Help Your Kids Master Math

I am hearing so many rave reviews about these Math CD-ROMS that I am seriously wishing I could return to homeschool just so I’d have an excuse to buy them! Alas, they cost too much to be a part-time purchase, so I’ll settle for telling the blogosphere about this fabulous product:

Our public school currently uses Saxon Math, the program I used and loved back when I was homeschooling, so I’m content with my lot right now, but if ever one of my chidlren needs extra tutoring, I am *so* going to buy Teaching Textbooks! 🙂

Here is one homeschooler’s review:


Art Lessons for Kids–From the Masters

My daughter Prima is the artist of the family. She’s always sketching, painting, and even constructing 3D projects, like the time she crafted this 3-D elephant out of twist ties and painter’s tape:

I used to bemoan the fact that we couldn’t find an art teacher to help guide Prima’s talents, but now she’s learning art from the masters, thanks to this home-based art program:

The program: Artistic Pursuits.

Don’t let this book’s poorly drawn cover fool you (in fact, I’ll bet it was drawn by a young child who studied it!), these books are excellent. Basically, each lesson introduces the child to a well-known art classic, asks the child to notice certain aspects of that work (color, line, shading, perspective), then teaches the child how to do the same in their own drawing.

To see some sample lessons, click HERE, then scroll down to see the sample pages.

Needless to say, art is one of my daughter’s favorite subjects!

Holiday Learning Fun

The idea that the holidays are a time to cease learning and take a vacation is detrimental to young minds. It teaches children to view learning as a chore from which one must escape in order to have fun. Instead, I teach my children that continued learning is not only good for the mind, but a fun time to be shared with friends and family! 🙂

In our home school, we continued to do schoolwork during the holidays (except Christmas Eve, Christmas day, or the weekend). However, my children were rewarded with a fun activity after they accomplished all ten subjects each day! Here are some of the things we did:


We went to the home of another homeschooling family and made glitter snowflakes and candy cane reindeer!


On a different day, we invited our homeschool friends to come over for some healthy baking and treat-making!

First, the kids learned about whole grains and good health while they learned how to grind whole wheat flour. Then they baked their own miniature bread loaves with the fresh-ground flour:

Next, they got to make fun (though less healthy) chocolate mouse treats:

The end result: our children continued to learn during the holidays, but they worked with greater motivation, knowing that if their assignments were completed with excellence, they would enjoy a festive educational activity for the remainder of the afternoon.

Eco-Friendly and Organized

I’ve always wanted an organized school room like this or this. But let’s face it–all those plastic bins and synthetic materials are NOT earth-friendly, and definitely NOT conducive to the cozy, organic learning atmosphere that I’m trying to build.

Here’s a snapshot of the two spaces we use most in our homeschool.

First, the homeschool corner of my kitchen, where I keep the school books we use most often:

Note the earthy, non-plastic feel of this room, thanks to all-natural materials. Stays organized, too, thanks to the woven baskets and cupboard doors, which hide the messier stuff (pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, etc).

Here is our family room, where a system of wooden built-ins serves as our “library.” I keep all of our “messier” stuff (coloring books, puzzles, games, flashcards, etc) behind those small doors underneath the shelves, to help keep that “messy” schoolroom look to a minimum:

Then I leave the rest of the room open (no coffee tables) and full of comfy furniture to make it an inviting place to curl up with a book. Interestingly enough, companies like Barnes & Noble also offer cozy chairs and sofas in their stores.


Because when people are comfortable, they’re more likely to read! In other words: cold, plastic-and-metal decor doesn’t sell books (and it won’t sell your kids on reading them, either).

Organized School Room Hall of Fame:

(note: some of these use plastics, but I like to envision them with earth-friendly containers, instead!)

The classiest homeschool room:

Most fashionable school room:

Most innovative locale (the loft!):

Best homeschool room for online learners:

Best use of a small space:

Best use of an old entertainment center (recycling!):

Best mom’s room/kids’ room combo:



*Second runner-up:

History or Social Studies?

Did you know that most schools teach Social Studies, instead of history? Here’s why:

“A common assumption found in history curricula seems to be that children can’t comprehend (or be interested in) people and events distant from their own experience. So first-grade history class is renamed Social Studies and begins with what the child knows: first, himself and his family, followed by his community, his state, his country, and only then the rest of the world.

This intensely self-focused pattern of study encourages the student of history to relate everything he studies to himself, to measure the cultures and customs of other people against his own experience. And that’s exactly what the classical education fights against–a self-absorbed, self-referential approach to knowledge. History learned this way makes our needs and wants the center of the human endeavor. This attitude is destructive at any time, but it is especially destructive in the present global civilization.” —Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Trained Mind (p. 108, emphasis in bold is mine).

Here is a copy of Dizzy’s recent history assignment–a report on ancient Crete:

Are public school kids learning about ancient civilizations in the 3rd grade? If not, their parents should consider these fun history learning and activity books:

Here’s a sample learning activity from Volume 2 of this series (middle ages)–

Thanks to the Story of the World series, my children not only enjoy learning about history, but they also do history projects and read history books in their spare time. In fact, our daughter Prima requested a series of history books for Christmas! But more about that after December 25th . . .

Cozy Math for Kids

Isn’t it fun to study at home, where the chairs are soft and the teacher snuggles with you while you read or recite stuff?

My kids sure think so! Check out Dizzy’s little “study hut” in the family room:

When my children were in public school, they were privileged to study the most excellent Saxon Math. Now that we are living in a school district where they use a different math program (that is nowhere near as good), I am happy to be homeschooling again and giving my children this very lovable math curriculum:

Indeed, if you ask my daughters which subject is their favorite of all, they will say “MATH!”

This year, my oldest daughter is in 4th grade Saxon math (pictured above).  I must say that I am impressed with the tidy way she organizes her scratch paper:

But whether the child’s scratch paper is messy or neat, I am just thrilled to know that they love math, which is actually an exciting subject to study–at least, it is when taught the right way, and when the child learns it in an environment that’s conducive to deep thoughts and serious reflection:

Where’d She Learn to Talk Like That?

True story:

My 8 year-old, Dizzy, is talking to a ten year-old during a recent home school gathering.

“Are you good at art?” my daughter asks her.

“Well,” the ten year-old muses, “I do try to pay attention to detail when I draw. This means I’ll be good at art if I keep practicing.”

Say what? I’ve never heard ten year-old kids use phrases like “attention to detail” or mention the importance of “practice makes perfect.” This girl has the vocabulary and understanding of a young adult! Yet another side effect of spending her days learning in the home, I suppose! 🙂