Ten Rules for Homeschool Convention Etiquette

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I believe every situation calls for some etiquette, and homeschool conventions are no exception. Often, vendors represent small, family-run businesses, and sales at conventions provide their largest source of revenue. When customers follow these ten simple rules, everyone benefits.

Ten Rules for Homeschool Convention Etiquette

The next time you enjoy a homeschool convention, I encourage you to practice these ten demonstrations of courtesy. As you do so, you can be sure that you will bless and encourage the vendors and your fellow attendees.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #1

Make sure checks or credit cards are good, or pay in cash. Most vendors are able to authorize credit cards at their booths. However, if your credit card does not go through, valuable time will be lost in rectifying the situation, so make sure your accounts are in good shape before you go to a convention. If a check bounces, fees are charged and both the vendor and the customer have to deal with the account balance problems. Many vendors prefer cash, which sometimes helps vendors pay for immediate needs associated with convention expenses, such as such as food, gas, hotel expenses, etc.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #2

Handle all products carefully and respectfully. The vendor’s inventory is expensive and should be handled gently. If items are damaged, vendors may not be able to sell them. One way to appropriately inspect books would be to open them up gently, not spreading them completely open, thereby keeping their spines intact and preserving the “new” feel of the book. Of course, it is always best to peruse sample copies when they are available.

After reviewing a product, put it back in the same location where you found it. If you don’t know where it goes, hand it back to the vendor, or ask where to put it back in its proper place.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #3

Don’t shop before the vendor hall officially opens. Many vendors are scrambling to “set up shop” right up until the moment the convention sales officially begin. Honor the starting and ending times posted for sales, and don’t rush the vendors. They are eager to serve you, but they need to get organized first.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #4

Diligently supervise your children at all times. Take advantage of the wonderful children’s programs that convention coordinators have provided for your children. The convention sponsors may also offer babysitting services, or the hotel may provide those services. You can also share “babysitting duty” with another mom: one of you watches all the children while the other mom shops; then you trade off. If you prefer to keep your children with you, be sure to keep them within reach—literally—at all times, for their protection and for the protection of the vendors’ products as well.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #5

Shop, don’t study. Vendors understand that you would like to browse through a book before buying it, but to stand in front of the booth and read through the entire book is rude. Not only will the booth be less accessible to other potential customers while you are there reading, but it’s likely that the book will look “used” after you have read it from cover to cover, and no one else will want to purchase it. If you are thoroughly “sold” on a product, buy it and use it at home.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #6

Keep the traffic moving, as much as it is in your power to do so. Don’t congregate with friends (new or old) directly in front of a booth, especially with your shopping carts or strollers in tow. Vendors are dependent on person-to-person sales, so be polite and congregate elsewhere; avoid creating traffic jams that can rob vendors of business.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #7

Remember that the vendor needs to talk to as many potential customers as possible. Vendors love to talk with you, especially when homeschooling is the topic, but remember that the time they have available to interact—hopefully with everyone at the convention—is limited. Be friendly, ask your questions, and step aside so that the next guy can ask his questions.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #8

Expect to pay for good customer service. Vendors who don’t deal with high-volume inventories are often more willing to discuss their products and personally answer your questions. If a vendor “sells” you on his product, buy it from him—not from the high-volume-sales vendor on the next row, who was too busy to answer your questions. Pay for what you get, and don’t take unfair advantage of helpful people—instead, support their businesses with your purchases.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #9

Support the speakers. Most speakers at homeschool conventions receive no compensation for their contributions to the event. In fact, many speakers are required to pay a fee in order to conduct a workshop, demonstration, or class at a convention. Take advantage of the information and encouragement the speakers can offer, and if you like what you hear and see, seek out their booths and consider trying the products that impress you the most.

Homeschool Convention Etiquette Rule #10

Please honor the established closing time at the convention sales. When the vendor hall is closing, make your purchases and leave on time, like the way you “kindly make your way to the circulation desk” (sound familiar?) when the public library announces it “will close in fifteen minutes.” You can be sure that most vendors are very tired after a long day’s work and are eager to get off their feet too. Make your final purchases . . . and come back tomorrow, bright and early.

Most convention vendors love what they do or they wouldn’t be there. Many regard the hours they spend interacting with, and explaining their products/services to, potential customers as ministry. I encourage you to practice these ten rules of etiquette to enhance not only your shopping experience but the vendors’ experiences too!

See you at the conventions!


Linda Brodsky and her husband Mark have owned Brodsky Ministries for more than ten years. They sell curricula, T-shirts, U.S.-made toys, natural health products, and more. Their children can be found at homeschool conventions painting faces and making balloon sculptures. They have five children on earth, three in heaven, and are praying for more. Visit their website at www.brodskyministries.com.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free TOS apps to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.

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What the Research Says About Homeschooling

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This article is authored by Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., President, National Home Education Research Institute.

Parent-led home-based education continued to be common, if not the norm, for most of the time for most children’s lives through the nineteenth century. Things changed quickly, however, during the late 1800s and into the twentieth century. Homeschooling was nearly nonexistent, perhaps only 13,000 schoolchildren in the United States by the 1970s.1 Then a stunning change began around the early 1980s such that just over 2 million students in grades K to 12 were estimated to be homeschooled in the United States during the spring of 2010.2

Much of public opinion is very positive toward this private educational practice. However, genuinely curious people and ideological skeptics and opponents of homeschooling continue to ask questions about home-based education. Research continues to answer some of these basic questions.

How do Homeschoolers Score on Academic Achievement?

Major nationwide studies and multiple smaller-scale studies are consistent in their findings that the home educated are performing above average in terms of academic achievement. The most recent nationwide study (conducted by Dr. Brian Ray and the National Homeschool Education Research Institute) found that home-educated students in grades K to 12 were scoring well above public-school students in all subject areas—reading, language, mathematics, social studies, and science—on standardized academic achievement tests.3 Ray’s findings are in concert with those of the preceding nationwide study done by Dr. Lawrence Rudner.4 In repeated studies, home-educated students typically score at the 65th to 80th percentile on nationally normed standardized achievement tests. This is 15 to 30 points higher, on average, than public-school students, whose average is the 50th percentile

Questions About Homeschool Achievement Research

A number of valid questions arise about research on homeschool student achievement. For example, do only the children of wealthier parents do well? No, regardless of the homeschool family’s income, they tend to score well above the public school average. In public schools, however, income is strongly correlated with student achievement.

Second, do home-educated children of certified teachers do better than the others? No, the teacher-certification status of the parents has very little or no relationship to the students’ scores. While nearly all public-school teachers have government teaching certificates and only about 10 percent of homeschool parents have ever had such certificates, homeschool students consistently outperform public-school students.

Home-educated students whose parents are high school graduates (with no additional formal education) are scoring above the general national average on achievement tests. On the other hand, public-school students with similarly educated parents score below the national average.

A fourth question is this: Are only the “best homeschool students” being tested and therefore the “average score” is high? It is difficult in social science research, such as that on homeschool families, to be sure that perfectly representative samples are involved. There are several pieces of evidence, however, that the finding of high achievement applies to the population in general. For example, in Ray’s nationwide study, he found that both students whose parents knew their scores before participating in the study and those who did not know their scores were performing well above average.5 Furthermore, in states where all homeschool students are required to be registered with the government and be administered academic achievement tests, their scores have consistently been well above the public-school average.6

These findings naturally lead to one more question about research on achievement: Is government control related to high academic achievement? Research has repeatedly shown that there is no correlation between the degree of state regulation or control of homeschooling and homeschool students’ achievement.7 Many have argued that the government needs to regulate this form of private education to make sure children learn. No research evidence supports this claim. Home-educated children in states with low regulation score just as well as those in high-regulation states. Regardless of high or low regulation, their scores are above the public-school average. Furthermore, research by Dr. Brian Ray and Dr. Bruce Eagleson found no relationship between the degree of state control over homeschooling and home-educated students’ scores on the SAT college-entrance exam.8

What About Homeschool Socialization?

Now thirty years into the modern home-education movement, homeschool parents still hear the question, What about socialization? The term socialization is usually not well defined and often refers to a perceived negative that home-educated students are not attending institutional classroom schools with same-age peers for thirteen to seventeen years of their lives and experiencing the peer pressure and collective milieu found in those settings. Multiple researchers and their studies repeatedly find, however, the home educated to be developing as well or better socially, emotionally, and psychologically than institutionally schooled children and youth.9

Research time and again finds that homeschool students and their parents are very engaged in their communities, including activities such as sports teams, co-operative classes, church activities, and community service. Further, homeschool children typically interact with a broader range of ages (of children and adults) than do most institutional school children.

Why Are the Home-Educated Doing So Well?

