief that you’ve finally made a decision.

Action

Get going.  Whether this means applying to college, putting a down payment on a house, accepting that job, going into the voting booth, advocating for a group or issue, or however else your decision manifests itself…now is the time to act.

Evaluate.  Every action has a reaction, a consequence.  There are both good and bad consequences, external and internal.  Internally, how do you feel now that you’ve acted?  Do you still have that peace?  How have others reacted to your decision?  Do you need to reevaluate and course correct?

It is worth remembering that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  Ultimately, you are the one who has to live with yourself, and so it is important to focus on the internal response.  (Obviously, if your decision was to commit a felony, there will still be an external response you need to heed….)


Developing Discernment

Practice through Literature

These books can be difficult for students to plow through at times, but the online unit studies help break down their components, allowing students to practice predicting and analyzing, both of which lead to stronger discernment.

Parents can use these books to teach kids to ask meaningful questions, recognize bias, and stand up for themselves…


Learn about Worldviews

In a world that is constantly struggling for peace, having a better understanding of belief systems and values can help us to understand different people and cultures…which may lay the foundation for a thoughtful progression amid a multitude of complex cultures.  These courses provide that background.

Be a Detective

Develop Supportive Skills

Read (or Watch) the News

Remember to look at sources from both left-leaning and right-leaning media.  How do the stories compare in tone and coverage?  Try to find one topic and look at the stories on each side.

Celebrating the Winter Holidays in Your Homeschool

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Winter brings a plethora of holidays, and for many families a long break for resting. Here are activities, books, and resources for incorporating the holidays into your homeschool and time off. Pick and choose what works best for your family. Stay warm!

All of these resources are appropriate for middle and high school.

Books to Incorporate


Unit Studies


Online Unit Studies

Cooking Activities

Don’t forget to teach the Art of the Thank You Note

Download the entire holiday bundle of book lists for free.  Can’t get enough of the holidays?  Incorporate the Bricks Through the Year and History of Our Holidays bundles into your homeschool year, too!  

Pick up the Gnome-Themed Autumn Cookbook totally FREE!

This adorable gnome-themed cookbook is perfect for your seasonal autumn and winter recipes. Pages include:

  • Family stories & memories
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Dessert
  • Blank Pages (reproducible to add your family’s favorites)

How World Mythologies Show We’re All Connected

Author G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Stories and myths have shaped and reflected world cultures for millennia.  They tell of how the world was created, how humans relate to the world, and how humans relate to each other.  They are ingrained into our cultures, and as children we listen to these tales or read folklore, learning more about our own world and the cultures of others around us.

In spite of the development of societies all around the world, often independently of each other, there are many common threads that run through these tales.  Throughout all world mythologies and cultural stories, there are common threads of birth, death, the afterlife, good and evil, and the origin of both man and the world itself.  Younger children learn of these stories in fairy tales, which tend to be watered down to their level.  Older children may delve into an occasionally very dark world of these dragons…but these myths show that the world’s dragons can be slain.


If you’re interested in incorporating world cultures and mythologies into your homeschool, here are some resources to guide you…


Get Started

Online / Tech-Based Unit Studies

Resource Books

  • Introduction to World Mythology for Kids
    • This collection of mythology for kids takes you from ancient Mesopotamia to the Abenaki tribes of the Native Northeastern US and Canada, showing you myths from around the world. From the Japanese myth of Momotarō The Peach Boy and his loyal animal friends to the Slavic myth of Vasilisa the Wise and her enchanted doll, this beautifully illustrated collection of mythology for kids takes you on a journey through the sands of time. You’ll explore diverse cultures across the globe through the incredible tales of gods and goddesses, earth-shattering giants, mighty dragons, magical lakes, and more.
  • Myths & Legends: 25 Projects to Build
    • Through hands-on projects and exciting stories, this title in the Build It Yourself series aims to ignite young people’s curiosity in multicultural mythology and legends. Each chapter, which focuses on the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, or the Americas, provides a succinct introduction to major themes and characters in a culture’s mythology, a glossary, short retellings, and more historical and cultural background, followed by easily assembled projects, as in the section on Sub-Saharan Africa, which presents instructions for making Ashanti Adinkra cloth and a Bata thunder drum. The gray-toned format, featuring spot illustrations, is lackluster, and a few of the projects, particularly the Hopi kachina doll, reference sacred objects that shouldn’t be designated as crafts. With proper context and discussion, though, this title offers solid, interactive opportunities to explore world mythology.

World Mythology Unit / Book Studies



What Comes Next? Life Skills with Special Needs Homeschoolers

For some parents, having a special needs child is the impetus to homeschool. Many families are choosing to homeschool because their special needs children’s needs are not being met in the traditional classroom. For others, it’s just one more challenge they aren’t sure how to face. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, homeschooling a special needs child is an adventure!

Homeschooling allows the flexibility for students to go at their own pace.  You get the set the schedule.  You can change the curriculum if it isn’t working.  You can have one long work period, or several shorter work periods spaced out with transitional times.  With family-style schooling, older special needs students can school alongside younger siblings, at the same level, without them feeling as though they’re “behind.”

It can daunting to think about what post-graduation brings for the special needs student, but s/he is in a great position as a homeschooler!  In the upper grades years, homeschooling allows students the time to explore passions and career interests.  Take some time to examine your special needs student’s strengths, combining those and their interests to find a career exploration starting point.

Background Information & Resources

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers thirteen specific disabilities, but its implementation varies widely from state to state when it comes to assisting homeschool families.  Learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, health disabilities, impairments (speech, visual, hearing, orthopedic, and emotional), intellectual disabilities, and traumatic brain injuries are all addressed by the act.  Check with your state department of education, and HSLDA, to see what your state will and won’t do for homeschooling students.  

A federal agency, the Rehabilitation Services Administration provides vocational rehabilitation and other services to individuals with disabilities to maximize their employment and independence after the high school years.  Each state has their own local agency to help work one-on-one with families.

SPED Homeschool and HSLDA are good general resources for any homeschooling family with special needs students.  These resources are primarily for the younger student, but are a good place to start.


