Pet Care – A Valuable Life Lesson For Our Children

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June 29, 2011

Thanks to Isabella York for this Guest Post!

Teaching your children life lessons entails patience, hard work, creativity and most of all, resourcefulness. Homeschooling your kids (and the simple act of being a parent to them) is quite tough, given the fact that their learning mainly depends on what you instill in their minds. Then again, there are just some things that you cannot teach them – things that only other people (or in this case, other life forms) can teach. According to Rebecca Reynolds Weil of the Animal as Intermediaries program, animals play a significant part in making children feel empathy and curiosity. Like the way future parents are taught how to extend their patience when they finally have kids to take care of, children are given valuable life lessons when given the chance to take care of their own pets. The following are five life lessons that we learn from caring for animals:

  1. Empathy. Children who have their own pets become curious about everything in connection to the animal. They become inquisitive and interested in their pet’s feelings, developing empathy and a wider understanding of how the pet is supposed to be taken care of. This empathy then extends and translates into compassion for the greater world. It’s just like making them feel how we are supposed to think of other people’s feelings! Pet care somehow prepares them for a deeper involvement in everything that surrounds them.
  2. Resilience. Although not all children have been through traumatic experiences, it is significant and very beneficial to give your kid a chance to feel that he or she is a part of someone else’s life to avoid self seclusion due to changes in the environment. The feeling of belongingness and importance is a great contribution to the adaptation capability of a child. Say for example you move to a new address and let your kid attend regular school – there are changes in the environment which can cause your kid to feel alone or isolated. But with a pet to care for and nurture, the child knows that there is someone who needs him or her, and therefore does not feel lonely.
  3. Communication. Kids become very attentive to the needs and feelings of their pets. They learn how to listen to their pets’ desires through different cues and signs. In the course of taking care of an animal, a kid learns to differentiate when the pet is hungry, sleepy, angry or happy. He develops the desire to know all the things that his or her pet asks for, and learns to apply this lesson in real life. As he encounters different kinds of people later on, the child then knows how to listen and understand body language as a way to empathize. In essence, he learns to value effective communication in order to understand another person.
  4. Confidence. The lives of children may seem like an easy cycle of playing, watching TV, eating, laughing, and all those fun things! Well, if you think this is what your child is going through each day, you might as well think again. Children go through a vicious cycle of endless judgment. Their grades, physical fitness, manners, performances and actions are evaluated and ranked. They are unintentionally put in a world where they are forced to compete with others, think of their limitations and mull on their mistakes resulting to wavering self esteem and irresolute identity formation. Yes, the life of children is a tough series of worries. You have been through a similar cycle, and I know it has not been very easy. As for your kid, pet care can be very helpful in developing confidence – in as simple as the kid feels that he or she is important to the pet without being evaluated because of every little thing that he or she has done in the past, the kid feels secured and more confident.
  5. Responsibility. Considerably one of the most important life lessons that pet care can bring to your child, learning how to take care of another living thing is something he or she can make use of as he or she grows older. This part should be carefully watched and guided by parents, as taking care of another living being requires a sense of responsibility. As time goes by, your kid learns how to give the pet a bath without your supervision, feed him or her on time without your reminders, and basically take care of the animal and keep him happy and fit. It is a great leap forward in actually learning how to take care of others (people and things), and is something only experience can teach. Your kid grows up physically and emotionally, and becomes satisfied because of his or her capability in nurturing his or her pet.

Getting a pet for your kid may mean you will have to wipe animal dirt off the carpet during the first couple of days, weeks or months. It may also mean you will be taking care of an additional family member thus more effort on your side. But all the life lessons it can teach your kid should be more than enough to say you are willing to wipe your dog’s dirt off the carpet everyday!

A busy mother with a son to raise, Isabella York enjoys being outside in her back yard garden. She helps people celebrate the holidays with Artificial Christmas Trees from Balsam Hill, a provider of fine pre-lit Christmas Trees.

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Posted under Homeschool Life

Free SAT/ACT training material for Boy Scouts

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April 11, 2011

FYI – If you have a Boy Scout and plan on him or family members taking the SAT and/or ACT in the near future, check out this article describing free SAT/ACT software that is normally $199, being donated to scouts to help prepare for the tests.  Or you can go directly to eKnowledge’s website to order.  (You are charged about $14 shipping and handling per set.)


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Posted under Homeschool College Prep

Great Homeschool Printable Websites

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April 6, 2011

I’ve been browsing other homeschool blogs this week and enjoying myself.  Here’s a good one:

Check out the The Faithful Homeschool and her post about a couple of fun printable websites with screenshots and pics of her kids doing the projects:

  • Sen Teacher – Lots of math, literacy, and other free printables with some cool prism cut-outs we’ll be doing for math soon.
  • Classroom Jr. – Printable worksheets, lesson plans, and fun ideas for school subjects.


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Posted under Homeschool Websites

How to Get your Kids to do Their School – Part 3 – Stickers

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March 28, 2011

photo by ionascloset

Stickers are often used to motivate toddlers, but what about older kids?  Here’s are a few ways we’ve resurrected the use of stickers to motivate kids around here.

My 9-year-old daughter has a tendency to ‘fortune tell’ or predict her failure with statements like, “I’ll never get my school done in time,” or “My room a huge disaster.  I can never get it all cleaned up.”  Then she’ll usually sit and mope the day away, miss play-dates or activities, and end the day in a sobbing puddle of failure.

I try to let natural consequences do the teaching (when I remember), but she leaves me baffled at times.  She’ll be so upset to have missed a fun activity because her work wasn’t done, and I’ll think that she’s surely learned a lesson, until she does the same thing the next time around.  The point of this long story:  My daughter does much better with a big job broken up into many small easy tasks.  Think of the old adage:  “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”

So, I tried to help her break her tasks into small pieces like, pick up the clothes, then the toys, then the books, then the trash.  Yeah, didn’t work so well either.

Turns out I had to break down the rewards too.  If she had to get all her chores and all her school done to earn media time that she really didn’t care too much about, she didn’t really bother.

So, I needed small rewards and small consequences, to aid her baby steps of progress.  Here’s what I used:

  • Small prizes:  A great garage sale find during the summer of an entire set of 30 pet shop animals with a playset for five or so dollars.  It had been sitting in the gift box waiting for a good occasion.
  • Small rewards:  I made a little chart for my daughter to put her stickers on, fanned out the sets of stickers from our craft box and had her pick her favorite.  Then I explained that any of her responsibilities that she did without being asked, she could put a sticker on her chart.  For every 15 stickers she could pick out a pet shop animal.  So every day, she had the potential to earn 11 stars:  six stars for each of her school subjects, four stars for each of her cleaning chores, and a star for dishes if it was her week.  The tiny ‘bite of the elephant’ associated with each star worked extremely well for her.  She had little rewards for each thing she did, instead of a big one for doing everything.
  • Small consequences:  There was an added benefit.  The two of us had fallen into a nasty habit of me nagging her continually before she would get up and do much of anything.  The more I nagged, the more she resisted, sneaking off, and the more angry I got.  If I tried to come up with a consequence, she’d just get angrier and still not do much of anything.  I really need a small consequence that I could hand out calmly multiple times a day if needed.  The stickers were perfect.  I could hand them out any time I saw her working on something on her own initiative and I could calmly mention what a bummer it was that I needed to take one off because I had to remind her a second time to take out the overflowing trash.

So, if you’re looking for an idea to motivate or hand out consequences in small baby steps, try giving stickers another chance.

(Another fun idea is to try custom sticker printing available at

Do you use stickers or small rewards to successfully motivate your kids?  I’d love to hear ideas!


P.S.  If you’d like to help your kids (or yourself) change their doom-and-gloom thinking patterns like my daughter ‘fortune telling’ or predicting that she will fail, please check out the book “Feeling Good” by David Burns.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s helped my own depression and helped me teach real tools to my kids when their thinking patterns lead them down that path.

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Posted under Homeschool Life

How to Get your Kids to do Their School – Part 2 – Media Time

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March 21, 2011

Experimenting with unlimited TV and computer games led to my boys stuck to the screens all day long (my daughter, however could really care less).  I waiting, hoping, they would eventually get their fill and move back to playing outdoors or with their Legos, but it didn’t happen.

So we ended up using computer games and TV as a reward for finishing their school.  Originally everyone could have 2 hours of time a day once they finished their school.  The idea was that this would motivate the kids to get busy so they could play sooner.  There was a bit of a deadline in that everything got turned off for chore time an hour before dinner, but kids could still ‘spend’ their time up until bedtime.

Kids were responsible for setting their own times to keep track of their 2 hours.  Do you already see a problem developing here?  I could never be sure the timers were being used honestly, so we put separate log-ins on the computer for each child with a time counter that would kick them off after 2 hours.  But, that didn’t do anything for the TV, the Nintendo DS’s, or the Wii.  And finally, no one thought they should have to use any of their time if they were ‘just watching’ a sibling play a game.

The result: Whole afternoons and evenings would go by where it seemed like the kids were constantly gaming, and somehow they all still claimed to have one more half hour left up until bedtime.  I felt like a hated policeman and beautiful sunny days were passing unappreciated.  My husband wasn’t too pleased either, because when he came home from work the kids were too busy ‘spending’ their computer time to want to do anything with day.  I was at my wit’s end and ready to get rid of the games and TV altogether.

The solution: One night I had an epiphany.  Instead of trying to keep track of five children and their two hours each, why didn’t I just pick a 2 hour timeslot during the day and everyone who’d finished their chores and school could play during the newly dubbed “Media Time”.

Here’s how ‘Media Time’ works now at our house:

  • Media Time is from 2 to 4 pm every day.
  • Chore time is from 4 pm until we say the blessing on dinner.  If you have your evening chores done and checked off before the blessing, you’ve earned one half hour of your media time for the following day.
  • Morning chores (teeth, clothes, bed, etc.) need to be done before dad goes to work, earning you another half hour of media time.
  • Finishing your six school subjects earns you the last hour of media time (or 1/2 hr for 3).
  • If you didn’t earn all your media time, you have to start late (not finish early), ie. start at 3 pm if you only earned 1 hour of media time.
  • Everything gets turned off at 4 pm.  Too many running past 4 pm, and everyone loses a day of media time.

I used a calendar in MS Word and just added initials and little lines for kids to check off how much time they earned. (C – chores, M – morning chores, S – school)  We don’t always use it, since the kids haven’t had any trouble remembering how much they’ve earned.

So, far media time has done wonders limiting all the screen time, arguing, and cheating.

Benefits of the new system:

  • Everyone in the house can now tell time – at least 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock 🙂
  • Aside from that one chunk of time, the kids are now running around outside, making up games with each other, and in general, participating in life again.
  • Dad gets lots of time with the kids again.  They just played a marathon Monopoly game together last night.
  • My policing load has dropped considerably.
  • The 2 pm deadline adds a new level of motivation, since it comes pretty quickly.  The “You snooze, you lose” concept is very motivating.  Chores and school are being done much more consistently lately.
  • An unexpected bonus:  my daughter is interacting a lot more with the four boys since they have to all play their time together.

How about your house?  Do you limit media time or have ways to keep it from becoming an obsession or cause of contention?  I’d love ideas and suggestions!



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Posted under Homeschool Life

How to Get your Kids to do Their School – Part 1 – The White Board

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March 14, 2011

Here’s how the fantasy version of homeschooling played out in my head, before I ever started:

My kids would be free to explore whatever subject fascinated them.  They would find a subject that caught their interest, like dinosaurs.  Then we’d check out books at the library, get a model building kit, bury some plastic dinosaurs in the sand box to be excavated, etc.  My child would run from activity to activity, enthralled with learning since he/she wasn’t being forced to follow the strict and often boring schedule of public school.  (I’m an unschooler at heart.)

Then reality intruded.

“I HATE school!”

“Why do we have to do this?”

Left to their own devices, my kids gravitated to the TV and computer games.  We used comic books and fun chapter book series to encourage early reading, but then had a hard time getting the kids to pick up anything non-fiction or non-Harry Potter genre.

I was horrified.  How could they hate being free to learn anything they wanted at their own pace?  They had no idea how good they had it.  I only had a few required subjects, mainly math, reading, and writing, that if they would sit down and get busy could be done in one to two hours a day.  The rest of our ‘school’ is unschooled and learned through what we experience and pursue during the rest of the day.  But getting them to do those couple hours of ‘school’ was torture and would often drag on for the whole day.

