Archive for the ‘Teaching – all grades’ Category

Mini Valentine’s Day Unit Study!

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Valentine's Day Unit Study for homeschooled students

Here are 15 Valentine’s Day ideas, broken down by subject, to add some pizzazz to your homeschooling!

Valentine’s ideas for History and Geography

1.  Did you know the original St. Valentine was said to be a Christian martyr? Noting that there are a few different versions of the St. Valentine’s legend, have your middle/high schooler research and create a short oral report about St. Valentine’s life and death and present it to your family.

2. Have your dramatically-inclined student use the above research and create a short play based on St. Valentine’s life and perform it for another homeschooling family.
3. Task your students with researching Valentine’s Day during the Middle Ages and find out what Valentine’s Day had to do with birds.  :-)
4.  One of the most common symbols of Valentine’s Day is a Cupid. After defining  the word “symbol” for your youngest students, have your older ones research Cupid, draw a picture of one (in color, of course) and include a description of the origins of Cupid on the page.
5. Valentine’s Day is not just an American holiday! Have your student(s) locate other countries where Valentine’s Day is celebrated and do one or more of the following: Make a notebooking page for every country you find that celebrates Valentine’s Day.  List the Valentine’s Day traditions of that country and draw a map of each country.
6. Choose one or more interesting traditions and incorporate it into your family’s celebration.

7. Create a world map labeling the countries that celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Ideas for Language Arts

8. Create a word search including the following terms: Valentine’s Day, roses, pink, red, lace, cupid, card, St. Valentine, heart, doves, chocolate, etc.

9. What does the Bible say about love?  Instruct your students to find verses that describe the love that God has for His people, for the church and the love believers should have for one another.  Choose some of the verses as copy work and/or memorization.
10. Have your students define the word “love” in a paragraph.  Have them read about love in the Bible and the

n revise their paragraph as needed, including Bible verses as references.  Use this assignment as a lesson between love as a “feeling” and love as a “choice” and/or an “action.”

Valentine’s Ideas in Science

11. Use this week  as an opportunity for a quick scientific study of the heart. Write a short report about the function of the human heart.  Include a diagram of the heart, labeling the various parts. Using different colors, show the blood flow into and out of the heart.

12.  Make a poster  comparing and contrasting the human heart and the heart of an amphibian or reptile. If comparing and contrasting is a new concept you may want to use a Venn Diagram for help.

Valentine’s Ideas for Fun and Family Ministry

13. Gather your construction paper, wrapping paper scraps, ric rac, spare buttons, markers, glue and other craft supplies in the appropriate colors. Take an afternoon off school and construct hand-made Valentine’s cards for friends, family, elderly or shut in neighbors, children at a local hospital, etc.  Add a Bible verse about love to your cards and talk about what the verse means.

14.  Bake heart-shaped sugar cookies, frost with pink icing and glaze with pink sugar.  Include a homemade card and cookies and take to the neighbors, a nursing home or use to create a care package to a college student or two.
15. Start a new tradition!  Join with another family or two and assign many of the above ideas to different children.  Plan and execute a Valentine’s Party or dessert.  Have everyone share their reports and projects, exchange Valentines and then enjoy homemade Valentine’s treats!
And let’s not leave out any of the youngest members of your family — here is an adorable interactive book that will make your babies giggle with glee.  (Really!)
What ideas can you add or what mentioned here sparked your interest?  What do you do at your house to celebrate Valentine’s Day?


Heart image courtesy of Zoo-fari via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Luther King Day!

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Ihaveadreambymichelle kwajafa via StockXChng (428x640)




“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.


 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

–Martin Luther King, from a  Letter from a Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963






Resources for Studying Martin Luther King

Are you hustling to try and pull something together for Martin Luther King Day?  Here are a few ideas for you:

  1. Fellow homeschooling mother and friend Erica Johns of Classical Composers Monthly has put together a webpage  with some cool Martin Luther King resources, including a short biography, web clips and links to other information.
  2. After watching the clip from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, have your younger students draw a picture of one of their “dreams” (i.e., how they would like the world to be).
  3.  Read and discuss the transcription of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
  4. Read just a section of the letter and have your children narrate afterward.
  5. Have your older children read the letter and discuss or write about one or more of the following:
  • Based on his letter, what can you tell about Martin Luther King’s education?
  • Based on his letter, what can you tell about his values?
  • Choose a line or two up or more, depending upon the age of your students,  for copywork.


Additional Assignment Possibilities

  1. Research and write about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
  2. Make a lapbook about Martin Luther King’s life.
  3. Divide the following terms, events and people among your students. Give them time to research  and have them each report briefly on  each event or person at the end of the day:
                        • the 1963 March on Washington
                        • the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
                        • the Selma Voter-Registration Drive
                        • the the Voting Rights Act of 1965
                        • the Birmingham Protests of 1963
                        • the Black Panthers
                        • Eugene “Bull” O’Connor
                        • Coretta Scott King
                        • Mahatma Gandhi.

 Processing What Was Learned

After your students read and learned more about Dr. Martin Luther King, ask them:

  • Why do you think we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday?
  • What did he do that was important?
  • What could you do to help bring peace to the world? (Starting with your home or neighborhood…)

 Books about the Civil Rights Movement


What will you be doing for Martin Luther King Day?

Photo courtesy Michelle Kwajafa via

Should You Homeschool? 5 Questions to Ask

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Should we send them back to school after the break?

Now that Christmas is finished, you are struggling with the question:

Should we send our child back to school in January?

Perhaps your son has struggled all year to keep up the pace, or your daughter has found a new group of questionable friends and you feel as though you are losing her.

If your student doesn’t fit into the public/private school mold, or worse,  is fitting in too well — you have a tough decision to make.

If you are asking yourself..

 Can we do it?   Can we homeschool?

Here are five questions to ask:

1. What are my State’s Homeschooling Requirements?

Depending upon whether you live in Texas or Rhode Island, each state has something to say about the legality and requirements concerning homeschooling. Do you have to join an accountability group, or report to the school system, or does your state allow homeschooling without any accountability? Check with Home School Legal Defense to find out what you have to do in your state to homeschool legally.

2. Am I Qualified to Teach My Children?

Research shows that the time and effort you put into homeschooling is more important than your level of education. Surprised? You don’t have to have a master’s degree in education to educate your children. You don’t actually have to have a degree at all. What you don’t have in education, you can make up for in commitment. Consider your time outside the home; working full time and homeschooling would be exceedingly difficult, although there are certainly single parents who have made it work. For most families one parent needs to give homeschooling pretty much top billing for family life to run smoothly.

3. Where Do I Find Information about Homeschooling?

There are probably a number of books in your library system that can provide a helpful overview of homeschooling.  My personal favorites are How to Homeschool by Gayle Graham and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.

About twenty years ago when my husband and I first contemplated homeschooling we attended a local homeschool convention. We were totally overwhelmed seeing a hundred plus booths of book sellers crowded into a church gym! We bought How to Homeschool   that day and read it straight through when we got home. It gave us hope and a vision that we could do this.

As you are gathering information, seek out others in your church or neighborhood who are homeschooling.   Find out why they chose to do so and what their day to day lives are like. Ask about the materials they use and what they like and don’t like about them.

Even better: If you are contemplating homeschooling next fall rather than this January, plan to observe some families actually homeschooling. Get a feel for how it works.

A word to the wise: don’t get too wrapped up in curriculum choices yet, and do NOT try to do “school” at home. You can do much better for your children than traditional textbooks, and for much less money.

4. Where do I Start? Can I Afford it?

How many children are you going to be homeschooling? Do you have children who are close in age and ability that you may teach together? Keep in mind that it is difficult to teach more than two children completely separately; it is much better use of time and money to group children for history, science and fine arts, where age and ability allow.

Charlotte Mason or unit study methodology, for example, can be used to teach more than one student at a time, making curricula less time-intensive and costly than a typical Classical approach where every child has separate curricula for history, science, language arts, math, foreign language, etc. Charlotte Mason learning is a literature-based curriculum (read: library books!), which allows a very natural, economical,easy to teach and captivating educational method, especially for students who are used to less-than-fascinating textbooks found in most public schools.

And realize – you don’t have to teach every course! Do you have a homeschooling friend who is a brilliant writer, or more of a “math person” than you? Trade kids for those classes! There are co-ops and other strategies for outside classes as well.

5. How Do we Make the Transition?


Expect a transition, which can be exacerbated by a student’s  fears about becoming isolated at home.