Getting Started with SPED Homeschooling


Addressing Specific Needs


Life Skills for SPED Teens

Special Needs-Friendly Curriculum


An Age of Revolution! Exploring World Change in Your Homeschool

From the mid 18th century to the mid 19th century, the world underwent a series of revolutions across many areas of life, including culturally, politically, economically, technologically, and through war. Call it the age of Aquarius…call it a response to the world connectivity spawned by the age of exploration…whatever the reason, new ideas and actions swept the world, changing it forever.

The American Revolution, largely influenced by the Enlightenment period, is considered the beginning of the Age of Revolution.  Then came the French Revolution, Irish Rebellion, Haitian Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and civil unrest in Spain and Germany.  Shortly after the War of 1812, European powers came together to form the Holy Alliance in an attempt to restore the monarchies and prevent future unrest.  Less than a decade later, there were uprisings in Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal.  The working class would no longer sit back, and around the world they began to demand more rights.  

The Age of Revolution also includes the Industrial Revolution – this is when mass production in factories replaced hand-made goods, led to the growth of cities, birthed consumerism, and eventually led to the transportation revolution.

American Revolution Resources

Novel Studies

                  Take a Virtual Field Trip


                  Hands-On / Funschool Learning


                  World Event Unit Studies


                  Additional Reading


                  Government Resources


                  Complete Courses


                  • For more resources, check out Expansion, Independence, and War! It covers both American and world history. Students will learn about major conflicts in American history, spanning from the French and Indian War to the September 11 terror attacks.
                  • The American Revolution course introduces elementary and middle school students to the key battles and players of the Revolutionary War and incorporates history, geography, reading, critical thinking and analysis, and cursive writing throughout.
                  • From the discovery of the New World to the end of the American Revolution, let Dave Stotts take your family on a Drive Thru History. Join him as he takes you to the places where America was born, shares facts about history you have never heard, and has a great deal of fun along the way. Plus, enjoy a special set of worksheets only available here!  Find out more about Drive Thru History

                  Download the FREE World History Timeline with Study Connections!


                  Celebrating the Autumn Holidays in Your Homeschool

                  It’s time for pumpkin spice and everything nice!  By autumn, we’re starting to settle into our homeschooling routine, thinking about upcoming holidays, and wondering how we’ll fit it all in…  Here are activities, books, and resources for incorporating the holidays into your homeschool.  Pick and choose what works best for your family.  Happy fall, y’all!

                  All of these resources are appropriate for middle and high school.


                  Books to Incorporate


                  Unit Studies


                  Online Unit Studies


                  Cooking Activities


                  Download the entire holiday bundle of book lists for free.  Can’t get enough of the holidays?  Incorporate the Bricks Through the Year and History of Our Holidays bundles into your homeschool year, too!  

                  Pick up the Gnome-Themed Autumn Cookbook totally FREE!

                  This adorable gnome-themed cookbook is perfect for your seasonal autumn and winter recipes. Pages include:

                  • Family stories & memories
                  • Breakfast
                  • Lunch
                  • Dinner
                  • Dessert
                  • Blank Pages (reproducible to add your family’s favorites)

                  Legal Documents Every 18 Year Old Needs


                  After eighteen years of caring for your child, it can be alarming to realize that on that magical birthday, they suddenly take on ALL the responsibilities of adulthood, whether they are equipped or not. Young adults who are eager for independence may push back against a request to sign a college power of attorney, believing they don’t really need it or you’re trying to control them.  However, at some point or another, most young adults find themselves in over their heads, may end up in credit card debt, wind up in a car accident, or get into trouble at school. All of these are scenarios you, the parent, could assist with at age 17, but cannot once they turn 18…unless you have some legal protections in place ahead of time.

                  Medical Emergencies

                  HIPPA / Healthcare

                  HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is a federal law that creation national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.  This act also contains standards for individuals’ rights to understand and control how their health information is used. 

                  The act was created to make protect individuals’ healthcare information, but comes into play with your adult children when, at age 18, you can no longer legally go with them to appointments, inquire about test results, or even find out why they are in the hospital unless the child has given express, written consent.  

                  A few of the things you need HIPAA consent for include:
                  • Appointments
                  • Test Results
                  • Insurance claims
                  • Billing
                  • Benefit eligibility inquiries
                  • Referral authorization requests
                  Protect your child by having him/her complete a HIPPA authorization form.  Send one to the college and keep one on file at home.

                  Medical Power of Attorney

                  A medical power of attorney form is strictly for health care choices should your son or daughter become incapacitated.  There is also the option of a general durable power of attorney, which covers financial decisions as well as medical.  Find your state’s medical power of attorney information here.


                  Financial / Durable Power of Attorney

                  Durable POA enables a designated agent (such as the parents) to make financial and medical decisions on the student’s behalf.  When signing it, your child can choose whether that power transfers immediately or only if s/he becomes incapacitated.  You can also write in start and end dates to reassure that this is a limited power of attorney for college.

                  Powers may include:
                  • Managing bank accounts
                  • Paying bills
                  • Filing taxes
                  • Applying for government benefits
                  • Breaking a lease

                  A durable power of attorney document applies only in the state in which it was formed—so if your child is attending school in another state, you should secure power of attorney for the other state as well. Some states also require the signature of a witness or a notary public.

                  College-Specific

                  FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.  The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

                  Generally, schools must have written permission from the student to release any information from a student’s education record.  This includes class schedules, transcripts, and grade point averages, but also extends to financial records within the school, such as scholarship information and money due, and living circumstances, such as dorm room assignment or any personal issues the student experiences.

                  Protect your child by having them provide written permission allowing the school to discuss all FERPA-related topics with you, as needed.


                  Protect Your Child in 10 Minutes

                  You can get all of these young adult power of attorney documents at Mama Bear Legal Forms.  It’s considerably cheaper than going through a standard lawyer because this is what she does, and she has templates for each state, rather than re-creating the wheel each time (it’s the time that costs you more money).  

                  You’ll want to have these in place before your child goes off to school, but don’t fret if you’re running behind — there’s no time like the present!  The package includes: HIPPA, FERPA, power of attorney for health and finances, plus a free App for scanning, storing and sharing.  If you visit through this link, you’ll also save 20% off your order.

