March 1 , 2008

Dear Oklahoma Homeschool Subscribers,

Only two more months until you've completed another year of homeschooling! Well, some of you anyway! Some of you, like me, homeschool all year long. That's the beauty of home schooling!

This month I've written several book reviews, blogged a lot on my various blogs, and updated some unit studies for you. I've also updated my president/elections unit and my archaeology unit. I hope they will be helpful.

Otherwise, I've been studying for college. Don't ever feel bad about not having a degree and homeschooling. I'm just getting mine now! So far, I'm keeping my straight A average (since going back) so I feel good about that. I was just invited to accept membership in Phi Theta Kappa - an international honor society! Not bad for a homeschool mom! If I can do it, you can do it!

I hope you enjoy this month's newsletter and . . .

Have a Happy Easter!

Cindy Downes

Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter, March 2008


What's New on the Oklahoma Homeschool Website?

Updated! With all the "excitement" of the coming elections, many of you have written me telling me that you are using my Presidents/Elections unit. I have recently updated the Presidents/Elections Unit Study because the main book I recommended is now out of print, and used copies are way too expensive! This time, I wrote it so that you do not have to purchase a "main" book. Everything can be done on the Internet except for some recommended extra reading. These books; however, can be borrowed from the library or purchased because you don't need them that long. To view this new version, you may need to refresh your browser. I hope this unit is helpful.

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Curriculum/Book Review:

1. Review of "On the Banks of Durbin Creek: It's Bedtime for Bunnies" by Loretta Hayward.

I don't usually review many fiction books, but this one caught my eye and I just have to share it with you. Loretta, a homeschool mom, raises bunnies - as a matter of fact, she currently has 120 bunnies! And these bunnies are the subject of her book, "It's Bedtime for Bunnies." Loretta takes photos of her "dressed up" bunnies sleeping in beds, playing in gardens, and interacting with each other just as the bunnies in the Peter Rabbit books do. Only this time it's photos instead of drawings. And the photos are just plain adorable! The text is in poetry style, easy to read, and tells how mother bunny watches over her baby bunnies just as the Lord watches over us. A delightful book that everyone who loves animals will enjoy. Recommended for all ages. Check out her Web site for her bunny-photo greeting cards, too!

2. Review of "Biology 101" by Wes Olson.

Your visual and auditory learners are going to LOVE this. As a matter of fact, Biology 101: Biology According to the Days of Creation, developed by Wes Olson, is going to be enjoyed by the whole family!

The topics covered in this 4 disc set include Defining Life and Life Classification, Plants, Aquatic Creatures, Avian Creatures, Land Animals, Mankind and Genetics. It also includes a printable 114-page guidebook and a 12-page "Course Accreditation Program."

First, what I liked: I loved the beautiful videos; the animated graphs, charts and illustrations; the background music was pleasant and added to the learning experience. The host (also Wes Olson) was an excellent speaker and kept my attention with clearly defined definitions, anecdotes, and interesting facts. During the plant segment, he takes the viewer to a variety of places to study plants: the bakery to learn about grains, a restaurant to learn how algae is used to make ice cream and salad dressing, and the forest to watch a forester drill a tree ring sample to find out the age of a tree. He also offers memory tips like learning that stamen ends with "men" so it's the male part of the plant, and he shows how plants are used in scripture to illustrate spiritual truths. The animations are excellent and easy to learn from so everyone in the family will benefit from watching the videos.

What I didn't like: There is no real lab work included to speak of, only a few simple projects. The "accreditation program" is not adequate for students going to college or entering any science-related field. I recommend supplementing the curriculum with additional research, composition, and lab work. The guidebook did not include much more than what is included on the videos, so it's not really that helpful. Perhaps this is a feature they will improve in the future.

However, I liked the videos themselves so much, I highly recommend them as the foundation for a biology course or a unit study for all ages. You could teach topic by topic as in a unit study and use the videos as the "meat." Simply add additional reading, research, composition, and lab to suit, depending on grade level, interests and abilities. Much of the extras could be found on the Internet for free. The cost of Biology 101 is only $69.95/set, a full year's course that can be used by your entire family. You can't beat that!

For more information or to purchase - Biology 101.

3. Not really a review - just a note: Free Books to view online or print written by Hans Wilhelm.

These are beautiful, full color picture books, toddler books, humor books, and inspirational books that Wilhelm has placed online for all to read. There are even some nonEnglish books available, so if you know or are studying a foreign language, check them out! The illustrations are fabulous and the stories are fun to read and inspirational. The books are currently out of print. As Wilhelm explains on his Web site, "I have ... decided to create this website where every child, parent, teacher, and librarian can download and read all my books that are no longer available in print." If you take advantage of this offer, be sure to write him a thank you note and purchase some of his currently available books while you are there!

4. Software - Daily Home Planner. "Throw away the paper planners, and big white board calendars that clutter up your kitchen walls, Daily Home Planner is the software that will help your family get organized!" Sarah Kimmel has developed this software that not only organizes your homeschool, but also your meal planning, family appointments, and budgets. She even used my daily schedule in the demo to show you how it works (with my permission, of course)! Check it out. It might be just what you're looking for.

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Teaching Without Textbooks -

Archaeology and the Bible Unit Study:

1. Archaeology Unit. My daughter is an archaeology major at college, so it got me thinking about this as a topic for this newsletter. Therefore, I've updated an older unit of mine on archaeology to include some new information and links. I hope you enjoy it!

2. Archaeology Composition Paper. Use this for writing a report.

3. And don't forget! When you're done, be sure to add what your children did for the archaeology unit to page 22 and 23 of your copy of The Checklist!

The Checklist by Cindy Downes:

I recently had several people ask me the same question about The Checklist, so I thought I would answer it here in case anyone else has the same question. The question is: Can The Checklist be used instead of curriculum? Here's my answer:

It depends! (Great answer, huh?) No, really, it does. The Checklist CAN be used instead of curriculum under certain conditions.

First, I need to make clear that The Checklist does NOT contain lesson plans. It is a scope and sequence - a guide to tell you what topics are usually covered in curriculum and a way to keep track of what you actually do cover.

It could replace curriculum if you are comfortable with creating your own lesson plans. If you like to use library books, free or purchased worksheets, your own lab experiments, your own ideas for composition projects, etc., the The Checklist is for you. The Checklist will tell you WHAT to cover. You have to provide the resources to teach that topic.

I've provided several ways to determine if The Checklist is for you:

1. Go through my Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Curriculum to learn Your teaching style and your child's learning style.

2. Read through the sample pages, especially the directions in the beginning.

3. Read through and answer the questions on Should I buy The Checklist?

4. Look over a sample unit I created using the topics from The Checklist: Pilgrim Unit. Would you like doing the same thing? If so, The Checklist is for you!

The Checklist allows maximum freedom for choosing what and when to teach a topic while keeping you on a plan. As you check off the topics, you go to a new one. You decide WHEN to teach the topic as The Checklist is not grade-level specific. It gives YOU the freedom to decide when your child is ready to learn a topic. It also helps you to avoid teaching the same topics over and over again, once your children have mastered the concepts. Finally, you have the freedom to cover as much or little of The Checklist as needed by your child. NO ONE covers the whole Checklist!

Keep in mind your particular state's homeschool laws. Most states are very generic in what they request: science, math, etc. You can decide to teach insects this year and chemistry next. Other states are more particular. Just check your laws, determine how you can teach each subject, and then use The Checklist to help you stay on track.

There are some people who like to purchase one textbook that covers most science or history topics and use it for several years for all their children as reading material. They use The Checklist to keep track of which topics from the textbooks they cover each year.

I hope that answers the question!

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Oklahoma History Resources:

1. Updated Oklahoma History Resources. I've added some new books to the Oklahoma History booklist.

2. On the news side, be sure to read up on Oklahoma Promise - a scholarship program for high school students. As the say on their website, it is now open to home school students: "Eligibility for Homeschool Students: Homeschool students are now eligible to participate in Oklahoma’s Promise and receive the scholarship. Homeschool students must apply between the ages of 13 and 15. Like students attending non-accredited schools, homeschool students must also achieve at least a 22 ACT composite score on a test given on a national test date."

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

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

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

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Internet Resources:

1. Sign Language resource. ASL University is an online curriculum resource for American Sign Language students, instructors, interpreters, and parents of deaf children. Free lessons and resources for self-study.

2. Dust & Ashes: Free commentaries, Christian history and biographies, and more!

3. Single Mom Homeschooling Resources:

Single Mom Homeschooling Articles.
Success Story by Linda Bothel.
Single Parent Homeschool.
Home Based Christian Single Parents.

4. Bird Identification. Spring is coming so it's a great time to go bird watching. Check out this online bird identification resource.

5. Free lesson plans for studying the eye from American Academy of Ophthalmology.

6. Finally, forget spelling textbooks! Here's a spelling resource that's fun and effective. The words are spoken and then a sentence is spoken with the word in it. The child then types the word into the space. No cheating on this one! You can register for free and create your own spelling list! It makes up the audio portion for you. How cool is that! When the child spells all correct, you can print out a certificate of completion. Check it out at

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"Education is the best provision for the journey to old age." — Aristotle

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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