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January 2014

by Mary Ann Kelley
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Writing, Big History, Worldview, New Year Interviews, Working Outside the Home, and More

From the Editor

With each new year often come resolutions and many people choose a word for the year, focusing on implementing more of that ideal into their lives. For the past several years my word has not changed, and it applies to both life and homeschooling: simplify. From buying too much curriculum to planning too many activities or lessons, it’s easy to overburden our kids and ourselves with too much. Too much stuff, too much to fill our time, too much frustration.

My goal is less of the things that take up all of the excess time and money in my life. In art, it is what isn’t there that brings beauty and balance to the rest of the work. Negative space is the part of a piece of artwork that is unfilled. The margins in our lives are like the negative space in art — they bring beauty to what is there. More margin in our lives means less frustration, less stress, and less rushing around. More joy is the result of more margin. My wish for you this year is that you would have less, and it would bring you more.

Warm regards,

Mary Ann Kelley



Teaching Calendar

January 7, 2014 — First US Presidential Election – 1789

January 9, 2014 — Connecticut Admission Day – 1788

January 20, 2014 — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 21, 2014 — Inauguration Day

January 23, 2014 — National Handwriting Day

January 25, 2014 — First Winter Olympics began- 1924 in France

January 26, 2014 — Michigan Admission Day – 1837

January 27, 2014 — Russians liberate Auschwitz – 1945

January 28, 2014 — Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

January 29, 2014 — Kansas Admission Day – 1861

January 31, 2014 — Chinese New Year – Year of the horse

View the entire calendar »


Educational Resources

Cyrano de Bergerac

Since so many high school students read Cyrano de Bergerac as part of their literature requirements, Bob Jones University has decided to make their entire Classic Players production available on YouTube free of charge for anyone wanting to watch it. It is a 2 hour production based on the translation from the French by Edmond Rostand Brian Hooker and includes actors of all ages. The costumes and sets are well-made and the filming is excellent.

The Care and Feeding of Your Young Writer

Often in our desire to teach excellence in writing to younger children, we have the opposite effect and may not even know what happened. Jeff Miller offers 9 ways to encourage your writer in this article (the second in a series) at Five J’s.

Big History

“The Big History series asks questions guaranteed to change the way you look at the past. Did Napoleon’s invasion of Russia come undone because of…tin buttons? Did New York become America’s biggest city because of…salt? How does the sinking of the Titanic power your cell phone? What’s the connection between ancient Egyptian mummies and a modern ham and cheese sandwich? By weaving science into the core of the human story, Big History takes familiar subjects and gives them a twist that will have you rethinking everything from the Big Bang to today’s headlines. The series creates an interconnected panorama of patterns and themes that links history to dozens of fields including astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology.” All seventeen episodes of Big History are available online for free along with study guides. The study guides are 2 page downloads that i
nclude terms, discussion questions, activities, reflections after watching, and links to additional information. The series covers many topics throughout history and includes the theory of evolution in its videos.


Recent Blog Posts

The New Year’s Interview

TheHomeSchoolMom: New Year's Homeschool InterviewIf there’s one thing the new year does for me, it’s remind me of how quickly time is passing. You remember, when you were younger, how a year was an absolutely interminable amount of time? And then you grow up, and then you have kids. And then somewhere around the time your youngest gets to be the mostly-self-sufficient-age (5 or 6 ish), when you wake up from baby and toddler fog, you start wondering, “Where did the time go?” “How did my children get to be so old?” You find yourself saying things like, “How is it already the new year?” and “I feel like we just finished the summer. How is it time for snow again?” Read more »

Instead of Curriculum: Handwriting Practice

Handwriting: What to use instead of curriculumAs regular readers know, I’m a big advocate of using accessible learning methods instead of curriculum. For some homeschoolers, this is in addition to their regular curriculum, and for others it’s truly instead of any packaged formal curriculum. I’m used to hearing that you can’t learn math this way — that’s a common chorus among homeschoolers — but I was in a recent conversation with a homeschool mom who was all for the “instead-of-curriculum” approach except for handwriting. And by handwriting, she meant printing — learning to print. Read more »

Balancing Work Outside the Home and Homeschooling

Balancing Work & Homeschooling“Can I work full or part time and homeschool my kids? What has worked for people?” Many Oak Meadow families responded with their own stories and helpful tips about what has worked for them. They recognize that finding balance is a work in progress, requiring flexibility and patience, determination, and a sense of humor! Here are some tips to help you move forward with your decision to homeschool while working outside the home. Read more »

Featured Article

College Prep Homeschooling: Worldview and Confirmation Bias

by Jeanne Faulconer

College Prep: Worldview and Confirmation Bias

A big emphasis of homeschooling at our house is thinking critically about the resources we use for information. I have always wanted my kids to understand that books, websites, presentations, magazines, television, and newspapers have a point of view, and that in order to be well-educated, we need to challenge ourselves with information that comes from a variety of editorial viewpoints.

As part of my commitment to inquiry-based learning, I have frequently played “devil’s advocate” with my kids, especially by the later elementary years, and certainly throughout the middle school years, high school years, and beyond. Sketching out the corresponding point of view for the sake of argument, I’ll ask…

What if the (Democratic/Republican/Libertarian) view is right about that?

What if the (industrialists/economists/environmentalists) have a point here?

What if the (pope/president/prime minister/military leader/grandmother/congress member/pastor) is the one who has the most information and wisdom on this subject?

What if the science is (wrong/right)?

What if the ethics are (right/wrong)?

What might you think about this if you were (older/less healthy/a different race or ethnicity/from another country/unable to connect to the Internet)?

Who wrote that historical account? Was it the victors? How would the account differ if the losers had written it?


How are rural people and urban people impacted differently by that policy?

And so on.

Asking my kids — and myself — to consider things from multiple angles means asking them to consider using a variety of sources to inform themselves about issues of the day.

As a regular and ongoing part of our homeschooling, I have urged our tweens and teens especially to beware of the following three tendencies people have… Read the rest on »

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