Simple Changes to Help You Save Big at the Grocery Store

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Being a homeschooling parent is hardly an easy task. Between juggling schedules, curriculum and driving here and there, just finding the time to go grocery shopping can be difficult (especially if you’re trying to get there sans the kids!), let alone sit and clip coupons from the Sunday paper and try to hunt down the best deals to save a few dollars.

One of our savings experts, Melissa, switched up her grocery shopping habits for her family of four 6 months ago and she swears it was one of the smartest decisions she’s made in her adult life.  Despite what people say, you don’t need to be an extreme couponer to save at the grocery store.

How to Save Money at the Grocery Store

Melissa shared her saving experiences with us and we collected them into the list of easy tips below!

1. Grocery Shopping Once a Month Saves Money

On average, shoppers visit the grocery store three to four times per week and end up purchasing over 50% more than they originally planned. Save time, money and stress by limiting your grocery trips to once per month.

  • You can prioritize your grocery list in advance and match up your coupons with the foods you actually eat.
  • It also allows enough time to plan and print couponsso you never miss a deal!

2. Save and Scan All of your Receipts

Receipts are a great way to take advantage of additional coupons and promotions you may have missed when you were at the store.

And, on the planning side they are the best tool to keep track of what you’re actually buying. Notice a lot of impulse buys on that receipt? Make note and don’t deviate from your prepared shopping list next time. Those purchases add up fast!

PLUS: Some of our favorite apps for cashback are below. Use multiple apps to maximize your savings!

3. Buy in Bulk (We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat Freezer!)

Whether it’s big boxes of goods at Sam’s Club, or the bulk bins at the local market, it’s easier and cheaper to buy larger amounts of food and paper goods in bulk (it also saves on excess packaging too).

  • Price-per-unit is king (check out the price tags which will indicate cost by weight/pieces.)
  • Always weigh bagged produce as they may actually weigh more than what the package says
  • Buy by the case and save tons – you can usually ask the store manager for details
  • Buy a large quantity of an expensive items one month (especially if on sale) and another one the following month, rotating similar large purchases throughout the year while matching sales.  Example: olive oil, frozen chicken.

4. Use Store + Manufacture Coupons + Rebate Apps = MORE SAVINGS

Manufacturer coupons are the “holy grail” for savvy shoppers because they are accepted at both national and local grocery stores.  The best couponers will combine manufacturer coupons with grocery store coupons, rebate apps and customer loyalty cards to maximize savings power.

Coupons: Sign up and print from these brands and score$1,000+ in exclusive coupons form your favorite products, useful tips and ideas on how to save (even more!), and learn about free samples and exciting promotions.

HOT TIP: Keep in mind – you can usually only print two online coupons per person, per manufacturer, per day.

5. Sign Up for Store Loyalty Programs for Extra Savings and FREE STUFF

This is a great way to get added perks in the form of store credit or points delivered right to your inbox.  The best tactic is sign up for the brand’s loyalty offer via their website to get their deal announcements sent directly to your email – EASY.

Here are some of our favorite loyalty programs:

  • Starbucks Rewards
    • Once you become a Gold member the free coffee and other savings just pour out!
  • Kellogg’s Family Rewards (mentioned above)
  • Target Red Card
    • Get 5% off ALL of your Target purchases when you apply for the Target Red Card. They offer a credit card as well as a debit card.

6. Curious About a New Product? – Try Before You Buy and Don’t Waste Money

Don’t know if that cereal, shampoo or diaper product is any good?  No worries, look for a free sample from our huge Free Samples or Freebies sections on MySavings.com.  We list hundreds of brand name products so you can try them out before purchasing.

HOT TIP:  Did you know you can ask to sample anything at Trader Joe’s and also in the produce section at Whole Foods?

7. Know the Sales Cycles and Stock Up

Focus on only buying groceries when they are at their rock-bottom price.

HOT TIP: Most stores and regions follow a 6-week cycle. So, if you see a cheap price one week then buy enough of that item to last around 6 weeks to add to your stockpile.

