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Archive for the ‘Home School’ Category

Why We Home School

Someone asked how and why we home schooled. Since these are huge topics, I will try to answer them one at a time. Our reasons for home schooling are different than most, so I am not sure how much you will benefit from knowing them, but it is fun learning about where other people are coming from. So here it goes…
In 1999 we began the process of adopting a family group of three children, ages 10, 8 and 6. We were told by Social Services that they were at grade level in school and doing fine. When we enrolled them in our local school, and then finally received their school records we saw that this was not the case. How could Social Services lie to us? Well, technically it was not a lie. Our children were in regular classrooms being pulled out only for math and reading and being given better grades than they deserved because, as the new school would tell us, ‘those kids need to see those grades.’ (Apparently this is the norm in most schools.) So technically our children were doing ‘just fine.’
But they weren’t. So we worked with the children when they got home, and enrolled our daughter in Sylvan (which was very, very pricey) for extra help. Why? Because at the end of the third grade she was still trying to count beans in math and she did not know all of her letter sounds. Her teacher was very proud of her because when it was her turn to read aloud she did so with self-confidence, making the entire thing up. She won two awards at the end of the school year. These were not ‘special ed’ awards, but awards open to the entire class. One was for best behavior (She was an extreme behavioral problem) and the other was for creative writing (As my husband put it, ‘Her writing sure is creative!’ Remember, she does not know all of her letter sounds yet…)
Since the school’s plan for our children was two thirty minute pull-outs a day, one for reading, and one for math, into a class with a 15:1 student: teacher ratio (the same plan as their last school) we looked for a private school that could offer more and moved them.
Even with the private school’s attention there was still a significant amount of home work to be done at night because our children did not behave well enough to do their work in school. This meant that there was little time for our son who was currently in the first grade and doing well. So we decided to home school him through the second grade so he would have more time with mom, and then we could focus on the other children when they got home.
Our son completed the second grade curriculum in record time. When I asked my husband what he thought we should do now he told me to order the next grade. It was fairly obvious that this child was not going to easily re-assimilate to the slower pace of even the private school system we had put him. Our other children were asking to come home to school too. We had one in kindergarten that did not like the fact that his younger sister (who I was teaching at home for pre-school while teaching the second grader) was getting ahead of him. Our oldest adopted child was also asking to come home. He told the teacher he would have had for the next grade that his mom thought she was too tough and was not going to let him be in her class. I had said nothing about bringing him home, or what I had thought about the teacher, and assured the boy that mom would be tougher. But, since they closed the private school my two oldest were in, there seemed to be little choice. Our options were to put them back into a school system than had already failed them, or take them home. So the two oldest came home. The second grader wished to stay home and the kindergartener wished to come home as well. It seemed the only person not begging to be home was the adopted child who was currently in the third grade. Since he was proving to be a master thief, cheat and puller-upper of girl’s skirts it seemed like a good idea for him to have some more one-on-one time with Mom as well. It was supposed to be short-term, until some of the more obvious problems resolved…
But, when the adopted children’s standardized test scores went from the bottom of the graph to around the 75th percentile it was hard to think of putting them back into the system. Further, the schools had already informed me that my oldest and youngest adopted sons would be placed into a school for behavioral problems after sixth grade, and my daughter would be in a year-round school for the emotionally handicapped. She was expected to live her adult life in a group home, since, with her EH her IQ testing would likely drop into the mentally retarded range as the other children continued to mature, while she did not. No matter how difficult they were at home I could not in good conscience allow this to happen. The younger children were also flourishing, and we stopped talking about what grade they were in because they were significantly ahead in their schoolwork. (They were disappointed when they realized that this did not mean Mom was sending them to college early. While they were capable students there is a maturity that comes with age, and we planned to send them to colleges with other students who were equally as bright.)
All of my adopted children graduated and received diplomas. (Two through Royal Academy, and one through the State of New Mexico which allows home schoolers who test high enough on the GED to receive an actual NM diploma.) My oldest son (fetal alcohol syndrome/ cocaine baby) finished four years in the Marines and now makes six figures doing security work in Kuwait. My daughter (cocaine baby/ RAD) is married, works as part of the hotel cleaning staff, and is expecting her second child. (She is not in a group home!) My other adopted son (cocaine baby) works as a front desk supervisor in a hotel and is working his way into management. My oldest natural born son is going to a very respected school for engineering on a full scholarship. My other children are still home schooling. After four have moved on home schooling the three feels like I am doing nothing! My son who is still in our home school wants to follow his brother and become an engineer as well. They are both hoping to start their own companies. (Home schoolers tend not to aspire to be employees.) One of my daughters wants to be a wedding planner, and the other (whose pictures you will see on my books and blog) wants to be a photographer, though both wish to go to college just to have had the experience.
I am glad we home schooled. I believe all of my children are doing better than they would have if we had left them in school. They are self-confident and capable. They can also cook, clean and do the laundry! My younger children also avoided the bullying I was subjected to in school. (If you couldn’t tell, they are geeks.) While I did not choose to home school them for this reason, I am glad they avoided it. When I see how proud they are to be them, I realize that there was an extra ‘gift’ in bringing them home. By the way: All of the ‘benefits’ of socializing when you are a nerd/geek are baloney. Being abused rarely has good results. (And when I see my college son’s friends who have trouble getting up the courage to speak with me when they visit, even though it is obviously a geek-home, I am glad my children were able to be schooled by me.) That does not mean that we were recluses. Quite the contrary. We were out with friends almost every day. But we picked people who were good to us, and taught our children it is okay to set boundaries with those who aren’t.
Home schooling, like everything else, has its plusses and minuses. For one, our bank account would have been significantly bigger if I had not stayed home, but had continued to work as a physical therapist. I am certain I would have owned my own practice by now and had others working for me. I would also have not had to answer annoying questions every day about why I home school, and don’t I think they are missing out on something/ everything.
There is also a better chance of having a relationship with your children since you see them, and talk to them more often. (Another surprise benefit.) I would not trade this for the world!
That is not to say everything worked out perfectly. In our case, the problems that children who are adopted as older children face still haunt them in many ways, and they like to blame that on me more than their birth parents. That is the price many adoptive parents pay for trying to right what someone else did wrong, but you’ll need to check out my posts on adoption for more about that.
Right now, I have to wrap this up… someone needs help with their math!
P.S. Home schooling also allows you to travel more, and at off-peak times. A perk that makes it more than worth it! (Investing in an RV and being able to just go whenever my husband had the time allowed my children to see most of what they were learning about!)

