Category Archives: 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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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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Teaching Kids the Art of Good Conversation

children at play pic

     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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Raising a Peculiar People

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

                                                                                                                                                               ~ I Peter 2:9

One of the great benefits of homeschooling is that it provides more opportunity for character development.  Not only that, but, it affords a platform for independent thinking.  As Christians, we are instructed in Scripture to teach our children the Word of God and to discuss it often.

 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

                                                                                                                                        ~ Deuteronomy 6:7

One of the most important character traits we, as parents, can convey is integrity.  What happened to the days when one’s word was his bond?  When people followed through with what they promised?  I always tell my kids to be “a finisher”, not a quitter.  We finish projects or duties; we do not do a half way job.  If we start unloading the dishwasher, we finish it.  If we remove the trash liner from the kitchen trash can, we take it all the way to the outdoor trash can.  We don’t leave it in the garage.  We follow through.

My daughter has a part time job now, so she is in the process of learning all sorts of life lessons.  We had to establish a checking account for her, so she’s learned how to write checks and balance a checkbook.  The most difficult lesson she has had to learn is time management.   She’s had to learn the importance of being on time to work, and also balancing work and school.  I think she’s making great strides and I’m proud of her commitment level thus far.

She encounters all sorts of people at her job, which leads to interesting conversation when she gets home and shares it with me.  If we hadn’t spent the last 16 years instructing her in the ways of the Lord and developing her character, she would be much more susceptible to making poor choices at this stage.

We also discuss being a dependable worker, one who puts forth her best efforts.  She has seen, firsthand, co-workers who do a sloppy job and one who may, in fact, be terminated because of their slothful work ethic.  These are lessons she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.  Her boss and older co-workers love her and are her biggest advocates, which is a great blessing.  They recognize her reliability and positive attitude.

Independent and critical thinking skills are vital to thrive in this big world.  Problem solving capabilities surpass our schooling experience.  These are all highly valuable attributes our children will need as adults.  Tenacity is another often overlooked quality.  Never ever give up!  (Reminds me of the Winston Churchill quote…”Never, never, never, give up!”)

If our children are not taught to think for themselves and easily go along with what everyone else is doing, they are like the “Blind leading the blind.”  We must instill in them core Biblical values so they will have a reservoir of truth to draw on in times of decision or simply everyday life.

It is our responsibility to also teach them to dig deeper, investigate and research the “Why” of things vs. taking ideas or opinions at face value.   Be inquisitive!  Scrutinize.  For example, anyone can write a book and present their own ideas.  I often remind my kids that just because it’s in print, doesn’t make it true.  Somehow, as children, it is easy to believe that if an adult says something, it must be right or if it’s in a book, it has to be accurate.  Nothing could be further from the truth, however.  Another medium through which many lies are portrayed is television.  It’s amazing how subtle a variety of agendas are presented via cartoons and preschool programs, not to mention other venues.  This is why we must remain vigilant, as parents, as to what goes into our children’s young minds and hearts.

Input = Output

I saw this quote on a poster at a Christian bookstore once and it is so true:

“What goes into the mind, comes out in a life.”

Our job, as parents, is to work ourselves out of a job!  In other words, the goal is to raise our children to be independent adults one day.  Not only independent, but ambassadors for Christ.  If we’ve put forth the effort and hard work during their formative years, by faith and much prayer, we will be raising a royal priesthood, holy nation, a peculiar people…a people prepared for life and set apart to do awesome things in this world!

 

 

 

 

 

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Homeschooling … Mom’s Night Out

Tonight I attended a “Mom’s Night Out” at a local Italian deli with a group of homeschooling moms from our network of churches.  I must admit I was a little apprehensive about going since it was my first time and I knew no one!  How is it that when we’re young, we can just walk up to other kids, introduce ourselves and become instant best friends?  Haha!  I can be fairly outgoing, but it’s the initial awkwardness that can be challenging.

When I walked in, I spotted three ladies sitting at a group of tables that had pushed together to make a long row, so I inquired if they were from our group.  Relief overwhelmed me when they were, so I quickly introduced myself.  They all rattled off their names and, honestly, I recall only one.  Two more ladies arrived after me, and I do remember one mom’s name, only because it also belongs to my younger sister.  🙂  They were all very welcoming, which quickly put me at ease.  I’ve been around the homeschooling block long enough to know that cliques can easily form within homeschooling groups, and they can be nearly impossible to penetrate, sadly.  This was not the case at all tonight, thankfully.

While I didn’t retain everyone’s name nor exchange numbers with the other moms, one mom did direct me to their Facebook page.  Ironically, the mom, who initially invited me via text last night wound up not being there as she was ill.  She was kind enough, however, to let her friend (who was present) know to expect me.  🙂  Very nice.

We all seemed to pair off, two by twos, in conversation over dinner.  So, I didn’t get a chance to speak with everyone in depth, but I’m sure there will be ample opportunity next time.

In what seems like a former life, I used to coordinate “Mom’s Night Out” events for our church preschool group.  (I had nearly forgotten about that time in my life…just 14 years ago!)  🙂  But, our times of fellowship (without our precious babies) were evenings we always looked forward to and were a great encouragement!

It’s so vital for moms (with kids of any age group) to get out of the house and find commonality with those who are walking the same path of life.

Tonight, a mom was sharing some challenges she’s encountering during her very first year of homeschooling, and I was able to share some ideas, and hopefully solutions, that have worked for us.  That’s one of the many benefits of linking together with others.  We really do have so much to learn from one another.  We are each other’s greatest resources.  Life is a great teacher.  Experience yields tremendous treasure.  Why not tap into another’s wealth of knowledge?

We, homeschoolers, can be a real independent bunch.  But, I challenge you to break out of your comfort zone and find a co-op, support group, umbrella group, etc.  And, if you can’t locate one, start one in your area!  You’ll be glad you did!  🙂

{Side bar: All throughout the evening, I was smiling (or was I?), but my entire left cheek is still partially numb from the procedure I had done this morning.  I really couldn’t tell if I was truly smiling or maybe I was only smiling on the inside and it wasn’t registered on my face! Botox-like symptoms!… Who knows?   The other ladies could have gone home wondering why I never smiled!  Haha!  No worries, I’m sure I left my impression…After all, I was the only mom present sporting a circle band-aid under her left eye!}  🙂

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Homeschooling: How to Get Started…

We began homeschooling in the fall of 1997 when my older son was in 5th grade.  That seems like ancient history at this point.  Suffice to say, we have learned what works and what doesn’t work over the years.  I’ve been asked a number of times how does one get started with the homeschooling journey, and I’d like to include what I hope to be helpful information here.

When we began homeschooling, it was a foreign concept to us.  I didn’t know where to begin.  There were two homeschooling families in our church, and I picked one of the mom’s brain for  ideas that may work for us.  After spending the afternoon at her home and observing her two seemingly perfect girls do their school work, I came away a little frustrated.  I had no concrete information to work with or ideas to formulate a homeschooling plan.  I decided I would check out every book on the topic at our local library.  And read, I did!  I made copious notes.

The following are some things to consider:

1.  Craft a “Mission Statement”.

I recall reading somewhere that it was important to develop a “Mission Statement” and to keep it visible.  On the hard days, you will need to refer to this.  The “Mission Statement” answers the question “Why do I want to homeschool”.  It not only will encourage you to overcome challenges that will arise, but also keeps you on course and reminds you of your goals.

2.  Research homeschool laws in your state/country via the board of education’s website & comply with the regulations.  Submit paperwork to your local board of education as necessary.

In our early years, I found the Home School Legal Defense Association to be a valuable resource.  Check out their website:

http://www.hslda.org/

They have helpful information regarding each state, as well as other resources.

Another consideration regarding the legal aspect, is choosing to be a part of an “Umbrella (or oversight Group”.  Basically, depending on your state laws, you can join an umbrella group and avoid having any interaction whatsoever with the state.

3.  Decide on a curriculum.

Now, comes the fun part!  What am I going to use to teach my kids?  Well, there are countless pre-packaged curriculum sets out there.  Below are a few you may want to research:

  • Abeka
  • Bob Jones
  • Saxon
  • Alpha Omega
  • Apologia

A great resource for books and DVD’s is:

http://www.christianbook.com/page/homeschool?navcat=Homeschool

We have dealt with them for more than twenty years and have never been disappointed.  Highly recommend.

The local library is an invaluable resource in your homeschooling experience.  One could literally build a curriculum using library books.  They have many educational DVD’s that can be a great tool.

My older son learned to read using the Abeka curriculum in his preschool and kindergarden classes.  My younger two learned to read using Hooked on Phonics, which I really like.

You have the freedom to assemble your own curriculum, of course.  Mixing and matching is what many homeschoolers do.

4. Learning Styles

Is your child an audio/visual learner?  Are they a kinesthetic learner? Does your child work well with traditional textbooks?  If you don’t know the answers, research learning styles and see which method your child does best using.  Everyone processes information in different ways.  We can set our child up for greater educational success if we teach using their “Learning language”.

5. Develop a Game Plan for each year.

It’s helpful to write down the educational goals for your children each school year.

6. Give yourself grace.

Don’t expect perfection.  Of yourself or your pupils.  If your child was previously enrolled in a brick and mortar school, allow ample time for adjustment.  It helps to verbalize and write down your expectations, so you’re both on the same page.

Assess and reassess what is and what isn’t working for you and your children.  Don’t be afraid to try a different curriculum (even mid-year) or method of learning.  It’s really all about trial and error sometimes. What works for one child, even within the same family, may not work for another.

7. Link up with other homeschoolers.

Most areas have some sort of homeschooling support and/or activity group.  These can provide immeasurable assistance, especially to new homeschoolers.

Co-ops are another great resource to explore.  Usually they’re comprised of a number of families, who alternate teaching various subjects to the children.  They may meet a couple times each week.

8. Extracurricular

If your child expresses a desire, enroll him/her in a sports activity or music lessons, etc.  Find an opportunity for your child to volunteer in your church or community.

…This is by no means an exhaustive list, but is a brief synopsis to get you headed in the right direction.  Homeschooling is not just an educational choice; it is a lifestyle.

We find opportunities for learning everywhere! It has been quite a journey for us, but one I wouldn’t trade for the world. Our older son was dual-enrolled in the community college in 10th-12th grades.  When he graduated from high school in 2006, he was just 3 classes shy of his Associate’s Degree!  We knew we could do this thing called homeschooling then! 🙂  Success!

Our daughter (16) will be a senior, and our younger son (14) will enter 9th grade this fall.  I feel like we’ve homeschooled for forever!  I keep saying, “One of these days I will actually graduate!  I will have been through every grade 4 times!”  🙂  Haha!  Yes, I sure have learned a lot!

If you have any helpful tips for newbies, please comment below.  Life works better in community!

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