February 1 , 2008

Dear Oklahoma Homeschool Subscribers,

Do you sometimes wonder, "Why am I homeschooling? Am I really making a difference? Or am I just ruining my kids?"

I remember thinking like this many times during my homeschooling years. As a veteran of homeschooling who educated my children from K-12th grade, let me give you three words of encouragement. KEEP ON GOING!

As many of you know, I've been back in college at a public institution. At age 58, I wonder sometimes why I am doing this. But I think one of the reasons I am back in college is to be reminded how broken the public system is. Yes, I've had some good teachers and they do make the system better.

But I also had WAY too many bad ones. It's not that they didn't care - it's just that some had no ability to teach; others were limited by the system in how they teach. The only way I learned in these classes was by "homeschooling" myself through the curriculum and by using alternative resources that I found on the Internet and in bookstores. In some cases, I learned more than was taught because what was expected of the students was so little. (That was really frustrating when I am paying my own money to learn from them!)

Don't ever think you're not qualified to teach your children. If you love your kids and put their education as a priority in your life, you will teach as well or even better than many of those who have "credentials." Having a "credential" does not make one a good teacher.

What does make a good teacher? I'll give you an example of one from a class I had a OSU. My logic teacher, Mary Gwin, was what I call a good teacher. She wasn't what you would call a motivational speaker, but you could tell that she loved teaching. She came to class excited and energetic. You knew she put effort into her lesson plans. Her lectures were organized and her assignments were planned ahead. Most importantly, she cared about the students in her class. Because we lost class time for various reasons, she was forced to go faster through the curriculum than normal, and this left us behind. But instead of lowering the standards, she went out of her way to help us catch up. She lent me extra resources to study. She emailed me extra practice problems and the answers. She stayed after class to explain difficult concepts. There was no excuse for me to not make a A, and I did!

That's what you do as a homeschool parent - every day! You love your students because they're your kids. You seek out other resources if the ones you are using don't work. You sacrifice your free time in order to make sure your kids learn. That's what makes YOU A GOOD TEACHER! Not a credential.

This month, I've added a new unit study on Immigration; printable, immigration-theme writing paper; and some fun internet resources I've recently discovered. I hope you enjoy this issue of the OKHS Newsletter.

Have a great February!

Cindy Downes

Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter, February 2008


Curriculum/Book Review:

1. Books no homeschool library should be without - Primary Sources:

The World's Great Speeches edited by Lewis Copeland, Lawrence W. Lamm and Stephen J. McKenna. Compiled into one resources are all the great speeches of the ages - from Pericles and Socrates to Winston Churchill.

Great American Speeches edited by Gregory Suriano. A more complete representation of American speeches.

Words That Built a Nation, A Young Person's Collection of Historic American Documents by Marilyn Miller. This easy-to-read book helps students understand some of the great documents of our country. Including in the book are The Mayflower Compact, Poor Richard's Almanack, Common Sense, Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights, The Star-Spangled Banner, The Monroe Doctrine, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Emancipation Proclamation, The Gettysburg Address, The Fourteenth Amendment, I Will Fight No More Forever, Chief Joseph, Twenty Years at Hull-House, James Addams, and many more - 37 in all. Each entry includes a brief history of the document, information about who wrote the document, the response to the document, photos and illustrations related to the document, and the complete text of the document (excerpts from the text of books).

1. Book Review: "What Really Happened in . . ." compiled by Terri Johnson.

Terri Johnson has collected a variety of historical biographies written by various authors and compiled them into books according to time periods.

"What Really Happened in Ancient Times" includes biographies on Eve, Noah, Gilgamesh, Imhotep, Daniel, Cyrus the Great, Eratosthenes, and Constantine.

"What Really Happened During the Middle Ages" includes biographies on St. Patrick, Theodora, Alcuin, Good King Wenseslas, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc, Johann Gutenberg, and Martin Luther.

What Really Happened in Colonial Times includes biographies of Pocahontas, Lady Alicia Lisle, James Cook, Rachel Walker Revere (Paul Revere's wife), Admiral Lord Nelson, Catherine Ferguson, Lucretia Mott, and Narcissa Whitman.

The books are easy to read and written to interest students of all ages, whether as a read-aloud or read alone (recommended for ages 8+). These books are guaranteed to get your children interested in history! The biographies are written by current authors and even some homeschoolers! Highly recommended. I'm looking forward to reading "What Really Happened in Modern Times" coming out in Spring 2008.