Photo by Matija Barrett

25 Ideas for Home Schooling Teens

1. Adult Education Courses– There are many adult education courses given in most communities. Check with your local colleges to see what may be offered. Some may be for an entire semester, while others may be much shorter. Many are fun or useful. Swing dance, medieval weapons making, cabinetry and other interesting things may be offered, so it is not always traditional academic fare.

2. Volunteer– Many places could use an extra hand, and may teach your teen useful skills along the way. There are the traditional places such as the church, hospital, nursing home, soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity, but the local bee keeper, small engine repairman or dog groomer may also appreciate some unpaid help.

3. Hobby Shops– Hobby shops often have classes that teenagers may enjoy. My children have taken lessons in pottery, dichroic glass fusing, wood working (using a lathe) and jewelry making. I am currently drooling over a glass blowing class, but the youngest is not yet 16 (the cut off age), so we are waiting.

4. Lectures– Museums, colleges and other community organizations often have guest lecturers. Check the local paper and/or the college websites to see what is being offered.

5. Seminars– Many times there are seminars given for the general public. Get Motivated is one of these. They bring in big name speakers. In between the speakers are commercials for other high priced learning opportunities, but if you know how to say ‘no’ to what you know you will not benefit from, then this is a great way to hear some truly remarkable people speak.

6. Church events– Most churches allow everyone to attend their events.  By investigating what each church is offering your teen may see concerts, comedians, take a course on financial responsibility or improve their Bible knowledge.

7. Toast Masters– If your teen is scared to death of public speaking Toast Masters offers a gentle, supportive way to gain confidence. There are Toast Masters groups in most communities.

8. College Events– Many colleges bring in entertainment and allow members of the community to purchase tickets as well.  Most of the time the performances are cheaper than you could see them elsewhere, and your teen gets to check out the college, without the pressure of an official visit.

9. Hikes– There are many interesting hikes to take. Plaques along the way often teach history without it seeming like you planned a history lesson.

10. Mining– Many areas have gem or other precious metal mining for a price. Some also have places where ‘rock hounds’ can dig for free. Use the internet to find places you may dig in your area.

