Category Archives: Christian Homeschooling

Abeka Video Program Review

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I often am asked by other homeschoolers about what curriculum we use, which leads to inquiries about the Abeka Video Program.  Abeka is based out of Pensacola, Florida and has been around for many decades, designed originally for Christian school use.  It has evolved over the years as a popular homeschooler’s choice as it is pre-packaged and fairly user friendly.

{A side note:  I actually used the Abeka curriculum from 4th-12th grades when I attended a Christian school.  So, I’ve been familiar with Abeka since 1979!}

If you’re familiar with our homeschool journey, you already know that we’ve been at this for nearly twenty years with two graduates and one in the not-so-distant future, by God’s amazing grace.  We have primarily used the Abeka curriculum for most of our journey and relied on the Video Program for the last five years.  I especially recommend it for the high school years!  We did use the Video Program for Algebra I for our oldest back in 2003.  So, my kids have had a variety of teachers in a myriad of subjects, some we love almost like family.

Hands down, Mr. Mike Smith, who has taught History and Bible is the funniest and most thoroughly engaging teacher they’ve ever had!  I’ve even enjoyed listening to him.  A close second, in terms of a wealth of information that he brings to the table, is Mr. Denis McBride.  My kids loved both of these teachers dearly and learned so much from them.  They were almost sad when a course was over!  Incidentally, you can view snippets of these gifted teachers on YouTube to get a glimpse of their teaching style and expertise.

Interestingly enough, Mrs. Judy Howe, who wrote the math curriculum, is the video teacher for Algebra.  My daughter absolutely loved her teaching.  I remember one year, my daughter was immersed in poetry and really developed a passion for it because of the way it was introduced to her via her Abeka Video Teacher.

My children have certainly learned a lot from me, or at least I’d like to think that, however, exposing them to so many experts in their respective fields has broadened their horizons in ways that would’ve been impossible otherwise.  So, I am forever grateful for the Abeka Video experience!

One year we did the video streaming online, which is not a live experience, but pre-recorded.  It is slightly cheaper and foregoes having the actual DVD’s mailed out.  You simply access it via Abeka’s website.  However, we found that selecting the DVD option worked better for us.  (less temptation to view other websites…)

The format of the Video Program is a classroom setting at the Pensacola Christian Academy and seeks to engage the student at home.  The teacher often asks questions of those in the classroom as well as directing questions to the “student at home watching”.  They play games that test their working knowledge of the subject that break up the pace of simply lecturing.

Included in the cost of the Video Program are all of the necessary student workbooks, teacher keys and tests.  So it is a complete program.  It is a little expensive, however, you are really getting a quality education that is priceless.

While the textbooks offer a very thorough education through a Christian perspective, adding the Video teacher’s expertise, further enhances the learning experience.

One can opt to only purchase one subject or a complete grade level.  At present, my son is completing 10th grade.

The way it works is … At the beginning of the school year, Abeka mails out the first set of DVD’s and a few months later, they ship the second batch of DVD’s.  However, they will not ship the third (and final) batch until you have returned the first set.  You are only permitted to have two sets out at any given time.  The DVD’s remain the intellectual property of Abeka and are never to be duplicated or retained in any way by the student.  The consumer is simply “leasing” the DVD’s for the school year.  You have to return all DVD’s within 12 months of your school start date.  When you place your order, you submit whatever “start date” you desire and this is what they go by.

You simply print a return shipping label from their website using your account and drop off at the Post Office.  They are very prompt about sending out the next set.  Their customer service is excellent in all regards.  We’ve had times where we’ve had to call about things and they are quick to resolve any issue, no questions.  As a parent, I’ve been ordering from Abeka since 1997 and am a completely satisfied customer.

I hope this answers some questions you may have had about the Abeka Video Program.  Please feel free to leave a question or comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.

{Little trivia:  Abeka was established by Arlin & Rebeka Horton in 1954.}

 

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Homeschooling Forever?

