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February 2013

by Mary Ann Kelley
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Presidents Unit, Shakespeare, Winter Field Trips, Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom, and more

It is hard not to feel that there must be something very wrong with much of what we do in school, if we feel the need to worry so much about what many people call ‘motivation’. A child has no stronger desire than to make sense of the world, to move freely in it, to do the things that he sees bigger people doing. –John Holt

From the Editor

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I was browsing Pinterest for neat Valentine’s ideas and boy are there a lot of them! I can’t decide if I’m inspired or completely overwhelmed by them (I’m leaning toward completely overwhelmed). I don’t have much time for crafty gifts these days and I tend to look back with longing at the days when I had more time for handwork.

Presidents’ Day is also coming up, and we’ve put together a fantastic free notebooking unit about presidents — 2 units, actually. One is a unit about the office of the president (more info below) and the other is a president report that can be used to research fun facts about the president of your child’s choice. I hope you find the units useful.

Enjoy the newsletter!

Warm regards,

Mary Ann Kelley


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Educational Resources

Shake Sphere (Shakespeare Study Guides)

Michael Cummings was a public-school teacher, journalist, freelance writer, author, and college instructor before retiring and devoting his time to writing. He has put together a comprehensive Shakespeare site (recommended by the New York Time) that includes summaries and analyses of all of the complete works, essays about Shakespeare and his works, glossaries, lists, quotations, and full texts of the works. To help with research and writing, the site also includes a list of free online resources such as MLA and APA style guides, grammar and punctuation guides, reference resources, and more. The How to Write a Research Paper guide is also helpful.

Virtual Home School Group

If you don’t have a local co-op group (or even if you do), you’ll love this virtual co-op. The online courses that go with many popular curricula, you can get help online with lesson plans and discussion groups. With courses such as Apologia science classes, foreign languages, career prep,and language arts courses. Many courses are noted as At-Your-Own-Pace and have year-round open enrollment with no seating caps. You must own the curriculum used in the class, but the entire co-op is volunteer run and relies on donations only. Classes fill up early, so it is a good idea to keep an eye on class availability early (the newsletter is a good way to do that) so that you can sign up as soon as a class opens. The FAQ video is helpful for getting started. Thanks to Rana S. for submitting this resource.

Winter Field Trips

Have the winter blahs? Spice up your week with one of the field trips from this list. They are tailored to winter and are sure to shake up that cabin fever that is creeping in. We did a pet store field trip years ago and it was one of our favorites.

All About Presidents Download

February 18 is Presidents’ Day in the United States, and TheHomeSchoolMom has put together an awesome notebooking unit for the holiday. Your children will research and report on the office of the President of the United States. The unit covers the history of the office of president, presidential perks, presidential firsts, nicknames and Secret Service code names, campaign slogans, important events in history (including wars and conflicts), fun facts, and political parties. If you would like something a bit smaller, check out our President Report, a simple notebooking unit to report on the president of your child’s choice.

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Recent Blog Posts

Homeschooling for Safety

Homeschooling for SafetyThis morning, my jaw dropped when I heard radio host Dennis Miller repeatedly tell a caller who was upset about the horrendous school shootings in Connecticut that he should consider pulling his young daughter out of school and homeschooling her. Miller was clearly serious.

I’m not used to hearing homeschooling being recommended by people like Dennis Miller, but in the wake of the awful event at Sandy Hook, I can see where shaken parents all over the country are looking at their children and thinking, “How can I protect them?” when dropping them off at school each day no longer looks like a safe thing to do.

I get that, and being as pro-homeschooling as I am, I agree. BUT, please know that homeschooling isn’t something you do impulsively. It requires serious thought. Most importantly, it requires at least one highly committed parent (ideally, two). Read more »

My Secret to Managing It All

My Secret to Managing It AllSecrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom: I think every successful homeschool mom has a secret…her secret to managing it all.

Because the truth is that homeschooling itself is overwhelming; it’s just difficult to get it all done. When you add in the responsibilities of keeping the household going along with it, sometimes we feel like we’re on some roller-coaster that we can’t ever get off. Academics to teach, social skills to impart, character to instill, cleaning to complete, food to make, activities to attend, transportation to provide, jobs to fulfill…it’s just so much. Too much, sometimes. Enough that it usually takes some sort of plan, some sort of secret — to actually get it all managed well. Read more »

Without a Season: Virginia Homeschool Sports Access

Without a Season: Virginia Homeschool Sports AccessFor the first time since Nick was four years old, he doesn’t have a spring soccer season. He is a U15 player for a Richmond Kickers competitive youth travel team, and at his age and level, his teammates will be trying out for their public high school teams. Therefore, club soccer takes a break, with the understanding that players are getting their soccer in their community’s public schools. In 29 other states, Nick could also try out to play on a school team. But not in Virginia — because the Virginia High School League says kids who legally meet the state’s education requirements through home education are prohibited from participating in these publicly funded athletic programs. Last year, with this day looming on the horizon, our family was featured in a TIME magazine article which included a two-page photo of Nick — who has since gotten a much shorter haircut and much longer legs. I blogged about the details of that experience here, and between the article and the blog post, you can get the gist of the situation. Read more »

