Homeschool Curriculum Review – Vocabulary Spelling City

Learn spelling and vocabulary

I have been trying to slowly work through the curriculum options that we have tried throughout the years and make a public review of them. I know I haven’t gotten very far with this, but I hope to remedy that in the near future! So, without delay… today I will be reviewing the Vocabulary Spelling City website.

First let me tell you about VSC. Vocabulary Spelling City is a website that hosts your own specific lists as well as most well known curriculum spelling lists. That means that most of BJU press, Saxon, and ABEKA’s lists are already constructing and are just waiting for you to download them to your account. There are also other grade and subject specific lists such as a third grade science list that we really enjoyed!

PROS – VSC allows me to host all of my children’s spelling lists in one place. Prior to using VSC I was doing 5 different spelling lessons per week, using 5 different spelling books, and giving 5 spelling tests. It was definitely a picture of insanity. However, once I discovered VSC my whole world changed! I was able to simply choose and assign the lists that I wanted each of my children to complete. They were able to log in, follow their assignment, complete the practice games, and then take the spelling test. All I needed to do was check to make sure that they passed the test. If they did not, they repeated that week’s worth of assignments. All of the kids love most the practice games which include everything from writing assignments to hangman style games. Another aspect of VSC that I appreciate is the free printable handwriting worksheets. These offer a great way for you to get your kiddos working on their handwriting skills! As a lover of all things math related, I enjoy the fact that VSC has specific math vocabulary that I can use to make sure my children understand the math concepts that we are studying.

CONS – Though I love the ease of simply setting my kids loose on VSC, the time that it takes to create the assignments for each child is a bit extensive. Although, in all fairness it saves me so much time that I really don’t mind. Yet, I think if there could be a way to “bulk assign” the lists to kids with pre-made settings… that would make it awesome! There are a few of the practice games that my children really don’t like. They say they take too much time. However, the games that they dislike are very few, and there are more than twenty to choose from. All in all, the PROS definitely outweigh the CONS… making me a definite fan of VSC!

Tip of the Week: Writing Homeschool Lesson Plans

homeschool resource

Don’t you just love freebies? I sure do – that’s why I’m offering a freebie for each of you this week. In addition to an article about writing lesson plans, I thought I’d throw in a lesson plan template. There’s nothing more fun than being able to do a somewhat tedious task on a beautiful piece of paper. But first, let’s talk lesson plans.

I’m sure that most of you veteran homeschoolers have a tried and true method of creating your lesson plans for the various studies that you do. I have to admit that I do as well. If we are going to go rogue and create our own unit study, I need to create a lesson plan that allows me to incorporate goals and objectives and enable our learning to be right on target. There’s no better way to do that than by using a basic lesson plan. Here’s my take on this (just fyi… I learned this method from my Graduate School professor!)

1) Think about the overall goal that you would like to accomplish with your unit study. Write this out in sentence format. This will be rather broad!

2) Decide how long this study will be. Once you determine the length – write a more precise goal for what you wish to learn each week.

3) Take each weekly goal and make a daily objective that supports that goal.

4) Now is where the lesson plan comes in. You see you really can’t plan a lesson until you clearly know what your goals are. I like to follow what I call the GOMMA method. I use this acrostic to help me focus on the big goal, the daily goal, the method of teaching this lesson, the materials that I will need to gather in order to teach the lesson, and the assessment that I will use to determine if the students understood the lesson.

Lesson plan


5) Keep in mind that the assessment does not need to be a test. This can be an informal or formal assessment and can consist of a project, a worksheet, a discussion time, or even a test or quiz. Whatever you believe is appropriate on a daily basis to determine that student learning took place.

So, without further adieu – here is your FREE downloadable and printable lesson plan template.

GOMMA graphic lesson plan


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

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.

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!

Carnival of Homeschooling – Fall is in the Air!

homeschool life

 As I’m sitting down to put together this October 15th Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, I glance out my window and see the beginning signs of fall. The leaves on the trees around my home are turning those beautiful … Continue reading

What is Your Favorite Method of Homeschooling?

Homeschooling with Many Children

family“ Hi… I’m Jamie… and I have six kids.” Excuse me while I practice up for my “mothers of many children” support group.  I’m just joking, but that statement pretty much sums up my time in almost every respect. During this season of my life, my children affect everything that I do. Whether it’s work, managing my home, homeschooling, date night, and even “me” time… my children are an integral aspect of the decisions that I make.  Sometimes so much so that I feel completely overwhelmed.

Ever feel that way? I’m sure you do… even friends of mine with only one child feel the same way. So, what is the deal? Are we just selfish, or is this a natural part of parenting?

Well, maybe a bit of both… LOL… (I know I sure can be!) but really it is what many mothers feel on a regular basis. The fact that you feel overwhelmed at the immense daily task of caring for a large family is no reflection on whether or not you love your children. It does show that you take your responsibilities seriously, and credits you with caring. All good things… so don’t feel bad. A few years ago I let the weight of these cares this crush me. I literally lived “overwhelmed.”  A dear friend once realized this in my life, and took the time to encourage me to take inventory of my life and trash everything that I really didn’t “have to” include. I know it sounds simple, but after I made this a conscious part of my daily thought processes… it really helped. It’s changed how I live. Sure, I still have to consider my kids when I plan “me” time… and date night… and everything else but I regularly get rid of anything that isn’t necessary or doesn’t encourage and build me and my family up.

A few tips to getting it done…

1) When someone asks you for help, and you are already overwhelmed… just say “No, I’m sorry.” and then smile.

2) When your children want to play every sport and do every extra curriculum activity imaginable, sit them down and explain that they need to focus on one thing and then maybe next year they can try something else.

3) Schedule time for breaks. Whenever I begin to feel  like everything is piling up, and I have nothing else to give… I schedule time for me to get refreshed. There is no way you can keep giving out to your children without being filled. Making sure to spend quiet time with the Lord can be life changing.

4) Schedule time for fun activities in your homeschool day. Laughter truly can be the best medicine. Take time to smell the roses with your kiddos. You’re making memories that will last alot longer than the to do list on your fridge.

5) Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. Make simple suppers, ask the kids to use the towels more than once to limit laundry, use homeschooling helps like online curriculum or even video lessons.  No one ever said you had to be Wonder Woman… just “mom!”

Back to School – Five Tips for Making it Real!


Yep, so here we go… back to school… In some ways, it is thoroughly refreshing, yet in others it’s like a huge heavy wave washing over me! (Ugh, washing – reminds me I have about 4 loads backed up as I write…) So, in reality that wave might be the huge landfill of clothing that needs washed due to my ever vigilant presence in our homeschooling room. Anyone else out there feeling the laundry pain? Ok… enough commiserating… on to the good stuff…

This year has really been great so far. Though at times I do feel more like a referee than a mother… I think that the few improvements that we made to our schedule and curriculum are really paying of. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Improving every year? Making it better and better? Sure – so that by the time your last one graduates… you are THE MASTER!!!! Then what? I guess we could homeschool our grandchildren? (I am definitely in a mood today…)

Ok…so my five tips for making it real… drum roll please?

1) Keep changing, working, reworking, organizing and reorganizing to find the right mix for your family. When you do, it will flow and you will know that you have “nailed it!” (I’m feeling a good bit of flow this year, almost ready claim that… )

2) Keep exploring new curriculum. There is ALWAYS new homeschool curriculum each year, and what is so amazing is that it actually seems to be getting better. I never would have thought that some of the curriculum we love would have been so awesome, unless I TRIED it! :)

3) Mix it up – sure… giving kids a variety of things to do each day really makes for happy kids! When I make my kids sit at their desks for long stretches of time… well let’s just say it isn’t pretty. Give them workbooks, videos, literature books, and online curriculum for a wide variety of experience throughout the day!

4) Get your own habits established. I know, some people balk at this one… but I have found that if I can get a good habit established of studying and learning each day during specific times… it is so much easier to keep that going! Less whining, less ugly… you name it!

5) Give the natives a snack! Ok… that sounds really trivial… but seriously this year we went to a new organizational method and are using the 10 drawer caddies… one drawer for each subject and they proceed in a linear fashion each day… completing their tasks without my reminding them (amazing by the way!) and one drawer – right in the middle is left for a snack… oh my word! You would think that world had turned upside down and somehow my children switched from grumpy trolls to sweet little fairies…. amazing what a snack can do!

So, keep it real… and don’t forget that life changing snack. :)