Be sure to research each grocery store’s online couponing policy before shopping.

8. Know Where to Get the Cheapest Groceries

If you’re like Melissa, and other moms on our team, you have a favorite store. It’s your go-to place, your shopping home. While it’s okay to prefer one shopping experience over another, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and explore prices at other stores. You’ll save a lot more than you think by adding several stops to your grocery trip.

Be sure to keep all your receipts to help you compare prices at different locations. It may sound like a lot of work, but once you know where to buy certain items, you won’t have to comparison shop until you notice a price increase.

YOUR TURN: What’s your favorite way to save at the grocery store?

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for reading!

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What On Earth Review & Giveaway

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I found two wonderful new books for kids who love hands-on science! “What on Earth? Water” and “What on Earth? Wind” are two wonderful books written by Isabel Thomas and Pau Morgan to help kids discover and understand their world. These books encourage kids to investigate the properties of water and wind and experiment with these elements to discover how they work.

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What on Earth? Water

by Isabel Thomas and Paulina Morgan

Learn all about the water cycle and find out how water shapes our planet. Make a precipitation gauge or grow your own stalactite. Find out how important it is to conserve water and harness its energy.

Explore, Create and Investigate through experiments, activities and hands-on tasks. What on Earth? takes the reader on a journey of discovery to explore the natural elements of our world.

What on Earth? Wind

by Isabel Thomas and Paulina Morgan

Find out how humans have harnessed the wind’s energy and traveled the world.

Create an experiment using your own windmill and learn how to make a sail racer.

Discover all about the water cycle and make a precipitation gauge or grow your own stalactite.

About The Authors

Isabel Thomas studied Human Sciences at Oxford University, trained as a journalist and explored the world before becoming an author. She has written more than 100 titles, from picture books to encyclopedias.

Paulina Morgan works as an independent illustrator based in Santiago de Chile. She studied design before moving to Barcelona, Spain to obtain her master’s degree in Art Direction. She worked in advertising before deciding to pursue her passion for illustration.

My kids are a couple of years younger than the books’ recommended ages but they love most science topics so I thought they might enjoy reading these books. This week we read a few of the sections in these books that I though my kids would be most interested in and they liked them very much. The illustrations were engaging and each unit covered topics that were interesting to kids in a simple way.

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The writing style was easy for them to understand and encouraged lots of questions. Our favorite parts in each section were the Investigate and Create segments where we could do great, easy to follow experiments to see firsthand how water and wind works and how people use these elements in their everyday life. We got to make projects such as a waterwheel, a rainbow, a kite and a sail racer to explore and reinforce the concepts that were introduced in the sections.

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We did a few of the activities and learned about volume and capacity, states of water, clouds, how plants grow, life in the desert, erosion, music, wind power, the history of sailing ships, storms and winged seeds. I was truly amazed at how much information was packed into these little science books and how many great activities were included in each unit! My kids and I also liked the units about the water cycle, water on other planets, the different water zones in the ocean, weather, wind power and geography and climate.

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These beautiful books are an amazing reference and a great overview of all things related to water and wind. They are simple enough for younger kids to understand and enjoy and include fun poetry, clear step by step illustrations for each activity and diagrams to help kids visualize and remember some of the more abstract subjects. They are also great for older kids because they encourage and motivate them to find out more by asking thought provoking questions and challenging them to explore these elements on their own time with ideas for cool activities with lots of fun facts and background history.

I recommend these great books for kids who ask lots of questions and love to explore the world around them with a very hands-on approach. These books are a fantastic and fun resource for kids to learn more about our planet and how it works.

Enter to Win!

Here’s a chance to win your very own set of Isabel Thomas and Paulina Morgan books! Leave a comment below, telling us how you can use them in your homeschool, fill out the Gleam form below (there are chances to win extra entries for sharing the sweepstakes with your friends!) and you’ll be entered to our give-away!

What On Earth Review & Giveaway

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Kitchen Club Kids Review & Coupon Code

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I’m one of those moms who, when she asks her kids “What would you guys like to eat for breakfast?” is really asking “Would you like some cheerios again or should I warm up some pop tarts?” So most cooking (and even reading about cooking) is a little out of my comfort zone.

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However, my kids have shown a lot of interest in cooking lately and when I saw the books ‘End of the Rainbow Fruit Salad’ and ‘Garden Safari Vegetable Soup’ that were geared for the preschool years, I was excited to introduce them to cooking in a fun way.

We read ‘End of the Rainbow Fruit Salad’ the same day we got it in the mail. The book was great and the illustrations were beautiful. My kids (3 and 4 years old) loved the colorful rhyming story and how fun and easy it made cooking sound.

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Of course, the kids wanted to try “cooking” right away. I let them slice bananas, peaches and strawberries for the fruit salad. They loved it!

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They were able to follow the recipe easily, practiced measuring the blueberries and counting out the strawberries. They stayed engaged, had fun and learned some new skills. I was happy the recipe was so healthy and colorful. The kids enjoyed eating their fruit salad for snack.

We read the “Garden Safari Vegetable Soup” book the next day and again I was impressed with the engaging fun story line and how easy and fun it made cooking sound. I also liked how it included counting, measuring and cooking healthy with many different colors of vegetables. Again after reading the story my kids ran to the kitchen to try it out!

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I was happy about their enthusiasm and I was glad I had most of the ingredients on hand. I had to help the kids chop the celery, carrots and onions, but they loved chopping the potatoes, measuring and pouring the chicken broth, rice and spices. And of course, mixing and stirring was pretty exciting for them. They were really cooking! I was surprised at how much fun we had! The kids ate their bowls of soup for dinner. My son even asked for seconds! I am now looking for other ways to involve my kids in our daily food preparation.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to get their preschooler excited about preparing food, eating healthy and learning a little math (measuring and counting), in the kitchen. The fact that cooking together can be a great one on one or family activity is just another great advantage. Who says learning can’t be a lot of fun?!

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Keep Your Sanity While Working from Home and Homeschooling

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A homeschool mom’s most important job is raising her children, overseeing their education, getting dinner on the table and administering an ample dose of hugs and kisses at bedtime. Homeschool moms pull off minor miracles to get this done. Add in earning money from home and it can get overwhelming! A work-at-home mom really is working two jobs at once and the biggest challenge for a mother is learning to do both in harmony.

There are some tips and tricks every work-at-home homeschool mom could utilize. It is important to understand that each person is unique and in a work-at-home setting what may work for others may not be what works best for everyone. Yu should feel free to experiment and discover what works for you and your family.

Home Business Setup Tips

When operating a business from home it is important to do so from a designated area. Making sure this area is clean, well-organized and well stocked with essentials will alleviate frustrations, which may be caused by trying to find the phonebook or stapler in a hurry. This should be carried over to the lives of the children in the home as well, after all if Johnny can find his crayons easily he will be less likely to bug mom during work hours.

An office area should include any tools necessary to complete daily work such as a computer, Internet access, a telephone, cell phone and fax machine if applicable for the particular job being done. Along with all of these things perhaps the most important tool needed is privacy and freedom from distraction.

Tips for a Successful Work-At-Home Day

There are some simple steps that can be taken in order to enjoy a productive work-at-home day. The first is to set a schedule and stick to it. In order to have a stress-free day the work day should begin at the same time every day, focus on objectives, schedule breaks and plan ahead for any foreseeable variations to that schedule.

It is important to understand that children will be more accepting of schedule changes if they know they are coming and they know the game plan for the day. If breaks are normally taken at 2PM for homeschool or story time, be sure to discuss any changes in advance. For example, Jenna will be less agitated if she knows in the morning story time will have to wait until 2:30 and then is reminded of this again at lunch. By keeping them apprised of the situation children realize they are a priority and their special time has not been forgotten.

