August 1 , 2008

Dear Oklahoma Homeschool Subscribers,

Only a few more days until school starts! I'm not getting done what I wanted to get done this summer, but I am ready to get back to college!

I'm currently working on a new project that I had hoped to get completed by time school starts, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen. It may be a while yet. Sigh!

This newsletter includes a couple of reviews, an article I've written on developing future authors, and a couple of neat Web sites to bookmark. I've also made a couple of new forms for you. Check them out in the forms section below.

Enjoy the rest of summer and have a wonderful 2008-2009 school year!

Cindy Downes

Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter, August 2008


What's New on the Oklahoma Homeschool Website?


Updated: Contests page.

Not on this Web site, but I wanted you to know that my personal home page is finally up! It still needs some tweaking and I'm working on new materials to add to it, but I thought I'd let you see it before everyone else.

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Curriculum/Book Review:

1. Look for TRISMS Review is next month. So far, I love it!

2. It Wasn't Much, Ten True Tales of Oklahoma Heroes by Jana Hausburg.

Although It Wasn't Much is recommended for juvenile readers, I thoroughly enjoyed it myself. It makes learning history as easy as eating candy! The stories are short and easy to read, but they are packed with adventure, heroic exploits, historical facts, and inspiration. There are ten biographies of not-so-well known Oklahoma heroes such as Rosemary Hogan who was a nurse during World War I in the Philippines and a POW, Fern Holland, an Oklahoma Cherokee, who joined the Peace Corp and was killed while serving in Iraq; Rufino Rodrigues who rescued 150 miners at the risk of his own life; and Robbie Risner, from Tulsa, who kept up the morale of his fellow Vietnam POWs from the time he was captured in 1965 until the time he was released in 1973.

Included in each chapter is more information about the setting of the story, definitions of difficult terms, suggestions for additional reading, a list of Internet resources related to the topic, and a list of places to visit in Oklahoma that compliment the story. And finally, on the Web site, there are additional pages of study resources, discussion questions, writing exercises, and teacher resources. A lot for your money!

For more information or to purchase, see the publisher's Web site: Forty-Sixth Star Press.

3. Projects You Can Build Yourself series.

In the process of working on the American History course, I discovered a series of books which include projects for the study of American History. The series includes: Great Colonial American Projects You Can Build Yourself, Great Civil War Projects You Can Build Yourself, Great Pioneer Projects Projects You Can Build Yourself, and Great World War II Projects You Can Build Yourself.

Each of these books could be the basis of a unit study on its own. For instance, in the Colonial projects book, it not only includes lots of hands-on projects to do related to the topic, but also an overview of Colonial life, a timeline of the colonies, and a brief introduction to the early colonial settlements. You'll meet all the major characters, and learn some vocabulary as well. A few of the projects include making your own Wampum, building a miniature Wattle-and-Daub house, making dye from marigolds, and creating a tin plate. There are over 40 projects included in the book. If you like hands-on projects, these books are for you!

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Teaching Without Textbooks -

1. I am reading the book, Talent is Never Enough by John Maxwell, and came across some statistics that will interest those of you who are homeschooling teenagers. On page 2, Maxwell states:

  • More than 50 percent of all CEO's of Fortune 500 companies had C or C- averages in college.
  • Sixty-five percent of all U.S. senators came from the bottom half of their school class.
  • Seventy-five percent of U.S. presidents were in the Lower-Half Club in school.
  • More than 50 percent of millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college!

So, next time you think your average child is never going to amount to anything, remember these statistics! And read this book!

2. Developing Future Authors

Do you have a potential author in your homeschool? Do you find that your children can fill in all the English textbook pages but still can’t write an acceptable report? Whether your child is a budding author or just needs to learn practical writing skills, here are some ideas that will help make a difference in your writing program.

A good place to start is your local bookstore (or library). Pick up books that are written for professional writers. What better way to learn to write than to study what the masters are using! (You will need to be careful to watch the content.) Two of my favorite resources for writers are Elements of Style by Strunk and White and 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost. Each of these resources will not only help you to teach your children how to be a great writer, but writing mechanics and grammar, as well.

100 Ways To Improve Your Writing covers: getting ideas, writing strong beginnings, avoiding wordiness, developing style, making your writing interesting, and editing yourself. I love this quote from pg. 116, "Prefer good writing to good grammar. Keep in mind that good grammar, even perfect grammar, does not guarantee good writing any more than a good referee guarantees a good basketball game…There is nothing virtuous about good grammar that does not work. Your goal is good writing. Good grammar is only one of the tools you use to achieve it."

Or how about this one from page 63, "You should try to write complete sentences. However, if your high school English teachers told you that all incomplete sentences were unacceptable, they were wrong. Good writing often contains incomplete sentences. The incomplete sentence is a useful tool. Used wisely it can invigorate the music of your words. Like a chime. Or the beat of a drum."

In spite of these precautions against getting caught up in the perfect grammar cycle, there is plenty of information on how to make your writing better because of good grammar. Mr. Provost covers the importance of using the right tenses, how to use possessive cases properly, making verbs agree with subjects, avoiding dangling modifiers, being consistent in your use of pronoun form, avoiding split infinitives, and using proper punctuation.

See if you can determine what’s wrong with these sentences: (1) My families dogs don't eat table scraps. (2) In drawing the picture, his wife was used as the model. (3) One of the nicest memories Linda has are those memories of her wedding. (4) After one has written a paper, they should take a break. (5) She wanted to quickly run the race. If you weren’t sure of the answers, 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing will help you find out. And the best thing is that all this grammar can be learned in a way that makes sense instead of doing it merely to fill in the blanks. Just have your students apply what they learn from books such as this to their daily writing assignments, and writing mechanics will take on new meaning.
Elements of Style covers rules of usage, principles of composition, matters of form, commonly misused words and expressions, and commonly misspelled words. This is the standard style guide for the writing industry. You can even access the original Elements of Style on the Internet.

Other choices of "real books" for budding authors are: On Writing Well by William Zinsser (a classic for authors) and Building Believable Characters published by Writer’s Digest Books (a great resource for teaching character development). As soon as your children are ready to write some historical fiction, check out: Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages, and others in this series (Colonial America, 1800s, Phohibition and WWII). They are currently out of print, but used copies are available. These neat books give you everything you need to know to write about these historical periods including: type of dress, occupations, food, government, schooling, etc. And they make excellent resources to have around for history reports, too!

Give it a try! Put your grammar textbook down for a week or two, obtain a copy of 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing, and begin an adventure that could lead your child into a career in writing!

2. And don't forget! When you're done, be sure to add what your children did for writing to your copy of The Checklist!

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FREE Forms:

1. NEW! US and World History Scope and Sequence for multi-level Unit Studies. (You'll need to print this on LEGAL size paper.) Use this form to plan your US and World History. I recommend picking a grade based on your oldest child; then put the rest of the children in the same subjects based on their age. If they are in elementary school, use the topics from grades 1-6. If in 7th and above, use the topics from 7th and above. For instance, if I have a child in 9th grade, one in 7th , and one in 2nd grade, I would pick the 10th grade topics for both my 10th and 7th grader. I would then pick the 3rd grade topics for my 2nd grader. This way, we would all be on the same topics, but my 2nd grader would not cover everything the older children do and would spend more time on fewer topics. You would be able to read aloud books together, do hands-on projecs together, and then assign extra reading, composition, and other individual work based on the grade level. I hope you like it!

2. NEW! State and Local Officials Worksheet: Students can use this form to record your state and local officials.

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Oklahoma Information and Resources:

1. Oklahoma History Online by Cindy Downes. An online, multi-level curriculum for teaching Oklahoma History.

2. Oklahoma Scrapbook: A Travel Guide and Memory Book for Exploring Oklahoma by Cindy Downes.

3. For more info and learning materials about Oklahoma history, check my website at:

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Internet Resources:

1. Looking for a book to go along with your unit study?.Try the Database of Award Winning Literature. Here you can search for a book by age, grade level, historical period, genre, keyword and more. You'll want to bookmark this one!

2. Vocabulary Practice - increase your vocabulary by using this resource everyday! Another good one is

3. Want to know what type of vocabulary your child will read in a book? Try Vocabulary Classic Texts. Create a vocabulary list and learn the words as you read the book!

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"Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don't know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it." — Sir William Haley

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Have a great day!


Cindy Downes

Have you seen The Checklist? It's an assessment tool, lesson planner and K-12 Recordkeeper created for Christian Home Educators:

Oklahoma History Online is now available! Check it out at:

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Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes