Getting the Most Bang for Your Homeschooling Buck

BangIf you've read this blog for some time, you'll know I'm not a huge fan of pre-packaged, boxed curricula.

When folks are first introduced to the idea of homeschooling, one of the first hurdles to get over is the expense. For whatever reason, people seem to think a lot of money must be spent to provide each child with a separate boxed curricula. The benefit to using such expensive curricula is that it can be used straight out of the box with little to no preparation on the parent's part. This might even be a positive alternative to dropping even more money on private school tuition if you have only one or two students.

However, the drawbacks are easy to see. Many homeschooling families consist of more than a few kids and if a parent were to provide each child with a separate, pre-packaged, grade-level curriculum, the costs would add up quickly (one first grade level package from a popular publisher costs $839). Besides the economic burden pre-pacakged curricula can place on the homeschool budget, there are other factors to consider. Burnout is one; dislike is another. When mother is busy spreading her time between each child working on their own subjects at their own level, she can easily become burned out on homeschooling. Children, too, can become weary, even though the curriculum publisher has attempted to provide intellectually nourishing materials. When everyone begins to dislike the curriculum, having become its slave rather than its master, then there is regret in having made the initial purchase. And although families can recoup some of the initial investment by selling gently used materials online, they will never be able to get back the cost they spent on the materials.

Some Frugal Choices

Thankfully, the internet is a great place to find frugal and free resources for home education. While some resources may not be as easy to use as curriculum that comes straight out of the box, the small amount of work to create a tailored education for your child is well worth the savings.

Free Curriculum

One resource we have begun using this year is Discovery K-12. Discovery K-12 is a free online curriculum that has assignments for each grade from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. It makes use of age-appropriate educational YouTube videos, short lessons, self-chosen readings, and spelling lists. My sixth grader really enjoys using this independently.

Another free curriculum is Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. I'm less attracted to this very popular resource as it uses a Creationist/Young Earth approach to science. They are also still working on the high school courses, as not all of them are yet available. Still, it's a nice resource to have.

For those who like a more classical approach, there are the Charlotte Mason-inspired curricula from Ambleside Online and Mater Amabilis (Catholic, which only goes through grade 8), as well as An Old Fashioned Education. Many resources for these curricula can be found for free online or can be easily gotten at the local library.

Multi-Level Learning

Not everyone is able to or wants their children to spend the bulk of their time on the computer for their learning. They might want to really tailor the learning experiences to their child, creating a truly individualized education. Or, perhaps they don't want to be spread thin ("like butter scraped over too much bread") and would rather group their children together for as many subjects as they can. This is where multi-level learning comes in.

For us, multi-level learning was a great way to save money. Children close in age can be grouped together to use resources for a certain learning level. The whole family spends time learning about the same topics in history, science, art, music, etc. Refer to the posts in the link above to learn more about how we have done it in the past. The key idea here, is that we spent money on a few curriculum choices that would last throughout the ages of our children.

One curricula that I love whole-heartedly is Connecting With History (affiliate link). This curriculum weaves together history, religion, language arts, some science, and fine arts through the use of resources for the different age levels, from preschool to high school, so that the whole family can learn together.


Another resource which we just began using this year and will continue to use until our youngest has finished his schooling is Learn Math Fast. This unique math curriculum is designed for easy implementation at home, either with a small amount of parent input, or in a self-directed manner with an older child. The system contains seven volumes which introduces the student to the four operations, then fractions/decimals/percents, measurement, simple geometry, pre-algebra, algebra I and II, and high school geometry (with proofs, etc.). It is without a doubt the most effective math curricula I've seen and the seven volumes are very cost effective. The beauty here is that these paperback books are non-consumable. You just go to the website with your code and download the appropriate pdf files for the worksheets and tests that your child needs.

Other Resources

In addition to free and inexpensive curricula, there are all sorts of awesome resources at your disposal on the internet. Homeschool parents and school teachers alike post lesson ideas, reading lists, lesson plans, and worksheets online. This is an incredibly cheap way to get a lot of "bang" and it's not only limited to the elementary grades. For example, I purchased a used Biology textbook some years ago, before Common Core was the educational buzzword. After some snooping around, I found The Biology Corner website which has labs, worksheets, and guided reading sheets coordinated with the text I have. My total cost for this high school course was under $10 (we made use of some "found" items for our labs, like a recently deceased bullfrog, flowers, etc.). Pretty good bang for my buck, I must admit!

Homeschooling resources need not be expensive. Peruse websites like Homeschooling on a Shoestring for ideas. Join Facebook groups and e-mail lists. Make use of those search engines to find materials--you'd be surprised what's out there for next to nothing! And with the extra money you save coming up with your own tailored curriculum, you can go somewhere awesome. A great field trip is worth its weight in gold.

Read this--Now!

"This status quo bias is a tricky psychological situation for most people to break out of. They come to see what is most common around them as “normal,” “natural,” and “good,” without seriously questioning it. If many of the arguments below were applied to traditional schools, the schools would collapse tomorrow from parents withdrawing their children in outrage."

I just came across the post "Some Bad Arguments Against Homeschooling" by Zac Slayback on Facebook (thanks to The Libertarian Homeschooler) and it is awesome. I recommend you go read it. I especially like the bit about folks seeing what is most common as that which is "''normal,' 'natural,' and 'good'." Yes!

I'm going back to read more of his words.

Days of Knights, Frankfort, KY

DOKtentsThis weekend we had the pleasure of having our oldest girl, Julia, home from college for her fall break. Most of her time was spent just hanging out at home and visiting with family.

However, on Saturday, some of us drove to Frankfort, KY for the third annual Days of Knights, "a historically accurate re-creation of several time periods from the era known as the Middle Ages." I am all over that medieval stuff!

After mistakenly putting the park's main address into the GPS instead of reading where the event was actually located, we finally found our way there (which included a shuttle bus from the attendee parking area to the event site).

Folks, this was an incredible event, the more I think about it. The biggest thing:



And these people weren't just Joe Shmoe from downtown Frankfort. They came from all over the place: Chicago, Maryland, Cincinnati, etc. The attention to detail and historical accuracy was just stunning. Really and truly stunning.

DOKFightHonestly, I wasn't sure what to expect with it being a free event. For one, it is nothing like the Ohio Renaissance Fair. That event, which is fine for what it is, really doesn't allow for a lot of sincere interaction between attendees and the re-enactors. DOK, though, is small enough and filled with folks who are passionate about thier particular area of interest.

Our first encounter as we entered the event area was this fight between two armored knights.  You can see a similar video from the first day when they presented to school students.The way the fight was conducted, each knight would get a point for a hits to certain areas.

We then moved on to the encampment timeline. My only complaint with the timeline is that I wished there had been someone to direct us to "start here with the Vikings" and proceed counter-clockwise. Also, since the tents in this area were fairly close together, I felt like I was tramping through people's campsites. And maybe that was the intent, in order to engage the attendees. I don't know. It took me a little while to warm up to the whole experience. We started somewhere in the middle, around the end of the high middle ages (14th century-ish?), and watched some of the science guys (who I think, were also some sort of religious guys in their personae??? They had some interesting hair going on), saw how a bone would be reset, and watched a fellow set off a mini cannon/gun-type thingamajig.

DOKVikingsAfter meandering around a bit more, we watched these Viking dudes in a mock fight with swords, axes, Anyway, it was a kind of cool to see them getting into it and I made some remark about how the LARPers on Julia's campus are in training for just such an event.

It was in this area that we ran into a Norman guy who was eager to have the kids try on some helmets and mess around with some of the gear.


DOKCate DOKConnor_coif DOKConnor_shield




Über cool. You don't get that treatment at the Renfest (at least, not that big un-FREE up north). The kind gentleman even persuaded Connor to give a go at the straw-filled dummy with the spear and the sword.


DOKJulia_CordAfter warming to the idea of interacting with the re-enactors, we got a little more interested in finding some hands-on activities for the girls. (The brunette here is not one of mine, in case you were wondering.)

Here Julia is helping to make a cord the Viking way. Four strings are suspended and looped around weights below. The two switched off--dark to dark, light to light--until they made a patterned cord which the kid on the left got to keep when it was done.

A free memento. How cool is that?

We poked around and meandered some more, witnessed a wedding ceremony complete with Knights Templar in attendance (still kicking myself that I didn't get photos of them), talked to a knight who encouraged us to look around his tent and touch things, and finally made our way up to the Irish folks (who I also did not photograph, doh!). You can see what they looked like, here. The fellow on the right was in the midst of carving an Irish jack-o-lantern out of a turnip. Yep...that is actually the traditional way to do it, since the Irish didn't have pumpkins!

Still, Connor got to try on some more armor...I think this might have belonged to some Spanish guys. We even had the honor of a good old fashioned photo-bomb (at the bomber's request). That totally cracked me up. ("Wait, take another one...take another one.")

DOKCon-pre-bomb DOKConnor_photo_bomb



















All in all, it was well worth the two-hour drive and I am totally looking forward to repeating the experience again next year.

If you're considering doing a Med/Ren educational thing for you or your kids, this event will not disappoint. Our experience with the HUGE Renaissance fair when we went several years ago was kind of disappointing. It was seriously crowded (not good when you have young ones in tow) and we spent a good deal of time waiting for the joust and seeing Queen Elizabeth. The high point was the performance of "Beowulf" in the mud pit (that was memorable...and Beowulf is definitely not Renaissance lit!). Days of Knights is family-friendly (no bawdy performances) with lots of hands-on, interactive education. They really emphasize the importance of historical accuracy. You won't see pirates, wizards, or hobbits/elves/dwarves/(insert your favorite Tolkein character here).

Do yourself a favor next year and check it out!

My other medieval-ish postings:


High School Record Keeping for the Relaxed Homeschooler


Like it or not, record-keeping becomes a necessity, in some way, shape, or form, once your child reaches the high school years. Even if your child doesn't plan on attending college right off the bat, some sort of high school records or documentation may be needed for gaining admission into the armed forces, for seeking employment, or even being granted a volunteer position or internship.

Do yourself a favor, if you're in the beginning of the high school years with your child: start keeping track of all the awesome and interesting things being done by your kid! Heck, even if you're nearing the end of the high school years and didn't start out keeping records, it's still not too late to keep track of what is being done presently while you begin to reconstruct what was done in the past.

The Student Planner

PlannerOne of the easiest ways to keep track of what is currently being done by your high school age young person is to provide some kind of student planner. There are plenty of pre-made planners on the market, so I'm not going to make suggestions here. If you're a relaxed homeschooler, though, you may find that those planners are too detailed or contain too much extra stuff to be worth the price.

I recently decided to construct a customized planner for my fifteen year old daughter for the upcoming school year, so I'm going to share with you how I went about it.

Planner Forms

We are blessed with an abundance of very generous and creative homeschoolers who have been kind enough to share their hard work with the rest of us so we don't have to go about reinventing the wheel! For my daughter's planner I mined the resources at the following websites:

There are many other similar websites which offer a variety of planning pages for free or a very reasonable price, but these two had what I was looking for.

Here are some of the forms I downloaded at Tina's 7-Step Student Planner:

And at Donna Young, I downloaded these forms:

Reference Sheets

Aside from the multiplication chart I mentioned above, I also printed out some other handy reference sheets to include in the back of the planner.

From Math Help:




I also printed off graduation requirements for our local district and state. Even though they don't apply to home schoolers in our state, they do come in handy when considering what might be necessary to gain college admission. Alongside the year-long school calendar, I printed off our local district's calendar for reference. Lastly, I included the Holstee Manifesto, because I like the inspiration.

Binding Options

Previously, I have printed off sheets, hole punched them, and stuck them in a 3-ring binder. This time around, I looked into other binding options. I finally decided upon the ProClick DIY Presentation Kit. This kit comes with pre-punched paper, binding coils, clear presentation cover, and a black presentation back. Very inexpensive for a nice-looking planner. I did have some issues with the pre-punched paper not loading correctly every time in my printer. In the future, I think I will spring for the Desktop Binding Machine so I can print first and then punch holes in the paper.

Look for a future post detailing how I organized the binder and how we plan  to use it for keeping track of high school learning.

Follow Valerie's board Homeschool High School on Pinterest.

Summertime Plans

2013-06-16 11.23.13If you've read this blog over the course of time, you'll know that we are a baseball family...a serious baseball family. That doesn't mean a practice once a week and a game on the weekend during the four nicest months of the year. No, for our family, baseball is nearly a ten-month commitment, with the bulk of the activity for two boys taking place over the summer months.

Our oldest son recently rejoined his high school team once the state of Ohio passed a law allowing home educated students to participate in extracurricular activities in their district of residence. So, conditioning for that team began in the winter. Additionally, he had winter practice/conditioning for his summer team during early winter. The high school season just started up a week or so ago and his summer schedule will start a week or so after the high school season ends. So, we're looking at an intense baseball schedule from mid-March to early August (so, about 5 months). He also plays fall baseball with a different team, heading to showcases in September and October, so there's another couple of months. Oh, and since he just earned his OHSAA umpire certification, he will be umpiring games in his spare time! His younger brother (11) starts winter practice in January and his season started in late March and runs through the first week of August. He, too, will play fall ball until October.

All this is to illustrate that summer, for us, is not necessarily an easy time. However, it is a fun time, filled with travel throughout the states of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan with some extended visits to Georgia (twice), Florida, and New York.

Learning on the Road

Since we tend to live a lifestyle of learning around here, we don't really have a start and stop date for "school", although we do acknlowedge the local district's calendar for record-keeping purposes. Summer travel is an excellent time for us to continue our learning adventures. I try to find a few interesting, non-baseball things to do on our trips to keep the younger, non-baseball members of the family entertained. Since we'll be staying on the beach in Panama City, Florida this summer, we'll have lots of fun exploring the beach. There will be ample opportunity to practice geography skills along the way. We may read a few beach-related books, such as Pagoo and Seaside Naturalist. We had a great time a couple of years ago when we went to Myrtle Beach, SC. I'm looking forward to repeating the beachy fun!

Preparing for College

2013-05-13 14.08.54Probably the most signicant thing we'll be doing over the summer is preparing for our oldest to go off to college. She is currently a freshman at UC Clermont College and is in the process of transferring to Bowling Green State Univeristy (OH). So, we'll be making housing arrangements and shopping for college stuff over the course of the summer, and will eventually move her into her dorm sometime in August.

Our next oldest is hoping to get the state funding for PSEOP, the dual-enrollment option in Ohio. So, sometime during the summer he'll need to take placement tests (even though he has taken the ACT), register for classes, and attend orientation at the local branch college. On top of all that, he will be in a really serious recruiting period. College baseball coaches have already been in contact with him through e-mail and on unofficial visits to campuses, and he has maintained phone and e-mail contact with a few of those coaches. Come July 1, coaches will then be allowed to initiate phone contact with our son and we hope that offers will begin popping up. So, I'll then be working on finishing up the incredible amount of paperwork for NCAA, to make sure he has all the required credits, etc.

For our next oldest, a rising sophomore, we will have a meeting to chart her course for the next school year. I like working with my teens and getting their input when it comes to their course of study. The beauty of homeschooling is we have the freedom to take our child's interests to heart when planning a curriculum. Lizzy is a voracious reader who has read through the Hunger Games trilogy and most of the John Green books a few times. She's moving onto some more mature titles and has developed an interest in Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation. So maybe we'll work on some modern American literature, American History and pop culture.

So, what are your summer plans?


Thinking About Homeschooling?

It's that time of year.

The days are becoming longer, the weather is warming up, and our kids' schedules are getting busier. Perhaps their schoolwork is taking a bit of a turn to prepare for annual testing and end-of-year goals. Maybe you find yourself nearing your wits' end as you struggle to balance kids' academics and extracurriculars with family and personal time. You might feel very alone as you tread water to keep your head above the surface while you see a huge wave begin to break in the distance. There might even be times when you feel like giving up and sink down to the dark depths. You are not alone. There have been countless parents who have felt his way before they started thinking about homeschooling their kids.

Am I Qualified?

This is probably one of the biggest concerns a parent has when considering homeschooling their children. "Am I qualified? How can I possibly teach my child at home?" I usually counter that question with another question:

Have you helped your child with homework?

Then I pause and wait for an answer....which is always a 'yes.' How many of you have had to teach or re-teach a certain skill or topic when helping your child with homework? Chances are pretty good that you've done it a few times. Have you worked with your child learning to read, patiently sitting by her side as she slowly sounds out each word? Have you worked on a science project with your kid, looking up information on the internet or getting books from the library? Yes, yes, and yes?

What you're doing as a parent, helping with homework, isn't much different from what I do as a homeschooling parent. The only difference is that I have cut out the "middle man." I no longer have to figure out what it is that the teacher wants from a particular assignment or grumble about how something might be pointless busywork.

I'm not saying that a school teacher's job is easy or that I could do what they do on a daily basis.

Far from it.

I think teachers have a difficult, often thankless job. On their best days, they have the joy of lighting fires in young minds; on their worst days, they have to deal with broken individuals from broken families and hope for the best. I imagine most days are a combination of the two.

No. I am not qualified to manage a classroom of 20-30 individuals, to teach according to external parameters set down from high above, to develop lessons that will reach the bulk of the students, or to administer assignments and assessments to ensure that the bulk of those students have a good understanding of what has been taught.

I am not qualified to teach your child.

But I am qualified to teach mine.


From the day they were born, I have nurtured them and observed their development. I assisted them as they explored with food, helped them keep balance as they took their first steps, answered countless questions like "What's that?" and "Why?" I shared books with them, pointing out beautiful colors, trailing my finger under words, and asking what they think will happen next. I have sometimes feigned excitement over a creepy crawly they found in the woods. I have listened to them count to 10, 39 (don't ask), and 100 countless times. I have witnessed their natural curiosity of the world around them.

This enhanced form of parenting--which is learned on the job, by the way--is what qualifies you. It doesn't stop the minute your child steps into a school building, but it can get dulled over time.

So don't panic. You are uniquely qualified to teach your child at home. You can read and follow instructions. You have a vested interest in your child. You're not on your own. There are resources and people out there to help you on this journey.

I Don't Know How You Do It

The other statement people often make when they discover we are a homeschooling family is "I don't know how you do it."

I have a hard time responding to that because I can either give the short, shoulder-shrugging version or the long, honest one. Usually what folks are envisioning is their own school routine (the morning rush and the evening rush) with homeschooling inserted into what would be their school day lull (if they stay at home)...times seven. They envision that homeschooling, especially in a larger family, would somehow amplify the chaos.

What I'd really like to reply is, I don't know how you do it. I can only imagine the stress of rising early with the kids, making sure they all get fed and cleaned in a timely manner, have appropriate clothing, have their backpacks ready, etc. And then the after school routine? Get home, have a snack and a short break, get ready for practice or after school activities, leave home for a few hours, come home, eat dinner (as a family? maybe?), work on homework, prepare for the next day, collapse in bed. And if you work outside the home?


What you are doing is infinitely more difficult than my staying home to educate the kids. Seriously. I don't know how you do it and stay sane and a pleasant person to talk to. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be as pleasant. <smile>

After two years of doing the school thing with our oldest and seeing where our family time was going (especially when babies kept coming. and coming. aaaand coming. lol), I dropped out.

And then baseball happened.

Never in my life have I been so grateful for dropping out and homeschooling. We don't have that after school/evening routine with the added stress of making sure homework is done on time. We don't have the early morning struggle on the day after getting home from a game that went into extra innings an hour away (and, yes, oldest son was in public jr high/high school for 2.5 years, so I know that struggle). I'm not saying that our days are perfect and angst-free, but the stress level has decreased dramatically.

What About Socialization?

Seriously? Did you really just wonder that?

Just kidding.

OK, maybe not.

Socialization is probably the biggest myth out there when people talk about homeschooling. Hardly any of us live in a bubble, homeschooler or not. We don't keep our children chained to a desk every day. Just like other parents, we take our kids with us when we run errands. We sign them up for community sports and enrichment classes. And if we're really brazen, we'll even get together with other homeschool families. During the day. <smile>

All saracasm aside, it baffles me that there are still folks out there who think that every homeschooled child is a backwards, unsocialized creature, unable to converse with or make eye contact with others. Sure, there are introverted, shy, or "weird" homeschoolers...just like there are introverted, shy, or "weird" school children. That is the temperament of the child, not a result of their school environment.

So Now What?

So you're seriosuly thinking about it. You're not sure your partner will agree with you. There are a few things you could do:

  • Compile resources of convincing arguments
  • Agree on a trial time period
  • Enroll in an online virtual school

Since you're here, reading, you're probably already looking for information on why you want to start homeschooling. Nothing is better than finding positive stories from those of us who have been in the trenches for a while. You might want to start homeschooling for practical reasons. Maybe your child is training to become a world-class athlete. Perhaps you have a religous or philosophical reason to start educating at home. Health reasons are among the reasons a parent wants to homeschool. Or maybe you just want a more rigorous/relaxed/whatever approach to academics. Whatever it is, hone your search to fit your particular goals and look for stories from people who have been in similar situations.

If your partner isn't 100% convinced homeschooling is the right thing for your child after all your hard work, then you might want to at least agree on a trial period, with the understanding that the child will go back to school if things aren't working out. Personally, when we first approached homeschooling, my husband really wasn't sure. He had all the above questions, plus the added one of "What about prom?" We eventually agreed to a trial year. That was 12 years ago. You might agree to a quarter, a semester/term, or a year. I don't think a quarter (9 weeks) is really enough time to get your feet wet and find a good rhythm, but it's a start.

And if you're really not sure if you have what it takes organizationally to begin homeschooling, there are virtual schools out there to help you get used to working with your child at home. Please note, though, that these virtual schools are almost all public school at home. The benefit to that is that you have all your materials and curriculum provided for free. The risk is that you are still tied to someone else's deadlines and need to submit to state testing when all the other school kids are doing state testing. If you have multiple children, this might prove a bit stressful, for now you are the one who has to manage several different grade level programs.

I'm not saying virtual schools are a bad thing. I'm just saying they are different from traditional homeschooling. Some folks love them; others feel trapped by them. For many, they prove to be a good transition from public schooling to homeschooling, in which the program is done for a year or two and then dropped in favor of a more traditional homeschooling approach where you, as the parent, have control over what curriculum to use and how to go about educating your child.

Ohio/Cincinnati Homeschool Resources

The Zoo

PeacockConnor recently celebrated his 12th birthday and the only thing he wanted was a membership to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (aka "the zoo"). After putting it off for a week, we finally renewed our membership from 2 years ago online, printed out a temporary pass, and headed to the zoo this past Monday (5/13).