So, I thought I’d start an article series about the different strategies and techniques I’ve used to motivate and encourage my kids to “Just Do Your School!”  Some have worked, some have failed, and many work for a time and only for specific children.  That’s why I’d like to put a bunch of ideas out there and hope that one helps you for a specific child.  Please feel free to send me ideas (I’m always looking for new ones) by adding a comment.

The White Board

Take five kids doing five different levels of school in a variety of subjects and it’s a nightmare to keep track of.  Besides, I’m really committed to teaching my children to be self starters for both practical and sanity reasons.  I simply don’t have the time to sit with all five of them every day and teach them each of their subjects.  It works much better for them to do as much work as they can and come discuss it with me when they’re done or need help.

Our solution is a big white board.  After redrawing a grid over and over, I finally figured out that using electrical tape, carefully cut lengthwise into skinnier strips, made a nice ‘permanent’ grid on the board.  The kids’ names go across the top and the school subjects and chores are written down the left side.  To check something off, the kids write the first letter of that day, ie. on Monday, they write an “M” next to math when they have it done.  After multiple evolutions, I added a few rules to help make the white board idea work better:

  • Kids have to report on their lesson to me, and put away their books before they can check off a subject.  The side benefit of this is they develop oral reporting, summarizing, and teaching skills and it helps their lessons sink in better.
  • School and chores are not considered done unless checked off on the board, eliminating having to repeatedly ask, “Have you done your chores?  Is your school done?”  I just walk to the board and check.
  • Cheating by checking something off they haven’t done results in no privileges (explained in another post) that day.

(I considered cleaning up our old workhorse for the picture, but this is how it usually looks, so . . .)

Do you have a calendar system or white board that works for you?  I’d love new ideas.


P.S.  I know many homeschoolers have different teaching philosophies and what works for one may not work for others.  Just as in all schooling choices I respect each family’s decision to do what works best for them.

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Posted under Homeschool Life

From Application to Acceptance: 4 Tips for Homeschooled Teens Going to College – Guest Post

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March 7, 2011

Being homeschooled from grade school through high school, I did not have access to as much college application counseling as my peers attending public school did. While many of my friends going to school had teachers, administrators, and counselors offering advice to high school seniors, I, for the most part, had to figure things out on my own with the help of my parents. However, I did have a singular advantage I had the time and focus to rigorously study for the SAT without having to worry about taking state standardized tests or attend a strict set of classes that took up many of my public school peers’ schedules. Here are a few things I did that helped me make it through the application process, culminating in being accepted to several competitive universities:

1. Start practicing for the SAT a year in advance.

While many students find the prospect of taking a timed, standardized test overwhelming, the test itself is not as difficult as many make it out to be. As many have noted before, the SAT does not measure intelligence; it measures you’re ability to take a standardized test. That being said, the only way to excel at the SAT is to take as many practice tests as you can. Buying an SAT guide, like Princeton Review’s or Kaplan’s, can be very helpful in teaching you test-taking strategies. When I took my first official SAT, I had taken maybe 30 or 40 practice tests.

2. Develop adult relationships outside your family in order to get solid recommendations.

Universities understand that homeschooled students won’t be able to provide letters of recommendation from teachers in the traditional sense, but many institutions do require letters from adults who are not relatives. As such, you’ll want to start thinking of adults who can assess your strengths and abilities, whether it’s a piano teacher, a boss from a summer job, a pastor, or a supervisor from a volunteer stint. Don’t ask your recommenders in the last minute (five to six months before the deadline is a good rule of thumb), and be sure to thank them afterwards.

3. Pay special attention to your personal statement.

Unlike many of your high school counterparts, you won’t have traditional venues to express the strength of your academic record, so make sure to take as much advantage of the personal statement as you can, since it’ll be a space in which you can distinguish yourself among other applicants. Write several drafts and show it to others for feedback. Aside from obvious considerations, like making sure it’s error-free, be sure to be creative but not gimmicky, professional but not stilted or pretentious.

4. If you want to qualify for federal aid, be sure to check your state and each school’s guidelines for homeschoolers.

Financial aid can be a huge asset, especially if you are hoping to get into a top-tier school. You could stand to qualify for tens of thousands of dollars in grants (which you don’t have to pay back) as well as loans. Some states require that you take some sort of certification test that stands in for a GED or high school diploma.

These are just a few basic guidelines for homeschoolers who are hoping to apply and enroll in an institution of higher education. Even though you’ll have to go through the application process on your own, by enlisting the support from your parents and your community, as well as doing plenty of your own research, you’ll prove to be as competitive an applicant as any traditional high school student.

Thank you to our guest writer:

Kitty Holman, regularly writes on the topics of nursing colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

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Posted under Homeschool College Prep, Homeschool Teens

Free Alternatives to Staple Software Packages

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February 15, 2011

(Guest Post by Lindsey Wright – Thank you!)

One of the highest costs home school students face is purchasing software so that they (and their computer) are well equipped to complete assignments. Luckily, if you are a student on a budget, there are software programs that will allow you to accomplish most of your education without spending a ton of money. In recent years independent programs have developed a variety of free software packages that have replaced old staples like Microsoft Office. There are so many free software alternatives you might feel overwhelmed if you’re new to searching them out. However, there are a few programs in existence that are absolute must-haves. Read on to determine which programs are worth checking out.

  1. (OOo) is a powerful free alternative to the popular Microsoft Office Suite. The basic applications that constitute OOo include Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress, Math and Base, the former four being equivalent to MSWord, Excel, Visio and PowerPoint. The default save extensions in OOo are proprietary, such as .odt, but you can save in, and work with, MS Office formats without any compatibility issues. Similarly, the MS Word templates work well in OOo Writer, and so do the MS Office macros in OOo Calc. Yet what is best of all is that OOo runs lightly, and a single Writer document takes only about 70 MB worth of memory to run.
  2. Foobar2000 is to audio players as Bruce Lee was to martial arts. Fast, compact, simple and elegant. The philosophy behind Foobar2000 is that there should be more music and less software. Visually, the program is fairly spartan, but it can be customized easily to suit your tastes. You can change visualizations, and configure libraries and layouts to make things more comfortable. There are also a lot of components available for Foobar2000 that allow for commands such as system shut down and music scheduling.
  3. As far as burning CDs and DVDs is concerned, CDBurner XP is a great free alternative to Windows Media Player. The interface is very simple; upon opening the program you can select from Data, Audio, ISO, Copy and Erase functions. As for the functionality, you can even burn Blue-Ray and HD-DVDs with this program. From Bulgarian to Ukrainian, the language support is strong and it also runs lightly (18 MB). While CDBurner XP doesn’t come with a DVD burner, it works well and is free, which is pretty hard to beat.
  4. Foxit Reader is a worthy adversary to Adobe Reader. In fact, people who are used to Adobe Reader will feel right at home when using this program. Foxit Reader has advanced features, such as the ability to highlight text, measure and scale, and turn PDFs into text. The software is very fast as well, stable, and takes about eight MB of RAM.
  5. Hate viruses and love free anti-virus programs? Avast! Free Antivirus is an amazing piece of software, which basically runs itself. The latest interface is clean and the software flows intuitively. The program scans files and folders in real-time, as they are opened or manipulated and analyzes suspicious program behavior. Avast! Free Antivirus uses fewer than 16 MB of RAM while running casually on default settings.

These programs are easy on your system, fast and efficient. The programs are free but their combined value is immense. Microsoft Office and a subscription based Antivirus alone would cost you a couple of hundred dollars a year. In terms of usage, OOo definitely takes home the awards. The service the program provides is so critical that the fact that it’s free shouldn’t cause anyone to pass it up.

Lindsey Wright is a music educator, computer repair consultant, and substitute teacher in Washington state.

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Posted under Homeschool Software

Carnival of Homeschooling – World School Edition

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January 25, 2011

Welcome to the “World School” edition of carnival of homeschooling.

We’ve been cooped up in our house by the blowing snow and freezing temperatures.

Here are some fun ideas of how homeschooling lets us explore the world (even if we can’t actually bask in the sun like we’d love to. )

So, where in the world would you like to go today for school?