                  Exploring Asia in Your Homeschool

                  As the largest and most-populated continent, Asia birthed some of the world’s oldest civilizations and continues to shape the world as a whole in the 21st century.  From the Bronze Age ‘Assuwa,’ to ‘Anatolia’ in the Golden Age of Greece, to the approximately forty-eight countries that comprise the region today, economically, politically, and culturally, studying Asia and its history helps students to learn more about the modern world.



                  Resources to Study Asian Geography


                  Resources to Study Asian History (& Food!)



                  Resources to Study China


                  Resources to Study Japan


                  Resources to Study Korea

                  Resources to Study Vietnam


                  Resources to Study India

                  Resources to Study Polynesia

                  Resources to Study the Middle East



                  Download the FREE Diversity Book List with Study Connections!

                  Homeschooling Around Town – The Art of the Field Trip!

                  A big part of our school year is the field trips. Generally, we will study a topic ahead of time and then take the field trip – this helps them to fully understand the hands-on experiences. The kids have been to nearly every state, and experienced a wide range of of historical, scientific, and cultural activities that they wouldn’t have been able to do solely in our home state. Not every family is able to road school, but that doesn’t mean that field trips shouldn’t be a part of your school.

                  Field Trips in Town

                  • Attend a library program
                  • Local historic architecture
                  • Air Shows
                  • Historic Re-enactments
                  • Climb rocks
                  • Historic Museums (some are free)
                  • Pick-Your-Own Farm Visit
                  • Zoo (only free on certain days, or with a pass)
                  • Local newspaper
                  • Factory tours (some are free)
                  • Visit the beach, lake, or riverbank
                  • State Fairs have homeschool days
                  • Visit the local airport
                  • Work in a community garden
                  • Shadow a business (teens)
                  • Animal workshop at the pet shop

                  Field Trip Starters


                  Unique Field Trips


                  More Field Trip Ideas

                  • Check out the Roadschooling Page to find unit studies and field trips built around your location.  There’s something for just about every state in the United States up there!
                  • Finally, though these aren’t free, educational subscription boxes are a great way to bring the field trip into your home. Here are some of our favorites!
                  • Use the world diversity book studies from Literary Adventures to travel the world from the comfort of your own home.  You can go anywhere!

                  Celebrating Your Homeschool! Beginning & End of Year Traditions

                  Some families choose a name, and even a mascot, for their homeschool.  Some have Not-Back-to-School parties with their local co-ops.  There are as many homeschool traditions as there are unique families!  What do you do?


                  Back to Homeschool

                  • Kick off the new school year with cute shirts for everyone!  Get matching shirts and call them your family’s field trip uniform.  💖
                  • Everyone is out buying back-to-school supplies….the neighborhood kids have cute, new clothes…and your kids are suddenly wondering why they aren’t having nearly as much fun going back to homeschool.  But there are many fun ways to celebrate going back-to-homeschool!
                  • Download several different Responsibility Charts & Writing through the Holidays packet, along with dozens of other goodies, free at Homeschool On the Range’s Subscriber’s Library.
                  • A good planner can work wonders for keeping you organized from the get-go.  This undated, reusable planner has you covered with daily plans, schoolwork, long-range planning, and meal organizers as well as chore charts and book lists!
                  • It might seem daunting to create a unit study at first, but anyone is capable of creating a unit study in just a few easy steps.


                  Got Oxygen?

                  • On the airplane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before putting your children’s on…because we’re not really useful to others if we’re passed out.  Or burnt out.  Remember to take some time this year to focus on self-care.
                  • You may be one of those families that has been homeschooling for 9 years or so and now are on the home stretch, or you may be new to the journey and have gotten in over your head and wondered if this is the right choice. Any and all of us could use a Booster Shot at some point…


                  During the Year


                  End of the Year

                  • Is your feed flooded with pictures of kids receiving various awards at their schools?  No need to feel left out.  Homeschool kids deserve awards too!  😎  And we’re homeschooling, so you know what that means…..personalized awards!!!

                  Save Your Sanity! Tips for the Homeschooling Mom


                  If you’re new to homeschooling, or still in the stage of considering having a go at it, the prospect can be daunting. You look around at other homeschooling families, and they seem to have it all together, but we all started at the same spot you’re in right now….

                  The first thing to keep in mind is that relationships are more important than academics. Your kids’ hearts are more important than their grades or achievements. You are the most qualified person to be in charge of your child’s education, because you love them more than anyone else and want the best for them. Be confident!

                  In addition to these tips, we’ve put together a packet of Homeschool Helps, including planners, graphic organizers, record logs, and templates to help you on your journey! 

                  Keep a record of all the books you read for school, not just the textbooks / curricula. This is especially important if you’re a Charlotte Mason or Unit Studies family.  Read aloud to your children…no matter their age. The snuggles are priceless, and the books will often lead to soul-searching conversations with teens. If you’re not sure where to start, check out The Read-Aloud Family.

                  Learn about the different homeschooling styles so that it’s easier to search for relevant tips. You can learn about different homeschooling styles here.  And if you don’t finish the full curriculum, don’t stress over it. There’s so much overlap in the grades that missing some lessons at the end of the year doesn’t really matter. What matters is finishing the year, taking time off to rest, and enjoying time with your children.

                  There is no one right or wrong curriculum. Take some time to decide what you want your children’s education to look like and find the curriculum that works for your family. And remember, there will be hard days — this is not an easy task, but it is totally worth it. {Fifty Reasons to be Thankful for Home School (on the Hard Days)}

                  Seek community. You are not on your own in this homeschooling journey! A helpful, inspiring homeschool community can do wonders for your morale. If you don’t belong to a homeschool community, there are many options available. You can join a local association, co-op, or even an encouraging online homeschool group.  At SchoolhouseTeachers, the Mama’s Corner has regular get-togethers to foster community!

                  Don’t be scared to change if something isn’t working. That’s one of the great things about homeschooling- you can change to suit you and your kids’ needs. You can change schedules, curriculum, topics, routines, anything…and it will all be just fine.  Remember your WHY.  Why did you start homeschooling?  What’s your ultimate goal here?  In A Parent’s Alphabet, we lay out several reasons, from A to Z, to help you refocus.