The weather was perfect: not too hot, not too cold, beautifully sunny and clear. We hardly ever get good zoo days like that, so we were pretty lucky.

We always see peacocks walking around the zoo or perched up in trees or rooftops, but I don't think we've ever seen one who had his tail feathers fanned out like this fella here.

We saw this peacock while we were waiting for our train ride. There was another across the tracks who also decided to fan his feathers. Oddly enough, we didn't see any peahens in the vicinity.

Boys trainNot everyone wanted to go to the zoo. Cate, the 8 year old girl, doesn't like all the animals at the zoo. Hopefully one day she'll conquer her fear. She stayed home with her older brother (16) and sister (14) (and dad, who was working in his basement office). So, it was me, Julia (18), Connor (12), Drew (10), and AJ (5) for the day.

Can you tell AJ was really excited about the train ride? He and Connor chose the very back of the train specifically so they could ride backwards. No thanks!

We did a lot more walking than we usually do, since there were cetain exhibits the boys wanted to see. So, we did a lot of unnecessary back-tracking. Oh well. The first animal they wanted to see was the Sumatran Rhino, which was nowhere to be found. We wandered around, taking in the sights of other animals and then decided to visit the gorillas.

Baby gorillaBaby Gladys, seen here with one of her human surrogates. She's three months old and recently made her debut as part of the zoo's annual "Zoo Babies" spring exhibit. I assume that while Gladys is outside with one of the surrogates, the other gorillas are inside. There were no other gorillas visible while we lingered.

It was really cute seeing how tightly baby Gladys clung to her surrogate, wrapping her arms around his forearm and grasping his fingers with her toes. It reminded me of how my little ones would grasp my index finger in their tiny hands.

Julia took a lot of photos of the flowering plants. She does this every time we go to the zoo. I'm sure she has hundreds of zoo flower pictures on he computers that she has taken over the years.

GiraffeWe made our way across the zoo to see the progress on the new Africa exhibit. On the way, we stopped for ice cream and watched the wild birds fight each other for crumbs on the ground.

Then we went to visit the giraffes and cheetahs, which are a part of the current Africa exhibit. The cheetahs were taking a catnap. Apparently they do a daily show at the zoo to showcase how fast the cheetahs can run. Sadly, we missed out. Maybe next time!

We hit our other favorite spots: the manatees (hot and rather crowded), the bears (no polar bears),the children's zoo (yay, goats), and lastly, the elephants. Fortunately, I chose the right path to take and we had our own private showing of three of the elephants the closest we've ever seen them! Of course, I  had to take a group photo. By this time we were all beyond tired and ready to go back home! See how happy they look?

Elephant kids













Above l-r: AJ, Drew, Connor, Julia

AJ got Drew goat Crocodile hunters Gorilla boy Entrance

AJ insisted on getting a picture taken with the various statues in the zoo. I don't know how he missed the manatees! He also thought feeding the goats was "disgusting."


How To Develop a High School Course of Study


High school














The summer before our oldest daughter started high school at home five years ago, I spent a good amount of time researching how to develop a course of study that would fulfill both our state's homeschooling requirements and basic college entrance requirements. When our son came home in the middle of this school year, I aligned our high school course of study to be sure what we covered at home would fulfill NCAA Core Course requirements. This fall we have our third child entering her high school years, so, much of the groundwork has already been laid and deciding on materials to support her learning throughout the high school years should be a piece of cake.

There are three main things you need to consider when you embark upon developing a high school course of study: government regulations, college admissions requirements, and your child's interests/goals.

Begin With State/Government Requirements

Since we live in Ohio, the homeschool laws dictate what we do each year, regardless of grade level. Under Ohio Administrave Code 3301-34-03 (A) (5), that means we are to teach the following:

  • Language, reading, spelling, and writing;
  • Geography, history of the United States and Ohio; and national, state, and local government;
  • Mathematics;
  • Science;
  • Health;
  • Physical education;
  • Fine arts, including music; and
  • First aid, safety, and fire prevention.

Notice there are no breakdowns for these basic subject headings; no specific requirements for teaching American History in 10th grade, Chemistry in 11th, or British Literature in 12th. Furthermore, there are no specific graduation requirements from the state for home educated high school students because the state does not issue a diploma to students who are educated at home (outside of those using virtual public schools). Now, don't get me wrong...I prefer that our state government doesn't dictate what we precisely need to teach and when; however, for those who are making their first foray into homeschooling high school, deciding what students need to learn for college, work, and a functional adult life can be rather daunting. I briefly looked at our local school district's graduation requirements to get an idea of what a typical student from our state might be expected of. Our local district requires 21 credits, most of which follows the break down below with about 6-7 electives to round things out.

College Admission Requirements

We've been at the homeschool things for 12 years, so I was very familiar with our state's requirements. So, the next place I turned was college admission requirements. I looked at several in-state colleges, knowing that our oldest daughter would not be planning on venturing too far from home. We are fortunate to live close to the city of Cincinnati, which is home to several private and public colleges. Most colleges in our area prefer to see the following high school credits on a transcript:

  • 4 credits of English
  • 3 credits of Math (preferably Algebra I, II and Geometry)
  • 3 credits of Science (most prefer to see biology and chemistry, plus one other)
  • 3 credits of Social Studies
  • 2 credits of Foreign Language (same language)
  • 1 credit of Fine Arts

Some colleges lump Foreign Language and Fine Arts in with other electives, so some require 3-5 Elective credits. This came up to an average of 16 credits. Our oldest daughter wound up with 21.5 credits when she was done with high school; 5.5 were foreign language, fine arts, technology, and English "electives".

While researching requirements for our oldest son this winter, I discovered that some colleges outside the state of Ohio require more credits upon admission. However, upon closer examination, I realized that most of those extra credits are for things like physical education and health and a good number of electives. I'm guessing this difference must come from the respective states' requirements for a high school diploma.

NCAA Requirements

While our son was still homeschooling during his middle school years, I started to acquaint myself with the NCAA requirements, since his goal was to play baseball in college. He then elected to go to public school for a few years, coming back midway through his sophomore year this past winter. The NCAA Eligibility process has changed a bit since I first researched it and is making things a bit easier for the homeschooled athlete to register with the eligibility center. This is something to keep in mind if you have a student-athlete at home. To locate homeschool-specific information, follow the link above, click on Enter Here, click on the Resources tab near the top of the page, and you should then find information for Homeschool.

For a Division I college, the following 16 core course credit requirements are:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of mathematics (Algebra I or higher)
  • 2 years of natural/physical science (1 year of lab if offered by high school)
  • 1 year of additional English, mathematics or natural/physical science
  • 2 years of social science
  • 4 years of additional courses (from any area above, foreign language or nondoctrinal religion/philosophy).

For Division II, the break down for the 16 core course credits follows:

  • 3 years of English
  • 2 years of Math (Algebra I or higher)
  • 2 years of natural or physical science (including 1 year of lab science, if offered by your high school)
  • 3 additional years of English, Math, or natural or physical science
  • 2 years of Social Science
  • 4 years of additional core courses (from any area above, foreign language or nondoctrinal religion/philosophy).

So, again we see that basic 16 credits. When all was said and done with my planning a course of study, I was comfortable with between 18-22 credits, several which would be elective credits based on  interest-led, "real life" learning.

Student Interests and Input

It's important  at this stage of homeschooling to really get some input from your children. If they were in school, they would be choosing their classes within certain guidelines, based on their interests and goals; homeschooling shouldn't be any different. The more "ownership" your homeschooled high schooler has of what he's learning, the more success he's bound to have.

Ask your child about her interests and passions. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that a passion for blogging can "translate" into a partial elective English credit (our local district offers this option for senior year) or that time spent playing on a community basketball team can be considered physical education credit (again, our local district "waives" the phys. ed. requirement for students who participate in team sports or marching band). Even non-traditional past-times can help a student gain elective credit. My oldest had an extreme obsession for the culture and music of the 60s. She listened to all sorts of music, watched movies, wrote "fan fiction", and read biographies of musicians and social icons of the era. How could I not grant  a half credit of Fine Arts???

Resources to Help You

Places like Clonlara and NARHS can be helpful in evaluating non-traditional  or "real life" learning for the high school transcript, but there is a cost associated with using such services. Lee Binz, of The Home Scholar has several free resources on her website that can be helpful for parents wishing to homeschool their children through high school.

Donna Young has so many great printable resources at her site for all ages, but her high school pages are really a big help in getting organized. I have used her 4-year Checklist for all my high school students. Below is a screen shot of part of the checklist that I'm using for our oldest son. It includes the classes that he took at the public school since I need to keep track of all the work he has done to date; however those classes won't appear on his homeschool transcript.












Don't forget the wealth of information that comes from veteran homeschool parents. Be sure to check blogs, carnivals, forums, facebook groups, etc. There is a growing list of homeschool high school blogs at Let's Homeschool High School. The Homeschool High School Carnival is full of great ideas. And Tricia Hodges at Hodge Podge has some great info on planning for homeschool high school.

The key is to find a balance between academic requirements and all the fun "extra" stuff that can make homeschooling through high school an enriching experience. Once you realize you aren't alone on this journey of homeschooling through high school, the less scary it is!


Our Day Out

Kidsmuseum52013We are really, REALLY slow to start as a family, now that most of the kids are teens or tweens. It used to be, when they were little, that we'd head out early, during "school hours" to explore the Greater Cincinnati area.

Now, though, we awaken in dribs and drabs, each person grabbing something to eat for breakfast, which sometimes overflows into our "official" lunchtime (which is actually earlier than most conventional lunchtimes). For this reason, it's a real challenge to get out anywhere (other than scheduled appointments for individual children) before noon.

Today we headed out to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, a place where we have held a membership since the beginningof  our homeschool journey. With a family of our size, it's sensible to invest in annual memberships, since it usually only takes 1.5-2 visits to pay for itself. Another benefit of annual memberships is that you no longer feel compelled to "do it all" when visiting a site, knowing that you can come back time and againg for further explorations.

Drew52013Since we didn't arrive until around 1:30, that meant that most of the school groups were getting on their busses and going back to school. This left the museum pretty much empty. We started today's visit in the Cincinnati History Museum. The kids always enjoy looking at the vast miniature version of old Cincinnati that is on display upon entering the section of the museum center.

Here Drew is taking a photo of Crosley Field with his sister's iPhone.

After looking at the scale replica of Cincinnati, we kind of rushed through the rest of the museum since Drew was eager to get to the Museum of Natural History & Science. I kept telling him the polar bear that he wanted to see wasn't going anywhere.

Although this part of the museum isn't geared specifically for children, there are still a few hands on things and costumed interpreters to keep their attention. We sat in an old streetcar. We spoke with one interpreter who told us about the early pioneer dwellings. There is also a section that explains transportation along the rivers in Ohio where children can play with wooden boats and operate locks. Further along, there is an area where children can explore pioneer flatboats, dress up in costumes, and "build" a pioneer cabin.

Local52013 Streetcar52013 Cate52013 Cabin2013




NeilarmstrongAfter that, we visited the Museum of Natural History & Science (can't forget that polar bear!) and spent a considerable time in their trading post looking at fossils, animals, and a variety of interesting things. Next time we go there, we are going to bring along some of our natural treasures to trade.

There is a replica of the space suit that Neil Armstrong wore on the Apollo 11 mission along with his tools and a moon rock. Armstrong was a Cincinnati resident at the time of his passing last summer (Aug. 2012).

Cate finally conquered her fear and went through the replica cave that is a part of this museum. She wasn't completely happy about it, but she made it through! She was a bit freaked out when we came to the part where the bats live, despite their being behind a screen. I wonder if she realizes that she went through several caves in the sling when she was a baby?

Lastly, we visited the Children's Museum. By this time we were sharing this part of the museum center with about four other families. For some reason, my boys always want to start in the ball pit, exploring physics. Cate spent time playing pretend at the diner. Although this part of the museum is geared towards young children, even teens can have fun exploring when there isn't any competition at the water table. Because there was nobody else there, one of the museum volunteers spent a good amount of time playing with and helping our youngest, AJ, showing him how the mechanisms at the water table work. Very cool! The others went to their favorite section: "The Woods", which is an indoor woodland-themed playground complete with a fish pond. The pond has a viewing tube that children can crawl into to view the fish and turtles up close.

Liz52013 Julia52013 Catepond52013





All in all, it was a great outing. I really enjoyed not having to 'battle' lots of kids from school. We topped off our visit by stopping at a gas station for drinks and snacks.

A Few High School Resources to Share

I know I said I'd be adding units for the High School American History series I got started on around the beginning of this calendar year, and I will get them up as soon as I "translate" everything into PDF. <grin>

For now, I want to share some Geometry resources since folks have been asking me and it's currently on my mind. Since our son came home from public school in the middle of the school year, he still has access to the online text via the school's portal. However, he isn't fond of using online texts and he also realized that he needed a little more work on Geometry before he starts to review for the ACT/SAT next year. So, we purchased a cheap used copy of the Prentice Hall Geometry text (if you click on the image below, it will take you to Amazon).

Prentice Hall has some free resources online that go along with this text:

I almost never purcase teacher's editions of books, since those are more applicable to a classroom setting and almost always a waste of homeschooling money. However, it helps to have a little assistance and I discovered user-submitted problem answers at Slader. Additionally, most of these textbooks have answers to select problems in the appendix, which can help when you have a self-teaching child like I do.

There are some other inexpensive/free materials out there for high school geometry:

Aside from that, I really love this tidy little book that explores in a more hands-on way the geometry introduced in Euclid's Elements:


Edited 5/7/13: How could I forget to list one of the BEST math resources on the internet???

Khan Academy (Geometry) Fabulous, easily understood videos on the basics of geometry!