September 1 , 2008

Dear Oklahoma Homeschool Subscribers,

Hello everyone. It appears that this is Review Month for me. I'm back in college, doing an internship for Oklahoma Magazine, and trying to keep up with my retired husband! So my time is short. I completed my Associates Degree in June by CLEPing out of the last three classes. Now, I have 30 credit hours left to finish my Bachelor's Degree. I should be done in December 2009. I am SO looking forward to finishing and getting back to writing! I have so much to tell you about college!

I did get time to do quite a few book reviews. I also included my article, "How to Travel Your Way to a Good Education."

I hope you enjoy the book reviews and the article.

Have a great September!

Cindy Downes

Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter, September 2008


Curriculum/Book Review:

1. Creative and Crafty Writing by Karine Bauch and Jan May.

Creative and Crafty Writing is just what you need to help your visual and kinethetic students learn to write. The Christian-based program offers twelve, one-hour lessons that will teach your student to write a fable, a news story, and a short story. With each lesson, the student not only learns the techniques of writing, but he or she also creates a craft project to supplement the lesson. This is where the curriculum shines!

For instance, the lessons on Writing a Narrative (short story) begin with learning about theme and setting. The students learn to describe the time and place for their story by completing a worksheet that guides them through the process. I particularly like the way the author incorporates vivid adjectives into the lesson.

After completing this lesson on theme and setting, the student creates a thematic pencil holder to further emphasize the theme element. Subsequent lessons work on creating characters, plot (conflict, complications, climax, and conclusion), dialogue, great beginnings, and title selection, each with additional craft projects to make them really fun!

Other lessons in the book include creating a newspaper, complete with clip art to cut out and use for illustrations and writing a fable in a student-created My Treasure notebook. Each lesson takes about one hour to complete.

This curriculum makes a great summer project, or use it to teach specific writing skills during the year, such as those found in The Checklist, page 130-131 (Writing Project Ideas). For more information or to order, check their Web site.


According to a report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 31 percent of eighth graders and 34 percent of twelfth graders meet the National Assessment of Educational Progress standard of reading 'proficiency' for their grade level. A report entitled, An Examination of College Writing Skills: Have They Deteriorated? describes a study done on writing samples from 1956 to 1993 in which it was shown that "college students' writing ability has declined." A 2007 Cal State University system reports that nearly half of their incoming freshman scored below proficient in English placement tests. Employers complain that their employees can't think for themselves or solve simple problems. These is a serious trend that will affect our country as well as our families. But, as home schoolers, you can do something about it and the TRISMS curriculum is one tool that can help you. They offer several products for grades 6 - 12. Age of Revolution comes in two volumes. The first semester covers 1850 through the 1920s. Semester two covers 1930-2005. This review covers Age of Revolution, Second Semester.

If you are looking for college-preparatory curriculum for high school, look no further. Age of Revolution, Second Semester is a research-based course that covers one semester in high school; however, there is enough material to use for one whole year. When your student completes both semesters of Age of Revolution, your student earns 1 high school credit in US History, 1 credit in Modern World History, 1 credit in Political Science, 1 credit in Modern Humanities, and 1 credit in Literature as well as partial credit in subjects such as Economics, Speech, Rhetoric, and Geography. The teacher's manual includes a sample transcript showing how to award credits.

The topics covered in Age of Revolution, Second Semester, are American presidents, world powers and leaders, wars and battles, Nobel Prize winners, art, music, architecture, rhetoric, and logic. You, as the teacher, can work with your student or the instructions are simple enough that your self-motivated student can work his or her own way through the curriculum.

In the process of working through the curriculum, the student creates a notebook. All the forms for this notebook are included in the set price and can be purchased separately for additional children.

I LOVE this notebook! The student will research the questions on their own using books, magazines, and the Internet. No short answer, T/F, multiple choice on these worksheets! For instance, each lesson includes an American President research form. Your student not only has to find out when he served, what party he belonged to, and who he ran against, but he must also research the president's foreign and domestic policies, the leading social issue of his day, controversies surrounding this president, and even write his or her own opinion about the president's term in office. Other notebook pages include map studies, nobel prize winners, famous people, wars, art, music and architecture. Also included are Rhetoric worksheets for classical learners and a worksheet that assesses the student's overall knowledge of the subject area. Again, this must be researched. For example, in the 1970-1979 worksheet, the student must research Roe vs. Wade, existentialism, the social statement of music in the '70s, Watergate, how Upton Sinclair's book, The Jungle, brought change in government regulations, environmental issues, and much more! Students are also required to create a timeline of events and learn vocabulary relevant to the period.

Your student will read books such as My Antonia, Life on the Mississippi, Out of the Dust, and The Testament. Movie suggestions are also included such as Gods and Generals, Rough Riders, Sgt. York, The Inn of Sixth Happiness, and Apollo 13.

Online research links are included as well. This list of Internet links will help your students with their research and includes links to famous people, art, flags, maps, timelines, as well as audio and video links that relate to the course. And because it is set in our time period, students have an opportunity to interview family members, veterans of various wars, living authors, artists and musicians. As the author says, "One of the primary goals is to teach students to ask questions, find answers, and transfer information from reading to thinking, to writing, and to speaking."

Recommendations: I heartily recommend all TRISM products for college-prep students and students who enjoy reading, writing, and research. Having just completed college American History and American Government, I can assure you that this curriculum will prepare your student for college-level American History!