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Has our homeschooling journey been that long?  No, not really, but it sure has seemed that way some days.  Way back in 1997 when our daughter was a baby, we decided to homeschool our oldest.  We really didn’t know much about the process aside from what I’d read in a handful of library books.  There were two homeschooling families at our church and I picked their brains for what worked for them.  It still was a walk in the dark and every step was preceded by much prayer, thought and hard work.

We have had many days it truly felt like we were stumbling around in the dark, stubbing our toes on the furniture.  Other days were filled with euphoric moments of triumph when new concepts were mastered!  I think most homeschoolers would agree that their experiences has been a combined mixture of both.

Where are we now?

Our older son was in fifth grade when we began this journey and he graduated in 2006.  Ten years ago?  How can that be?  Time truly flies, folks!

Our daughter wanted to do school like her big brother so she began kindergarten at age four. She’s always been very curious and precocious and we felt she was ready.  She graduated in May 2015.

Our younger son is currently finishing up 10th grade and will begin 11th grade in the fall.  He’s almost 6′ tall and we have a lot of fun learning together.  We use the Abeka video program, which I absolutely love!  All of the video teachers have a wealth of knowledge and experience, which make it worth every penny.  We use a separate curriculum for math, though.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling – you can tailor it to your child’s needs depending on their strengths and weaknesses.

I always say, “One of these days I’m going to graduate!”  🙂  The truth is, I’ve been in nearly every grade four times (once myself way back when and then once for each of the 3 kids).

We’ve had many bumps in the road along the way.  We’ve moved quite a bit over the years, which always throws a wrench into schooling preparation and plans.  Also, I just had surgery.  It’s times like these I’m very thankful for the Abeka video program and the fact that my son is older and can work independently for the most part.  We do work pretty closely with math, however.

Life is always full of interruptions and that is why we have always appreciated the immense flexibility of homeschooling.  For instance, we are not bound by school schedules that prevent us from taking a family vacation if desired.  There are so many opportunities my children would never have had if it weren’t for a home based education.

Has it been easy?  A resounding NO!  But then, nothing worthwhile in life ever is.

Has it been fun?  Yes.  We’ve had many laughs … mixed with tears sometimes.  Mixed with worry that our children aren’t learning enough…or fast enough…or on par with their public school peers… It’s times like these, our kids do something really amazing or we have lengthy conversations that allay all my fears that they will, in fact, turn out just fine.

Has it been worth it?  Every minute.  Every ounce of energy.  Only eternity will tell, but I know that in my heart of hearts, I’ve given it my all.

{Side note:  My 18 year old daughter & I had a conversation about the stresses of raising kids, family size, etc.  I shared how important extended family can be, especially relieving strain when the children are small.  Our conversation went on and she said, “Mom, I have many fond memories of you doing crafts with us and always making things fun.  You’ve done a great job.”}

Well, I guess I should frame this, not that she hasn’t said similar things before, because she has.  She’s always so sweet and affirming.  But, because sometimes those “Mommy fears” rear their ugly head and needle away at any confidence I may have had.

Moms have such a full and far reaching job on their hands, raising a family, taking care of the house, their husband, and whatever involvement they may have in church or the community!  Goodness, we need to give ourselves a break!

You’re doing GREAT, Moms!!

Frame this!  “You’re doing GREAT!”  You really are.

If your hearts’ desire is to be the best Mom possible, I’m confident that you are, in fact, doing just that.  We need to give ourselves grace.  And don’t worry so much!  We worry because we love deeply but really we should transfer that worry into a prayer and leave it there.  I’m preaching to the choir now.

It’s hard to imagine life beyond homeschooling but in May 2018, our youngest will graduate.  And then a new chapter of my life will begin.  But this one has been an exceptional run and one that has been rich, meaningful and a real time of planting seeds into our children.  For that, I am ever grateful.

And to those who are just starting out on this homeschooling journey or are midway through – Hang in there!  Enjoy every step of the way.  Do those crazy art projects and science experiments.  Go on those educational field trips and family vacations.  Find beauty and learning opportunities everywhere!  Enjoy your kids, moms.  Those formative years only last so long and then they’ll be taller than you (like all my kids are now!).