                  For high school students, follow your state’s graduation requirements. There are usually multiple tracks – one for college-bound students and one for general education – and it is of the utmost importance that you follow them if your child is college-bound. You can learn more about transcripts and requirements here.

                  A vision is so important and so grounding. I recommend mom finding a personal vision for school. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hint, Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie, and certainly anything by Ruth Beechick.

                  Sometimes you just get a little bit down, or off-kilter.  When that happens, and it will, look to Words of Encouragement for New (or Weary) Moms.  You’ll find yourself bouncing back in no time!

                  Maybe you just have too many things going on at once.  We know…we’ve been there, too.  In Prioritizing Your Life, you’ll find a free downloadable e-book to help you sort things out, find more time in the day, and settle in a bit.

                  Every mom, homeschooling or otherwise, can use a bit of pampering in her life!  Like they say on the airplanes, if you don’t put your oxygen mask on, you can’t save someone else.  Or in this case…when mom’s burnt out and ready to give up, nothing is getting accomplished.  Find your zen in Pampering for the Homeschool Mom.

                  A schedule is your servant, not your master, but schedule is a wonderful tool to help you accomplish your homeschooling goals, and just because you have a plan for each day doesn’t mean each day will go according to schedule. You will have interruptions, accidents, spills, and people dropping in. But you can take control!  See how Flexible Scheduling Can Work for You.

                  The initial excitement of homeschooling is important. It helps plunge you into a whole new way of thinking and living. Over time, however, and as you progress, the excitement sometimes wanes and the demands of homeschooling can become overwhelming, exhausting, engulfing.  Remember to focus on Personal Wellness and Homeschooling for long-term success!

                  Homeschooling is a full time job. Act like it. Just because you don’t have to drive anywhere doesn’t mean you can’t have special school hours where nothing else gets scheduled. Guard your time you set aside, whenever that time is. All the other things can be scheduled around the few hours you need to get school time accomplished.  See how you can manage the Hardest Part of Homeschooling, when it’s not the kids.

                  You really can leave grade levels and school metrics behind, and build an interest-led, completely personalized homeschool experience for your children based in your unique family culture.  Finding a mentor, another homeschooling parent to talk to regularly, is a huge boost!  Need a hand up?  See 5 Homeschooling Mentors You Need to Follow.

                  When we fill our well up, we’re doing our family a favor. When we take care of ourselves, we have a better self to give. We are more present, we probably check our phones less often, and because our needs are met, we enjoy our time with our children. The time we give to ourselves matters and can help us to let go of any resentment and anger.  Pick up strategies for prioritizing at A Home School Mom’s Guide To Self-Care And Keeping Anger At Bay.

                  Whatever you are great at, whatever makes your heart happy, whatever your child/children do well with —do that first.  It may seem counterproductive to start with the one subject or thing that where you are actually on target or ahead when you feel like you are behind in everything else, but it usually results in more cooperative and happy kids.  See other things to try When Your Homeschool Moring Is Giving You The Blues.

                  Finally, don’t forget to fill up your tank!  Whether it’s with a cute shirt or kitschy homeschool gear, a treat that relaxes you and brings you joy, or simple inspiration, find something that speaks to you and remember the old adage — when mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!


                  You’ll definitely want to check out…

                   homeschool coffee

                  Finding Your Groove — Homeschool Styles

                  When looking for curriculum, you’ll want to consider your homeschool style.  It may take a few years to settle down into the right fit for your family, and that’s completely normal.  

                  Not sure what your style is?  


                  Consider…

                  • What’s your teaching style?
                  • What are your goals?
                  • How do your kids learn best?
                  • What values do you want to instill in your children?
                  • What’s your lifestyle? Do you prefer routine or flexibility?

                  Within each of these homeschool styles, you have the flexibility to be creative and make your own student-directed classes.  Maybe your child is interested in becoming a veterinarian, but you can’t find a class for that…make your own!  You’ll need approximately 140 hours of work, hands on and academic, to count it as a full year.  Use this Create-Your-Own Class Planner to help you get started.

                  Download and print the Homeschool Curriculum Guide

                  Classical

                  Focusing on the trivium, the three stages of learning: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, this is a Socratic method that includes public speaking, memorization, and a full school day. The trivium stages match up with elementary, middle, and secondary school. This is a rigorous approach to schooling, but produces results.  Compass Classroom offers several great options for classical instruction, and you can try their sample resources for free.

                  Charlotte Mason

                  Developed by a 19th century educator who believed in reading ‘living books’ rather than ‘twaddle,’ this approach involves living learning. It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests. Nature walks, art museums, fine arts studies, and living books are all a part of this approach, and there is a focus on instill good character habits.  One of our favorite Charlotte Mason providers is The Homeschool Garden.  (See more information, or just try them free.)

                  Unit Studies

                  This approach takes all of the subjects and integrates them in an in-depth study of a topic. For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era).  Field trips and hand-on projects are frequently utilized. Units may be literature-based, and this is a great style for teaching multiple grades together.  Techie Homeschool Mom offers fantastic, online unit studies that also teach various technologies.  Try one free!

                  Unschooling

                  Definitely for the Type B family, this is a child-centered approach to schooling. There are no formal lessons, or even formal curriculum, but the children follow their interests and learn from life experiences. Schedules are not utilized, and there is much flexibility and freedom, with a focus for teaching a love of learning and developing the ability to be self-educating. This does not mean that they don’t read, write, and do math, but that they follow their interests. Math might be adding up the tab at the restaurant, or figuring the tax.

                  Waldorf

                  Similar to unschooling, this is a child-centered approach that focuses on nature, arts, crafts, music, and movement.  Much of schooling is done out in nature, and technology is not a big part of this curriculum.

                  Eclectic

                  The eclectic method is just a fancy way of saying ‘a combination of styles.’  This includes picking and choosing from the smorgasboard of different curriculum providers to meet your student’s various needs.  Literary Adventures for Kids is a beautifully-eclectic, online language arts program that your kids are sure to love!  Try their Psychology course for upper grades free here.

