5 Ways to Build Your Vocabulary

build your vocabularyEveryone knows that the fundamental skill of learning is the ability to read and comprehend. Along with that is the concept of vocabulary building. When read and learn new words, our knowledge and skills increase. All this by simply understanding more vocabulary. To top it off… this learning shouldn’t stop when you graduate from high school or even college. Sure, even us “adults” need to continue to build our vocabulary. As a dear friend of mine said recently, “Learning new things keeps my brain young!” This is definitely the case with vocabulary skill building. Here are 5 tips to help you learn and keep learning throughout life!

1) Get into the habit of looking up any words that you come across that you don’t understand. If you do this every time – you will assimilate hundreds of new words each year!

2) Make a point to use those new words in a sentence the day that you learn about them. This immediately puts the words into your schema and gives you a reference for future use. Put those new words on sticky notes around your house. This will help you remember to use them in a sentence. Throw them away once you’ve put them into practice.

3) Become a voracious reader. READ. READ. READ. This is by far the most important thing. Reading builds your vocabulary as well as your knowledge! Read and you will go far!

4) Read through the dictionary. Sure I know this sounds boring. Yet, you can quickly scan through the pages and highlight any words that you don’t know. You’ll be surprised  at the sheer quantity of words that you ALREADY know!

5) Read literary works that challenge you.  The classics are a great place to start. There is GOOD reason as to why these books have remained favorites over the years and even centuries. Most often their themes transcend time and will envelope you in their story before you know it! Reading books that were written centuries ago will increase your vocabulary with classic words. This practice will not just build your vocabulary, but will enrich it!


Christmas Break Boredom Busters

Yes, it’s that time… all of the busy -ness of Christmas is nearing an end. The presents have been wrapped and are under the tree… and the kids are on Christmas break. Even for homeschoolers, that spells “boredom.” My kids are already beginning to complain of that diabolical disease. It drives me crazy. Just a few days ago they had too much to do, and were telling me how desperately they needed a break. Well, if that isn’t just like life… the grass is always greener…

So, as we are awaiting the “big day” and have finally spent out the tireless series of Christmas parties… things are beginning to settle down and the kids are now claiming “boredom.” To counteract this cry… here is a quick reference list for homeschool boredom busters!

1) Try your hand at making your own Christmas cards or try this Christmas coloring book

2) Make your own Christmas ornaments

3) Make some Christmas placements for Christmas dinner

4) Listen to some great old time radio Christmas stories!

5) Read aloud some of the christmas classics!

6) Watch a few of the good old Christmas movies – some of our favorites are White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th St., and The Christmas Carol.

7) Try these fun Christmas printables

8) Make some Christmas cookies

9) Make your own Christmas word search

10) Listen to the Christmas story together!

Homeschooling for FREE… it is possible!

I have many people tell me that there is no way that they could homeschool, because they could never afford to buy all the materials and supplies. Well, just to set the record straight… you don’t have to buy anything fancy or spend a fortune on homeschooling your children. In fact, there are so many inexpensive ways to homeschool, it’s almost funny! I do have to admit that there are things that you can buy that do make it easier… just like a dish washer makes doing dishes easier. Yet, just like doing dishes… you don’t HAVE to have the dishwasher. :)

There are several ways in which you can go about homeschooling on a very slender shoe string… I completely understand, and have actually been there many times! This year, I did splurge on ABEKA videos for my Junior High School kiddos… just because I had to concentrate on getting my youngest reading. Up until now, it has definitely been “homeschooling on a budget”… a small one for six kids!

