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February 2014

by Mary Ann Kelley
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History, Science, Notebooking, Field Trips, and More

From the Editor

After a fairly comfortable winter last year, this year has had the coldest winter I remember in my lifetime. I really don’t know how people who live in the north take it year after year! I’m looking forward to the warmth of spring – it can’t come soon enough for me. Speaking of warmer weather, spring is field trip time for many homeschoolers. Our featured article, “How To Put the ‘Feel Good’ Into Field Trips” shows you how to make field trips more enjoyable for all ages and personality types.

Enjoy the newsletter!

Warm regards,

Mary Ann Kelley



Teaching Calendar

February 11, 2014 — National Inventor’s Day

February 12, 2014 — Abraham Lincoln born – 1809

February 14, 2014 — Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2014 — Arizona Admission Day – 1912

February 14, 2014 — Oregon Admission Day – 1859

February 17, 2014 — President’s Day

February 17, 2014 — Random Acts of Kindness Day

February 22, 2014 — George Washington born – 1732

March 1, 2014 — Nebraska Admission Day – 1867

March 1, 2014 — Ohio Admission Day – 1803

March 2, 2014 — Read Across America Day

March 2, 2014 — Dr. Seuss’ Birthday

March 3, 2014 — Florida Admission Day – 1845

March 4, 2014 — Vermont Admission Day – 1791

March 11, 2014 — Johnny Appleseed Day

View the entire calendar »

Educational Resources

30+ Ways to Teach History WITHOUT a Textbook
As you probably know, one of TheHomeSchoolMom’s most popular blog series is our suggestions of things to use Instead of Curriculum. This post from Samantha, a teenage homeschooler, covers lots of ways to incorporate history into your studies without boring textbooks.

Big List of Ancient Greece Printables
Blessed Beyond a Doubt has a great list of printables for ancient Greece including worksheets, lessons, games, puzzles, coloring sheets, notebooking pages, papercrafts, and more.

Candy Experiments
Loralee Leavitt’s daughter was sorting through her Halloween candy on day five years ago and asked, “What would happen if I put these Nerds in water?” Loralee got her a glass, and she conducted her first candy experiment. Loralee says:

“Five years later, we’re still going. We’ve stretched, soaked, sunk, dissolved, microwaved, ovened, frozen, and smashed every kind of candy we own. We’ve tested candy for air bubbles, oil, and acid. We’ve mixed colors into Koolaid-like solutions, separated candy colors with chromatography, and painted with them. On the way, we’ve learned about science and nutrition, and had a lot of fun. We’ve also presented our experiments to thousands of people at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., appeared on television and radio shows, and showed them off at school science fairs. “

Check out her website for
a dozen fun candy experiments, and if you like them, you can get the book with even more.

The Joy of Chemistry — A Unit in Photos
Alycia Zimmerman began her chemistry unit as a standards-based lesson on the states of matter, phase changes, and reactions. As the class worked through the lessons, the students’ questions “became a powerful force”: Why exactly does salt change the freezing point of water? Why does ice expand as it freezes? Why do water molecules stay together? Why do different liquids have different boiling points?
Alycia decided to detour down the road of “Why” and the result was a successful interest-driven chemistry unit. You can see her descriptions and photos at the link above, and if you want to create your own chemistry unit, you’ll find her list of resources at the bottom of the page helpful.

Recent Blog Posts

How I Fell in Love with Homeschooling

How I Fell in Love with HomeschoolingI have a Valentine’s Day confession.Yes, on that day when we send out cards and candy, show our “special someones” how we feel about them, and extol the virtues of true love, I feel the need to, well… spill the beans on the truth about a love in my life.

You see, it’s only recently that I have fallen in love with homeschooling. Read more »

Instead of Curriculum: Bring Me Bad Writing

Editing writing (instead of curriculum)“Bring me bad writing,” I told my two homeschool co-op classes of middle school and elementary age writers. “Incorrect writing, wrong apostrophes, sentence fragments, typos, passive voice. Horrible stuff. Bring it.

“The next week, they marched in with an array of bad writing they’d found on websites, on convenience store signs, on gas pumps, in a letter from a college administrator, in text books, in novels, and in their own journals. They had snapped photos, hand copied passages, bookmarked pages, and printed screen shots. Read more »

Challenging the Advanced Student

Homeschooling Advanced StudentsOne of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is that it can accommodate the needs of students across the full spectrum of ability. One-to-one attention can encourage and expand on individual strengths, and curriculum can adapt to address individual needs. Read more »

Featured Article

How To Put the “Feel Good” in the Field Trip

by Jeanne Faulconer

Improving Homeschool Field TripsEverybody knows homeschoolers go on a lot of field trips.

We start them young with trips to the fire department and the water treatment plant. We go to historic farms, art museums, animal shelters, state and national parks, corn mazes, and caverns.

In my state, Virginia, you can study practically all of American history through field trips: Native American sites, Jamestown, Williamsburg, historic grist mills, Frontier Culture Museum, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier, antebellum plantations, Civil War battlefields and museums, memorials of World War I and II, Civil Rights sites, a Vietnam War museum, and more.

Homeschoolers love field trips because kids seem to absorb information from what they see and experience. The field trip gives them context for new information. The facts aren’t dry and disconnected.

However, while most kids love them, not every homeschooled kid likes field trips. It can be quite a mismatch for a mom to be go-go-go when one of her kids is no-no-no.

What is it that makes some kids dislike homeschool field trips?

  • The tour or museum class is too long. A kid can feel trapped by the need to listen far past his interest or ability to focus.
  • The pace of the field trip is too slow. While the moms and the calmer, slower paced kids are contentedly standing around to hear all the questions and answers about how tobacco made Virginia, the gotta-keep-moving kid wants to see around the next corner.
  • The field trip doesn’t feature anything hands-on. Many active children are exhausted by the effort to obey “do not touch” rules, and while it is important for them to learn self-control over time, sometimes the challenge overfaces them if there are no opportunities to feel, make, or do for long stretches.
  • The child does not trust the field trip logistics. Some kids are especially sensitive to feeling unsure if they will get to eat when they feel hungry or find a bathroom at the right time.
  • The child is introverted and being around so many people wears him or her out.
  • Your child is the oldest or youngest on the field trip, and there’s a mismatch between her age and the age of the other kids — or the field trip itself is “too young” or “too old” for the child. While many homeschooled kids don’t pay much attention to the ages of their homeschooled friends, some do reach a point where they don’t want to look out of place.

How can you help a child who dislikes field trips?

  • Take some one-on-one field trips when your child can control the pace and length of the visit. Over time, some staying power will develop.
  • Involve the child in preparation for the field trip. Preparing snacks, fixing water bottles, and looking at the layout of the field trip destination together can help a child see that his needs will be met.
  • Work out a game plan with another parent. One of you can take the most engaged kids on the more detailed route, while another of you can take the restless or younger children on a version of the field trip that is more suitable for them.
  • Encourage your child to carry a sketch book or camera (where allowed). One of my active sons who did not care for field trips could nevertheless tolerate them better with his sketch book to help him focus and keep his hands busy.
  • Plan in exercise and food. Active children will respond better if they’ve had a chance to get their wiggles out by running and playing after the car ride but before a tour that requires walking and quiet voices. Many field trip locales have picnic areas or can suggest a special visit to a favorite pizza place or ice cream shop so the kids don’t have to wait too long to eat.

It’s not usually convenient for a large family or a homeschool group, but I enjoyed the days where I let my field-trip-averse child set the agenda on some occasions, and we ventured off, just the two of us. He wanted to attend art museums, and he didn’t want to be told what to look at or how long to look. As an elementary age child, he hurried past some works, sat down and contemplated others, and sketched many. I couldn’t always get the rhyme or reason to it, but he enjoyed moving at his own pace and lingering over things that interested him.

There’s a lot to be said for choosing the right kind of field trip for your children. There are so many possibilities — take a look at TheHomeSchoolMom’s United States map of homeschool field trips by state, and think about the age, activity level, personality, and interests of your children. Keeping those things in mind will help put the “feel good” in the field trip.

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