December 26, 2007

Dear OKHS Subscribers,

I can hardly believe that it is almost 2008! How time flies when you're in college! I'm so sorry that I haven't been writing as much for the homeschool world as I had hoped, but perhaps this semester I will do better. I'm only taking two courses - Introduction to Public Relations and Comparative Justice Systems. Four classes was a bit too much for me with everything else I do (although I did get all A's!). It will take me a year longer to finish my degree, but I've waited this long; I guess another year won't hurt!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I enjoyed (and am still enjoying) my time off from school and had fun being with family and friends whom I have neglected for the past six months!

It has also given me time to do some work. This newsletter features a list of FREE history resources available on the web, reviews of two homeschool products, a NEW unit study, some new resources for teaching Oklahoma history, and some very interesting links to the Internet that should prove to be very helpful to homeschoolers. I hope you enjoy!

Enjoy the rest of your holiday and have a Happy New Year!

Cindy Downes

Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter, December 2007 & January 2008


What's New on the Oklahoma Homeschool Website?

NEW! History Resources on the Web - I put together a page of links to FREE resources for teaching history. You'll find reference sites, lesson plans, coloring pages, biographies, recipes, and even quizzes. I hope you enjoy!

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Curriculum/Book Review:

1. The Star-Spangled State Book and The Star-Spangled Workbook by Joel F. King. Sometime in elementary school, you'll want to teach your children about the 50 states. The Star-Spangled Workbook and State Book will help you do just that. During the first 18 weeks, your child will learn a little bit about each state and its location on the US map. During the second 18 weeks, your child will learn the state capitals, the postal abbreviation of each state, and what states border each state.

The method involved is reading information in the Workbook (or the State Book) about each state, completing a worksheet related to the lesson, and playing a "Geoquiz" that will reinforce what the child has learned.

The course consists of the Workbook and the State Book (which contains a color version of the workbook as well as 15 additinal pages of resources for learning about the states). You can buy these separately or together at a discount. (You could teach the course without the State Book but the color makes it much more interesting and you do get a few more quizzes and learning resources). A reproducible CD is included with the Workbook so that you can print as many copies of the Workbook as you need for your family.

2. Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers by Sharon Watson. I LOVE this book! Finally, a composition course that REALLY teaches your children how to write! Most "Grammar and Composition" courses spend more time on grammar than composition because they are written for classrooms. it's difficult and time consuming to evaluate writing, especially in a class of 20-30 students. As a homeschooling parent, however, you CAN take the time to do this and here is a resource that will help.

Jump In covers all kinds of writing: prewriting, opinion pieces, persuasion, exposition, description, narration, and poetry. Because it's easier for children to write their opinion, the author begins by teaching students how to write an opinion piece and persuasive articles. She takes the student step-by-step, one lesson at a time. She covers: brainstorming to choose a topic, listing reasons why, choosing the right order, and then writing an introduction, body, and conclusion to complete the project. The course is designed to be completed in two years, but it can be used for as short or as long as needed.

Sharon includes writing samples written by her classroom students. She explains the good and bad of each sample and then gives your child an opportunity to critique the sample by answering guided questions.

After each lesson, Sharon includes additional writing assignments for practice and a suggested writing schedule to complete the assignment.

The teacher's manual includes information on how to evaluate and grade your child's writing as well as course objectives, a list of assignments for each category, information on how to help a reluctant writer, 10-minute warmups (She calls them Writing Plunges), and answer keys. By the end of the course, your child will have learned how to write an opinion piece, a persuasive paper, a cause and effect paper, a science report, a biography, a book report, a book review, a newspaper article, an essay, a compare and contrast paper, a description, a short story (narration), and poetry (haiku, cinquain, diamante, limerick, hymn, poem, lyrics to a song).

If I were homeschooling today, this would be one resource I would not do without. Don't buy that traditional "grammar and composition" textbook. Instead, buy this book and a separate resource for teaching grammar, such as Easy Grammar. Teach grammar two days a week; spend the other three days on composition. You'll end up with accomplished writers instead of students who know a lot of grammar but can't write!

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Teaching Without Textbooks - Elementary Science Unit

1. I've just completed this 16-week, science unit called, Science and Scientists-An Introduction to Science for Elementary Students to help you give your children a brief overview of the major science fields (Biology, Chemistry, Geology, etc.). In each unit, they will read about two scientists who worked in the field, as well as read about two specific topics related to the field. They will also research the internet to learn more about the topics and complete activities related to the topics. I hope you will find this unit fun to do and very informative.

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

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FREE Forms:

1. Famous Person Report Form. Use the Famous Person Report form to write about each scientist studied. More forms at:

2. The Checklist excerpt: Scientists (pdf document). Use this checklist to keep track of the scientists you study.

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Oklahoma History Resources:

Photo: Life in a Sod House

1. All about Sod Houses:

Building a sod house: Try building your own sod house just as the early Oklahoma settlers did!

Building a sod house from popsicle sticks.

Life in a Sod House game.

See a sod house being built-Photos.

Video of 2-story sod house.

Life of early pioneers - Food.

There are no renters here - Homesteading in a sod house.

Inside a settler's home.

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

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

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

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Internet Resources:

1. Children's Literature Index . This is a great resource for those of you who do unit studies. Type in a title of a book or even a keyword and you'll discover resources available on that topic. For instance, I typed in "Holes" and found a lesson plan based on the book, a book summary, a biography of the author, a complete analysis of the book on Sparknotes, discussion questions related to the book, a list of characters and themes related to the book, pre-reading and post-reading activities., more discussion questions, reading units that include questions and activities related to each chapter, and more! Try it out for yourselves!

2. Artsedge. Another super resource! Click on lessons. Select topic and grade level from the lesson finder popup menus. Up comes a list of lesson plans for teaching that topic. For example, I typed in "weather" and found a fun Weather & art lesson plan that teaches about weather.

3. Hargrett Rare Map Collection. Looking for old maps? A map of the Civil War? Expansion of the U.S.? Try this map collection.

4. Teach With Movies. Who doesn't like to watch movies! Here's a way to watch movies and learn something at the same time. Click on "movie indexes." You can choose the movie based on a character trait such as responsibility, based on a theme such as leadership, or based on a subject such as world history. For a subscription fee, you can even receive a lesson plan based on the movie including a brief description of the movie, the benefits of the movie, possible problems with the movie, activities/research to do before and after watching the movie, and discussion questions.

5. FREE! Coloring and Worksheet Generator from TLC. Choose a theme such as animals. Pick an animal. Choose how you want your page to look - with lines, without lines, with instructions, etc. Click "create" and then you have a worksheet page! Easy and fun. Creates simple pages that are good for PreK-2nd+.

6. Finally, why not celebrate the end of your unit with a party! Here's a list of ideas based on themes such as science lab, dinosaurs, and pioneers (Boardman's Party themes). A really good book of party themes is Hit of the Party. It includes more themes that can be used with unit studies such as a jungle theme (habitats), Under the Sea (ocean), Journey into Space (astronomy), wild west (frontier unit), etc. Another favorite is The Penny Whistle Party Planner: it includes parties related to Artists (art unit), beach party (habitats), Orchestra (music unit), Space Fantasy (planets), and more.

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"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." — John Cotton Dana

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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