Close Encounters with Africa, wild animals, (and younger siblings)

photo by memoossa

TaMara presents Leaving Africa posted at The Sloan Homeschool saying, “Highlights of our final week of our Africa study”

ChristineMM presents Autodidact Moment: What’s That Bird? posted at The Thinking Mother.

Katherine presents mother’s helper posted at No Fighting, No Biting!, saying, “I’m giving the idea of hiring a young person to play with the little ones while I complete school with the older children another go. I would rather pay someone to play with them than have them watch Veggie Tales yet again so we can get math completed in peace.”

Karen presents Competition and Brotherly Love posted at Stone Age Techie saying, “It’s about a particularly challenging evening in our house, a week or so ago.”

Visiting Paris -The City of Love

Megan presents In two straight lines they broke their bread posted at Afterschooling Expat saying, “In this post, our family, Americans living in Germany, visit Paris and use Madeline books as inspiration for learning about the famous, iconic Paris sites.”

Just in time for Valentine’s Day: Serfronya presents Printable Valentine Cards for Kids: Print These and Make Them Look as Good as Store Bought Cards posted at Frugal Educator.

Take a Trip to The Moon, (and it’s Cold in Outer Space)

Annette presents Today.. THE MOON! posted at A Net in Time, saying, “A fun day learning about the moon, complete with video. :)”

And when it’s as cold as a vacuum outside, here’s a great recipe to warm the hands: Nancy presents A Very Blusterous Day Outside posted at Sage Parnassus


The Earth itself (is it spring yet??)

Carol J. Alexander presents Seed Catalog Curriculum posted at Everything Home…with Carol.

Visit the Homes of other Homeschoolers Around the World for Ideas

Kelly Elmore presents An Update on the Parenting and Education of Livy posted at Reepicheep’s Coracle, saying, “Some comments on why its hard for me to write parenting and education posts as my daughter gets older and a list of things she is currently educating herself about.”

Janice Campbell presents Homeschoolers: What’s the Least You Need to Teach? posted at Taking Time for Things That Matter, saying, “If you’re feeling overwhelmed at homeschooling your students through high school, remember that you don’t have to teach them everything they’ll ever need to know.”

Jamie Gaddy presents Are We Frustrating our Children? – Blogs – Parent Community and Forum posted at Homeschool Online, saying, “Without knowing it, parents often cause frustration for their children… let’s talk about how to avoid it!”

Elena LaVictoire presents CLEP and the College Plus Adventure posted at My Domestic Church

Into the Minds of Homeschooling Parents

In a rebuttal to Amy Chua’s position on Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, Linda Dobson presents Why Homeschooling Mothers Are Superior posted at Parent at the Helm.

Misty (me) presents Free High School Math and everything else you every wanted to learn posted at HomeschoolBytes saying “Such a great free resource donated to benefit education for everyone.”

Henry who blogs at Why Homeschool found another movie on homeschooling which is in production.  Another movie on homeschooling!

Aoide-Melete-Mneme presents TEDx Comes to Orange County This Summer! posted at à la mode de les Muses, saying, “There’s a Southern California TEDx event coming, featuring homeschool graduates. Please recommend speakers and spread the word.”

Pamela Jorrick presents Toxic and Contagious Attitudes posted at Blah, Blah, Blog.

Susan Ryan presents The Trouble with Governmental Oversight of Homeschoolers posted at Corn and Oil.

Katie Davis presents Delete the N-word from Huck Finn? posted at Brain Burps About Books, saying, “Should the N-word be taken out of Huck Finn? Dr. Alan Gribben talks about why he changed the words of the greatest American writer.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed the World School edition of the Homeschooling Carnival! Please feel free to post a link, tweet, facebook, offer suggestions, or leave a comment. I enjoy the feedback!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Homeschooling using our carnival submission form.

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Posted under Blog Carnivals

Math Practice a Little Boring? Try Candy Math

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January 20, 2011

The Homeschool Freebie of the Day site has a fun .pdf available today:

Candy Math has some fun ideas to ‘sweeten’ math practice with your little ones.  (You can use cereal or something like goldfish crackers if you want to avoid the sweets).


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Posted under Math Curriculum