I saw this quote many years ago:

“A parent’s true role is to work themselves out of a job.”

Our job is to raise the next generation to be moral, independent, critical thinkers.  If we have done that, our work is done.

Of course, as a Christian Mom, I have prayed for my children since they were in my womb and I will always intercede for them until I draw my last breath.  I love them so.  So, even when our children are out on their own making their way in this world, our role as intercessors never ends.

Do you homeschool?  How would you sum up your journey so far?  Have any of yours graduated?

 

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Mixing It Up

After you homeschool for a while, it is easy to fall into a rut, especially toward the end of the school year.  We’ve been on this homeschooling journey for nearly twenty years now and I’ve learned that mixing things up a bit can be a real shot in the arm for both parent and student!

If the kids are getting ancy and finding it hard to focus on school as the weather warms up, why not take school outdoors?  Have the kids pack up a few books, pack a picnic lunch and head to a nice park!  Sometimes a change in venue brings renewed passion and helps to finish the year strong.  Another thought is to take some school work to the library and let the kids work there.  When they’re finished their work, then perhaps they can browse for books and/or movies.

Even changing rooms can be helpful.  For instance, we have a screened in back porch.  Sometimes the kids like to do their school work out there while they listen to the birds singing.

What about reading books aloud to the children even if they’re old enough to do so themselves?  Or what about writing math problems on a dry erase board to make things a little different?  If the kids are learning fractions, why not head to the kitchen and whip up a batch of cookies or brownies using measuring cups?  Fractions are everywhere!

Maybe you live near the beach or the mountains?  Get outdoors and enjoy nature while you discuss nature and its beauty! Collect shells, leaves, rocks and bugs, and research when you get home.  My kids love taking pictures of nature.  Developing the natural curiosity children have is an awesome thing!  Encourage questions and the wonder of childhood! Have the kids write a paper on what they learned.  Education and learning often happen best outside the normal classroom.

We’ve often supplemented our learning by borrowing educational dvd’s from the library.  This can really help to alleviate boredom.

Field trips can be great fun too.  If feasible, “Take your child to work days” can be neat experiences for your child and spouse as well.  Additionally, finding a mentor or apprenticeship program for older students can be a great blessing.  For example, if your student has an interest in becoming a nurse, perhaps she could “shadow” or observe a friend in that vocation.  A variety of exposure to different vocations can be very useful in selecting future careers.

By now, perhaps you’ve thought of some ways you can spice up the last few weeks of the school year.  I hope that your creative juices have begun to flow and that the Lord blesses all of your educational efforts!

 

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Encouragement for the Homeschooling Heart

At some point or another, most homeschooling parents wonder whether their children are receiving a well rounded education.  Are they reading enough? Are they learning sufficient algebra or geometry?  Will they pass the ACT or SAT tests?  What about college? … And, lions and tigers and bears!  Oh, my!

We have been homeschooling for 17 years now with many ups and downs in the process.  One thing I have learned is that education is like building blocks.  Once the foundation is laid, everything else just builds upon it.  I have been guilty of spazzing out because my child wasn’t catching onto math concepts or reading as well as I thought they should in a certain prescribed year.  But, I’ve come to understand that much of the elementary learning process is redundant.  (This works to the advantage of my spazzing out issue.)  This means that if a child doesn’t grasp a concept this school year, chances are, they will next year or even the following.  Time and patience play a key role in education, don’t they?  Each child matures and develops at different rates, after all.

We homeschooled our older son, who will turn 26 this summer, from 5th-12th grades.  I can recall so many times I was uncertain I was doing enough as his teacher.  He began concurrent enrollment at the community college when he was in 10th grade and did very well.  By the time he graduated from high school, he was just three classes shy of his Associate’s Degree.  We were so very proud of him!  I’ll never forget his homeschool graduation night and thinking, ‘I guess I can do this thing’!  (I think part of me graduated that May night back in 2006.)  Why did I waste so much time wallowing in insecurity?  I suppose it was because he was our first homeschool “experiment”.

