Friday, July 30, 2010

Hello New Homeschoolers from Cindy Downes!

Hi - My name is Cindy Downes from Oklahoma Homeschool. For those of you who are new, I wanted to tell you about the resources available on my Website.
There's more, but I don't want to overwhelm you! Enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review of State of Reservations by Elysabeth Eldering

Because of my interest in state history, I'm always on the lookout for new resources related to the states of the U.S. The latest resource I’ve discovered is called, State of Reservations, by Elysabeth Eldering, #3 in her Junior Geography Detective Squad series. 

The main characters are Matt and Jolene, students who are studying for a test in geography. To make it easier, they decide to play a trivia game about states. The goal of the game is to guess the state based on clues discovered as they proceed through the game.

The facts and trivia presented range from obvious facts about the state to obscure licensing laws, all of which helps keep the state a “secret” until the end of the book. Interaction and banter between the two characters as they work through the game maintains the reader’s interest in learning the new facts.

The main characters, from their speech and actions, as well as from the illustrations, appear to be teenagers. The boy refers to Joline as “the girl of his dreams.” Because of this, I first thought the book was written for junior or senior high school students. However, the text is written for elementary grade level. I would have preferred that the author and illustrator use age-appropriate characters for the text.

There are a few grammatical errors in the book. For example, “Matt watched Jolene’s expression for a moment longer than he had planned to.” (Italics mine.) Some of the sentence structures were awkward such as, “One of these days, I’m going to travel the whole road and stop at all the historic places, after I learn about them all, of course.” The book could use more editing.

However, in spite of its flaws, it can be useful for stimulating interest in state history. An addendum in the back of the book provides additional facts about the state. A CD is also available, which includes five discussion questions/research projects, a map skills worksheet, a fill-in word scramble, and an end-of-book quiz with 14 questions. Answers are included on the CD, as well as a bibliography for further study. 

The author has plans to create a "Passport Across America" booklet in which kids can collect what they learn about each state. All the activities will be included in this resource. More information can be found on the author's website. Retails for $12.50.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teaching the Constitution - Make this a priority!

Now, more than ever, we should be teaching our children about the Constitution and what better resource to use than Our Living Constitution Then and Now by Jerry Aten. 

This book explains paragraph by paragraph what the Constitution and its amendments are about using a two-column format. On one side is the actual wording of the Constitution; on the other side is an explanation in today's English (The founders had a very different vocabulary than we use today!). 

There are worksheets included that can be used for testing or review: short answers, fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice questions, puzzles, fill-in charts, matching, writing letters, and map study.

The answers are in the back. Our Living Constitution is an excellent tool to use for a 1/2 year government unit. Don't neglect this part of your child's education.

NOTE: If you have an iPad, you might also want to check out MultiEducator's Constitution app

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review of The Core by Leigh A. Bortins

There are a few books that I believe all parents should read, and The Core is one of them. Whether you follow the classical model exactly or simply want to incorporate some of its methods, here's a book that will get you started. 

I've never been taught nor taught using the classical method; but after reading this book, I am positively intrigued. Although I don't agree with everything the author, Leigh Bortins, says, I do believe that were I to homeschool all over again, I would incorporate many of these ideas in my homeschool program. In fact, without knowing it, I actually did. The main difference between the way I educated my children and Classical Conversations is that I didn't use all "classical" literature, and I still wouldn't today. The reason: there is only so much time in a day. There are many books not considered "classics" that are worth reading, and there is some "classical" literature that I consider less than "edifying." In addition, I prefer to assign literature based on the specific needs of children. My two children were very different, and I assigned reading based on their specific abilities and interests. I included classics, as well as modern literature, nonfiction, and vocation-related, how-to books. They are now adults and have the same love of learning and thinking ability as those educated on the "classics." 

As a family, we did read some "classical" literature together. As suggested in The Core, we spent time on rote memorization. We put history and science in context rather than learning isolated facts. We spent time analyzing why and how, not just filling in blanks. Had I read this book, however, I would have had even more resources from which to choose and ideas for implementing this type of instruction in my homeschool. I would have spent more time on geography, too. I love the ideas presented here on learning geography. The bottom line: The Core is a gem! 

The first three chapters explain what a classical education is, why we need it, and how it can help you, whether you are a single parent, working parents, homeschooling parents, or teachers in a school. Part two describes the skills learned and how to teach them. Finally, the last chapters provide scheduling and resource ideas. 

If the book sparks an interest in you for teaching a Classical education, but you have no idea where to start, look for a Classical Conversations community in your area and give it a try. That's how I would start. You can find these groups listed on Bortins' Website at Once you learn the program and how it works for you and your family, you can continue the program or spin off a program of your own that incorporates some of these same ideas. You won't be sorry you spent the time to learn the methods used in a classical education. It will only make your own program better. 

Leigh Bortins is the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations, Inc. She homeschools four children.