                  Textbooks

                  This is a fairly common style in the first few years of homeschooling, especially if you’ve pulled your children out of public school, to build confidence.  Don’t forget to do a bit of de-schooling before starting the semester!  Traditional schoolers focus on common standards and often complete a full day of classwork.

                  Stay-at-Home School

                  A lot of organizations don’t consider this to be “real” homeschooling since it’s being paid for and run by the government and someone else is doing all of the teaching.  For a small percentage of people, though, whether it be because of job commitments, life ‘events,’ or something else that is preventing them from being able to sit down and dedicate themselves fully to educating their children, institutions such as K12 and Epic really are the best fit.  It’s never my first recommendation, but still a valid option.


                  One of our favorite all-in-one resources for families is SchoolhouseTeachers.  It includes all classes, for all grades…and it’s one price for the entire family, whether you have two children or twelve.  There are many different learning styles to select from, so if you have one visual kid who needs a relaxed pace and one aural kid who needs a more stringent pace, there are classes that will fit them each.  With over 475 classes available, plus extras for mom and dad, this is my favorite resource to offer new families who are wanting to dip their toe into homeschooling but aren’t sure how to begin!


                  Want a little help getting started?  Download the free e-book, Getting Your Homeschool Off on the Right Foot!

                  When choosing a curriculum for your family, you’ll want to consider ‘intelligence’ and learning styles.  A Genius in Every Seat helps you work through determining these factors…
                  This e-book comes with a workbook component for surveying yourself and your students, along with suggestions for putting the results into practice.

                  Connecting World War I and World War II in History Lessons

                  world war resources

                  While WW1 did not directly cause WW2, many of its after-effects led to weakened European states who were weak, needed strong leadership, and opened the door for dictatorships. The consequences of the first world war indirectly led to the second.

                  End of World War I

                  On the morning of November 11, 1918, the French delegation witnessed the Germans signing the Armistice that would go into effect at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. It was exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the event that had set the ‘world’ part of the war into motion. The perceived humiliation and harsh terms of the subsequent Treaty of Versailles created a motive for Hitler and the leadership of the Third Reich to seek revenge. One of the terms of the treat was that Germany had to pay the equivalent of $124 million (in 2021 terms). Another term took sections of Germany and gave them to Czechoslovakia and Poland.

                  Dictators from the Depression

                  After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, the world plunged into a different kind of chaoes. Germany fell into economic troubles, but they weren’t the one country struggling. Russia and Italy also had difficulties recovering. History has shown us that, during times of chaos, people look to strong leaders who they hope will get the job of done so the country can recover. This was no exception. The political leaders who came to power during this period – Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini – were very powerful.

                  Though born in Austria, Hitler considered himself a German. He fought for Germany during WWI, being partially blinded and shot. After the war, he became a spy for the Social Democratic Party who spied on another German group, the German Workers Party. It was during this time that he became well known and began to get a following. Germans were struggling, financially, as they were required by the Treaty to pay back damages and reparations from WWI. Hitler began to speak out and lead protests. He was sentenced to jail at one point, where he wrote his autobiography, Mein Kampf. After release, he had even more followers and began his ascent to power.

                  Tsar Nikolas was overthrown in the Russian Revolution, at the end of WWI, by the Bolsheviks, a Communist party. In 1922, Russia and several other countries joined together to form the Soviet Union under Lenin’s leadership. In 1924, when Lenin passed, Stalin came to power. Stalin wanted to industrialize the Soviet Union to strengthen the economy. He introduced a plan called ‘collectivization,’ where the Soviets took land from individual owners, and gave it to the State (the government). The idea was to increase efficiency, store more food, use less labor (more machines), and send farmers to work in factories.

                  Mussolini is often seen as the founder of facsism, a fom of totalitarian government with a capitalist economy. Before he came to power, the Italian government was led by a king-appointed Prime Minister. Mussolini had a group of ‘blackshirts,’ people who went around stirring up trouble, beating up political opponents, and generally clearing the way for his rise to power. The king appointed Mussolini as PM in 1922 so that the blackshirts would stop the violence. (This is called ‘appeasement,’ and it’s not a good idea.) In 1925, Mussolini became a dictator, taking away freedoms and forcing loyalty.

                  Appeasement & the League of Nations

                  The precursor to the United Nations, the League of Nations was formed at the end of WWI to ensure world war never occurred again. Unfortunately, they were afraid to act against aggressive countries, for fear of starting another war. This was another form of appeasement (remember the king of Italy?). One of the earliest instances of appeasement was when Mussolini decided to invade and conquer Ethiopia in 1935…and the League of Nations did not act. Hitler then decided to try his hand at reconquering some lands.

                  Under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was not to have a large army, but that was ignored as the German army swelled and the country also formed an Air Force and Navy. By the late 1930s, Hitler had begun to annex places like Austria and Sudetenland (part of Czechoslovakia that had been taken from Germany after WWI). The League of Nations did try to act at this point, and on September 30th, 1938 they created the Munich Pact, which allowed Germany to have Sudetenland, but would not allow them to go any further. This was another act of appeasement.

                  Post World War II

                  After World War II, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin created a new international security agency, the United Nations, with hope of preventing WWIII. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as new world super-powers at the end of WW2. They had been allies during the war, but mostly because they had a common enemy. These new super-powers had extremely different views about government and economics — one was capitalist and the other communist — and they had a lot of distrust of each other. This distrust led to nearly fifty years of a Cold War – a war without actual fighting, but with the continual threat of nuclear warfare. Both the Korean War and the Vietnam War were extensions of the Cold War.

                  World War I – Era Resources

                  Novel Studies & Printables

                  Videos

                  World War II Resources

                  Printables

                  Novel Studies

                  Field Trips

                  Videos

                  Audiobooks

                  Post World War II Resources

                  Novel Studies & Printables

                  Download the FREE World History Timeline with Study Connections!

                  37 Ways to Make Your Homeschool Delight-Directed!

                  student led schooling

                  What is Delight-Directed Homeschooling?

                  Delight-directed homeschooling can be a remedy for mid-winter burnout, but it can also be an all-the-time homeschooling style. It is a method of education that allows your children to explore what they love and work at a flexible pace, ebbing and flowing with each new bunny trail.

                  To those thinking along the lines of traditional schooling (ie, government schools), it may seem that the student isn’t really learning anything, but not only will your student be learning…they’ll be learning far more than you could have imagined! It’s about depth…not breadth. The topics can vary through the year, jumping around, or they can stay fairly focused.

                  Delight-directed schooling is very similar to the unit study method, but tends to go even deeper than a typical unit study. Let your student be the guide!

                  Learning through Literature

                  Literature studies are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

                  What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

                  Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! Here are just a few of the odd topics that cropped up as a result of their delight-directed learning…

                  • Fever 1793 + Epidemics in World History
                  • Willa of the Wood + Basic Foraging
                  • Shouting at the Rain + Severe Weather
                  • Nick & Tesla + Nikola Tesla / Electricity
                  • The Golem & the Jinni + Kabbalah unit
                  • Charlie Hernandez + Hispanic Mythology
                  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham & Civil Rights
                  • My Side of the Mountain & Wilderness Survival
                  • Serafina and the Splintered Heart & Writing a Ghost Story
                  • Island of the Blue Dolphins & Introduction to Sailing
                  • Finding Langston & the Poetry of Langston Hughes
                  • Motel of the Mysteries & Archaeology
                  • Caroline’s Comet & Astronomy
                  • Writing Fantasy with the Hobbit
                  • Crime and Punishment & Free Will vs Determinism
                  • Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation & Albert Einstein

                  Audiobooks

                  Some students learn better through audio, rather than reading. Audiobooks are a fantastic way to incorporate literature unit studies, without taxing struggling readers to frustration. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t keep working on reading, but sometimes a work-around is in order…

                  Specialized Topics

                  When students are REALLY into a topic, they’ll even begin to educate you. You never know what you’re going to be learning each day as a homeschooling parent! These bundles help dive into some very specific interests…

                  In-depth Classes

                  The classes at Sparks Academy utilize literature, videos, and student interaction to study science, language arts, history, geography, character, writing, and literary concepts. This online co-op includes weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

                  Try-It-Out Deals

                  delight directed learning

                  38 Ways to Teach Writing (that are FUN!)

                  teaching writing

                  Writing is an integral part of the language arts classes taught at Sparks Academy. We offer four levels of instruction, each building upon the last, until students are ready to write in any form requested of them – whether at a career or college! But maybe you don’t want a full class….how can you make writing fun at home?

                  Literature Studies & Living Books

                  What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool. Scroll down to snag pre-made bundles of novel studies!

                  Literature Units for Middle School

                  Virtual Classes
                  • My Side of the Mountain & Wilderness Survival
                  • Serafina and the Seven Stars & the Biltmore House
                  • Serafina and the Black Cloak & Appalachian Folklore
                  • Serafina and the Splintered Heart & Writing a Ghost Story
                  • The Call of the Wild
                  • Alex Rider & Spies
                  • Ranger’s Apprentice & Creative Writing
                  • Theodore Boone & Understanding the Legal System

                  Literature Units for High School

                  • Oliver Twist & the Industrial Revolution
                  • Crime and Punishment & Free Will vs Determinism
                  • The Things they Carried & the Vietnam War
                  • Five People You Meet in Heaven & Human Impact
                  • The Chosen & the Zionist Movement
                  • Things Fall Apart & the Colonization of Africa

                  Online Classes

                  Another fun option for teaching writing is through the language arts classes Sparks Academy! There are four levels offered currently, including High School 1, High School 2, High 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.

                  Writing Projects & Activities

                  Writing Units

                  Writing Activities

                  Maybe you just need help with writing feedback for your student? We’ve got you covered!! Use the form specifically for the Good & Beautiful or any other curriculum.

                  writing styles pin

                  51 Ways to Teach World History with Literature

                  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).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

                  world history

                  What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

                  Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach World History through literature, here are 51 units to try….and don’t discount audiobooks, too! They’re a great addition to a busy homeschooling day!

                  Another fun option for teaching history is the World History class offered through Sparks Academy. This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

                  world history pin
                  • Motel of the Mysteries & Archaeology
                  • Island Boy & Ancient Hawaii
                  • Encounter & the Tainos
                  • A Loyal Foe & Wars of the Roses
                  • Around the World in 80 Days & International Eats
                  • Number the Stars & the Holocaust
                  • To Kill a Mockingbird & Racism
                  • House of the Seven Gables & Witch Trials
                  • The Night Witches & Women in Aviation
                  • The Lookout Tree & the Great Acadian Upheaval
                  • Animal Farm & the Russian Revolution
                  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose & Josef Stalin
                  • King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table
                  • True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
                  • Flashback Four: Pompeii Disaster
                  • Someday We Will Fly
                  • Zlata’s Diary & the Slavic Wars
                  • Treasure Island & Pirates of the Caribbean Sea
                  • Farenheit 451 & Types of Government
                  • Red Stars & Russia in World War 2
                  • The Long List of Impossible Things & Post-War Germany
                  • A Tale of Two Cities & French Revolution
                  • The World Made New & Early Explorers
                  • Kane Chronicles + Egyptian Mythology
                  • Percy Jackson + Greek Mythology
                  • Heroes of Olympus + Roman Mythology
                  • Magnus Chase + Norse Mythology
                  • Midsummer Night’s Dream + Celtic Mythology
                  • The Golden Bull + Mesopotamian Mythology
                  • Call It Courage + Polynesian Mythology
                  • Mansa Musa + African Mythology
                  • Tristan Strong + African-American Mythology
                  • Charlie Hernandez + Hispanic Mythology
                  • Aru Shah + Hindu Mythology
                  • The Storm Runner + Mayan Mythology
                  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon + Chinese Mythology
                  • The Dragon Pearl + Korean Mythology
                  • Coyote’s Daughter + Native American Mythology
                  • Race to the Sun + Navajo Mythology
                  • We Were There with Byrd at the South Pole
                  • We Were There at the Normandy Invasion
                  • We Were There at the Battle for Bataan
                  • We Were There with Richard the Lionhearted in the Crusades
                  • We Were There with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea
                  • We Were There at the Battle of Britain
                  • We Were There with Cortes and Montezuma
                  • We Were There with Caesar’s Legions
                  • We Were There with Charles Darwin on H.M.S. Beagle
                  • We Were There with the Lafayette Escadrille
                  • We Were There at the Battle of the Bulge
                  • We Were There on the Nautilus
                  • The King’s Fifth
                  • Red Falcons of Tremoine
                  • Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan
                  • Red Hugh of Ireland
                  • Calico Captive
                  • The Story of Eli Whitney
                  • Island of the Blue Dolphins
                  • The Lost Kingdom
                  • The Secret Garden
                  • Heidi
                  • Girl of the Limberlost
                  • The Winged Watchman
                  • When the Dikes Broke