Don’t expect your homeschooling to look just like public school.  It is okay just to spend time just reading and talking about what is read, especially if your children have had a difficult school experience to heal from.

Be patient with yourself and patient with your children. If your child has special needs, you are often the very best person to be educating him.  Check  the  National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN) for additional information and resources.

Seek out a local homeschooling support group, for both you and for your child/children’s sake. A support group is different than an accountability group; a support group is for just that – support. Find others who have children your children’s ages and get together at park or library at least weekly.

Additionally, many support groups schedule regular field trips as well as providing opportunities for special interest groups, lessons and clubs: karate, Legos, Spanish, Drama, tutoring, basketball, volleyball, politics, upper level math, writing, yearbooks, annual “school” pictures, service projects, dances and graduation ceremonies are all areas my children participated in through our local support groups.

As you hang around others who homeschool you will be able to ask questions and seek advice when you encounter difficulties. Know that it  is okay to move at a slower pace than you would expect; it is normal when you begin homeschooling. You will know so much more in a year than you know now, both about yourself and about your children!

And there is a plethora of information on the Internet. This blog contains  many posts and sample lessons that will help; please join our mailing list to have regular homeschooling support and ideas delivered directly to your email inbox weekly.

Bottom line: if you are committed to homeschooling and feel a strong call to do so, you can make it work. 

It means your life and schedule might look different than it did before, but you couldn’t invest your time in anything more worthy than your children. You can do it!

Have you taken your children out of school this year? How has homeschooling worked for you? Is there anything you wish you had known first?


Thanksgiving Activities for Kids!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Using this Simple Graphic Tool Will Make You a Better Teacher

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

No matter what type of homeschooling curriculum or methodology you use, this simple graphic tool will help you be a more effective teacher and your student a better learner.

The Rubric

This is my favorite graphic tool because it is SO helpful, on so many fronts, for both me and my students! Maybe this is something you have never done, but I have been guilty of quickly throwing an assignment at a student, without really thinking it through, let alone sufficiently explaining it. And then I would wonder why it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when it was done!  Especially if you are a newbie at homeschooling, I bet you have struggled with this, too.

A simple rubric often eliminates this problem by:

  • helping you think through the assignment before you give it.
  • giving you a clear, concrete way to explain exactly what you want your student to do.
  • providing a written reminder to your student of what he’s aiming for as he works on the assignment.
  • offering you the perfect tool to evaluate and discuss your student’s work with her.

Rubrics work equally well with written assignments, oral presentations, hands on projects or anything else you might dream up, for history, science, language arts and many other subjects you teach. You can make your rubric as simple or complicated as you want, depending upon the age of your student and your grading criteria.

Sample Rubric


Sample Rubric from K-5 Manual







This rubric is a simple one suitable for a story written by a late elementary student.






Personally, I did not grade my children at that age, but I did use a rubric to insure that we both understood what was expected in an assignment.

How to Make Your Own

  1. View and download this sample of  of a (blank) basic rubric.
  2. Decide which skills or concepts you want to evaluate.
  3. List the most important ones in the first column on the left.
  4. Create a table in Microsoft Word or software similar, or use the blank grid provided on the Train up a Child Publishing Tools CD if you happen own one of our Unit Programs. Type or write in the criteria under the numbers with the highest number being the best score. Notice the wording on the sample criteria to help you develop your own.
  5. You may add rows or columns if you would like a more fine-tuned system.
  6. Share the rubric with your student to explain your expectations for the assignment. Encourage her to check the rubric while she is working on the assignment to make sure it is completely finished before  it is turned in.
  7. Evaluate the assignment using the rubric and calculate the points if you are giving your student a grade for that assignment.
  8. As the teacher, you determine the grading scale depending on the number of elements and whether certain elements are more important than others. With our example, a possible grading scale would be:

9—12 points                Passing

below 9 points          Reteach

Another possible scoring system could be:

10-12                  A

8-9                      B

below 8           Reteach

I actually waited as long as I could to begin formal grading; I didn’t begin until half way through middle school. But whether you decide to grade earlier or not, rubrics will still go a long way to ensure you and your students are on the same page with assignments and evaluation.

Have you used rubrics with your students? When did you start using them and how have they worked for you?

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

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