Saturday, September 22, 2007

Homeschooling with the McGuffey Reading Series

The McGuffey Reading Series is GREAT! During my research about what to teach for Literature and Reading, the McGuffey Reading Series came to my attention in the Bluedorn book, "Teaching the Trivium Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style". This book recommends for a child from ages ten through twelve, reading aloud two hours per day, memorization and oral narration, reading good literature, and oral interpretation. Wow, two hours a day reading aloud....sounds like a lot. Actually two hours goes by so quickly it isn't difficult to imagine using more than two hours. Both of us enjoy the time and we are learning.

For Aaron's age I choose The Eclectic Third Reader. The description is that it "contains selections of prose and poetry from the best American and English writers". The messages in the stories are so wholesome and the language is so rich. The vocabulary is truly beautiful. An example of the prose includes, "The Effects of Rashness", "The Consequence of Idleness", "Advantages of Industry", and "The Way to be Happy".

Each lesson begins with a rule about reading, speaking correctly, holding a book properly, not reading too fast, understanding what you read, and so forth. Great stuff, we forget that our children may not know how to read well out loud. Reading out loud has to be taught, and the book has wonderful suggestions.

The paragraphs in each selection are numbered and that makes it very easy to keep our place and to switch readers. For example, I'll read one paragraph and he'll read the next and I can always refer to the number if either of us "gets lost". The print is large and easy to follow.

Following each selection is a Questions section. This is five or six questions about the story. This is a good opportunity to review and make sure that he understood what we just read. Finally, is a Spell and Define section. We use these words for spelling and vocabulary. Each word is preceded by the number of the paragraph where it was used. If Aaron doesn't know the meaning of a word, he can look back in the reading to the numbered paragraph, and use the context clues to figure out what it means.

The McGuffey Reading Series includes books for every reading level, from an Eclectic Primer and Eclectic Pictorial Primer with Pictures up to the Eclectic Fourth Reader, appropriate for middle and high school. I purchased two copies of the reader so we could read together and I also purchased the Parent-Teacher Guide. This guide has suggestions for additional activities or questions for each lesson for all the readers. Best of all, I purchased the books from Amazon for under $4.00 each.

The Original McGuffey's Eclectic Third Reader (Eclectic school series) (Eclectic school series)

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Homeschooling Using Star Wars

Aaron is very interested in Star Wars, the movies, the characters, the video games, and YEAH! the books. He has been playing, Star Wars Republic Commando and studying the book, "Star Wars Complete Cross-Sections". He came up with what I think is a great idea to incorporate his interest in Star Wars into his homeschool projects. He suggested that he journal about the missions he was completing in the Republic Commando game. What a great suggestion. Why? Number one, he thought of it, number two it incorporates something that he isn't especially thrilled about doing, that is writing, and third he can practice his typing using Word on the computer.

I suggested that he just start typing to get his ideas on the paper, we would correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar afterward. He typed for a good 20 minutes and then we went over the draft and corrected it. What an excellent exercise in creative writing, spelling, and grammar. He did a very good job with his narration and vocabulary. We have two good days worth of material so far and are considering publishing them on his own blog. Another great exercise.

The interests our children have should be incorporated into the lessons we teach them each day as we homeschool.

Read it now at Star Wars by Aaron

Aaron is also working on his e-commerce site We'll talk about this in future posts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

American History Homeschooling

For our history lessons Aaron has been attending a one hour class once a week at Timothy Ministry at FBCW. They are using a history book called "All American History Uniting America's Story, Piece by Piece" by Celeste W. Rakes. The students in the class are doing pretty traditional stuff. They are filling out worksheets with the dates of the establishment of the colony, the key figures, the key settlements, and a few key events. At this point they are studying colonial America. The interest was quickly going by the wayside. So, we went to the library and choose several interesting books about the American colonies. The two I like best so far are "...If you Lived In Colonial Times" by Ann McGovern and "American Kids in History Colonial Days" by David C. King.

" ...If you Lived In Colonial Times" by Ann McGovern is in a question answer format answering such questions as What did colonial people look like? What did people eat? Did children go to school?. The answers were fascinating. The descriptions included what the adults and children wore and how the clothes were made by hand. The description of what they ate included the children's rhyme "Bean porridge hot, bean porridge cold, bean porridge in the pot nine days old." That is really what they ate. The description of school was very eye opening and hopefully illustrated to Aaron how blessed to are to be where we are today.

The second book, "American Kids in History Colonial Days" by David C. King has the story of the make believe family, the Mayhews, and what they do in all four seasons as a colonial family. The interesting part is the projects included in the sections. Today we measured the height of a tree in our yard the way they did in colonial times to make sure it was tall enough to be lumber for a project or a ship's mast. We determined the tree was 156 ft tall. Tomorrow we are going to make marbled paper or candles. Fun!

My lesson to myself that I hope to share with you is that whatever or wherever my child is learning, I have the responsibility to supplement it how ever I can. It is such a wonderful thing. Direct -- Leader in On Demand Tutoring

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fun Friday

Just so you don’t think I’m hard core, all work, all the time, we had “Fun Friday” yesterday. We had a literature unit including the DVD of the 1956 version of Herman Melville’s "Moby Dick" with Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab. The movie was very good and kept an 11 year old boy’s attention. The movie actually generated a lot of discussion. We went to the internet and looked up St. Elmo’s fire referenced in the movie, white whales, and the whaling industry. We also took an online quiz about the movie on one of the Cliff Notes web sites. Aaron learned that as detailed as a movie may seem, there is so much more in the book.

