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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kids: Make Earth Day EVERY DAY!

18 Earth-friendly things kids can do to celebrate Earth Day every day
1. Enlist friends, hand out bags and clean up a nearby park.
2. Plant shrubs or a tree in your yard.
3. Start a vegetable garden in pots or a small plot.
4. Organize a cleanup day at your school.
5. Create posters with environmental themes and ask teachers to post them in their
6. Look for recycling symbols on products you or your parents buy. Purchase items in
recyclable packaging whenever possible. Avoid products that use excessive packaging.
7. Encourage your parents to carry a reusable shopping bag, and suggest they buy in bulk to
minimize packaging waste.
8. Bicycle or walk to school rather than being driven by your parents (as long as Mom and
Dad say it's safe).
9. Steer your parents toward organic pesticides, such as those made from orange extract.
10. Turn off lights, fans or the TV when you leave the room (unless your little brother is still in
11. Check your home for leaky faucets or toilets, and volunteer to help fix those in need of
12. Don't leave the water running while brushing your teeth or washing your face and hands.
13. Take shorter showers.
14. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean the driveway or sidewalk.
15. Remind your parents that washing the car less often saves water (and may get you out of
the dreaded chore).
16. Ask your parents to raise the thermostat a few degrees, telling them it will save energy as
well as money.
17. Lower the blinds when the sun comes up, which deflects heat from the windows.
18. Offer to replace air filters. A clean filter helps the air-conditioner run more efficiently.

Kids Saving the Earth

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There right up top, you can join too :) But what are you joining? Well if you are in the Denver area and have kids (home schooled or not) this is a great new group helping to promote awareness for kids about earth issues such as global warming, toxic waste, recycling, and all things earth friendly.

We had a GREAT group in Las Vegas and I was really surprised not to find one in Denver, so I took some initiative and got things started :)

I think it is really important for kids to be aware of how fragile their planet is. Long after we are all gone they will still be here - and it seems about time to give them responsibility for their own planet!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alternative Learning: Board Games

When you think about Monopoly, what do you think of? Aside from thinking the name Bill Gates (hahaha) I first I think of weekends playing with my family as a kid. Sometimes games would go on for days and there was rarely ever a time limit on games growing up in my house. A game starting on Friday night, could easily go off and on throughout the weekend, usually with my dad finally winning. He would drag it out though and make us kids believe we had a chance. I didn't think of then as the game as learning.

Now as a homeschooling parent I encourage days of board games in lieu of reading, writing, and math. There are days where we will just sit on the floor as a family interacting with each other, building family bonds, using math skills as the banker, deductive skills in which property to buy, and just having fun with monopoly.

At the age of 5 we taught Tristan to play chess, and my reasoning was if he can play complex video games the boy should be able to play chess. I shouldn't have to state what the learning properties of chess are - as they are obvious.... but the simple fact is, just because you homeschool doesn't mean you or your kids need to have a book or computer to learn.

Here are some ideas for boardgames and age groups that can help compliment your homeschooling efforts.

Younger Kids: (under 10)

Good Night Moon Game - ages 2-6 Great game for language and matching.

Buy It Right! - 7- 10 Counting, money, and budgeting

Guess Who
- 4-12 - Guessing, deductive reasoning

You're Bugging Me! - 3-6 - Colors and Matching

Dino Dominoes - 4+ - Matching DINOSAURS :)

Blockus - 5+ (they have other variations of the game for older kids too) shapes, reasoning - like tetris but for multiple players.

Great States - 7-9 - States, geography, landmarks

Older Kids: (10 and older)

Carcasonne - 10+ Building, strategy

Balderdash - 10+ Creativity, imagination, vocabulary, and quick thinking

Risk- 11+ - Strategy

Scattergories- 9+ spelling, vocab, and creativity

Obscurity - 9+ - Words, spelling, and seek and find - like Boggle (kind of)

Cash Flow - 10+ Money in a more realistic sense than monopoly

Bananagrams - 7-14 - Word game (so spelling) that is quick, easy, and educational

Complete Family Friendly: (all ages 5+)

Monopoly - 5+ - Money, problem solving, budgeting

ANTI Monopoly :) - Free Market Concepts, Economics, and WAY FUN!

Scrabble - (Or the JR. version for the younger kids) Spelling and vocabulary

- Spelling

Lewis and Clark - History

Majong Dominoes
- Matching and reasoning

You can also look at reviews for other games done by homeschooling families here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Issue of Finances

I have gotten a lot of comments from family and friends who comment that since we are homeschooling we aren't making the money we could - you know if we both went to work and had someone else educate our child. It always makes my blood boil because well - for starters I WORK FROM HOME already and I homeschool and usually these comments are coming from people that haven't taken the time to bother researching the costs of homeschooling.

Wanting to homeschool and being able to afford homeschooling is often two different things. Generally I have run into two different situations when it comes to this in the last year of homeschooling. First you have the families that one parent has a good job and the other can afford to stay home and teach the kids - of course there is a budget, but money (at least from the outside) doesn't seem to be an issue. The other (and the more we are personally familiar with) is that both parents find ways to make an income, and money isn't so plentiful.

Homeschooling need not be expensive - in fact if you plan properly, it costs about nothing aside from the initial start up fees - books, resources, etc.

Getting Started:

Save money by skipping on the premade plans and make your own. You will find a lot of companies that want to charge a lot of money for homeschooling curriculum and lesson plans - which while they can be very helpful... they are often charging way more than need be. Barnes and Noble has plenty of books to start with - whether beginning at Kindergarten or 10th grade. And also to save even more ebay is your friend.

Some good books when starting at younger ages are the "All you need to know books" that you can find that have math, writing, and spelling in one book. They range anywhere from 12-25.00 and cover the basics of what your child will be learning for the year. They have one of these for each year.

You can get an accompanying work book while you are there as well - with questions and problems for the year.

I usually accompany a work book with online games - so for example if my son is beginning addition I would direct him to pages with learning games about the type of addition he is using such as:

And there are plenty more where that came from.

Make sure you have a printer

Because while you are teaching from a book, it is also nice to have accompanying pages to enforce what your child is learning. I mainly use for this (20.00 a year and so worth it to have all the work sheets you will need at your fingertips).

Once you get started, you write out a lesson plan and know about generally what you are going to be studying for the year, the library is your friend. There is no need to purchase pricey books when you can rent them for the duration of your lesson then take them back.

Realistically you could homeschool on just this - and when you add it up...

All you need book - 15.00
Website fee for yr (ie enchantedlearning) 20.00
Work book - 20.00

Total for year 55.00

Now this is a very small amount of money to assure that you know what your child is learning - and don't get me wrong there are other expenses you will incur if you go on field trips or if you give up your job to do this. Homeschooling though is a lifestyle as much as a choice - it means sometimes you need to cut back on things you are used to. . . just like if you were to stay at home for any other reason.

The key though is that it need not be expensive - and it can be done on the cheap.

There are some other really good resources for this as well which can be found at:

other ideas for cheap homeschooling

discount homeschooling supplies

Help for financially needy, widows, and single parents

Please feel free to post any other links you find :)

Peace, love, and happy homeschooling!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Homework a Homewrecker: Report

Wow - seems that others are catching up on what plenty of homeschooling families have been saying for years. Part of the reason we chose to home school our son was because of the homework and the nonsensical stuff that the teachers sent home. Our son went to kindergarten in California and he was averaging in KINDERGARTEN about 45 minutes a night of homework, and he was in a full day school... which meant he went to school from 8:30 to 2:25 at age 5. He was burned out and frustrated and within 5 months of attending school we had a child that loved learning, reading, and educational stuff to a vomitting whiney child that dreaded going.

This isn't to say as a homeschooling family our son doesn't have any book work at all - but it is done during his day - among the time that he also gets to play, go to the museum, get out and explore the world.

First national study on workload concludes it's burning out families and is of little value to elementary school kids

Education Reporter

Homework is of little benefit to students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6, say the authors of a just-released Canadian study, who also found it is often the source of stress and burnout in children, as well the cause of conflict – even marital stress – for many families.

In the first-ever look at the homework load in this country, the study by two Toronto professors found homework rates vary wildly from student to student, and from grade to grade, with some Grade 2 students spending less than 10 minutes a night, while others log more than 45 minutes.

On average, Ontario students spend almost 40 minutes on homework a night, compared to 32.6 minutes in other provinces, which, statistically, is significantly more, say the authors.

While research shows some benefits to homework in grades 7 and 8 and high school, there's scant evidence that it improves student achievement in the younger years, say professors Linda Cameron and Lee Bartel of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

"For elementary school, especially for the primary grades, I am down on homework entirely," said Cameron, a former kindergarten teacher.

Parent Mary-Margaret McMahon, a mother of two children at Gledhill Junior Public School in Toronto, believes children need more unstructured time.

"I think the work should be completed in the classroom and then kids should be allowed to play," she said. "I think there's not enough of that any more.

"I personally don't recall having homework prior to high school," apart from projects in grades 6 and 8, she added.

"We were out every night playing with our friends in the street."

Both of her children have had homework since junior kindergarten – when they brought home books to read several times a week. Her daughter, in Grade 3, does about half an hour of homework a night and her older son, in Grade 4, about an hour.

"I'm a big advocate of reading," she said, adding part of her son's daily homework routine is to read French books for 20 minutes, which he does sitting by the stove with a timer set.

In fact, studies have shown that reading with, or to, children every day is the only conclusive way to boost their academic success, and Cameron believes that should be the only "homework" for younger children.

She and Bartel released their report to a group of about 55 teachers, parents and principals who gathered Tuesday night at a Scarborough elementary school to discuss reforming the Toronto District School Board's homework policy. The board voted to look into the issue after complaints students are saddled with too much work outside of school.

There is a growing body of research in the U.S. that has found homework isn't all it's cracked up to be, and a growing number of parents who say because of homework and other demands, children have no downtime; one writer has even gone so far as to say today's children have a "nature deficit disorder." Some American elementary schools have cut back or entirely banned homework.

Cameron and Bartel embarked on this study because of the lack of comparative Canadian data.

In their study, more than 1,000 parents were surveyed and said while they like the good work habits homework promotes, as well as how it helps parents be involved in their children's academic lives, the amount students are getting is interfering with family time, play time, causing stress and even marital troubles.

"Kids are at school for six and a half hours ... and some are on buses at 7:30 in the morning and get home from school at 4:30 or 5 o'clock. That's a very long day, and then they are supposed to do homework?" said Bartel in an interview.

"What do we expect of unionized workers, with hours and breaks, and what do we expect of our children? Schooling is their work."

Generally, students should spend 10 minutes per night per grade on homework. Toronto public school board guidelines recommend 10 to 30 minutes for junior kindergarten to Grade 3; 30 to 60 minutes from grades 4 to 6; 45 to 90 from grades 7 to 9; and up to 120 minutes for older high school students.

Karen Grose, the Toronto board's superintendent of programs, told those at Tuesday's meeting that in some cases, the guidelines are being used as "a floor, not a ceiling." But she also noted that time requirements can be tricky, as one assignment may take a child 10 minutes to complete, while a struggling student could take much longer.

Board staff are to present trustees with a report in April or May about possible homework reforms.

Parent Frank Bruni, one of the driving forces behind the review, has said he believes children are so busy with homework, they have little family time or time to exercise and keep fit. He'd like to see no homework on weekends or during holiday breaks.

Trustee Josh Matlow believes the process will lead to profound changes in the way homework is dealt with in Toronto schools.

A recent survey of Toronto public board students found that those in grades 7 and 8 reported 10 hours of homework per week, and those in grades 9 to 12 were doing 12 hours per week. Many of those students also took part in music or sports, as well as holding down a part-time job.

Aurelija Jusyte, in Grade 12 at Humberside Collegiate, said high school students always complain about homework.

"They understand that assignments are building their skills, but it's the busy work that doesn't get anything done" that's frustrating, said Jusyte, who is one of two student trustees on the Toronto District School Board. Personally, she enjoys homework.

Gerald Mak, the board's second student trustee, said he'd like to see some consistency.

"Students usually tell me some teachers assign more homework than others – that's the issue," he said.

The Canadian homework study, which focused on Ontario, found that almost 20 per cent of students in the same grade as Jusyte spend more than two hours on homework a night. Cameron said that any longer than that and students' brains are "maxed out."

The study also found:

Not only does homework cut into family time, it becomes a primary source of arguments, power struggles and is disruptive to building a strong family, including putting strain on marriages. Bruni said it even negatively affects family holidays.

A large number of children in kindergarten are assigned homework, most of it "drill and practice."

28 per cent of Grade 1 students and more than 50 per cent of Grade 2 students spend more than 20 minutes on homework daily.

While there's no real difference in the attitude of children toward homework, Ontario parents definitely feel more negative about it than others across the country.

More than three-quarters of parents with children in Grade 4 and under help their children with homework. But, by Grade 4, only half of parents feel they are competent enough to do so.

Parents are unsure about the benefits of homework; by Grade 5, just 20 per cent of parents feel it has a "positive effect on achievement."

Half of children in junior kindergarten are enthusiastic about homework; by Grade 6, it drops to just 6 per cent and by Grade 12, just 4 per cent.

The researchers also came across several themes from parent comments – that homework is too difficult or the assignment unclear, that it cuts into family time and causes stress at home and that children are left with little time to play.

Bartel and Cameron also say homework is a social justice issue.

"Those of us who are educated, who've come through the system, have resources and aren't working three jobs" have the time, and ability, to help kids with homework, said Cameron. And if middle-class parents are too busy to help, they simply hire tutors.

Homework has been a hot topic since the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan began peppering his speeches with talk of back-to-basics, more rigorous schooling as the way to economic prosperity, said Bartel. In Ontario, the Conservative government under Mike Harris in the 1990s followed suit, implementing a tougher curriculum, eliminating the OAC (Grade 13) year, and bringing in standardized testing.

"Ontario has still not quite recovered from when we lost the OAC year," said Bartel. "The curriculum can't be shrunk. (The thinking is) you have to do it in a year less, so you have to push the kids harder, rather than rethinking the overall structure and design that comes with it."

He said if there's simply too much work to cover that teachers are sending home in order to get it done, maybe the school day or the school year should be longer.

It's not that teachers are to blame, said Cameron. They often feel pressure from parents to give homework. "Teachers feel it is a huge problem, too," she added. "Everybody is concerned about this issue."

Alfred Abouchar, founder and headmaster of La Citadelle bilingual private school in Toronto, has declared Wednesday "homework free" day– however, students are assigned review work to complete during the summer months.

"Homework has to be dosed properly," he said, adding the real benefit of homework is establishing routine, independence and discipline in students.

Abouchar doesn't believe homework should cover material that hasn't been discussed in class, nor should it be onerous.

"For me, learning has to happen 90 to 95 per cent in school," he said. "They should not be doing homework they didn't see in school."

Binna He's 4-year-old daughter attends a private religious school in Toronto and she gets weekly homework assignments. Whether it's learning letter or numbers or counting, she usually finishes it during the week, or on a Saturday morning. Her parents also read to her every night before bed.

But He said her daughter doesn't enjoy the schoolwork. "To be honest," she said, "she prefers to play."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

And the Winners Are....

I ran across this and wanted to share some great videos made by other homeschooling kids! Some of these are really great!

More winners can be found at

Let's get Political

Legislator Wants to Take Homeschool Law Back to the ‘Dark Ages’!

Nebraska homeschoolers are facing the most serious attack in decades from legislation proposed by Senator DiAnna Schimek. Nebraska’s current law was drafted and passed in the early 1980s after Nebraska was embarrassed nationally for harsh treatment of homeschooling parents, including the jailing of pastors and fathers, and with mothers and children fleeing to other states. During a rally by homeschoolers at the state capitol last year, Senator Schimek was heard to say, “We don't know what these homeschoolers are doing. They really need to be monitored.” She is making good on her concern about not knowing what homeschoolers are up to in the form of L.B.1141.

The bill would do among the following:

  • Impose mandatory annual testing and assessment requirements.
  • Grant the Nebraska Department of Education ("NDE") approval authority.
  • Require first-time homeschooled children to take a “baseline” test allowing the Department to determine whether or not “progress has been achieved.”

rest of the article can be found here...

I find it simply amazing, considering how GREAT the public school system has been working so far that these legislatures take so time worrying about this sort of micro managing of homeschooling families!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Winter Fitness

It's snowing out. The temps are dipping into the 20s (if you're lucky) and the kids are driving you crazy.... or at least mine is.Living in the colder regions of the US and homeschooling can sometimes be a daunting task. We are just getting used to the transfer - as this is our first cold season since moving from Southern California and Vegas.

It is said that kids need at least 60 minutes of activity a day. While it is harder when you are homeschooling to keep the kids (and yourself) active, it is entirely possible. Being creative with your time is very important as it is easy to get in a rut, especially if you are an unschooling or eclectic schooling family. Here are some ideas to get you and your kids out and about to fight off the winter cabin fever.


Remember sledding when you were a kid? You probably didn't think about it then, but going down the hill is fun... coming back up is a whole new area of aerobic exercise! You can burn up to 500 calories in 2 hours of sledding just by going up and down. If you have a younger child and a rope, you can also pull the along behind you just like a wagon and get some walking in. You can bet you will burn some calories, but you can also talk about velocity and science concepts as well!

The little ones can play too! They now have baby sleds like the Sledz Racer Jr which is light weight and has shock absorbers as well as two man sleds you can go down together on and pull them back up.

Snow Play:

Whether rolling up the balls for a snowman or running and dodging snowballs, you are bound to work up a sweat with your kids, and this also provides some great motor skill building! They have snowman kits as well which can customize the snowman or you can incorporate daily lessons in by making life size geometric shapes, forts, or letters!


Just because there is snow out, doesn't mean you can't hike... you just have to choose your hikes carefully as well as make sure you are bundled up. We have had some great hikes going and finding old bridges, frozen water falls, and animal prints in the snow.

Remember - just because it is cold, you still need water!