11. Road trips– Your teen should now be doing much of their work independently. If they can complete their course work, then a trip is not unreasonable. Combine education with fun by visiting museums as part of your tour. There are also fun historical places like Pops by Oklahoma City on Route 66 where you can get any kind of soda imaginable.

12. Use movies to teach literature- Learning what onomatopoeia is may not be fun, but it is more fun when you get to watch your favorite movies and look for it. Also many movies are remakes of classics. For example the Lion King is Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and She’s the Man is 12th Night. Google whatever classics you are currently studying and see if Hollywood has a modern remake to compare it to.

13. Use food- Teens are always hungry. Build cells by cutting open a bun, spreading cream cheese and adding other toppings for organelles (a friend of mine’s suggestion).  Frost a cake and decorate it as a contour map of Egypt. Reinforce adding or dividing fractions by doubling or halving the recipe.

14. Use Pinterest- Pinterest has great ideas, especially for crafts. I started looking, and now my daughter goes on herself, gives me a list and does what she likes independently.

15. Order kits- You can do almost anything at home, just follow the directions carefully. The last big project we did was basket weaving.  My daughter now wants to make a carpet ball table.

16. Home Improvement– Many building places offer free classes and suggestions on how to improve your home. Get the kids involved. One day they will have a home of their own and these skills will benefit them. Recently we made mosaic tables, and placed a mosaic dragon on the kitchen floor. My son is now starting to landscape the yard, with the freedom to use some of his own ideas.

17. Cooking classes– As I said, teens are always hungry. Cake decorating is also an option.

18. Interesting science experiments– Search the internet for things that are ‘cooler’ than what you usually do. If you have boy, things that blow up are typically a hit. dissection kits and other interesting activities are also available through sites like Home School Science Tools. Our favorite was making elephant toothpaste!

19. Sports– Many teens are welcome on adult leagues, and classes in Tae Kwon Do, Zumba or golf are also age appropriate now.

20. Music and Drama– Many areas have community bands and theater groups. They are fun and low pressure. If your teen has talent in these areas they may enjoy joining one.

21. Book clubs– If your teen is a reader they may also enjoy joining a local book club. They are a great way to meet interesting people and share ideas.

22. Job Shadow– To help your teen figure out what they want to do in life you may want to set up opportunities for them to observe a day or two on a job they think they would be interested in. Most people will gladly allow them to do this.

23. Allow them to Explore their Own Interests– This is a time for them to develop hobbies that will enrich their lives. Currently my son is looking into blacksmithing, while my daughter is trying her hand at photography. 

24. Part time jobs- Part time jobs give teens practice being responsible and hard working without mom looking over their shoulder. If nothing else they teach your teen exactly why they do not want to leave school early and try to live on minimum wage.

25. Do things with them- They are now approaching adulthood and it is time to start establishing a more adult relationship with them. Take them out to eat, to bowl or anywhere else there is a lot of down time where you may talk. Ask their opinions, listen and try not to over-react if they do not think as you do.

Photo by Matija Barrett

11 Ways to Encourage Children to Read


1. Read to them. Begin as soon as they are born. Growing up with the assumption that books are a part of everyday life makes them more likely to see reading as just something people do.

2. Read in front of them. Set the example. When your children see that you read for pleasure they assume it is enjoyable and want to do it too.

3. Place books in the bathroom. There are times when a child is sitting and it gets rather boring in there. If books are their only source of entertainment, that is what they will reach for. Sometimes I put educational magazines, or books of quotes by famous people in there knowing they would never look at them otherwise.

4. Place Books in their Bedroom. Allow them to read before they go to bed, or if they wake up very early and can’t sleep. Having books that are theirs encourages them to treasure them.

5. Use books on tape in the car. This allows you to get used to discussing books as a family and introduces them to authors they might not have picked themselves.

6.Use the  Pizza Hut Book-It Program, or other rewards. Everyone needs incentive and rewards. Jewish teachers used to give honey treats to their students for learning scripture because there are rewards to knowing God’s Word in real life. Even if the child loves to read and would do it on their own, positive reinforcement never hurts, and a free pizza outing is fun! You do not have to wait for your group to enroll. The home school option allows families to sign up individually.

7. Do not micromanage their reading. Reading should be fun so let them choose what they read. There are obvious exceptions, but for the most part let them be. If you are concerned, read the book and discuss it with them. There is probably a reason they were drawn to the book, and it is typically better for them to understand why things are wrong rather than just be told ‘no’ and left clueless.

8. Read the books they read and discuss the books with them. In my house it is common for someone to say, ‘You should read this,’ and then, as you read, talk to you about the book. And of course there is always another sibling yelling, ‘Wait, don’t talk with me in the room, I haven’t read it yet!’ Kindle also lets you put books on up to six devices, so if you have the technology, multiple people can read books at the same time.

9. Buy comic books. Comic books, probably because there are lots of pictures, are less threatening and will be read at a younger age. Most comics however require inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as a knowledge of current events. They force children to ask questions and learn because they want to get the joke. There are also educational comic books. Chester Comix were some of my kids’ favorites.

10. Have books around the house. Many studies have shown that children who are successful in school come from homes that have bookshelves full of books. There are also success stories of poor women who cleaned houses noticing the rich people had books, doing something to encourage their children to read and the children becoming wildly successful. This is not always the case, but it does help.

11. Take the children to the library, used books store or anywhere they can get books for themselves. They should feel comfortable around books, and feel like these places are a second home. Most libraries and bookstores have scheduled activities for children. Make sure your children go. Many of the activities are for younger children but there are also parties for popular book releases that last until midnight that older children may enjoy. We have been to a few. While they are not always incredibly exciting, young teens typically prefer staying out past midnight to being home in bed. Caution: Children who do not sit still and listen well, especially if they pull books off the shelf may have a bad experience here. Adults will tell the child to behave if others cannot hear, or they may ruin the books. Teach your children these skills at home and then ease your child into these situations. Good behavior is also a key to a successful life, but know that some kids are tougher than others.

Photo by Matija Barrett

Home School Survival 101

Now I am not your typical home school mom. I did not yearn to have children, or be a stay-at-home mom. It just happened that way. This being said, since I was out of my ‘comfort zone’ I needed a few modifications that are not typical in your average home in order to keep my sanity. They may help you keep yours as well.

1. Set up your bedroom just like a college dorm. That’s right. Mini-fridge, toaster oven/microwave, radio, TV. Anything you need to create a space that you and your husband can call ‘yours.’ With the children being home 24/7 it is nice to occasionally eat a brownie in peace without someone (okay seven someone’s) asking, ‘Can I have one too?’

2. Date Night. Have a night every week that is just for you and your spouse. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it cannot be time to do the chores. Adult conversation and proof that someone loves you for who you are is necessary to maintain sanity.

3. Volunteer Doing Something You Believe In. You can do this with the kids, but it gives you a sense of being useful and connected with the outside world. It also gets you out of the house, so you don’t focus on how messy and chaotic it has gotten lately.

4. Have Friends. I once told my children that, even if they did not like Gym and Swim, they would be going anyways because I liked the group of mothers who took their children there. While the children played, we talked. Thankfully my kids enjoyed it too. Bible studies are also a great place to meet people and they typically have childcare available.

5. Plan. Nothing kills a home school like lack of planning. Know what you need to get through each day to be ‘done’ by the end of the year. Without planning you will always feel like you have not done enough, and you will likely be behind. No child wants to hear that they did not finish history so they will be doing it over summer break.

6. Set boundaries. Home school should have an end time. If you say they should be done by 3 pm, then they are still responsible for the work after 3, but you are not responsible for nagging and/or helping past this time. No TV, video games etc until the work is done and they will slowly learn to do their work when they are supposed to, without dawdling. If they still have work in the morning, then it is added to the next day’s work. Weekends will be busy for them if they keep this up! You don’t have to be on top of them during this time, just close enough to make sure they didn’t sneak off to do something else. (You can have some mercy if they have a legitimate question, but don’t fall into the trap of answering foolishness every two seconds.)

7. Take Breaks When Needed. If you, as an adult, are tired and need a change, then chances are so do your children. Have them do every other math problem, and only read (not answer the questions) in their assignments and then go on a field trip. Local museums are educational and fun, and many things count as ‘gym.’ This is not for every day, but becomes much more necessary sometime around February for some reason… (sick of winter?)

8. Keep things in Perspective. A home schooling house will not be as clean as a home where the people leave for long periods of the day, nor will you have the time to do everything you might like to do. Your children will also not be ‘perfect’ and may struggle in one or more subjects. Kids struggle in school too. Do not blow things out of proportion and get overwhelmed. Four of my children were in the 90 something percentile for everything except spelling. I am sending one of them to college this year. He has a full scholarship, and that’s right, he can’t spell! One of my adopted children, born with cocaine in his system, who struggles with school can spell anything without thinking about it. (So it’s not my teaching. Spelling can be learned in my house!) Every child has their gifts, and their weak points. Learn to be okay with it.

9. Get help when necessary. Everyone is bad at something. You can have a friend teach science labs, or another tutor math. If you excelled in school, but failed in housework (like me) you can have someone come in and clean. (I did not keep my housekeeper, because it was not worth the criticisms from some of the other mothers and we just messed it up the next day… but I probably should have!) and that leads me to my next point…

10. Edit your friends’ list. People who criticize and put you down are not friends; they are Pharisees. Jesus did not play well with them and neither should you. (I learned this a little late.)

I hope this helps. Our home school is doing well, despite many mishaps and bumps. Hopefully yours is too!

Some Things I Learned About Getting A Home Schooler Into College

Before your child starts high school:
1. Look at the websites of colleges your child may want to attend. See what they require for high school. Make sure your child completes all the work necessary. Typically most competitive colleges want four years of Math, Science, History, English and a Foreign Language. Even if a student can graduate high school with less in your area, if you are thinking about college make sure your child takes the courses they require.

Sophomore Year:
2. Have your child begin practice tests and study guides designed to help them do well on the SAT or ACT. Most colleges will accept either test, but check to see what they prefer. Children who memorize well tend to do slightly better on the ACT. Children who like logic/ problem solving tend to do slightly better on the SAT. SAT or ACT scores typically determine whether or not your child is accepted, even if they went to public school.

Junior Year:
3. Early in the school year the PSAT will be given at your local high school. Call the high school and make sure your student takes it. It helps with scholarships. Your student may take it in the fall of their sophomore year as well, but it will be only for practice and will not count for scholarships. The PSAT must be taken in the fall of the Junior year for it to count.

4. Make sure your child takes the SAT &/or the ACT in his or her junior year. Do practice tests before hand and/or courses to improve your score. These scores, if high enough, ensure admission to many colleges. Your student can take these tests as many times as they want. Colleges only look at the highest score so don’t be afraid to take the test over to see if a higher score is possible. Make sure you have an official report from the SAT or ACT sent directly to the college. If you do not send each score to the college, they will not see it. Colleges do not ask for scores; they expect you to have them sent. Scores sent from you to the college do not count, even if you send them the original. The SAT or ACT website will explain how to have the scores sent.

5. Visit the colleges. Talk to the admissions office and ask lots of questions so you are comfortable and know how to apply. Each college also has its own ‘feel.’ Make sure your student feels comfortable on campus. I loved the hustle and bustle of a very large university. Some of my friends transferred because they could not stand it and wanted the more intimate feel of a smaller college.

6. Do not try to get your child into a college they do not qualify for. If your child scores significantly lower on the SAT than the average student at the college, they will struggle there and are more likely to drop out.

7. Before November 15th of your student’s senior year, apply to more than one college. Most colleges choose students on November 15th. After that you are admitted only if they have spots left. Some colleges accept applications even earlier, and if your student’s ACT/SAT scores are high they may guarantee a place for your student even earlier than this. Your student should know where they are going to college in early spring of their senior year. Most competitive high school students have applied to more than one college before the end of their junior year.

8. Do NOT send more information than the college asks. Look on their website, or call the admissions office. Colleges are used to dealing with home schoolers now and know exactly what they want. If you send more, the admissions office will put it into a file to look at later, and will have to sort through everything to get what they actually want. They will put this off, and you have just decreased your student’s chances of getting in. Keep the scrapbooks etc at home unless specifically asked for them. Unless your child is going to an arts/performance school, you will likely not be asked for examples of their work. Most schools just want a list of courses taken and the grades they earned. Some want to know what each course consisted of so keep track of this as well, but do not send it unless they want it.

9. Make sure you send everything the college does want on time.

10. If the college wants a GED have your student take it. There is no stigma for a home schooler in taking the GED. They just want to know that your student can pass a basic skills test, or some of their funding requires this. Two of my children have taken it, and one of them has a FULL scholarship to a very prestigious college. It’s okay. Do not try to convince the admissions office that your ‘accredited’ home school diploma is a ‘real’ diploma. They do not have to accept courses taken at other fully accredited colleges, so they most certainly do not have to accept any home school or private school diploma. Arguing with them only decreases your chances of acceptance. If you want in, play by their rules. The only exception to this is if your student may go into the military if they do not finish their college degree. They can still get in with a GED, but it is a factor. Talk to a recruiter. The military too understands home schoolers. One of my sons went into the Marines right out of high school and just completed his four years. If you do finish a college degree no one really cares how you got through high school. Did you ever ask your doctor about his high school degree?

If your child does not get into the college of their choice, or struggles once they are there:

11. If your child does not get into a four-year school, don’t panic. Going to a community college is not the end of the world. After they prove themselves at community college, they may then go to a four-year school. Many of our friends who are pharmacists, doctors etc did two years at a community college to save money, then finished their degree at a four year school. No one asks if you did your first two years somewhere other than where you graduated. Just make sure the four year college they wish to attend accepts the courses they are taking at the community college before they take them.

12. Some colleges do have an alternate achievement test for students who did not take, or did not do well on their SATs or ACTs. Others may have an alternate way to be considered for college if your child does not meet the typical criteria. This is where your scrapbooks may come in handy! Most colleges do not have this option, so do not count on it. Additionally, a student that does not fit the standard requirements typically does not do well at that institution. There are exceptions though, but it is best to put your student into a college that is a good fit academically and that they feel comfortable, and excited about going to.

13. If your student struggles with college they may want to take fewer classes each semester. It will take longer to graduate, but they will have a better chance of succeeding.

14. If your student does not do well at one college, consider transferring to another. Each college is unique. One environment may be better than another for them.

15. If your child struggles in college it may be because they have a difficult time where they are living. Most people suggest living on campus, but if your child finds ‘partying’ too distracting they may do better living at home. If they are home, they may not be studying as much since this is where they are used to playing video games and relaxing. A dorm room may then provide the environment they need to do better. I loved living in the dorms; my husband spent time in the dorms but lived at home for the last years of his undergraduate degree. We both did well.

This is not hard. Most colleges want a transcript (course names and grades) and the student’s SAT and/or ACT scores only (in addition to application fees and their forms filled out). As long as your student takes the required courses in high school, and does fairly well on their achievement tests they should be fine.

Most of the ‘horror’ stories I have heard are the result of:
1. Not sending things in on time. If you miss the deadlines, you may not get in.
2. Not sending some of the required items in at all.
3. Sending so many things that were not asked for that the admissions office could not tell what had been sent in.
4. Not taking the necessary courses in high school and then expecting to be admitted.
5. Not providing the college with what they wanted (a GED or a more complete transcript) because they went to an ‘accredited’ home school program and the parents feel that their child’s diploma should be viewed as a public high school diploma.
6. Not having high enough SAT or ACT scores for the colleges applied to and not wanting to consider other options.

Remember, the people telling the ‘horror’ stories typically leave out why it is actually their fault. Keep them talking and you will eventually figure it out. Most colleges love home schoolers because they typically do well. The biggest problem most home schoolers have in college is remembering to put their name on their paper!

By the way: If your child is going to a competitive college for something like Engineering, they will want to take Earth Science and Algebra in 8th grade so they may take Calculus & AP Biology, Chemistry or Physics their senior year. Some of these classes may be taken at a community college or on-line. Make sure your child does their science labs or the courses are not ‘high school’ level courses. Also make sure they take a Health & Nutrition Course, a course in Public Speaking and do their State Study.

I hope this helps.

How IQ Tests Work (& Don’t Work)

I first noticed a problem with IQ tests after we adopted our three oldest children. They were older when they came into our house, so the school wanted them tested. I was dismayed by the results. (They were not good.) As I looked at the methods used, I noticed a problem. Many of the questions relied on the children being aware of things that you could not take for granted my children would know. My children had been neglected, and did not have a history of paying attention in school. (One of my children, age 10, did not know how to untie his shoes. School had taught him how to tie a shoe, but no one taught him to pull the laces just so. My eight year old did not yet know all of her letter sounds.) Children who have been neglected will likely have lower scores, not because they are that ‘slow,’ but because they have not yet learned.
Through the years we also tested our other children. Different children have different issues with testing. Some are meticulous. They will have difficulty if any test is timed. We had to tell one child to simply put a mark in the circle, go on, then color them in later. He was spending so much time filling in the circles on the test ‘perfectly’ that he never finished!
Other children get stuck on problems they don’t know. If the test has more difficult questions early, they will do worse. Some cannot think once their confidence is broken. A tough question early can skew the rest of the test results.
Still others do not like to sit still. They are highly energetic. If the tests are broken up into sections, with adequate breaks they do better than if they have to sit still and stay on task for long periods of time. Since exceptionally bright children often jump from one topic to another and then back again in their minds, long tests are not good for them. They will test lower than they should if they are made to sit too long.
We also noticed that the IQ tests were not necessarily written by people with high IQs. There were questions that had more than one answer, if you really thought outside the box. Since IQ tends to measure problem solving and lateral thinking skills in the upper ranges, this is also a problem. What we found was the children who truly had great problem solving skills were not the ones who finished the fasted, but the ones who engaged the tester to explain why certain questions were wrong and could not be answered. (I have an uncle who only missed two questions on his SAT. He still maintains that one of them was their error!)
So what does IQ mean? IQ tells you how well you can problem solve. It means you can think outside the box. People with extremely high IQs do not think like an average person. They typically have trouble fitting in, and doing menial, repetitive tasks. You may want them for research, but not for repetitive, detailed things like editing, cleaning or laser eye surgery. You also don’t want them in jobs that require knowing what the average person likes such as advertising, marketing or public relations. (Unless you want to be known as avant-garde or cutting edge, or just odd.)
Different thinking styles lend themselves to excellence in different areas. An incredible artist who is a friend of mine is not good at anything even vaguely administrative. I cannot stand cleaning and housework, yet give me something to research and I will forget to eat. I have a son who has volunteered to continue doing yard work after the rest of the family stopped for the day who cannot stand schoolwork. Everyone is different. Unfortunately, if put in the wrong situations for too long these people are often labeled rebellious or lazy. (I know a brilliant man who ended up stuck in a menial job for various reasons. Due to not being able to fit in he became an alcoholic. Such a waste.)
In raising a wide variety of children (thanks to adoption) we have noticed that high IQ is not that best thing for all jobs. It has its drawbacks. One of my sons is very charismatic, but has an average IQ. He is excelling in his hotel career, being promoted three times in his two months of work. Another of my sons has an incredibly high IQ. He can build anything, and enjoys doing ‘science’ for fun. (Currently he is processing rough gems he mined, and wants to finish them himself.) We laughed at the prospect of him filling in for my son in his hotel job. My gem-cleaning son frequently rubs people the wrong way, even though deep inside he loves people deeply. He just feels the need to be very ‘exact’ when talking, and needs to correct people over minor points. People don’t like this. We often find ourselves telling him, ‘One step too far,’ indicating that the conversation was good, up until that specific point.

My Favorite Home School Resources

For Spelling I love Wordly Wise

I have tried many other spelling books. The kids memorized the spelling and then promptly forgot everything. Wordly Wise is different. It combines vocabulary and reading comprehension so that the children have more to associate the words with, and thus remember, and even use some of them. Further, the reading assignments are on topics that should be learned by the time they graduate. This reinforcement helps them to remember the things they should have learned in school as an adult.


For the younger years I like the Apologia curriculum. It is colorful and fact filled. Their later materials are heavy on memorization though, and my children are more of the logic/problem solver types.

For older elementary school I like Real-Science-For-Kids. It is colorful, but explains advanced concepts so well that your child will have no problem tackling their high school courses.The author is a home school mom with a PhD.

In high school the best place for lab materials is Home Science Tools. Their direction materials are incredibly intact and easy to use. They also have advanced science kits and chemicals at very reasonable prices.

For high school I like to supplement their curriculum with the ‘coloring book’ series by Wynn Kapit. They are incredibly detailed, but make complex concepts easier. When I was a teaching assistant we used them in the Gross Anatomy lab in college. They’re that good.There are ‘coloring books’ for anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and geography that I know of.


We enjoy The Mystery of History, which can be used for all ages since she (another home school mother) has different activities for different ages.

For older elementary school, my children enjoyed watching Drive Thru History. It was one of the few DVD sets that they watched more than once without fuss.

The children also enjoyed the Chester Comix Series. These are comic books packed with information on different historical topics. They are one of the few ‘educational’ things I could get my children to read on their own.


For math it depended on the child.

My more ADHD children, who excelled in school enjoyed A Beka.

My children who needed a lot of repetition who like to do one thing at a time enjoyed Saxon.

My more ‘social’ children like Teaching Textbooks.


The DVD set The History of Rock and Roll not only covered music, but provided an interesting way to bring history to life, especially with regard to civil rights.


Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton makes this Shakespeare play fun.

Use Google to see if there were any modern remakes of the classics you are studying. For example: Did you know that The Lion King is a remake of Hamlet? That She’s the Man is Shakespeare’s 12th Night? Or that Clueless is Jane Austin’s Emma?


There are so many things you can do in the community, and many of these resources have school discounts, special days etc to make them cheap. We have been to the opera, we take advantage of the tours at national parks, go to musicals and plays, use Groupon to find things like pottery classes, and local craft stores to take classes on things like cake decorating. We also have ordered basket weaving kits etc. Local colleges, planetariums and museums also have lectures that children may go to, as long as they are well-behaved. Recently we heard Rosylnn Carter speak at the University of New Mexico. Get Motivated Seminars are also good (and cheap) if you can keep yourself from signing up for the classes that are advertised in between the speakers.


For gym and art I like things that will teach skills that last a life time. Martial arts, archery, horse back riding etc are things that many people do for the rest of their lives.

I’ll let you know if I think of more…


Why I Hate The SAT Style Essay (and think that you should too…)

Okay, google sample SAT essay topics so you are now up to speed (or don’t, you can just take my word for it). If your sample is anything like the many I have seen the first problem is that the questions are leading. They tell you, subtly, exactly what to think. Most high school textbooks are written the same way. This bothers me. Our children are learning how to ‘read’ a situation and provide the ‘right’ answer rather than do research and form their own opinion. Sure, it’s faster to just give the teacher what they want, but is it better?
Next, read the ‘perfect 12’ (12 is the top score) essays. I’ll wait. First, they are all written in the same format: introduction, three supporting paragraphs, conclusion. Who writes like that? Good writers most certainly do not. Where is the creativity that makes an author great? It’s not there. I am assuming that there are talented writers coming out of our high schools still, but the grading formulas we use are obviously not going to reward them for their talent. Apply the standard essay grading system (you can google that too) to any great piece of work. Chance are the author would not get an ‘A.’ Good writing uses words in a way that is unique. In a way that captures a reader’s attention and gets the point across. Standard writing formats inhibit that process, so why are we rewarding them?
Next, notice the arguments in the essay. Most of the essays pair a strength of the thing the writer is for, with a weakness of what he is against. This is not a valid argument. This is called ‘stacking the deck.’ No wonder our kids can’t think. We are teaching them to ‘prove their point’ using unfair methods.
Also notice that the instructions tell you to support your position. Home schoolers especially have a hard time with this. Why? Because they are used to talking to moms who frequently play the devil’s advocate. They learn to be honest about the pluses and minuses of both sides and feel free to admit that in some cases changes in the situation will change which method is right for you. They understand that many times, neither side is all good, or all bad, and are willing to admit it. They do not therefore fully support either side. While their essay is ‘flawed,’ their logic and intellectual honesty is not. But isn’t this what we should be striving for?
The next time your child has to write an essay then look at the question. Ask them what they really think about the issue. Point out words that lead them to ‘know’ which side the author of the question wants them to be on so that they are less likely to fall for these tricks as adults so they can think and not be ‘led’ into an opinion. Then ask them to honestly examine both sides of the issue, stating the plusses, and minuses of each side, being sure to honestly examine the negatives of the side you prefer, since that is the one you will be implementing if this were real. Most things in life are not black and white. In feeding the poor, we take the chance of keeping those who are poor because they are lazy in poverty because we just made life too easy on them. (Yes, there are many reasons for poverty, but lazy is one of them.) In providing mosquito control to save people from malaria we introduce chemicals into an environment and change the eco-system. If you do not want to make big mistakes in life you cannot be in the habit of overlooking the downside of the solutions you like.

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