Here we are, eight years later, and the homeschool machine rolls on.  Our daughter will graduate from high school next May, and our younger son will enter high school this fall.

Our older son is excelling in a career he says he would do even if he worked for free, and we are infinitely proud of him.  Our daughter began her first job at the library last fall, and they all love her there.  She began as a volunteer and is now in a paid position.  It’s only a matter of time before our youngest gets a part time job and spreads his wings a bit.  He is, however, very happy about volunteering as a door greeter at church with his Dad for now.  😉

If your child is struggling in a particular area, seek out supplemental videos at the library or perhaps a tutor.  Other homeschool parents or even friends could be a great resource.  Everyone is gifted in different areas.  We’re not all good at grammar or math.  Seek out those with strengths where you are weak.

Annual assessment tests can be helpful.  Some families like them.  Some do not find them necessary.  I’ve found that with the one on one interaction we enjoy, we pretty much know where our children are excelling and where their weaknesses lie.  But, it’s a matter of preference and your state law.

Some years are filled with challenging distractions that require greater fortitude to overcome.  Maybe the birth of a baby.  Maybe illnesses.  Family situations.  Moves.  These are all part of the homeschool journey.  Cycles of life.  That’s what makes it a journey, rather than a destination.  Those are times we offer ourselves a little more grace while our hands remain on the homeschool plow.  We still have much to accomplish, but it may take longer than anticipated.  We may need to reach out to others to assist during special hardships.  Try not to resist the blessings others can offer when help is needed.

If you’re at a difficult juncture in your homeschooling journey, it’s time to take a deep breath, reassess, prioritize, dismiss the distractions, and resume making progress.  You can do this!  One step at a time.  Think positive, uplifting thoughts.  Devise a plan moving forward.  No need to beat yourself up over past failures.  Just move on, knowing that with the Lord’s help, you will reach the finish line.  And, what an accomplishment that will be!

Here’s to your homeschooling success!  🙂

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Teaching Kids the Art of Good Conversation

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     It would seem that manners and proper etiquette are elements of ancient history, however, nothing could be further from the truth.  We convey our thoughts and feelings through communication, and it is vital to learn how to effectively do so.

Here are 5 ways anyone can improve their conversational skills:

1.)  Eye contact

Have you ever spoke with someone whose eyes landed everywhere else but on you?  As if there was something far more interesting just past you?  Or out the window?  When we give others the gift of eye contact, it shows that we value them as an individual and that we are interested in what they may say.  If we want the conversation to progress to any other level, this is the entry gate to proceed through.

2.)  Smile

When we smile, we immediately put the other person at ease.  It’s an investment in friendship.  It lets them know you’re happy to be with them.  True joy is born from the heart.  Some smile and laugh more freely than others, but, remember it requires fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown.  Having a good sense of humor certainly aids effective communication.  Even those not gifted with a natural sense of humor, can learn one or two funny stories.

3.)  Read books

    Engaging in interesting and meaningful conversation requires some level of information aside from the latest movie.  Read books on a variety of topics to expand your interests, knowledge and curiosity.  Curious people are interesting people, and interesting people make pleasant conversationalists.  They ask questions.  They want to know why something occurred.  

4.)  See Saw

This is my favorite point.  Perhaps because I view it as one of the most important.  I always tell my children that good conversation is like a see saw (otherwise known as a teeter totter).  You have a turn (& go up on the see saw).  Then, the other person has a turn (& goes up on the seesaw).  It’s a good visual for kids (and adults for that matter).  Effective communication takes turns and does not talk over top of another.  I talk, you talk.  And, we all are happier for it!

5.)  Be others focused

No one cares for a self absorbed “know it all”, right?  Let others “toot your horn”, but, please don’t toot it yourself!  When we display that we are genuinely interested in the other person, it naturally leads to good conversation.  People love talking about themselves.  And if you can get the other person engaged in discussing their favorite baseball team or hobby, you’ve created a memorable chat.

As with anything of value, practice makes perfect.  Productive and compelling conversation is worth every effort.  It’s the prime ingredient lasting friendships are made of!

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