What Every Work-At-Home Mom Must Remember

Above all else, a work-at-home mother must make time for her own well-being and her own personal life as this will help to keep the stress factors to a minimum. Parents must remember to get a good night’s sleep each night, exercise each day, make time for themselves, say no to clients in unrealistic situations, and network. There are many groups designed specifically with networking for work-at-home moms in mind, they are a great resource for advice, support and even clientele.

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3 Natural DIY Beauty Recipes

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Silky Makeup Remover Wipes

silky makeup remover wipes

These wipes are perfect for removing makeup all over the face and neck without leaving your skin feeling too oily, or getting makeup all over your bath towels. This recipe will normally last for 3-4 weeks at room temperature.

Ingredients:

  • 1 roll strong paper towels
  • 1 very sharp knife
  • 2 cups warm water (preferably water that was boiled and then allowed to cool to a warm temperature)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Reusable airtight plastic container

Directions:

  1. With the sharp knife, carefully cut paper towel roll in half, and set aside extra half of roll.
  2. Remove inner cardboard tube from paper towel.
  3. Drop coconut oil and warm water into your chosen plastic container and mix until coconut oil is completely melted.
  4. Place the half of paper towel you are working with into your plastic container and allow roll to absorb the water and coconut oil mixture.
  5. Once roll is fully wet, you can squish down the roll until it fits into your plastic container and close the lid.
  6. To use, open container and remove 1-2 sheets of your new wipes and gently remove your makeup.
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Save an Extra 15% On Minecraft Games & More Instant Gifts

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Do your kids love Minecraft? Of course, they do! Don’t stop them from enjoying this fun game. Use it as an opportunity instead to give them lessons during homeschooling time. Your kids will love it, and most probably, you’ll do too!

Minecraft gifts

Hey, last-minute Nancy. For this weekend only, Educents is offering 15% off on all instant gifts, including the digital Minecraft games! Use code INSTANT15 at checkout! *Offer valid this weekend only. Cannot combine coupon codes.

Minecraft Games for Kids Ages 6 and up

Nothing encourages fun learning more than connecting games to educational lessons. Here are a few opportunities for Minecraft kids to learn new skills using a game they already love:

Learn to Mod Minecraft

LearnToMod is a browser-based software that teaches students how to mod the PC-version of Minecraft®. Great for kids ages 6 and up!!

What parents are saying about Learn to Mod: “The Minecraft program allows for users to modify the game through computer programming. These “mods” are quite popular and help Minecraft players take the game to the next level. So why not learn some basic programming skills using Minecraft? That is exactly what Learn to Mod does!” – Amy B., Teaching in Blue Jeans

Youth Digital’s Mod Design: Learn to Code with MinecraftFacebook-Graphic-5

This is a Java class for Minecraft kids ages 8 to 14. Youth Digital’s online tech courses provide a safe, engaging learning environment for kids to master new technology skills.

“Our family has enjoyed the Mod Design 1 class! The instructor is funny, with humor that is age appropriate. The steps are easy to follow, and the kids feel a sense of accomplishment throughout. This is a creative way to use a child’s natural interest, in this instance Minecraft, to introduce them to Java programming.”

All of these programs are offered on Educents at a discount. Click HERE to start shopping for your Minecraft kid.

More instant gifts on sale this weekend:

Don’t want to worry about your gift arriving in time for Christmas? The Minecraft games and other online subscriptions listed below arrive instantly! No need to worry about shipping or wait for a box at your doorstep. To save an extra 15% on already discounted instant gifts, use code INSTANT15 at checkout*.

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*Valid this weekend only. Cannot combine coupon codes.