Recurring positive research findings associated with homeschooling beg the question, Why are they doing so well? As a man who has taught in public and private schools, served as a university professor at the undergraduate and graduate levels, tutored children and youth in a variety of settings, and been a student himself, the author poses series of questions, and answers, that might explain why the home educated do so well.10 Ask any “professional educator” the following questions:

1. How would you like a class size of 3 to 6?
2. Would you like to be able to individualize or customize the curriculum and pedagogical approach for each of the students, according to his or her talents, needs, desires, and dreams?
3. How would you like it if you could essentially tutor each one of your students?
4. Would you like it if you could depend on the student mastering the knowledge or skill before moving on?
5. Would you enjoy being able to be flexible and change the curriculum or pedagogy if needed?
6. What if you regularly had time to stop for the teachable moment?
7. What if there were essential value consistency between you and your students, or their parents?
8. Would it be beneficial to have large amounts of social capital—for example, trust and love—in your classroom?
9. How would you like it if the biggest distraction during your day was, typically, a 7-year-old arguing with a 10-year-old about whose turn it is to wash the dishes?
10. How would you like it if you almost always had time to thoughtfully and carefully work out, according to a solid and dependable philosophical framework, with each student how to face dilemmas, challenges, issues, temptations, and difficult relationships in life?
11. What if you cared so much about, loved each of your students so much, that you would teach for free (i.e., no “salary and benefits”) all next year?

Do all of these opportunities that are naturally systemic to home-based education mean all parents will fully take advantage of all of them? Not necessarily. It appears, however, that most parents and teens are putting the potentials to good use.

But How Will Homeschoolers Do in the “Real World” of Adulthood?

Dr. Ray’s study of over seven thousand adults in the United States who had been home educated was the first large-scale study suggesting graduates of homeschooling are doing well.11 For example, this study found those who had been homeschooled are more civically engaged than other adults, shown by the fact that they vote; attend public meetings; write or telephone editors and public officials; participate in protests and boycotts; contribute money to political candidates, parties, and causes; and work for political candidates, parties, and causes at a higher rate than do their American adult peers. The newest research on adults who were home educated also reveals positive findings. Dr. Michael Cogan found that college students who are homeschooled earn higher first-year and fourth-year GPAs when controlling for demographic, pre college, engagement, and first term academic factors.12 The body of research on homeschool graduates is still relatively small but is revealing positive things associated with home education.

Who Homeschools and Why Do They Do It?

Research continues to show that home educators are from all social and racial/ethnic backgrounds: parents with a tenth-grade education, others with Ph.D.s; the wealthy and the less well-off; agnostics, Christians, humanists, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and New Age devotees; families with eight children and those with one; married couples and single parents; those in the inner city and those in the wilderness of Alaska; sales clerks, public school teachers, doctors, and plumbers; and parents who never stopped being the main and daily educators of their 15-year-old son from his birth, and parents who removed their daughter during the seventh grade from an institutional school setting.13

Every year the variety of home educators broadens and expands. Research published by the U.S Department of Education, for example, discovered that 23 percent of home-educated students in the spring of 2003 were black/non-Hispanic, Hispanic, or “other,” while families from such minority groups were much rarer in homeschool groups about a decade earlier.14 The main reasons for homeschooling are to (a) customize or individualize each child’s education, (b) accomplish more academically than in an institutional school, (c) provide a safe learning environment, (d) offer consistently parent-guided social interaction, (e) enhance strong family ties, and (f) transmit the values, beliefs, and worldview of the parents rather than those of the public-school system or of others. The last reason—the philosophical and political one—naturally leads to the next section of this article.

Academic and Policymaker Angst Over Home-Based Education

Despite consistent and broad research evidence that homeschooling is associated with positive outcomes, behaviors, and traits, it appears an increasing number of academics and policymakers are expressing concerns about parent-led education. For example, Dr. Rob Reich clearly implied that the home educated will not be as decent, civil, or respectful as state-schooled students.15 Dr. Christopher Lubienski claimed the following: “The accelerated movement toward home schooling reflects a serious threat to the collective good . . .”16 More recently, Dr. Kim Yuracko expressed that there should be more discussion about whether and how “. . . a liberal society should condone or constrain homeschooling, particularly as practiced by religious fundamentalist families explicitly seeking to shield their children from liberal values of sex equality, gender role fluidity and critical rationality.”17 Further, she argued “. . . that states must check rampant forms of sexism in homeschooling so as to prevent the severe under-education of girls by homeschooling parents who believe in female subordination.” In 2008, Dr. Reich argued for more state control over home education to protect his posited interests of the state, the parents, and the children in the education of children.18

On a related note, it seems more policymakers are willing to explicitly allege that too many parents use homeschooling as a way to hide evil actions against their children and that a major purpose of schools or school laws is to keep all children under the eye of the state and to try to “catch bad people” before they commit evil deeds. For example, some in Florida recently suggested law or policy might need to be changed regarding homeschooling because some parents allegedly pulled their children out of public school so they could hide their abuse.19 Many persons miss, however, two major points here. First, the Florida Department of Children and Families already knew about the matter and admits that it needs to work to repair the “. . . total systematic failure of the child welfare system.”20 Second, in a free nation, education or schooling laws, if they should exist at all, should be used to encourage literacy in citizens and should not be used as pre-emptive dragnets to control families’ lives in order to try to detect or catch “evil people” before they do bad things.