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Teaching Without Textbooks - Immigration


1. Research

Immigration Timeline (all ages)

Ellis Island History. (4th+)

Statue of Liberty Facts (all ages)

On the Trail of the Immigrant - photos and text that tell the story of immigration. (gr 4-12)

Tour of Ellis Island Watch videos, listen to interviews, view photos as you take an interactive adventure at Ellis Island. (all ages)

First Immigrant Landed on Ellis Island - 15-year-old Annie Moore in 1892. (all ages)

Great photos from Ellis Island. View slideshow. (gr. 4-12)

More photos about Immigration. (all ages)

Read about the Statue of Liberty. and Statue of Liberty Handbook (gr 6-12)

Poem about the Statue of Liberty (all ages)

Read about the Gilded Age. (all ages)

2. Books to Read

Annushka's Voyage by Edith Tarbescu tells the story of the journey of two immigrant Jewish girls' trip to America. 32 pgs. (K-4)

Ellis Island (Cornerstones of Freedom) By R. Conrad Stein (K-6+)

Ellis Island by Carol Highsmith. Words, photos, and descriptions of Ellis Island. (5-8+)

If Your Name was Changed at Ellis Island by Ellen Levine. (K-6+)

Life at Ellis Island by Sally Isaacs. See what it was like to be an immigrant disembarking, and what you would do if you could go on to America, of if you were kept behind. (K-6+)

Recreating American Immigration by Dana Wilbanks. Explores U.S. immigration and refugee policy from a Christian perspective. (gr 6-12)

3. Activities to Do:

Complete this Ellis Island Junior Ranger Booklet (gr. 4-6)

Statue of Liberty Cutout Activity. (gr. 4+)

Statue of Liberty Color Page and Color Page 2 (K-4)

Port of Entry: Immigration - Online Activity (gr. 4-12)

Interpreting Statistics. (gr. 5-8+)

Use Teaching with Document Analysis Worksheets to analyze the primary documents viewed in this unit. (gr. 4-12)

For fun: watch The Immigrant (silent movie with Charlie Chaplin). All ages.

Movie: Moscow on the Hudson with Robin Williams, 1984. Rent.

Cut & Assemble New York Harbor. (gr. 4-12)

Create a family tree. Include immigrant information, if available. (gr. 4-12)

Read the poem written by Emma Lazarus.

Listen to and sing along with "Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor"

Other poems and songs about the Statue of Liberty.

Take the INS test for Immigrants and see if you can pass!

Clip art and photos of the Statue of Liberty.

More Activities to Do:

Everyday Life: Immigration. Includes reproducible activity pages for math, vocabulary, reading comprehension, critical thinking, geography, writing, drama, and arts and crafts. Grades 4-8.

2. And don't forget! When you're done, be sure to add what your children did for the Immigration unit to pgs. 98 - 100 in your copy of The Checklist!

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FREE Forms:

Immigration Thematic Paper. Use this immigration-theme writing paper to write about the Statue of Liberty or Immigration. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Write a biographical report on Frederic-Auguste Barthold or Emma Lazarus.

Write a poem about the Statue of Liberty or immigration.

Write a letter to someone "back home" about your immigration to America.

Write a diary entry about landing at Ellis Island.

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Oklahoma Resources:

1. Oklahoma Homeschool Moms Information Network. Ellen Latimer edits an excellent Homeschool Mail List. On this list, you can learn about events happening in Oklahoma that homeschoolers would be interested in, there are files chock full of information about homeschooling, contests, book reviews, classes, articles of interest, health & wellness, encouragement, homeschool resources, and MUCH MORE!

2. OCHEC is a statewide organization providing encouragement and support to those who endeavor to faithfully train and educate their children at home. Check out its Web page for information about Capitol Day on February 12, the BIG homeschool convention on May 2-3, and the Leader's Retreat in July. It also maintains an extensive list of homeschool support groups located throughout the state. Sign up for the Informer Magazine and the OCHEC e-newsletter, too!

2. Tulsa achieves: Applications for the 2008 Tulsa Achieves class will be accepted beginning January 2008.

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

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

6. For more info and learning materials about Oklahoma history, check my website at: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/teachOKH.html

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Internet Resources:

1. Interactive Timeline. Create your own timeline with this handy tool!

2. Math Mammoth. Free worktexts and worksheets for math!

3. Free audio books:

Frederick Douglass - Free audio download of the life of Frederick Douglass.

Red Badge of Courage - Free audio download of the book, Red Badge of Courage.

4. Free Bible Courses - I am taking the "Know Why You Believe" course myself. Highly recommended!

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"The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live." —

Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Have a great day!


Cindy Downes
Web site:

Have you seen The Checklist? It's an assessment tool, lesson planner and K-12 Recordkeeper created for Christian Home Educators: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/checklist.html

Oklahoma History Online is now available! Check it out at: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/okhist.html

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Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes