December 15, 2009

Dear Oklahoma Homeschool Subscribers,

It's been a long time, hasn't it! I'm so sorry that I haven't kept up my newsletter while I am back in college, but I do have good news! I only have two semesters left! I just finished this semester on Tuesday. I'm going to take some time during Winter break to catch up on my homeschool writing. I do the spring semester, take summer off, then go back for three more classes. I plan to do the last three in the fall of 2009 and finish by Dec 2009; however, I might put one class off to do in the spring of 2010. When I'm done, I will have lots to say to you about college!

I hope your school year is going great so far. You should be winding down and taking off for the rest of December — that's my advice! I hope you enjoy this newsletter.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Cindy Downes

Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter, December 2008


What's New on the Oklahoma Homeschool Web site?

Updating Web site: I've been cleaning up my Web site by fixing broken links and adding new resources to replace out of date ones. I've also added a new page: Free Homeschool Curriculum.

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Curriculum/Book Review:

1. Review of Taking Back Astronomy: The Heavens Declare Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle.

The purpose of this book is to provide an introductory resource in the field of astronomy which interprets evidences from a biblical creation perspective. The book explores passages of Scripture which conflict with the current opinion of the majority of scientists regarding, among others, the age of the universe, the so-called "distant starlight problem," and the idea of extra-terrestrial life.

In Lisle's words, "Many people think the creation versus evolution debate is about evidence, and although the evidence is important, evidence is always interpreted through a person's world view. So the debate is really about world views. The debate is over which interpretation of the evidence is best. Think about it this way: both creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence. They have access to the same fossils and the same rocks. They study the same principles of genetics, chemistry and physics. They observe the same universe. Why then do they draw such different conclusions when it comes to matters of origins? Ultimately, it is because they have different world views, and so they interpret the same evidence differently."

Lisle has created this book to help us understand Astronomy through the biblical world view. There are five chapters: The Splendor of God's Creation, The Universe Confirms the Bible, The Age of the Universe, The Bible and Modern Astronomy, and War of the World Views.

The comprehension level is about 9th grade and up, but used as family reading in small chunks and depending upon the interest of the child, it could be used for other grade levels.

Lisle includes analogies to help make difficult concepts easier to grasp, such as showing a balloon expanding with points on the balloon getting farther away to explain the concept of the expanding universe. A glossary in the back of the book helps with definitions of unknown terms.

The book is printed on glossy paper and features full-color photos and illustrations.

Dr. Jason Lisle graduated summa cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University where he double-majored in physics and astronomy and minored in mathematics. He received his master's degree and Ph.D. from University of Colorado in Boulder.

I highly recommend this book for students who are interested in astronomy and physics and all students headed for college. For the general student, I would suggest other resources from Master Books such as Astronomy by Design.

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Teaching Without Textbooks -

The following is a book review but it's also a great way to teach without textbooks. I hope you enjoy!

Nature Portfolio Throughout the Year by Barbara Shukin.

I loved this resource as soon as I opened the package! Nature Portfolio Throughout the Year by Barbara Shukin is perfect for those of us who enjoy nature and creating memory albums. The product is well made and should last a lifetime with care.

Shukin wrote the course for 6-10 year olds, but I would recommend it for any child who likes this type of learning. Although it is an introductory science course, it could be used to provide enrichment activities for older students. The goal is to complete 1-2 pages a week, but any time frame could be used.

The book is divided into four sections according to the seasons. The seasons are then divided into ecosystems: Yards and Gardens, Woods and Fields, Ponds and Streams, Desert Lands, and Along the Seashore.

You can purchase the suggested nature guides or use an encyclopedia or library books to complete the course. A field guide is highly recommended for outdoor exploration.

Although Shukin has prepared a teacher's guide for the book, many of you, like me, will go off on your own tangent! And that's exactly what she wants us to do! Just for fun, here's how I would use the book

  • I would use it three times a week for science class during one semester and spend 60-90 minutes each class. I would choose one season out of the book to do a year and save the rest for another year. Each of my lessons would include the following activities and would be in place of any other science.

  • I would make a list of the animals and plants being studied for the semester and carry it in my purse for reference.

  • On Day 1 of the lesson, I would take the family for a hike, go to the zoo or natural science museum and view the subjects of the semester up close.

  • I would have the kids take photos of, draw, and/or write about the animals that we looked at.

  • On Day 2 and each subsequent day, I would read, as a family, a children's book or nature guide article about the subject(s) being studied that day. For older kids, recommend some other books that they can read on their own. Search for ideas ahead of time. (Limit to 5-10 minutes family reading time.)

  • As a family, we would do an internet search for online resources about the subjects. Use search terms like "millipede and crafts" or "millipede and color page." Add other filters like "facts," "webquest," "online activity," "recipe," or "worksheet." Give assignments to each child based on what comes up in this search. Do some as a family or assign individually. (Limit to 20 minutes family time.)