Most of the arguments against home education or for state control over private home education also essentially ignore three things. First, there is no empirical research evidence to support their claims that homeschooling causes or will cause negative effects for individuals or for society. Second, pushing for state control does not truly give the child more control or protect his rights more; it simply gives the state more power than either the parent or child and gives the state ultimate power over the child. Third, a nation like the United States that considers the people “free,” is a constitutional republic based on Biblical Scriptural concepts, and considers parents able to freely conduct their families’ lives unless there is compelling evidence that they are harming their children should not be considering ways to infringe on parents’ fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children.21

In Sum

Research continues to show very positive outcomes and behaviors related to homeschooling. Although research on home-based education does not cover all possibilities and nuances to be considered in scientific endeavors, no empirical evidence exists that homeschooling is generally harming children or society. Finally, research cannot answer the question, Should parents nurture and educate their children in the context of parent-led home-based education as the norm? Ultimately, only divine revelation can properly answer that.

Brian D. Ray is an internationally known scholar and president of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute in Oregon, U.S.A. (www.NHERI.org). He earned his Ph.D. in science education from Oregon State University, M.S. in zoology from Ohio University, and B.S. in Biology from the University of Puget Sound. He has been a professor of science and education at the undergraduate and graduate levels, has been a classroom teacher in both public and private schools, and has taught homeschool students. Dr. Ray does research and speaking internationally and provides expert testimony to legislators and in courts that focus on homeschooling (home-based education, home education, home schooling) research and pedagogy.


1. Lines, Patricia M. (1991, October). “Estimating the Home Schooled Population” (working paper OR 91-537). Washington DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.
2. Ray, Brian D. (2011). 2.04 “Million Homeschool Students in the United States in 2010.” Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute. Retrieved 1/7/2011 online www.nheri.org/HomeschoolPopulationReport2010.pdf.
3. Ray, Brian D. (2010, February 3). “Academic Achievement and Demographic Traits of Homeschool Students: A Nationwide Study.” Academic Leadership Journal, 8(1). Retrieved February 10, 2010 from www.academicleadership.org/emprical_research/Academic_Achievement_and_Demographic_Traits_of_Homeschool_Students_A_Nationwide_Study.shtml. Also see research at www.nheri.org.
4. Rudner, Lawrence M. (1999). “Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students In 1998.” Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 7(8), and retrieved 1/21/2010 from epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/viewFile/543/666.
5. Ray, 2010, see above.
6. Oregon Department of Education [Office of Student Services]. (1999, May 20). “Annual report of home school statistics” [1998-99]. Salem, OR: Author. Also retrieved 7/14/2010 from www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=2081. Tennessee Department of Education. (1988). “Tennessee Statewide Averages, Home School Student Test Results, Stanford Achievement Test, Grades 2, 5, 7 and 9.” Nashville, TN: Author.
7. Ray, 2010, see above. Ray, Brian D. (2000). “Home Schooling: The Ameliorator of Negative Influences on Learning? Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1 & 2), 71-106. Ray, Brian D. (1997). Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America: Academic Achievement, Family Characteristics, and Longitudinal Traits. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute (www.nheri.org).
8. Ray, Brian D., and Eagleson, Bruce K. (2008, August 14). “State Regulation of Homeschooling and Homeschoolers’ SAT Scores.” Journal of Academic Leadership, 6(3). Retrieved December 7, 2010 from www.academicleadership.org/article/State_Regulation_of_Homeschooling_and_Homeschoolers_SAT_Scores.
9. Medlin, Richard G. (2006). “Homeschooled Children’s Social Skills.” Home School Researcher, 17(1), 1-8. A summary of research on this topic may be found in the following: Ray, Brian D. (2009). Home Education Reason and Research: Common Questions and Research-Based Answers. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute, available at www.nheri.org.
10. The author presented many of these points in Ray, 2010 (see above); Ray, Brian D. (2000). “Home Schooling: The Ameliorator of Negative Influences on Learning?” Peabody Journal of Education, 75(1 & 2), 71-106; and, Ray, Brian D. (1997). Strengths of Their Own—Home Schoolers Across America: Academic Achievement, Family Characteristics, and Longitudinal Traits. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute (www.nheri.org).
11. Ray, Brian D. (2004). Home Educated and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits. Salem, OR: National Home Education Research Institute.
12. Cogan, Michael F. (2010, Summer). “Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students.” Journal of College Admission, Summer 2010, 18 25.
13. Ray, 2010, see above.
14. United States Department of Education. (2009). “Homeschooled Students.” (Participation in Education, Elementary/Secondary Education, Indicator 6, 2009). Retrieved January 19, 2010 from nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2009/section1/indicator06.asp#info.
15. Reich, Rob. (2002). “The Civic Perils of Homeschooling.” Educational Leadership, 59(7), 56-59.
16. Lubienski, Christopher. (2003, January 17). “Does Homeschooling Promote the Public Good?” CQ Researcher [Congressional Quarterly], 13(2), p. 41.
17. Yuracko, Kim. (2007, April 14). “Education Off the Grid: Constitutional Constraints on Homeschooling.” Northwestern University School of Law, Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 07-11. Retrieved April 29, 2008, from papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=980100.
18. Reich, Rob. (2008). “On Regulating Homeschooling: A Reply to Glanzer.” Educational Theory, 58(1), 17-23.
19. Lawrence, David, Jr., Martinez, Roberto, & Sewell, James. (2011, March 10). The Nubia Report: The Investigative Panel’s Findings and Recommendations. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from www.dcf.state.fl.us/newsroom/publicdocuments/southern/barahona/Barahona%20Independent%20Review%20panel/Final%20Report/Final%20Report.pdf.
20. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from www.dcf.state.fl.us/initiatives/barahona/more.shtml.
21. Florida Department of Children and Families. (2011). Barahona case. For more information, see www.ParentalRights.org.

Copyright © 2011 by Brian D. Ray. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Summer 2011.
Visit The Old Schoolhouse® at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com to view a full-length sample copy of the magazine especially for homeschoolers. Click the graphic of the moving computer monitor on the left. Email the Publisher at Publisher@TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.

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How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT

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High school juniors across the country are preparing to take the SAT in the next few weeks. At this point, you may be wondering what you could possibly do to improve your score.

How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT

Here are some steps to follow in the next few weeks to make the most of the remaining time.

14 Days Out — Get a current snapshot of your skills

If you haven’t already, take an SAT practice test. Your score and skills analysis will give you a clear starting point for planning. Organize a study plan with these steps:

  • Identify your good areas that you want to make great. Every student has a strong suit; figure that out and optimize it.
  • Identify the areas that need the greatest improvement, and, here’s the key: find the few highest-impact skills in those areas that will produce the biggest impact. Focus on those high-impact skills.
  • Prepare a detailed study schedule that charts your expected personal growth over the next two weeks, including specific goals for your areas of focus.

A well-trained tutor can help use the practice test data to focus your efforts so you can improve during the time that remains.

10 Days Out — Work on time management

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with some of the test construct and high-impact skills, you need to start to think about time management. How are you breaking up your time for the reading passages and questions? How much time are you spending on the easy and medium math questions versus the hard questions? These nuanced time-management decisions can have a big impact on performance.

7 Days Out — Take another practice test and assess progress

At this point, take another practice test. Assess your growth in your scores and skills. What has grown? What hasn’t? Now, target the skills that need the most attention and focus there for the remaining days.

1 Day Out – Summarize & Review

With the end in sight, it’s time to consolidate your lessons learned onto one sheet. What high-impact skills are most important for you? What grammar rules, math formulae, reading strategies are the most helpful? And what time management approaches optimize your performance best? Write these down for review and bring them along in the car ride on test day morning. And be confident! The key is that you have insight into your own personal performance and you know how to personalize your own test-taking approach to meet your specific needs. That’s the key to success.

About Matthew Pietrafetta
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of the test preparation company Academic Approach.

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Handling Homeschooling When Mom is Sick

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At some point, it will happen. You will get sick. It happens to all of us. When it happens we not only feel terrible due to the flu bug but because of the stress of managing school while we are sick.  Homeschool moms have a hard time turning off the homeschool even during sick days. First of all, let’s just clear something up. You are allowed to have a sick day. Your kids need you healthy and ready for unpredictable days of math and field trips. It is ok and best to take the time to recover properly.

How Do I Prepare for a Sick Day?

To help you feel better about taking the time to feel better, you need to plan ahead. First, remind yourself that it will not ruin the school year if you go off the curriculum for a few days Secondly, before sickness strikes, create a list of activities your children will enjoy independently. For older children, you can create a list which includes acceptable activities and some chores to do while you are sick. For younger children, you may want to create a pictorial list or put items in a tote that are non-messy to keep them busy.

Activities to Keep Kids Busy During Mom Sick Days

Board Games:  Provide your children some educational board games and card games to keep them busy and productive. Chose some solo player games to encourage entertaining and quiet times.

Video Games and Apps:  Yes, you can allow a few hours of Minecraft or an educational app during your sick day.

Audio Books:  For younger children, audio books are a wonderful way to keep them engaged. You may want to choose audio books that correlate with what your children are currently studying.

Building Blocks/LEGOS:  Allow the kids to get out a big box of their favorite building blocks and use their imagination.

Arts & Crafts:  Create a tote of mess free art and crafts for your children. You can fill the tote with crayons, colored pencils, copy paper, coloring books, play dough, coloring books, beads and string, etc. Of course, you need to keep your children’s ages in mind.

Puzzles:  A great way to keep kids busy and productive.

Story Writing:  Kids are natural born storytellers. Let them shine by giving them supplies to write their own stories.

Mad Libs: Allow for giggles and language skills works by providing some books of Mad Libs.

Tip:  Consider your children’s ages when providing anything with lots of pieces of that require a lot of clean up.

With a little planning and grace for yourself, a sick day doesn’t have to be stressful.  Download the activity cards to aid you in this preparation. Just cut out the cards and let the kids pick to see which activity they get to do!

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Overcoming Common Homeschool Challenges

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There are many challenges that can come when you make the decision to home school your children. From dealing with state laws, to choosing a curriculum, and finding ways to socialize your children, the challenges are many but with a little planning, thought, and prayer, are easily overcome.

Below are some of the challenges you may face and a few tips of how to address them.

Finding Socializing Opportunities

This is a common concern of families who are transitioning from public schools to homeschool or just deciding to homeschool from the start. It is a common and incorrect stereotype that homeschool children are socially awkward and under socialized. That is an easy problem to avoid!

You can easily find local groups and opportunities to provide social experiences for your child without the concerns that come from socializing at a public school level. Here are a few to consider:

  • Sports Teams at Recreational Department or YMCA – Enroll your children into the community sports programs, local dance groups, or other team based activities.
  • Homeschool Groups – Check with local parents, Facebook groups, or friends to find a homeschool group in your area. Or, if there isn’t a homeschool group you could create one yourself.
  • Local Library – most local libraries have story times for younger children, arts and crafts events, and other such group based activities that are usually free to participate in.
  • Church and Neighborhood – Create play dates with families that you know and trust either from your neighborhood or church groups.

Choosing the Correct Curriculum

There are so many curriculum options available that it can often be overwhelming! It can also get quite pricey, especially if you are unsure if the curriculum you are choosing will be the right fit for your family. Here are a few ideas to help in choosing curriculum for your home school:

  • Check with Other Parents – Ask other parents either that you know or online to see which curriculum worked best for them and why. Getting reviews from others is a great way to decide if a certain curriculum would work best for your children.
  • Purchase Used Items – When you think you’ve found the right fit, look on eBay, homeschool supply for sale groups on Facebook, and other classified based sites to purchase items used for a fraction of the price. Not only will this save you money, but if you learn the curriculum isn’t best for your children, you have less money invested.
  • Find Monthly Subscription Services – Many homeschool classes and curriculum have a monthly subscription style service available. This format allows you to pay a smaller amount each month to access online lessons and materials. This way if you decide it isn’t a good fit, you can simply cancel the subscription.

Dealing with Power Struggles

A challenge with homeschool that is often unconsidered is the power struggles between you and your children. Especially if your children are transitioning from public school to homeschool, it can be difficult to make that move from being their parent to also being their full time teacher.

Though these struggles may be something you have to address on a “as they come” type basis, here are a few tips that may help to keep those issues at bay.

  • Set Up an Incentive Program – Create a rewards system that will help to create incentive for your child to willingly complete their work. You can look for ideas online or create a chore chart type system that works for your child.
  • Mix It Up – There is a chance that a daily routine will become boring and monotonous for your children creating antsy and distracted homeschool days. Try mixing up your schedule to add in an additional recess or play time to break of the monotony of a school day.
  • Create Hands On Experiences – One of the joys of homeschool is being able to control the classroom environment. Keep your child interest in his or her studies by creating fun and exciting hands on activities, such as science projects, arts and crafts, cooking lessons, and more.

Concerns from Extended Family and Friends

You most likely will receive a mixture of response when your friends and extended family learn of your decision to homeschool your children. If your social circles are completely supportive of your decision, count yourself lucky! Most likely you will encounter people who are concerned about your decision to homeschool.

Make sure to simply hold your ground and let them know that you are confident in your decision. The truth is that you, your spouse, and your children are the only ones entitled to an opinion on their education. If you feel a need to calm others’ concerns, simply let them know why you reached that decision and even a synopsis of your homeschool plans.