I would not recommend this particular unit for students who have difficulty reading and writing. It will take too much time that would better be used learning basic subjects and specific career preparation courses. However, I would suggest looking into TRISMS: History Makers. This curriculum is sold as a middle school product, but it could be used in high school over a period of two to three years to teach research and writing skills. It has the same format as other TRISMS product, but includes easier reading selections such as Detectives in Togas, Achimedes and the Door of Science, How Did We Find Out About Germs, and Call of the Wild. It covers world history from 3500 B.C. to the Present and includes the same notebook approach as the other TRISMS products. It's well worth doing - just do it slower! TRISMS: History Maker also prepares students for the advanced work given in other TRISMS products, should they decide to take them.

3. Three NEW History Pockets!

I love these resources. They are just perfect for the Read/Write and Visual learner — kids who love to cut and paste and color and make little booklets. They work well with The Checklist (American Revolution - pages 82-84; American Civil War - pages 93-95; Ancient Rome - pages 48-51.) as part of a Unit Study or as an enrichment project for textbooks.

Evan-Moor recently released three new books: The American Revolution, The American Civil War, and Ancient Rome. Check them out!

4. KitBook: Electric Circuits by Ed Basconi and David M. Jones

Calling all Kinethetic learners! Here's a product that offers hands-on fun as well as thoughtful instruction. The kit contains everything you need, including the batteries. The instruction book is clear and easy to read. It contains nine different lab experiments that are completed with the attached "power Page" and included components.

I had a terrific time building a lamp, a buzzer, and a simple circuit. I then experimented with conductors, insulators, switches, circuits in a series, parallel circuits, and electromagnets. The components were first class and I loved the way you simply "snapped in" the components on the "power page." No wires to cut and no soldering. And, because the components are snapped in, you can use the kit over and over again!

The Student Workbook contains eight chapter reviews composed of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and essay-type questions. I like the fact that the students have to actually learn something to complete the reviews. I can see why this won a Parents' Choice Award!

I recommend that you use this kit with page 163 of The Checklist. This kit would also make a wonderful Christmas or birthday gift.

For more info, visit their Web site.

5. Homeschool Psych: Preparing Christian Homeschool Students for Psych 101 by Dr. Tim Rice

As many of you know, I am currently in college and also have a child in college. What I am learning is not just academics, but also the effect of college on our Christian students. I've watched first-hand as MOST of our own church kids go to college and then begin to struggle with their faith. Many are leaving it behind altogether. What I have learned from this is that our kids not only need to have an excellent academic and Biblical education, but we must also equip them to live and work in the secular world, as well. Don't shelter your child from the theories of the world and then send them to college (or work) where they hear them for the first time. Instead, introduce these theories while they are home with you in the context of your Christian worldview.

Many of you already do that with history, science, and literature. Now, there's a way to do that for Psychology. If your child is going to college, it is extremely likely that they will have to take Psychology 101. Thanks to Dr. Time Rice, there is now a way to prepare them for it, while they are at home with you.

The goal of this textbook is to help prepare Christian homeschool students for college-level, introductory psychology. The course comprises two parts. Part I teaches the history and background of psychology and why it needs to be taught in a Christian worldview. Dr. Rice also gives examples of how the study of psychology can be used to serve God in the world of mental health care, business, child care, marriage counseling, missions, and more.

Part II includes an overview of key concepts commonly taught in an introductory psychology class. This is the fun part! Your student will learn all about the brain, the nervous system, personality, and the theories of many famous psychologists. Part of the lessons include researching these psychologists to find out about their worldview and how it affected their theories - a real eye opener! A workbook is included with excellent, thought-provoking questions to answer that will lead the student to an understanding of psychology from a Christian worldview so that he or she will be prepared to intelligently discuss psychology in a secular classroom.

Dr. Rice realizes that Christians have varying views of psychology and is careful to avoid pushing his opinion on the student. His goal is only to introduce the student to what they will learn in a college classroom. Therefore, he keeps his opinions out and allows the parents to teach it in the context of their own views. As he says, " It is not the purpose of this text to settle any arguments between Christians."

I highly recommend this textbook for students preparing for college. Document this course on page 170 of The Checklist. For more information on Dr. Rice and Homeschool Psych, visit his Web site.

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Teaching Without Textbooks -

How to Travel Your Way to a Good Education . . .

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” The words of Augustine remind us that there is no better way to learn than to walk in the places where history was made, touch the natural world that God created, and visit the homes and workplaces of the world’s greatest artists, musicians, writers, and humanitarians.

As a homeschooling family, you have the unique opportunity of being able to take a few weeks off each year to travel, whether locally or around the world. Why not make the most of these experiences by creating lesson plans based on your travels? Not only will you stimulate your child’s interest in the places you visit, but you’ll also make learning more enjoyable and productive.

Here are some tips on how to create simple, multi-level lesson plans based on your travels:

Step 1. Choose a focus. Research your destination and answer questions such as: How does this destination relate to the history of our state, country, or world? On what person or event does this destination focus - historically or in current events? What topics in science, Bible, art, music, literature, PE, health, business, etc. can be taught that relate to this destination?

For example, a field trip to the Oklahoma City National Memorial in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, will naturally focus on the events of 9/11. The focus for a trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, however, might be narrowed down to a particular event such as the Underground Railroad, a particular person such as Benjamin Franklin, or even a particular animal in the Philadelphia Zoo.

Step 2: Set a time schedule. Decide how long you’ll spend on the unit and schedule it to be completed just before the trip begins. Two to three weeks is a good time frame for a local field trip unit whereas a trip to a large city may require six weeks or more, depending upon how much you wish to cover.

Read the rest of this article at:

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Internet Resources:

1. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. This old classic is rather difficult to read in the Old English version. Here is a side by side translation that is very helpful for college-prep students.

2. Speaking of classics, here is a list of classics by author. How many do you have? How many have you read?

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""You teach best what you most need to learn." — Richard David Bach

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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:

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

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Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes