January 5, 2009

Dear Oklahoma Homeschool Subscribers,

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, took some time off from school, and are now ready to get back to work! You're half -way there!

From my experience, the next two months are usually difficult for a variety of reasons. But don't give up! If things get difficult, try changing something, either your curriculum or your schedule. Nothing is sacred - do what it takes to get back your momentum.

I will be back in college on the 12th for the spring semester. I find that I'm having to force myself to go back. I keep thinking I can't do it anymore - I'm too old. What's the point? Etc. I've decided it's just as hard to go back to college at age 58 (almost 59 now) as it was to homeschool! But I'm going to keep going. I believe God told me to go, so I'm going to go. I'll be praying for you and your homeschool; I hope you will pray for me!

Have a Happy New Year!

Cindy Downes

Oklahoma Homeschool Newsletter, January 2009


What's New on the Oklahoma Homeschool Website?

1. NEW Homeschool Facebook Page:

I started a Facebook page for homeschoolers called, 1 Super Bunch of Homeschoolers. I hope you will join me! I'd love to see your faces and put your faces to the names on my mailing list!

You can even add your own photos or videos of your homeschool activities, write on the wall, ask questions, discuss curriculum or homeschooling, volunteer advice (nice only), share an event, share a recipe, or anything else related to homeschool. I hope it will be something that will benefit you as well as help me get to know you. If you don't have a Facebook page, simply start one, make me your friend, and then you can join the group from my page. Invite your friends too! Note: I will remove anyone from the group who uses the group for anything but homeschool conversation.

One recommendation for those who don't know - DO NOT put anything up on Facebook that represents a password you use. For instance, if you use your pet's name, date, or a town in which you were born for a password - either change your password or don't use that name or date on Facebook (or anywhere else on the Internet). I make it a policy not to use anything from my past for a password now. It's too easy for people to find out. Instead, make up some silly password for when you sign up for newsletters etc., and make up a complicated password that you change often for more important items.

2. NEW BLOG: How Do I Teach . . . ?

As many of you know, I love to teach “out of the box.” I love discovering resources that are simple and fun to use, that meet the needs of kids of all learning styles, and that focus on each child's unique gifts and requirements.

I am in the process of creating a new resource for educators called “How Do I Teach . . .” This blog will feature tips on how to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and history. I plan on including science lab ideas, composition projects, math enrichment ideas, and hands-on history projects, as well as freebie resources available on the Internet.

It will take a little while for it to get started, especially as I am about to head back to school, but I'm excited about this new project. I think it will be fun for me and I hope a usable resource for you. If you can, stop by the blog and participate in my poll. In addition, if you sign up as a Follower, you'll be one of the first to know when I add resources.

3. I updated my Special Education section of the Web site.

4. I updated my Archeology and the Bible unit.

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Curriculum/Book Review:

  • The Tower of Babel Pop-Up and Read by Jon Taylor is a beautiful hardback book containing 22 pages of vivid color illustrations and large print text. Although marketed as a pop-up book, there is actually only one pop-up — a large two-page-wide model of the Tower of Babel that pops up on the first page and remains up throughout the book.

    The book is based on Genesis 11:1-9 in the Bible. It introduces the reader to the Tower of Babel and provides a brief explanation as to how we got our various people groups.

    Although it is advertised for ages 4-8, I recommend reading it as part of a family Bible study before reading the actual account in the Bible. The vocabulary and subject matter is too difficult for most four to eight year olds to grasp on their own. On the other hand, your older children will probably want more explanation than is given in this book.

    As an introduction to this passage of scripture, The Tower of Babel does a great job. The beautiful color illustrations and fun pop-up Tower of Babel will keep your children’s interest as you read and discuss the text together.

    For a more detailed Biblical explanation of the Tower of Babel and our various people groups, I recommend the Answers In Genesis Web site.

  • Review of Dinosaur Activity Book by Earl & Bonita Snellenberger.

    The Wonders of God's World Dinosaur Activity Book by Earl & Bonita Snellenberger is the perfect resource for teaching your elementary-age children about dinosaurs. If it is used during family reading times, it would interest almost everyone in the family.

    The book is a Bible-based textbook and activity book all-on-one. I found the text extremely interesting and discovered many things I didn't know about dinosaurs and fossils. The text explains what a dinosaur is, how fossils were formed, and how paleontologists reconstruct dinosaurs from fossil fragments. It explains how scientist can misinterpret fossil evidence and provides examples of specific instances where mistakes were made. It also discusses dinosaurs in history, both actual and mythical.

    Activities in the book include mazes, puzzles, dot-to-dots, crossword puzzles, tangrams, and coloring pages. Some activities involve making a finger puppet or putting together paper models. Children who like to cut, color and paste and make their own booklets will love these activities.

    My only objection to the book is that the author does not allow teachers and parents to make copies of the worksheet pages for their students and/or children. You would have to purchase a separate workbook for each child. This will only discourage honest teachers and parents on a budget from purchasing the book for classroom use. If you fit this case, I recommend writing to the publisher and asking permission. Perhaps they will give it!

By the way, this would make a great activity book to use for a unit on dinosaurs!

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Teaching Without Textbooks

1. NEW: Photography Unit. Since my husband is a photographer and several homeschooled students I know are now entering the field of photography, I thought it would be a great idea to do a unit on Photography. This unit was written for teens in 7th-12th grade. I hope you enjoy!

2. TIPS: How to Create a Unit Study With a Library Book and an Activity Book:

  • Start with The Checklist to determine which topic(s) you are going to cover.

  • After you have selected the topic(s), find one or two activity books that correspond to the topic(s) and that fit the interests, requirements, and grade levels of your children. Look for activity resources that include activities from all learning styles so you can choose activities based on your children's learning styles.

  • Select one book related to the topic to use as family reading.

  • If you wish to integrate Bible into your unit, try to find at least one Christian-based book or activity that relates to the unit. This can be used as family reading or hands-on activities, as appropriate.

  • Divide the family reading book up into lessons. For example, you might make each chapter a lesson, or if the chapters are short, two chapters a lesson. If there are no chapters, divide the book up by pages, as many as you can cover in one day's lesson.

  • Make a list of hands-on activities from the activity books that relate to each chapter or group of pages from the family reading book. These are the ones you will cover for each lesson.

  • Allow one day per week for reading, research and discussion and another day per week for working on hands-on activities.

  • Select at least one book related to the topic for each child to read independently, based on reading level. This will be read independently and, for older students, can be used as the basis of a book report due at the end of the unit.

  • Set the time limit of your unit according to the number of lessons. For example, if you have ten lessons and ten sets of hands-on activities and you decide to do two lessons per week, then your unit will last ten weeks. If you do four lessons per week, then the unit will last five weeks.

  • Schedule your unit. Refer to my sample schedule for scheduling ideas.

That's all there is to it! How easy is that?

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Oklahoma Information and Resources:

1. The following article was written by Vicky Golightly from the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to provide Oklahoma residents with information about their services:

Do you know of someone in kindergarten-grade 12 who cannot read regular print course material? Have you had to enlarge a student’s print books on a copier or read lessons aloud? If your answer is “yes”, please permit me to tell you about a program that might change the way your homeschooled students learn.

The Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Center at the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (OLBPH) provides Braille and large print textbooks and other instructional materials/equipment to blind or visually impaired students and also to those who cannot access regular print due to a physical disability that prevents them from turning the pages of a standard print book. We serve students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 who attend public, private, and home schools.

The AIM Center has over 21,000 items you can check out for the duration of the school year. Have you taught a geography lesson where a tactile map may have enhanced the student’s understanding? Perhaps you need an English or mathematics textbook book in Braille or large print. Or maybe you could use bold line or raised line paper. What about a talking or large print calculator? Do you need a Braille or large print clock to teach a young student how to tell time? Perhaps colored overlays in conjunction with a light box are needed for a student with Dyslexia.

The AIM Center maintains a central repository of Braille and large print textbooks/equipment, which are circulated and reused by students as needed. We continually visit with special education directors, teachers, school superintendents and parents in order to provide students with accessible curriculum. Still, often educators are unaware of this excellent resource.

For more information, please contact Teresa Kruta, AIM Center Administrator, at (405) 522-0982 or Vicky Golightly at VGolightly@drs.state.ok.us. Please visit www.library.state.ok.us and click on the AIM Center to find the appropriate order forms.

The OLBPH also provides over 56,000 audio and Braille books to people of all ages who cannot read regular print due to a visual disability or who cannot turn the pages of a standard print book due to a physical disability. These books are available on loan and they are mailed to and from the patron free. There is absolutely no cost for any service offered by the Library. Reading a print book along with an audio book often augments the student’s comprehension. The Library’s leisure-reading audio and Braille fiction and nonfiction books come in handy for book reports or simply for entertainment.

We have two mottos at OLBPH. They are: “Share Our Vision That All May Read” and “Share Our Vision That All May Learn”. We look forward to providing the means to help you work with your children and young adults!

2. Oklahoma History Online by Cindy Downes. An online, multi-level curriculum for teaching Oklahoma History.

3. Oklahoma Scrapbook: A Travel Guide and Memory Book for Exploring Oklahoma by Cindy Downes.

4. For more info and learning materials about Oklahoma history, check my website at: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/teachOKH.html

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Internet Resources:

1. Time 4 Learning. I haven't seen the whole curriculum, only the samples on the Web site, but from the looking at the samples, this appears to be a worthwhile resource for self-employed homeschool parents, parents with new babies, parents with multiple children at multiple grade levels, a temporary illness or anyone else who needs a break now and then from the teaching task. I don't recommend using it for extended period of times as it is hard on the eyes. I don't recommend anything taking the place of the parents, but at $19.95 a month and no monthly contract, this might make a super fill-in if needed.

2. Helping Your Child Learn Math - a printable resource from No Child Left Behind.

3. A fun way to learn about Sabin and the polio vaccine - On the Edge: Paralyzing Polio, a comic by PBS.

4. America's Founding Fathers - biographies of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

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A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.”

Thomas Carruthers

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Please feel free to forward this to anyone who may be interested. Please forward in it's entirety.

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Have a great day!


Cindy Downes

Have you seen The Checklist? It's an assessment tool, lesson planner and K-12 Recordkeeper created for Christian Home Educators: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/checklist.html

Oklahoma History Online is now available! Check it out at: http://www.oklahomahomeschool.com/okhist.html

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Copyright © 2004 - by Cindy Downes