A2Z Homeschool – Ann's Blog

Homeschooling From Ann's Perspective

Tips for Keeping Kids Engaged on a Car Trip



We’re planning an extensive and interesting vacation this summer by car…

…visiting historical sites, national parks, and other points of interest. Can you give us tips for keeping the kids, ages 10, 12, and 16, engaged?

Also, can our teenager get credit for some of the stuff he does on our vacation?


What a great plan! Keeping spirits up is so important. Do allow some “down time,” too.

Take tips from families who are full-time traveling homeschoolers. These families are on the go in their RVs, boats, and even bicycles for months on end. They are the masters of homeschooling on the road.

While many kids are very much into their electronics while traveling in a car, sometimes it is also fun to have the whole family engaged in looking out the windows. That’s why I’ve gathered this list of car games. There is also a version you can export to your cell phone so you have it along with you. Some games do require you print something out ahead of time.

As for your 16 year old, they could work on studying for their driver’s permit on the road when you are in areas that get cell reception. If they already have their permit, your teen could help out with some of the driving. (Please check with the jurisdiction that you will driving in to determine their laws with respect to out of state permits). In the early stages of learning to drive I allowed our son to drive through a redwood tree along the Avenue of the Giants (Redwood forest) at about 25 MPH. It is something he’ll never forget – he didn’t knock down even one of them!

Everyone should be involved with care of the car, doing specific jobs at each gas fill-up. Fill the tank, check the oil, wash the windows, take out the trash… make your own list.

Learn to use whatever navigation system you prefer to use.

Fill an iPod or two full of music and audiobooks.

Prepare and learn to use emergency kits: one for the car and one for the people. Make a plan for what you’ll do should you get in an accident or get separated.

At the natural areas, I’m assuming you’ll want to take day hikes. Here are some tips for hiking with kids.

Homeschoolers around the USA and Canada have helped me compile lists and links to their favorite field trip venues. Plan to swing through some of these places! Toward the bottom of that page there are links to special topic areas. Some sections of the land are great for finding out everything about, say, dinosaurs, aviation, or the Colonial Period.

As you travel and visitor centers beckon, do pick up materials to continue their interests when you return home. If the items aren’t small, see if the items can be shipped home, or visit their website, and toss items into an online shopping cart to finalize when you get home. You may also save money on impulse buys that way.

Consider some ongoing unit studies. When we did our trip cross country, we did “water tasting,” much as some might do wine tasting. We kept notes of where we were when we got water to drink, and how the water smelled and tasted. There are some places where the water tasted like sulfur!

Another fun topic is ice cream. Think of ice cream as a chemistry experiment. Avoid the big chains, and ask where the best local ice cream can be found.

An ice cream ball can be bought ahead of time and taken along. Bring the rock salt and vanilla, too. Ice can be gotten anywhere soda can be found, or from hotel ice machines. You’ll need to stop for half-and-half, too. Stop at fruit stands to make ice cream or sorbets with whatever is available.

Take photographs. Photography is an art form that can thrill for a lifetime. I download camera and photography manuals and ebooks to my iPad, so if I need tips on how to take a photo in a special situation, I’ll have it at my fingertips. Google your camera manufacturer, model number, and the word ‘manual.”

Have a wonderful time!

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Can I make my own curriculum?



Can I make my own curriculum?

Can I mix and match different “brands” of curriculum? My 4 and 5 year old children are very artistic. I really need someone to walk with me step by step through this for a bit until I get the hang of it. I need some specific advice and insight. I need someone who can tell me exactly what to do and how to do it and so on.


You can build a custom “curriculum” around their best skills!

For reading they’ll probably enjoy books with illustrations for some time. Fortunately, most children’s sections of large bookstores have zillions of these books on all topics. Forget any form of structured “reading comprehension” lessons: just read with them and talk to them about the plot while you read. “What do you think the character meant by that? What do you think will happen next? What clues does the picture give us?” Just use normal questions that occur to either of you while reading.

For writing, perhaps get them a set of gel pens and black paper to write on. Have some FUN with writing in a colorful way. I have on my site some fonts you can download. You can print the stories using these fonts and let him use their color pens to illustrate the stories and go over the fonts to practice handwriting in a way that would be meaningful to them.

There’s a lot of art in the patterns of math facts. Get a large pad of graph paper for doing math problems on. Color in the squares to show sums or black out previously colored squares to show subtraction. Make up patterns by defining a square that is 10 on each side. Color in every second square or every third, etc. Use math manipulatives. These can be purchased at teacher supply stores and through catalogs. You can also use items you have around the house. Many get by for years using LEGOS to teach everything!

I’ll point you to my “Content Standards” page but do NOT set your standards as low as the state requirements! The standards can be handy to help you see what concepts need to be understood before you can move on.

An inexpensive way of getting fairly accurate science information for young children, for example, is to subscribe to several good scientific children’s magazines and one or two grown-up ones to keep on top yourself! (The same goes for history and geography!) So, yes, you can mix and match – this is called the “eclectic” approach to homeschooling, which I bet most of us will admit we do, rather than consistently follow just one method all the time for all subject areas.

Kids grow and have different educational needs through the years as well. Homeschooling is a very personal project, which is why I am not telling you exactly what to do. It would be like telling you precisely how to clean your house or what to plant in your garden. I might be able to tell you what grows well in your particular ecosystem, but ultimately, it is up to you to decide what to plant. If you had a specific question, such as how to get a catsup stain out of your carpet, I might have a suggestion that would work well on MY carpet. But I am not going to presume which furniture you should buy or how you should arrange it or how “neat” you must be.

Just slowly collect a shelf full of those books with titles that are sort of like “Fun things to do with kids in your city,” or “Things to do with kids on rainy days,” or “Hiking with kids in your region,” or “Gardening with kids,” or “Crafts for kids,” or “How to make your own Science equipment,” or “Make an Indian Village.” — the list is endless! Just have FUN with this.

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New A to Z Home’s Cool Site – A2Z Homeschooling.com


We have thrown the switch! The old site now redirects to the new WordPress site, with all sorts of new widgets and redesign.

Your favorite content is still here, I promise you, now on A2ZHomeschooling.com

We will still be fussing with it nearly all the time, but now I encourage you to help. I want to encourage contributors who would like to be able to post an article or two without having to commit to a full blog in this multiuser site.

I have more people working on the new A2ZHomeschooling site, which means from time to time I can blame the boo boos on someone else. David Proctor and Shawn Hall have been real heros. And our son Scott Zeise, has done a whole lot of the “grunt work” to get content moved over, so you’ll maybe see their names on some posts they helped recreate. My dear husband has been called on to do more than his fair share of cooking and housework.

It has been a steep learning curve for all of us, managing a site with over 1400 pages being moved to about the same number of posts. There are so many delightful plugins and widgets. We try some. Some work and some don’t.

But the code has been purged of all the old fashioned code that it has carried along since the days of PageMill. (Can you remember back that far?)

I want to keep this resource up and going, and am planning for its future. While I hope to be at it here for a good many years to come, I also realize that you younger moms and dads want to hear from those “in the thick of homeschooling.”

I encourage those who really want their own blog to start blogging here. Google knows that we’ve had this site going for three years now. It is out of its infancy! The new site and the old site share the site Google search. Meaning if someone searches on a keyword we both use, they see your posts as well as mine. This is HUGE! No other blog site can do this for you.

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One Busy Down Syndrome Guy


By Barbara Frank

When I write about homeschooling and mention that all my children have pursued their own interests, I do mean ALL of them, even my youngest, who has Down syndrome.

I remember the social worker who told me, shortly after his birth, that he would watch his older siblings do things, but because of his innate lack of curiosity he wouldn’t do much himself. In fact, she actually said he would “watch the world go by.” As an involved parent with several years of childrearing under her belt, I found that very depressing.

Fortunately, it turned out to be wrong. In fact, by the time he was two or three, the family joke was that we were going to take him back to her office and let him loose so he could take the place apart as he did our house. Maybe then she would stop depressing other parents with her outlook.

The fact is that our son has plenty of curiosity. He expressed it physically far earlier than verbally. He was still pretty young when he began climbing into the refrigerator and the oven. He often narrowly avoided catastrophe when attempting to surf down the stairs or taste electrical cords. I once caught him trying to nuke his brother’s watch in the microwave. He was nothing if not intrepid.

These days he’s a young man. We’re no longer “doing school” as we did for so many years, but he manages to keep busy and most importantly, he pursues his interests. His days often begin with singing; this morning he burst into song along with Joseph in one of his favorite movies, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He sings with all the fervor (if not the enunciation) of a Broadway star. It’s a pleasure to hear him.

He also has his own ideas about getting exercise. While I coax him on occasional walks, and his dad takes him bowling every week, he loves to take time out from his day to dance along with the “High School Musical” gang. I think he must know all the dance numbers by heart now, and he works up a sweat trying to imitate the dancers perfectly. Most of the time he does this with his door shut, but occasionally he requires an audience and whoever happens to be at home obliges. It’s always a good time.

He enjoys working out, and will occasionally take over the hallway to see if he can top his record of push-ups or sit-ups. He has a favorite barbell he uses to work on his biceps, which he flexes for anyone who asks (or even if they don’t).

He has other interests, including his latest, using Skype with his big brother and infant nephew. Last week he tried Skyping with his best friend, who also has Down syndrome. Those guys had a great time.

He’s so busy pursuing his interests that he often doesn’t want to stop in order to go with me to the grocery (where he mans the cart and does the scanning) or on other errands. He usually lets me know I’m interrupting his day before giving in and coming with me. But as soon as we get home, he goes back to what he was doing before I dragged him away from it.

Other people don’t understand this. They ask me why he isn’t in a sheltered workshop or bagging groceries somewhere. Seriously, I don’t think he has the time!

Copyright 2013 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers

Barbara Frank homeschooled her four children for 25 years and has written several books related to homeschooling. You’ll find her on the web at www.cardamompublishers.com,
www.barbarafrankonline.com and www.thrivinginthe21stcentury.com

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Why Homeschooling is Bad?


by Ann Zeise

At first I thought I’d comment on this article in ehow by Brittney Horwitz, but thought I’d respond to her here instead. The link to her article is at the end.

Social Life

Her first concern is that your homeschool student won’t have a social life, and that somehow the social skills learned in a school environment are important. I think many of us homeschool families would say we are homeschooling because the social experience, let alone the academic experience, in our local schools were so bad, that the socialization problems with homeschooling seemed unimportant.

Homeschooled kids are seldom stuck all day with kids their same age. Having friends of all ages better prepares a young person for real adult life, which is almost never confined to ones age peers. Not only do homeschooled kids do things with homeschool groups, but they also are likely to be involved with other groups and organizations in their communities. As for not having friends to relax with, we usually had tons of kids over after school, as their parents were working and our house was a kid-friendly house with an adult, me, supervising. They’d get their homework done, and then swim, play video games, make pizza, or go to the park for a ball game.

Time Commitment

Brittney seems to think that homeschooling parents have to develop a curriculum all on their own. Those who need a lesson plan can find them free on the internet or buy them from a homeschool program. Those who want to be more child-oriented can develop casual plans along with their children to learn the skills a child needs to fulfill their own goals.

There is no state that requires homeschooling to be done at home all day long! You are not stuck at home unless the weather is so bad you can’t get out.

Brittney also claims that there are national requirements, but those the federal department of education puts out are for those programs that get federal funding, which homeschool families do not get.

Yes, being a homeschool parent does mean you have to be involved with your child’s education, but you get to be involved with the fun stuff, and not the one of being the enforcer of doing dumb homework assignments during evening hours when there are better things to be doing with your family.

Financial Commitment

Is homeschooling a full-time, unpaid job? Well, as much as parenting is. As home education is very efficient, most parent supervised education can be done in about 2-3 hours, and during the 2-3 hours of your choice, which might well be evening hours after work. Many a homeschool mom has taken her professional skills and turned those skills into a home business, often with homeschool families as their clients. I’ve known those who were CPAs, lawyers, band managers, professional actors, educators at all levels, you name it, someone has turned their skills into a homeschool business. I took the marketing skills I had learned working at Apple and turned that into a business marketing homeschooling.

What about paying for the “stuff” you use for educating? Well, first do an overview of all the stuff you had to pay for when your child attended school. I remember having to spend a good deal on a list of supplies and then handing them over for the whole class to use, even though my daughter needed special left-handed scissors. In homeschooling you can buy the quality of supplies your child needs and that you can afford. Homeschooling can cost just as much or as little as you can afford. The only curriculum that costs too much is the curriculum that isn’t used. You can borrow lots of books, videos, games, and other items at the public library, or buy used online. There are many great free resources online, too.


What about time for yourself? Time to work on your art or skills, or just take a nap? Believe it or not, your kids will also want downtime from you! You could do some co-operative homeschooling, with your kids going to their friends’ house maybe one day a week, and one day a week their kids come to yours. EAch mom teaches the whole group about what she knows best. That way each mom knows she has one day for getting a haircut or going to the dentist or painting all day if that’s what she wants to do. No one is saying you can’t hire a sitter and get out when you need to.

Homeschooling usually causes less tension in a normally healthy family. Bad days at school used to bring our children home angry and disheartened. Homeschooling we could adjust to our own comfort levels. For example, our son had taught himself to keyboard at a young age, but he was not allowed to type his homework in 2nd grade at school. At home he could type to his heart’s content, and probably got far more done, and done neatly, than he would have writing it all out longhand. Also, when homeschooling, the little things that cause tension at school, such as needing to go to the bathroom, or needing a drink of water or a snack, did not turn into huge disruptions. Like normal human beings, we took care of what we needed, and got back on task.

Social Stigma

As I get older I have come to the conclusion I don’t much like the way anyone else raises their children, and would probably have done things differently myself — started homeschooling from the get-go. But I strongly feel that parenting is an amateur sport and should stay that way. Learning how to gracefully confront busy-bodies is something we all have to learn at some point in our lives. A friend of mine had a list that went like this: “Oh, really!” “You do say!” “Everybody does it?” “Everybody has one?” “They do it how often?” “What happens next?” and so on in that vein.

So we homeschoolers tend to get our own list going for answering such busy bodies as Brittney Horwitz.

“Oh, really? No social life? I’d love to talk more but I’ve got soccer practice now.”

“No, my mom and dad don’t develop curriculum. I pretty much spend my time writing my novel, preparing for my next concert, practicing for the Nationals, saving the wolves, etc.”

“What? You don’t budget and save for the things that you find important? That’s how we manage.”

“Actually, my parents are pretty cool. We have such a good time together!”

Can my mom homeschool you, too? Well, I don’t know. Can’t your mom homeschool you, then we could do it together some of the time!”

Written as a reaction to Why Homeschooling is Bad by Brittney Horwitz, eHow Contributor.

By Ann Zeise

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