Ultimately, though there will be challenges associated with homesechooling your children, the rewards and joys of doing so will far outweigh the struggles. So, when challenges present themselves, take a deep breath, hug your little ones, and know that you are doing an incredible job.

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31 Writing Prompts for Teens

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You hear it all the time. The way to get better at writing is to just do it. . .write! What happens when the words don’t flow? You can sit there waiting for divine inspiration to strike from the muses, or you can have writing prompts ready at your disposal to help you fight so-called “writer’s block”. Here are 31+ prompts (one a day and then some for our short months) to kickstart your writing!

31 Writing Prompts for Teens

If you’re struggling to get your teenager into creative writing, try letting him or her pick from this list of writing prompts!

1. Make a List. . .or 10

This activity can serve as brainstorming for future writing or work as a writing tool itself. Make a list of all the things you love (or hate), favorite books, inspirational quotes, story ideas, character names, and more. The lists literally can go on and on!

2. Write an unsent letter.

Write a letter to a friend, teacher, parent, crush, or hero with the words you want to say but aren’t ready (or maybe shouldn’t) put out there.

3. You are arrested for a crime you didn’t commit in a case of mistaken identity. Write about what ensues.

4. Write about your favorite physical feature (or your least favorite).

5. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

6. Write a story using the strongest character traits of your family members in the main characters of your story. Feel free to switch them up. (i.e. if mom is super organized, make the daughter super organized in the story)

7. Write about your first kiss (or the one that hasn’t happened yet).

8. Take a dabble into fan fiction. Write a story from the perspective of a character in your favorite TV show, movie, or novel.

9. List all the things you love about yourself. Write a poem based on that list.

10. Think about the last time you had a good cry. Write down how you felt in lyric (song) form.

11. Create a new invention that fulfills a need in your life. Write up the plans for your new idea.

12. Make a list of questions you’ve always wanted to know the answers to but are too afraid to ask.

13. Think of your first memory from your childhood. Write about it from the point of view of a child at that age.

14. You just found a bag of money with a note. It simply says, “Pay it forward.” What do you do?

15. Make a list of random acts of kindness you can complete. Do one of them.

16. Write about an embarrassing moment you had but from the perspective of someone who witnessed it.

17. Think about an adult in your life that you admire. Write a letter from them to you with the advice you think they would give you about life.

18. Create your own ice cream flavor based on your personality. Write a description/recipe.

19. Write about a problem in the world and how you could fix it with creative (even impossible) means.

20. Someone tells you that teenagers are lazy. Write your response proving them wrong.

21. Make a list of your favorite songs. Write a parody for one of the songs related to your own life.

22. Go on Instagram (or other social media). Write a story or poem based on the first image that you see.

23. Observe people at a mall, park, or another public place. Write a character sketch based on a stranger that you see.

24. Convince the government that your birthday should be a national holiday.

25. Write about your dream vacation on a limitless budget.

26. You’re the star of your own reality show. What is about? What’s it called? Write the first episode.

27. You’re snowed in for a week with your best friend and no parents. What happens?

28. Please really is the magic word. Every time you say “please”, something amazing happens. Write a story about what happens when you discover this for the first time.

29. Pick a random book in your collection. Open to a random page. The first sentence is the first sentence of your story.

30. Write a story with a few words and phrases in a different language. (i.e. hello, love, goodbye, fear).

31. Write about your perfect day.

If you breeze through these writing prompts or are looking for more inspiration, check out some of these sites below for more fantastic writing prompts.

1. 100 Not-Boring Writing Prompts for Middle and High Schoolers
2. Three Story Elements Prompts
3. Writing Prompts About Gratitude
4. Reflective Essay Prompts for High School Students
5. 365 Writing Questions
6. Six Word Memoirs
7. Blackout/Found Poetry
8. 15 Visual Writing Prompts
9. Using Photos as Writing Prompts
10. More Writing Prompts


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8 Free Middle School Math Activities

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“When are we ever going to use this?”

If you have a middle schooler (or teach them), you’ve probably heard this question about Math. Truthfully, we all know that we use math at all levels of education from Kindergartners counting out crayons to adults figuring taxes.

What makes kids “get it” is bringing math to real life. Middle schoolers aren’t thinking about balancing a checkbook or figuring out miles per gallon on their vehicle, but we can help them make those connections. Taxes are at least a few years away, and most have mastered counting back change. Understanding the practical applications for Math practice today can help students apply their learning into adulthood.

Free Middle School Math Activities

Here are 8 free math activities to help your middle school student learn and grow with real-life math.

1. Table Talk Math
Sign up on this site to have prompts and articles delivered to help facilitate math discussions at home. When parents can help carry on conversations about learning in any context, it will help students understand its value!