For math we played the Rummikub game. It was a good exercise in number order and strategy of how numbers can be put together in runs and groups. We had a very good day!

SmileMakers - Reward, Educate, Motivate

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What to Teach Your Homeschooled Child

The second most frequently asked questions I get are, “How do you know what to teach?” and, “Where do you get your material?” I started by realizing that I know my child better than anyone, I know how he learns, I know what his interest are, and I know as parents what our goals are for him.

I started researching the whole concept of homeschooling about 6 months before we actually started. Although the idea of homeschooling was floating around our home from the day Aaron started kindergarten in a private school. My actual first stop was our local library. I spent one afternoon with a stack of books in the library and then from the books I scanned, I choose a few to take home to review thoroughly.

Over a few weeks I read and read, and finally choose “Teaching the Trivium, Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style”, by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn. I bought the book and began to really study and highlight the ideas, philosophy, schedules, and the resources.

I attended a homeschooling fair and listened to some veteran homeschoolers talk about how and what they teach.

I use the internet all the time. A good link I found for information and curriculum is There are sites for everything you need to know, including your county and state’s homeschooling requirements.

When the time came to decide on and purchase books, a couple of things I read really impressed me, specifically about purchasing the “textbooks” the school systems use. The opinion is not to do it because textbooks are “dumbed down” to the lowest common reading and comprehension levels, and also the multicultural issues and politically correct points of view are included. So, needless to say I have not purchased any “textbooks”. I have however purchased two traditional school books, “The Original Blue Back Speller, New York 1824”, and “The Original McGuffey’s, Cincinnati 1837”. Both are wonderful books.

To summarize, I know what to teach because:
I know my child,
I know our goals and philosophy,
I read, read, and read,
I attended a homeschooling fair,
I talk to homeschoolers,
I research using the internet, and
I pray about this every day.

I purchased most of my material through the internet at and
I visited a Scholastic book fair and bought many supplemental materials such a poetry, art, crafts, history, reference books, and so forth.

Be confident, if something isn’t as you expected it to be, you can change it, come back to it later, or skip it altogether, that is one of the many wonderful things about teaching your children in your home.

In future posts I will detail exactly what I bought and how it is working out for us.

Monday, September 3, 2007

What is Our Day Like? Our Typical Homeschooling Day

When we tell people we homeschool, one of the first questions I am asked is, "What is your day like?" The following is a typical Day:

I get up early, about 7:00 or 7:30 to have some quiet time, read the newspaper, and have coffee. When Aaron gets up, about 7:45 or 8:00, we all have breakfast together, Mom, Dad, and Son.

The "school day" begins after we clean up the dishes and walk the dog. I don't really like to call it the "school day" because it is actually a "life day", how we spend our life.

We spend about one hour first thing doing Bible verse and Bible. Aaron reads the verse chosen for the day and reviews the verses from the previous days. He doesn't have to say them word for word, paraphrasing is ok. Then we read from where ever we left off in the Bible. I am using the suggested weekly Bible reading schedule from What Your Child Needs to Know When by Robin Sampson. Then, he writes the Bible verse to practice his copywork. He then can draw a picture from the story, write something in his own words, or any other additional appropriate activity.

If we do nothing else all day, the Bible lesson is the most important. The lesson incorporates reading, listening, penmanship, spelling, vocabulary, and sometimes even math. Did you know "a beka" is a unit of measure equal to .02 oz.?

Next, we practice our logic using, Building Thinking Skills Student Edition; Plus Instruction and Answer Guide - Level 3 Verbal - Two Book Set by Sandra Parks and Howard Black. This workbook is practice of critical thinking skills for reading, writing, math, and science. I did have to purchase the Instruction and Answer Guide as well as the Student Guide. We usually do one or two pages depending on the exercise.

Next comes reading. We chose the Original McGuffey's Eclectic School Series. Based on Aaron's reading level, we chose the The Original McGuffey's Eclectic Third Reader (Eclectic school series). It is great. In another post, I'll go into detail about why it is so amazing. Reading is again another hour.

Of course we can take a snack break in between।

Math is next. We are using the Saxon Math 7/6: Homeschool Edition.Again, more detail will follow about the Saxon Math series. We use the direction in the student guide and I also incorporate flash cards, addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division, also, time and money, into the warm up. We go through the new material together, then I fix lunch while Aaron works on the Lesson Practice. We have lunch and then he can finish his work on his own, with a little help when he needs it.

After lunch it is time for a walk to clear our heads and then finishing up any extra projects such as history reading, or timeline, or free reading. We are usually finished by 2:00 or 2:30.

I will go into detail about the math, reading,spelling, logic, and history lessons later. Also, physical activities and field trips are included in the plan.

We have great days working and playing together.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Peace in Our Home - I

“Mom, I have homework!”

Imagine your world, as a family without those dreaded words.

And others, like “I can’t do this”, or “I need glue, a poster board, and markers, tonight”.

You’ve heard that or some form of complaint, request, or demand at the end of a very busy day or worst of all, on Sunday evening.

Homeschooling is, in a word, peaceful. Our schedule is just that, ours. Homework is the work we do in our home during school time, not at the end of a very busy day.

Homework is not arbitrary, busy work assigned to do just that, keep children and parents busy. “I can’t do this” is replaced with “Mom, may I have some help”, and “I need….” Becomes “Let’s see what we have that we can use”.

Your most important duty as a parent is to train your children in the way they should go, and they will not stray from it.

Consider how your life would be if you could describe it as PEACFUL. Homeschool can be the answer.