  • Complete the picture part of the page using Shukin's included illustrations. For kids who would rather create their own, they could use their drawings and photos from the field trip or search the internet for other illustrations to use instead of the ones provided. (Limit to 10 minutes family time.)

  • Insert the appropriate writing form for the day and complete the writing assignment as Shukin suggested, or for your creative child, have them write their own text, story, or poem. For younger children or children who have difficulty writing, I would have them dictate to me what they want to say. (Limit to 10 minutes family time.)

  • Anytime during the semester that I saw anything related to our subjects such as TV shows, movies, magazine articles, etc., I would integrate that in the lessons.

  • On the last day of the semester, I would take another hike, go to the zoo or natural science museum and enjoy looking at more of the subjects studied during the semester. Have a picnic, celebrate, buy your children a game or puzzle related to a subject as a reward for a job well done.

Warning: This is not a course that homeschoolers who prefer traditional curriculum will enjoy. I recommend this for creative, eclectic homeschoolers who like to do their own thing.

But, for those like me, I'm positive you will enjoy using this book as the basis of a family study in nature. And when you're done, be sure to check off the topics in The Checklist. This is a perfect resource for those of you who own The Checklist!

And don't forget! When you're done, be sure to keep track of your studies in The Checklist!

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New to Homeschooling? or Changing Your Teaching Style? Here are some tips:

1. Where are you now? Do some assessment first.

  • Don't purchase curriculum until you know your child's needs.
  • Where is your child now in math? Reading? Grammar? Composition?
  • What is your child's learning style? What is your teaching style? Do they conflict? How can you merge the two? What type of curriculum works and what doesn't?
  • What budget do you have available to purchase curriculum?

2. Determine where you want to go:

  • Set goals for each child. List specific classes and learning experiences your child will need to take in order to accomplish the goals for this year.
  • What classes will he take to correct reading, math, grammar and composition deficiencies?
  • What classes will she take to fulfill graduation requirements.
  • What classes or other resources will he use to further his career goals?
  • What resources will you use to teach character building, Bible, and life skills?

3. Now - Choose how you will get there.

  • Now it's time to obtain the curriculum and other resources to meet your goals.
  • Look for freebies on the Internet.
  • Borrow books at the library.
  • Talk to other homeschoolers about resources they use to accomplish similar goals. Keep in mind learning styles!
  • Go to a homeschool convention. It's a great place to find out what's available and you will usually get discounts and save shipping!
  • Go to college and trade school book stores. You may find some great resources there that you never thought of.
  • Look through my Curriculum recommendations, especially if you enjoy multi-level teaching and unit studies or if you have Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic learners. There are also suggestions for Career Training resources.

Feel free to use my step-by-step guide and free forms to help you plan your spring term. Some specific forms that will help you are:

  • Curriculum Shopping Checklist
  • Goal Setting Form
  • High School Planning Guide
  • PreK-Kindergarten Assessment Form
  • Primary School Planning Form
  • Schedule - Daily and Weekly
  • US and World History Scope and Sequence Planning Form

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Oklahoma Information and Resources:

1. The Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provides over 52,000 recreational fiction and nonfiction audio and braille books on loan to people who cannot see to read regular print or who cannot hold a book due to a physical disability. Books, playback equipment and catalogs of our collection are mailed postage-free. The Library also offers on loan large print and braille textbooks, as well as aids and equipment to private, public and home schools who have blind and visually impaired students in pre-kindergarten to grade 12. For more information, please contact Vicky Golightly, Public Information Officer, at (405) 522-0526 or toll-free at 1-800-523-0288.

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. Testing Proves Success of Graduates. An article in the Washington Times talks about the success of homeschool graduates.

2. Free Science Curriculum! Online at Classic Science. Includes a 36-week elementary life science course, ages 6-9.

3. Historical Figures Bookmarks. Print them out and learn facts about historical figures such as Susan B. Anthony, Benjamin Franklin and Sacagawea.

4. Homeschool Science Academy - Offers Anatomy Camps.

5. My Own Business. Your teen can take this free online course to learn how to start his own business. NOTE: You don't have to buy the book or enroll in the certification program to get the free online course.

6. My Money. Free instruction materials for teaching kids about money.

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Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world. These are the 11 things:

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up,it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one."

Bill Gates

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If you'd like to be added to the Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter mailing list, please email back with "Subscribe" in the subject line, along with your city and state or country and how long you have homechooled.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This newsletter is ©Copyright 2008 by Cindy Downes. All rights reserved.

PRIVACY POLICY. Your name and email address will always remain completely confidential. I do not sell, loan, or share any subscriber or customer information for any reason. Your information will never be used for any purpose other than delivery of my e-newsletter and to occasionally inform you of updates to the Oklahoma Homeschool website.

If you want to be removed from this mailing list, please send a blank email with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject line.

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