                  Charlotte Mason History

                  If you’re more of a simply-Charlotte-Mason style family, check out the Homeschool Garden sessions. These easy to implement sessions are planned out and ready for you to place in your schedule wherever it fits best.  I could spend several hours trying to dig up resources, but they have already done the work for me (and really, who has that kind of time anymore?).  They have a variety of subject sessions, plus five different Advent studies, and you’re sure to find a few that intrigue your family.  One of the best parts about these units is that everything is included – there are no other purchases required. See inside a sample session here.

                  Want to give it a go? Use code FRIENDSANDFAMILY to take 50% off any one session (not bundles) at The Homeschool Garden.  Where it asks, be sure to tell them Yvie sent ya!  😊

                  You can find all of the above novel studies in the five unit bundles below! (Sample units are in blue.) Enjoy the journey, and remember….DO THE VOICES!!!

                  45 Ways to Teach US History & Geography with Literature

                  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).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

                  What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

                  us history

                  Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach American History and Geography through literature, here are 45 units to try….and don’t discount audiobooks, too! They’re a great addition to a busy homeschooling day!

                  Another fun option for teaching history are the US History and Government/Constitution classes at Sparks Academy! This is an online co-op, with weekly student interaction in the private classroom forum. Learn more here.

                  american history pin
                  • Casualties of War & Vietnam War
                  • No Promises in the Wind & the Great Depression
                  • Out of the Dust & the Dust Bowl
                  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham & Civil Rights
                  • Dusty Sourdough & Alaska
                  • The King of Mulberry Street & Ellis Island Immigration
                  • Paper Son & Angel Island Immigration
                  • The Red Menace & McCarthyism
                  • Johnny Tremain & Faces of the American Revolution
                  • Sounder & Sharecropping
                  • World War II Code Talkers
                  • Flashback Four: Hamilton-Burr Duel
                  • Within These Lines & Japanese Internment Camps
                  • Flashback Four: Titanic Mission
                  • Flashback Four: Lincoln Project
                  • Freedom Summer & the Summer of 1964
                  • Farenheit 451 & Types of Government
                  • The Great Gatsby & the Roaring Twenties
                  • Witch of Blackbird Pond & Salem Witch Trials
                  • The World Made New & Early Explorers
                  • Stitching a Life & Jewish Immigration
                  • We Were There on the Oregon Trail
                  • We Were There at the Battle of Gettysburg
                  • We Were There at the Boston Tea Party
                  • We Were There in the Klondike Gold Rush
                  • We Were There with the Mayflower Pilgrims
                  • We Were There with the Pony Express
                  • We Were There with the California Forty-Niners
                  • We Were There with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys
                  • We Were There with Jean Lafitte at New Orleans
                  • We Were There at the Oklahoma Land Run
                  • We Were There on the Chisholm Trail
                  • We Were There at Pearl Harbor
                  • We Were There when Washington Won at Yorktown
                  • We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo
                  • We Were There at the Opening of the Erie Canal
                  • We Were There at the Battle of Lexington and Concord
                  • We Were There with Lewis and Clark
                  • We Were There when Grant Met Lee at Appomattox
                  • We Were There with the California Rancheros
                  • We Were There at the First Airplane Flight
                  • We Were There on the Santa Fe Trail
                  • We Were There at the Driving of the Golden Spike
                  • We Were There at the Opening of the Atomic Era
                  • We Were There on the Nautilus
                  • We Were There with Lincoln in the White House

                  You can find all of these in the three unit bundles below! (Sample units are in blue.) Enjoy the journey, and remember….DO THE VOICES!!!

                  18 Ways to Teach Science through Literature

                  science nature homeschool

                  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).  Literature studies, however, are so much more FUN!  As an added bonus, because they incorporate knowledge through relating to a character and / or story, your students are apt to retain more once the year ends. 

                  What are living books, and how can you use them to make your homeschool shine? Get all the tips & tricks in Using Living Books to Homeschool.

                  Novel studies can be used to cover concepts from language arts and history to science and math.  It’s been our students’ preferred learning method for years, and we’ve created well over one hundred of them! If you’re looking to teach science through literature, here are 18 units to try….

                  science literature pin
                  • Fever 1793 + Epidemics in World History
                  • Willa of the Wood + Basic Foraging
                  • Shouting at the Rain + Severe Weather
                  • Nick & Tesla + Nikola Tesla / Electricity
                  • N&T Robot Army Rampage + Introductory Robotics
                  • N&T Secret Agent Gadget Battle + Spy Gadgets
                  • N&T Super Cyborg Gadget Glove + Robotics
                  • N&T Special Effects Spectacular + Making Special Effects
                  • N&T Solar Powered Showdown + Solar Energy
                  • Misty of Chincoteague & Horses
                  • Hugo Cabret & Clocks / Time
                  • Caroline’s Comet & Astronomy
                  • Fuzzy Mud & Microbiology
                  • Hatchet & Outdoor Skills
                  • Legacy of Flight & Airplanes / Flight
                  • The Science of Breakable Things & the Scientific Method
                  • Frankenstein & Human Anatomy
                  • Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation & Albert Einstein

                  Another fun option for teaching science is the Physical Science class offered through Sparks Academy! 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 $20 off your first TalkBox! Use coupon: holly20}

                  Christmas Resources

                  elementary homeschool christmas resources

                  Elementary

                  • 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!
                  • Joy to the World Ornaments
                    • ‘Tis the season to gather the kids and the art supplies! We’ve got a super easy Joy to the World Christmas ornament craft to help you kick off the Christmas season with some creativity!
                  • LiterARTure Christmas Carol
                    • In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who help him see a better way of life while teaching him the meaning of Christmas. In this lesson, we will create an old fashioned Christmas wreath in front of a frosty window.
                  • A Nutcracker Christmas
                    • The Nutcracker Ballet tells the story of young Clara Stahlbaum, who receives a Nutcracker on Christmas Eve. Later that night, the Nutcracker comes to life and battles the great Mouse King, which leads him and Clara on a fantastical journey. In this course, we create five pieces inspired by the Nutcracker ballet in a colorful, crazy, abstract style: the Nutcracker, a Christmas Tree, the Mouse King, the Grandmother Clock, and of course, the Sugar Plum Fairy.