Homeschooling Offline

One of the best ways to homeschool on a budget – offline- is to use your local library. It is amazing how you can put together an awesome homeschool curriculum just by using what is free at the library. To make the most of the library and truly maximize on its potential, you will need to visit the library frequently. Obviously this will cost you fuel (not completely free). However, you can find teaching resources, student resources, and general educational information all in one place. You will have to invest alot of your time to benefit from this method, but if you have more time than money… then this is a good choice. I would suggest starting with a resource book for teachers or use the internet at the library. Find out what your children need to cover for the grade levels in which they are currently learning. From this information, you will want to make a scope and sequence for each of your children. The easiest way to do this is to make an “outline” type list of topics that they will cover during the course of the year. Divide this list up into the months that you will be doing school, and then further down into weeks. From this list, you will be able to search for resources to use to teach each of the topics on your weekly goals. If you are near a rather large library, you will be amazed at the wealth of materials that the library holds on each topic. You’ll probably have a difficult time choosing which book to use. I get so wrapped up in the cool information that I get distracted and want to take home every book… but I’m sure that never happens to you!

There are definitely other forms of homeschooling offline, and one of my favorites is to find textbooks that are used or are discounted. You can do this by developing what and how you plan on teaching for the next year, and then going on a treasure hunt to find things that fit your plan. If there is a curriculum that you know fits your plan, you can search for used textbooks from that set. I love to use ebay, amazon, or half.com to find my discounted books! There is also a nice homeschool curriculum sharing site called Curriculum Share that you might want to check out.

Homeschooling Online

This is my particularly favorite method of homeschooling. Simply because the cost of my internet access each month more than covers everything I need to homeschool. It’s absolutely unbelievable when you look at the amount of amazing high quality content that is out there FREE to use for homeschooling. There is so much!! I’m not even sure that I can completely cover this topic – but I’ll give you a nice sampling of some high quality free resources.

Let’s start off with one of my favorites, Lesson Pathways. This online curriculum used to require paid access, however, now it is free! That’s good for all of us. You can go to Lesson Pathways and sign up for a free account. There are what they call “pathways” that you can view and determine if they are the lessons that fit your needs, or you can actually build your curriculum within the Lesson Pathways site. You can use their student planner and set it all up right there. The lesson pathways will give you a list of weekly units from which you can view links to various activities and printables and often a video. Everything you need is right there at your fingertips for FREE. Nice…

Another pretty nice FREE online curriculum is the Easy-Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. It has every school grade as well as special subject such as art and music. We are using the art and music this year as electives. It is pretty nice, and works on the idea of links for the information and knowledge base.

There are other places that offers specific subjects for free. The USHISTORY.ORG site does just that. They have U.S. History, Ancient Civilizations, and American Government courses for free.

I could really go on and on with this… like I said before there is a WEALTH of information out there just begging to be used. To make it easier for you to find what you are looking for, I’ll just list the curriculum by subject. Please note that this list is definitely not comprehensive, these are simply the free resources that I feel bear repeating. There are so many out there, but not all of them offer a quality education.


Kids World teaches Bible lessons for kids with accompanying quizzes

Bible for Children has a lot of resources for homeschool and those who teach SS or Bible school

Calvary Curriculum has a very nice Bible series for children with the lesson AND puzzles and fill in the blank printables!

Ministry to Children also has very nice lessons

Truth Chasers Club – one of my favorites! This is the online club portion of the Good News Club for kids. There is also a free mail version of this club that your kids can sign up for!


Homeschool Math has a lot of super nice printables to accompany your homeschool math lessons

Math.com has alot of nice math tools for the homeschool parent

Khan Academy is super for videos on subjects that parents just can’t get across!


Pinterest and the Homeschooler…

pinterest homeschooling

I think most of you know that I contribute to the Time4Learning Community Blog. This week I created a post that I think is very important to the homeschool community. A combination of two of my loves… Pinterest (ahhhhh….) and homeschooling! (Almost as good as chocolate and peanut butter… maybe) I thought that I would share the link and a repost of the article. It was so much fun to create and I felt like you all could get alot of benefit from it.

If you could take a minute and stop by the Time4Learning Community I would appreciate it, and I know that you’ll definitely come away with something useful. It’s a great place to share and become a part of a huge and varied group of homeschoolers. The parent forum is bursting with tons of information on all aspects of homeschooling, and the blog has so much… well, let’s just give you a little taste here…

Yet, in regards to the subject at hand what is your opinion? Do you think that pinterest led learning might be a viable new homeschooling method? I think it could very well be possible, IF… and this is a big IF… we could somehow keep on the task of homeschooling! Pinterest has such a wealth of information that it is often extremely difficult to NOT get distracted. So, good luck making it through my list…


The Top 25 Reasons Homeschoolers Should Use Pinterest

Organization Ideas

1)Get organized for Homeschooling!
2) Simplify your Homeschool Room
3)Organize your Schedule
4)Use technology to organize your Homeschool Planning
5)Make your homeschool beautiful… (my dream homeschool room)
Learning Ideas
6) Find amazing resources for nearly every subject
7) Give your kiddos a pinterest board and let them pin their favorite ideas
8) Use pinterest for science projects
9)Find great pictures to incorporate into your lessons
10) Use pinterest as a lesson in itself. Teach the kids how to create pins and boards and how useful it can be for their learning experience.
11)Find specific grade level materials.
12) Use the great book resources on pinterest to start literature units
13) Use the printable resources to enrich your lessons
14)Use various pins to create a virtual field trip for a particular study
15)Use resources to find fresh ideas for Hands-on activities
Enrichment Ideas
16) Take advantage of the plethora of craft and art ideas and have some fun
17) Encourage your kiddos to make Christmas presents for others
18) Use pinterest to post your own amazing photos of your learning
19) Have your kiddos use Pinterest as an online collection of knowledge for a research report
20) Teach photo editing skills using tools such as PicMonkey
Personal Enrichment Ideas
21) Use pinterest to connect with other homeschoolers – follow their boards
22) Find amazing new teaching/learning products
23) Keep abreast of learning trends and homeschool news
24) Find tutorials to help you teach various subjects
25) Find encouragement through educational posts and homeschool blogs

Homeschool Guide to Teaching Reading

homeschool reading

As a homeschool mom, I think the scariest thing to teach my kindergarten children was always reading. Yet,  I love to see the light come on when they finally are able to read! The problem is… it’s getting to that point that really can be overwhelming. I am currently on my last and final version of teaching reading. (sniff,sniff) My youngest is in the process right now, and I have to admit she is definitely a challenge. So, I’m sharing with my homeschool friends… all of the wonderful “pointers” that I try to keep in mind as I take on this last reading challenge.

One thing to keep in mind as you teach reading is that it isn’t a skill unto itself. Reading is a culmination of many skills put together into a process. This is why teaching reading can be such a challenge. The research shows that the most flexible method and the method with the most long term benefits is to teach reading phonetically. The idea of phonics comes from the term “phoneme” which is the individual letter/sounds of our alphabet. The simplest skill in learning how to read. The overall idea of teaching phonics is to teach the basic sounds in conjunction with letter recognition, vowels and consonants, digraphs(consonant/vowel blends), special rules/sounds, sight words, and suffixes/prefixes.

I love Time4Learning’s reading pyramid. They have made the process of teaching reading phonetically very simple to understand with a  reading skill pyramid. I like to keep a copy of this handy to help me remember the foundational skills that are necessary.  I’ve heard many people complain about the phonics method they were taught. Some have even said that they cannot sound out words as adults because of it. To be honest, if they were taught phonics correctly, they would be able to sound out any word that was given to them. That is the beauty of teaching phonics. The phonetic method of reading gives a person the skills needed to decode any word at any level. The damaging methods such as the whole language approach or site word method teaches only a set of words and then the student learns these by rote memory. These methods are limiting and put the adult at a loss to decode/sound out new words that they encounter. There are some that use blended methods, and I believe that is probably the method that was used in those rare incidents where there are complaints.

To build the skills necessary to make fluent readers, the student must:

1)recognize individual sounds, sounds within words, and recognize the sound’s symbol

2)distinguish between first and last sounds and middle sounds

3)know and recognize all letters and their sounds, begin blending consonant/vowels, blending consonants with consonants,  begin “sounding out” words, and “decoding” to spell words

4)learn the various “sight words” – I know that this sounds akin to the whole language approach – However, there is a place for learning sight words. These are usually words that defy the “rules” and are pronounced with no rhyme or reason. ie. the, put, was, etc.

5) read, practice, read, and read! Read for smoothness and expression… read for comprehension… read for accuracy…the more they read – the better reader they become!

Should all Juniors Take the PSAT?


I just recently wrote an article on Homeschoolers and the PSAT for Let’s Homeschool High School. This article made me aware of several things. First, I wanted to share the info with my friends here at MomSCHOOL because there are some super benefits from taking the PSAT!

First of all some of you may be wondering what the PSAT is. In reality, it is called the PSAT/NMSQT – quite the mouthful- but it boils down to Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test was designed primarily as a preliminary or practice test for the SAT. It gives the students an idea of what types of questions will be asked, how the test is structured, and a way to practice without fear of doing poorly. The secondary purpose of this test is a qualifying test for the National Scholarship Program. This program is designed to commend high achieving students through connections with various scholarships.

Secondly, there are many benefits that homeschooled high schoolers can receive through the taking of this test. The PSAT website states that students who take the test in their Junior year will:

  • Qualify for scholarships by being automatically entered
  • Receive free information from colleges and universities that are interested in you
  • Receive access to My College Quick Start – which is a free college planning tool
  • Score higher on the SAT (on average) versus those who don’t take the PSAT

Finally, there is great news for homeschoolers. The College Board, makers of the PSAT, have made it possible for students to take the test at their local high school. Homeschoolers will simply need to contact their local school’s PSAT/NMSQT coordinator several months before the October test date. Typically they recommend contacting them in July prior to the student’s Junior year of high school, while taking the SAT test in the spring of the Junior year. Homeschooled students will need to know their state’s PSAT homeschool test code and enter it into the test. Other than that, it’s simply a task of taking the test and seeing if there are any areas to work on before taking the SAT/ACT.

Homeschool High School Credits

high school credit

This past year we had the opportunity to graduate our first homeschooler. Let’s just say it was AWESOME… but it was also a time of stress, worry, and doubt. This was something that we had never done before, and we were worried sick that we would mess up our daughter’s future.  We were stressed because though we had researched and found out everything that we could about homeschool high school records, we still had never done this before. I have to thank my friends at Let’s Homeschool High School for all the great information that truthfully made all the difference in the world. 

The biggest worry that most homeschool parents have is understanding the basic requirements over “credits.” Truthfully every state might have a slightly different take on this subject but overall the credits and their assignments are pretty much the same. One of the biggest questions asked is “How much credit do we assign for a particular course?” The idea behind this goes way back to how “credits” first began to be used. Which takes us all the way back the “Carnegie Unit.”  In the early days of high school and college there was not a “standardized” way to figure what a student had accomplished during his high school years. This brought about the use of the credit or Carnegie Unit. This was developed so that colleges across the country could at a glance see that students had studied the accepted amount of time for each particular course. So, the fundamental guideline here was TIME.

This brings us now to the question of how much time equals a credit? Well, typically 120-180 hours of coursework equals one credit and 60-80 hours equals a half credit. That will help many homeschoolers who give credit for work experience or volunteering. You can simply keep track of the hours spent, and log the credits accordingly.

However, if you are working through a regular school course who has the time to track every hour you spend studying? The easier way here is to understand if you have a one year course it usually equals one highschool credit. Conversely, if you have a one semester course it will equal a half credit. This would also go hand in hand with dual enrollment at community colleges. If your student completes a one semester course through a college, this would translate as one highschool credit.

Sure, it can get pretty tricky. Let me share a great infographic that my friend Kerry has made to make simple this idea of homeschool high school credit equivalencies. If you have encountered any other types of high school courses that are difficult to translate into credit please share your experience with us!

Using a Combination of Block Scheduling and Traditional Scheduling for Homeschool

homeschool schedulingMaking a Homeschool Schedule

One of my most popular posts on this blog is about block scheduling. It rather surprises me, but I realize that everyone is trying to find the best way to organize their homeschool day and block scheduling is often the most feasible option for homeschooling several ages/grades. However, over the years I have begun to realize that for our homeschool a mixture of styles and schedules is usually the best fit. So, with almost everything we do in our homeschool – it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that!

Our Homeschool Schedule

Our schedule this year is a combination of traditional scheduling and block scheduling. For example, at the beginning of our day we start with a traditional schedule. We begin with Bible time as well as our “WonderTime” devotionals from the Good News Club that my kiddos are part. We spend about half an hour on Bible, and since my Middle School twins are working with ABEKA videos this year, I am able to teach to only my two youngest and so I am teaching through the ABEKA flash a card series. While I teach they color a coordinating color sheet that supports what the lesson is teaching.

We then move on to Language Arts. Since this was a pivotal year for our youngest I wanted to really work hard in this area. We are using Saxon 1 phonics, which is a pretty intensive curriculum. It takes us about 40 minutes to go through all of the learning and worksheets each day. My third grade daughter is using Grammar Made Easy which is really amazing. She is picking out prepositional phrases subject and verb phrases already.

We spend about 20-30 minutes on reading – I can get a few things done during this time.

Next comes math or numbers as my youngest calls it. We spend about 30 minutes on this and are using Saxon for both first and third grades. It is also a very intensive curriculum, and we could actually spend alot more time on this curriculum. However, my girls are very intuitive when it comes to numbers and we are able to work through these lessons rather quickly

Finally, we do a handwriting workbook. This usually takes the girls about 15 minutes at the most to complete.

Our Block Schedule

After we’ve gone through these traditionally scheduled courses, we move on to our block scheduled courses. Here we have our history, science, art, and creative writing. I have basically scheduled these four to happen each day of the week with science occurring twice each week. We use Time Traveler’s History, Apologia Science, my own art, and Don’t Forget to Write as well as “Rip the Page” for our creative writing.

Remember that homeschooling is all about fitting your child and your family with the right style of schooling. Whatever works for your family is what is right for you. Don’t be afraid to get “out of the box.” Homeschooling is truly all about freedom to educate according to your needs.

Five Tips for Competing in the National Spelling Bee!

spellinig bee

Sure, we’ve all heard of the National Spelling Bee, also referred to as the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee because of it’s sponsor. This spelling bee has been around since the 1920’s and was started in order to “help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives”(from the official website). Over the years, this spelling bee has helped encourage and motivate thousands of youngsters develop their spelling and vocabulary skills. The Scripps’ National Spelling Bee starts with the individual schools, co-ops, and homeschool organizations across the country at a local spelling bee. These spelling bees then feed a state competition which in turn allows the winner to go on to the National Spelling Bee.

The growth of homeschooling has also seen a rise of contestants in the National Spelling Bee. An article titled “Homeschoolers Lead Spelling Bee” claimed that 10% of the finalists were, in fact, homeschoolers. That is amazing! I am sure the percentage would be even greater if more homeschoolers knew how easy it was to register! It really is quite simple and doesn’t take much time at all…

spelling bee1

1) Find a participating homeschool co-op or association that is already registered with the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee. If you aren’t sure you can search of list of registered schools and homeschool organizations to see if one in your local area is listed.
2) If you cannot find a participating organization, you can register as an individual. There is a fee that you will pay, but it includes the cost for all spelling bees as well as the complete spelling list to study for your grade.
3) Make sure you register before the deadline – as of now… they are still taking registrations but it is their “late period.”
4) Once you’ve completed your registration process the rest is fun… you’ll get your list of study words and be able to get started. You can even join their Spelling Bee Word Club for a small fee. This membership will give you weekly emails as well as words of the day.
5) It’s fun to start a spelling club with the other members of your local group. You can get together and have mini – practice spelling bees to help you get acclimated to how the real thing will go.

If you’ve ever participated in a Scripp’s National Spelling Bee – please share your experience!