20 Ways Homeschooling Is Like a Snow Day

20 Ways Homeschooling Is Like a Snow DayIt was BIG NEWS at our house…the fact that a storm was coming, and we were going to get up to 6 inches of snow! And as I was bundling the girls up for some outside excitement, it hit me that there are some interesting similarities between snow days and homeschooling. Maybe I was just trying to justify eschewing academics for some romping around in white fluff, but hey. You never know when inspiration is going to strike. So, in honor of the winter months, here are 20 ways homeschooling is like a snow day. Read more »


Featured Article

Dirty Little Secrets about College

by Barbara Frank

It’s become an expectation in our society that most everyone, homeschooled or not, literate or not, will go to college. Whether a young person’s bent leans toward book-learning or engine-rebuilding doesn’t seem to matter. The important thing, we’ve been told for years, is that they go to college.

There’s an entire empire based on helping parents and teachers help students get into college. There are books and classes available, professional help can be hired to lead you through the application process — it’s a huge industry in itself.

But there are a few dirty little secrets about college. One is relatively unknown. For all the fuss about getting into a good college, for all the money that’s saved up from the time the student is a toddler, for all the home equity lines parents must tap into, the fact is that barely half of all college students actually graduate! And this is nothing new; it’s been true for 30 years.

(I worked in my college dorm office in the late 1970s, and vividly recall that dorm officials overbooked all of the dorms at the large university I attended because they knew students would begin dropping out the first week. They didn’t want to end up with empty rooms.)

There are many reasons for such a high college dropout rate, the primary ones being that students can’t hack it or can’t afford it. But the bottom line is, more than half of all students don’t make it through college.

Of course, when a student drops out of college, he still has to pay for the time he was there. If he borrowed money to pay tuition and room-and-board (increasingly likely), that money has to be repaid with interest. So while he doesn’t leave with a diploma, he may well leave with a consolation prize of years of debt burden.

College brochures and websites are slick, and packed with information, but they sure don’t mention that high dropout rate, do they?

Another dirty secret about college that deans of higher education would prefer that you not know is that most of the high-growth jobs of the future don’t require a college degree.

This flies in the face of the common wisdom of the past 50 years that you must have a college degree in order to get a decent job. That’s true in some career fields (who wants to be the patient of a neurosurgeon who hasn’t gone through college and medical school?) but it’s certainly not true for all fields.

The U.S. government makes projections about the growth (or lack of growth) in different career areas. You can find those numbers at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) website. Here’s the latest BLS projection of the occupations with the largest projected employment growth: It’s an interesting document. Note that the projected increases in job growth are for a ten-year period (2010-2020).

When reading it, keep in mind that a high percentage increase in a given career field doesn’t necessarily translate into a lot of jobs. Check the “Employment” column in the middle of the page for actual numbers (in the thousands).

For example, the rate of increase for medical secretaries is a healthy 41.3%. But that only equals 21,000 new jobs a year for the next ten years. Not exactly a booming career field in a country of over 300 million people. On the other hand, while the BLS projects there will only be 16.6% more retail salespersons needed over the next ten years, that’s the equivalent of nearly 707,000 new jobs.

Once you become familiar with the chart layout, note the “typical education needed for entry” column. Most of the jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree.

This report is the short version of a much longer document that lists more jobs that do require at least a four-year degree. There are quite a few job categories. However, only a few of them show high growth potential in both percentages and numbers. They include a variety of tech careers, social workers, jobs in education, and accountants. For those willing to earn more than just a bachelor’s degree, a career as a pharmacist, physician or surgeon would certainly be a growth area to consider.

Still, most of the above average growth jobs that require bachelor’s degrees don’t equal many jobs. For example, only 100 jobs per year nationwide are expected to open up for archivists, anthropologists and archaeologists, marine engineers and naval architects, and atmospheric and space scientists. So unless your teen passionately desires to become one of those professionals, you might want to gently point him or her in another direction.

Since many of the degree-required careers have such low projected job numbers, today’s parents should think seriously about whether a bachelor’s degree is even worth it. Again, colleges and universities will not tell you that the degrees they offer don’t necessarily translate into good jobs, especially in the working world of the 21st century. This is one area where parents and their teens really have to do the homework for themselves.

(Excerpted from Stages of Homeschooling: Letting Go, available at

© 2013 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers

Barbara Frank homeschooled her four children for 25 years and has written several books related to homeschooling. You’ll find her on the web at, and

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