2. Football Math

These activities can be adapted for other sporting events, but it’s never too early to prepare for the biggest game of the season. Yummy Math gives dozens of ideas from Fantasy Football picks to analyzing whether or not a team should go for it on 4th down or even comparing the quarterback ratings of those with and without facial hair. Hey, the last one may be a little in left field (don’t let the baseball metaphor confuse you), but it does make learning fun!

3. Top Speed

This is an authentic learning activity from galileo.org (an educational network) to help students understand the relationship between distance and speed and using linear measurements. Students determine their top speeds while running skipping, and walking and then test the relationships between speed, distance, and time. This works best with a group, but it can be adapted in a homeschool setting.

4. Inquiry Maths

Fueled by mathematical statements or prompts, students generate their activities and explore through inquiry. The menu on the side has a list of categorical prompts and even options for students and teachers to create their own statements.

5. Plan a Dream Vacation

It doesn’t get more real and fun than planning a vacay on a budget. It’s Fine in the Middle gives you the steps and resources to implement this project for students who finish other work early in the classroom, but it’s really relevant for all learners. Knowing how to manage money early may, in fact, help them take that dream vacation in the future!

6. What’s Behind the Price of Gasoline?

This economic lesson from econedlink.org includes a lesson, student, and teacher resources to teach about supply and demand, OPEC, and the world implications of the cost of oil.

7. Financial Literacy Lessons for Middle Schoolers

14 lessons with teacher and student resources are included for everything from budgeting and living on your own to credit cards and consumer privacy.

8. Start a Small Business

Thirteen Ed Online has hundreds of lessons on a variety of topics. This financial literacy lesson walks students through what it takes to start a small business.

Give your students something they can apply to real life situations through these authentic math tasks!


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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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Fun Activities for Teaching Children to Tell Time

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“What time is it?” It’s a question you will hear many times a week. In life, time is of the essence, and so it’s important to know how to tell time. So, since it’s very important, now the question is, “How can I teach my child to tell time?”

There are a couple of things to consider before beginning to teach your child time concepts. Firstly, are they old enough? Children can start learning this concept at a very early age, but the best time seems to be between three and six years of age, your preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders. Also, should you use a digital or analog (hands) clock? The answer is both, since the child will encounter both throughout their lives. But you’d be best served to start with analog to get the visual concept home, especially for those children just learning to read.

Obviously, the first step in teaching time is the first step in teaching anything to a child: Make it fun! The message won’t sink in by just telling them, ìThis long hand is for minutes, and that shorter hand is for hours,î or, ìLook, the clock says 6:45.î You might as well be saying it in Ancient Greek.

So, you reach them through fun, but how? A few suggestions:

4 Fun Activities for Teaching Children to Tell Time

Make a Clock

Children love to create with their hands. You can harness this to teach time by helping them make their own clock. Cut a circle of cardboard for the base, then on a piece of construction paper, have the child trace the circle on to the paper, glue it to the cardboard, then number it like a clock. Make the two hands out of two different sizes and colors to reinforce the difference between hour hand and minute hand. Using a brass brad, attach the hands through the middle of the clock and fan the arms out on the bottom to hold it in place.

Teach Through Song

Find a song that talks about time, such as oldies classic “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets. Have the child repeat to you what happens at each hour in the song. Or, help the child create a song of their own. Not only will it help them remember the concept strongly (children, like all of us, have a great memory for songs and lyrics), it will give them yet another bond with you, something even more valuable.

Create a Schedule

There’s certain things that your child does at certain times throughout the day, like bedtime, schooltime, when a favorite television show is on, mealtimes, and so on. Here is a perfect opportunity to teach time. Use our free printable daily homeschool planner for kids to plot out a schedule. Throughout the day, look at the nearest clock to you and tell them, “Look, it’s 3:30,” (if it’s an analog clock) “The big hand is at three, the little hand is at six, and that means it’s 3:30, it’s time for Pokemon Go!” When it’s dinner time, again, point out the time. Do this consistently to keep the memory fresh in their minds.

Take a Trip

Do you live near a church that rings the bells on the hour? Or know someone with an old grandfather clock or one with electronic chimes? Go see it. The sound will stay in their memories, especially if its a beautfiul sound from a piece of art like a bell tower or grandfather clock. And if there’s not one near you? You’re sitting in front of the answer now, as there’s countless ways to see and hear clocks, like Big Ben in London, over the Internet.

And your imagination can provide many more. There’s hundreds of ways to do it, and they’re all fun to do. They’ll teach your child time, and that quality time is important, too!


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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.


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.



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!




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!




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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