  • FarFaria Unlimited Library – It’s like Netflix for children’s ebooks!
  • Math Video Game – Enter a realm where math is your child’s superpower! Mathbreakers is a 3D exploration game for mathematics, covering core foundations for kids aged 6-12.
  • Magic Desktop Program – An online program for ages 2-12 to play thousands of learning activities, games, and videos.
  • Computer Coding Game – Teach kids computer coding and programming with a video game! (Yes, really!)
  • 1-Year Online Language Course – Use this incredible opportunity to include foreign language into your next year curriculum! Choose from Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Russian or ESL English Videos, songs, and games help learners become bilingual FAST!
  • The Fun Spanish Level 1 – a fun, beginning Spanish program which teaches Spanish the Charlotte Mason way, one fun phrase at a time.
  • Times Tales – A math story to help with the times tables!
  • Ultimate K-12 Homeschool Package – Includes 98 digital textbooks for years of learning.
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How to Fix Burnt Food

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No matter how much experience you’ve had in the kitchen, burning dinner happens to the best of us.  But don’t worry.  Not all is lost! I recently picked up a copy of How to Repair Food and found this guide to be very helpful and thought you might enjoy it too!

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How to Fix Burnt Food

When food burns during cooking, do three things:

  1. Stop the food from cooking.
  2. Separate the unburned parts from the burned.
  3. Treat the unburned parts, if necessary, to prevent a burned taste.

Here’s how to do each most effectively:

  1. Remove the pot or pan from the heat at once. Fill a container bigger than the pot (use the sink if necessary) with cold water, and put the burned container in the cold water. Speed is of the essence. Just removing a pot from the flame doesn’t top the cooking; the cold-water plunge does.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, preferably, remove all ingredients that don’t cling, and transfer to another similar container. Be sure you don’t scrape or forcibly remove anything–take only what comes easily.
  3. Taste the food. It is unlikely that it will have a burned taste, but if it does, cover the pot with a damp cloth and let it stand for about 30 minutes. Taste it again. If the taste is still unpleasantly burned or smoky, your food is probably beyond repair–unless you can take advantage of the smoky taste by adding barbecue sauce and renaming it “country style” whatever-it-was.

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For more helpful kitchen fixes and hints, be sure to get the book How to Repair Food by Marina and John Bear with Tanya Zeryck.

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9 Spooky Halloween Activities

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9 Spooky Halloween Activities

If you are looking for Halloween fun you are in the right place! I found 9 Spooky Halloween Activities that I can’t wait to try with my family this year. I have a feeling you are going to love a few of these activities too!

From DIY decorations to handmade treat bags there is something on this list for everyone!

Water Color Resist Spider Web
Spooky Expanding Ghost
Spooky Glowing Eyes
Halloween Monster Yard Lights
Spooky Spider Craft
Spooky Shadow Puppets
Count Dracula Craft
Spooky Eye Ball Treat Bags

Which of these 9 Spooky Halloween Activities do you want to try first? I think the Water Color Resist Spider Web and the Halloween Monster Yard Lights are pretty spectacular!

If you have a favorite Halloween activity I would love to hear about it!

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The “Real World of College”

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A guest post by Dr. Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.

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Okay, it appears that the homeschooled students score well above average on achievement tests in elementary school and high school. And I am willing to concede my experience and research I have read suggest they seem to know how to get along with others— that is, they are not aggressive social isolates wearing camouflage pajamas in the grocery store. But what about the ‘real world’!? Will Suzy even want to vote? Will Tyrone ever succeed once he gets into college?” These are now common statements and concerns from Mr. and Mrs. John Public.

Homeschool graduates hear these things. Novice and veteran homeschool parents have to deal with them. Grandparents of homeschoolers still wonder. And negative critics of homeschooling may never give up. But what does research say about the long-term outcomes of homeschooling?

Dr. Michael Cogan, Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, compared home-educated students to those from conventional school (i.e., non-homeschooling) backgrounds at one Midwest university.1 The researcher reported that the “. . . institution participating in the study is a medium-sized private university with a Carnegie Classification of doctoral. The institution is located in a metropolitan area in the upper Midwest. The overall student population is nearly 11,000 with approximately 57 percent classified as undergraduates” (p. 21). Seventy-six students who were home educated were compared to the others.

Cogan focused on four academic outcome measures (or dependent variables): the students’ first-year GPA, fourth-year GPA, fall-to-fall retention, and four year graduation. Independent or control variables included socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic minority status, gender, and whether the student had been homeschooled.

Findings

The researcher used bivariate and multivariate analyses to consider the data. What did Dr. Cogan find? First, he reported their GPAs (grade point averages): “Homeschooled students (3.37) earned a significantly higher fall semester GPA when compared to the overall cohort (3.08). . . . Homeschooled students (3.41) earned a higher first-year GPA when compared to the overall group (3.12). Additionally, homeschooled students (3.46) earned a significantly higher fourth-year GPA when compared to the freshman cohort (3.16)” (p. 24).

Next, the scholar then went to greater lengths to statistically control for certain variables: “As stated earlier, an additional approach to understanding academic outcomes of homeschooled students is to conduct multivariate analysis in order to control for additional factors. More specifically, students were identified based on their enrollment in a homeschool. . . . When considering GPAs, the homeschool variable had a positive impact on first year GPA when considering all of the factors. This positive impact continued to the fourth year. . .” (p. 24).

Finally, a last detailed look revealed something more. The homeschool variable did not significantly contribute to the fall-to-fall retention or four-year graduation models . . . . In other words, the homeschool variable had neithera positive nor a negative impact on these academic outcomes. However, homeschool students did achieve a higher retention rate (88.6 percent) compared to the overall population (87.6 percent). Further, homeschool students achieved a higher graduation rate (66.7 percent) when compared to the overall population (57.5 percent)” (p. 24).

Conclusions

Dr. Brian Ray wrote the following in 2004 in The Journal of College Admissions:

“Experience and anecdotes have led many people to believe that homeschool parents were either move-to-the-country anarchist goat-herders or right-wing Bible-thumpers, and their children were either mathematically-limited, due to Mama’s fear of math, or child prodigies in rocket-science who were unthinkably socially hindered. Although one can find statistical deviants in every group, homeschooling research tells a different story from the experience-based stereotypes and biases concerning those involved in home education”. (p. 5)

Five years later, in the same journal, Dr. Cogan published research that helps flesh out a fuller picture regarding the homeschooling community. His research findings were similar to those of others who have studied homeschool graduates in that he found positive things associated with homeschooling.2 He concluded and wrote the following:

Nonetheless, this study shows that this group of students outperforms their traditionally-educated peers when considering the GPA measures. Perhaps more importantly, this group of students performed at the same level as their peers when considering fall-to-fall retention and four-year graduation rates. As this group continues to grow, it is imperative that institutional researchers lead the way in developing a strong understanding of academic outcomes of homeschool students” (p. 24).

Research3 once again has shown thatthose who have been hypothesizing illeffects from modern-day, parent-led,home-based education are rather off the mark. The home educated might be wearing camouflage pajamas in the dorm room, but research says they are doing quite well academically.

Author’s Note: Please feel free to sendyour questions about research related tohome-based education and raising childrentomail@nheri.org.

Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., is president of the National Home Education Research Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization. Dr. Ray often serves as an expert witness in courts, testifies to legislatures, and is interviewed by the media. Brian is married to Betsy and they have eight children and four grandchildren.

Endnotes:

  1. Cogan, Michael F. (2010, Summer). Exploringacademic outcomes of homeschooled students.Journal of College Admission, Summer2010, 18–25. Also retrieved 12/20/10 fromfindarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3955/is_201007/ai_n54718392.
  2. Bolle-Brummond, Mary Beth, & Wessel, RogerD. (2012). Homeschooled students in college:Background influences, college integration, andenvironmental pull factors. Journal of Researchin Education, 22(1), Spring, 2012, 223–249. RetrievedFebruary 29, 2012 from eeraonline.org/journal/files/v22/JRE_v22n1_Article_10_Wessel.pdf.
  3. For much more research on homeschooling, visitnheri.org/connect.html.

Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

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