                  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!
                  • LiterARTure Christmas Carol
                    • In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who help him see a better way of life while teaching him the meaning of Christmas. In this lesson, we will create an old fashioned Christmas wreath in front of a frosty window.
                  • A Nutcracker Christmas
                    • The Nutcracker Ballet tells the story of young Clara Stahlbaum, who receives a Nutcracker on Christmas Eve. Later that night, the Nutcracker comes to life and battles the great Mouse King, which leads him and Clara on a fantastical journey. In this course, we create five pieces inspired by the Nutcracker ballet in a colorful, crazy, abstract style: the Nutcracker, a Christmas Tree, the Mouse King, the Grandmother Clock, and of course, the Sugar Plum Fairy.
                  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

                  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.

                  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, 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 14, 2023 – May 4, 2024 for the ’23-’24 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. Science classes are taught by a former teacher and a teaching assistant. 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 add 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, a Chemistry 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 texts for Economics and Energy Science come 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!

                  Essential Reading List for High School Girls

                  After polling several homeschooling families on what they thought was the one must-read book for high school girls, we’ve put together a list of thirty-two books that all girls should read in middle and high school.   They include old classics and new favorites, and have lots of character-building lessons, too! Parents should always preview books first….many of these are only appropriate at the high school level.

                  Charlotte Bronte

                  Jane Eyre

                  L.M. Montgomery

                  Anne of Green Gables series

                  Pam Munoz Ryan

                  Riding Freedom

                  Jerry Spinelli

                  Stargirl

                  Gene Stratton-Porter

                  A Girl of the Limberlost

                  Julie Berry

                  Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

                  Audrey & Jeremy Rolloff

                  A Love Letter Life

                  Margaret Mitchell

                  Gone With the Wind

                  Jane Austen

                  Pride & Prejudice

                  Robin Jones Gunn

                  Christy Miller series

                  Corrie ten Boom

                  The Hiding Place

                  Bruce Wilkinson

                  The Dream Giver

                  Harper Lee

                  To Kill a Mockingbird

                  Nathaniel Hawthorne

                  The Scarlet Letter

                  Margaret Atwood

                  The Handmaid’s Tale

                  Louisa May Alcott

                  Rose in Bloom

                  Thomas Hardy

                  Tess of the D’Urbervilles

                  Maud Hart Lovelace

                  Emily of Deep Valley

                  Nancy Demoss Wolgemouth

                  Lies Young Women Believe

                  Brené Brown

                  Daring Greatly

                  George Orwell

                  1984

                  Louisa May Alcott

                  Little Women series

                  Mabel Hale

                  Beautiful Girlhood

                  Viktor Frankl

                  Man’s Search for Meaning

                  Robert T. Kiyosaki

                  Rich Dad, Poor Dad

                  Emily Bronte

                  Wuthering Heights

                  Henry Cloud

                  Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

                  Og Mandino

                  The Greatest Salesman in the World

                  Clarissa Pinkola Estes

                  Women Who Run with the Wolves

                  Mary Pipher

                  Reviving Ophelia

                  Jordan Christy

                  Dave Ramsey

                  How to be a Hepburn in a Kardashian World: the Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace

                  Total Money Makeover

                  Download your Essential Reading List here!

                  For more literature resources, check out SchoolhouseTeachers! It includes all classes, for all grades…and it’s one price for the entire family. There are many different learning styles to select from, so if you have one visual kid who needs a relaxed pace and one aural kid who needs a more stringent pace, there are classes that will fit them each. With over 475 classes available, plus extras for mom and dad, this is my favorite resource to offer new families wanting to dip their toe into homeschooling! You may also like…

                  Essential Reading List for High School Boys

                  Boys tend to fall staunchly into the ‘reader’ or ‘non-reader’ category.  Sometimes it just takes a little push toward more action-packed, exciting, adventure-filled stories to move them from one category to the other!  We’ve put together a list of thirty-two books that all boys should read in middle and high school.   Not only are they full of adventure (which they’ll love), but they have lots of character-building lessons, too! Parents should always preview books first….many of these are only appropriate at the high school level.

                  Rudyard KiplingJust So Stories
                  L. Frank BaumThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz
                  Robert WestallThe Machine Gunners
                  Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time
                  Theordore TaylorThe Cay
                  Jack LondonCall of the Wild
                  S.E. HintonThe Outsiders
                  William GoldingLord of the Flies
                  Mary StewardThe Crystal Cave
                  Robert HeinleinStranger in a Strange Land
                  Mark TwainAdventures of Tom Sawyer
                  HomerThe Odyssey
                  Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird
                  John KnowlesA Separate Peace
                  Erich Maria RemarqueAll Quiet on the Western Front
                  Thor HyerdahlKon-Tiki
                  Claude BrownManchild in the Promised Land
                  Michael ShaaraThe Killer Angels
                  F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby
                  Earnest HemingwayThe Sun Also Rises
                  George Orwell1984
                  Ken KeseyOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
                  Woody GuthrieBound for Glory
                  Gary PaulsenHatchet
                  Patrick O’BrianMaster and Commander
                  Robert Penn WarrenAll the King’s Men
                  E.M. ForsterA Passage to India
                  Fyodor DostoevskyThe Brothers Karamazov
                  Richard  YatesRevolutionary Road
                  James CainThe Postman Always Rings Twice
                  Sebastian JungerThe Perfect Storm

                  Download your Essential Reading List here!

                  For more literature resources, check out SchoolhouseTeachers