A2Z Homeschool – Ann's Blog

Homeschooling From Ann's Perspective

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.

posted under Curriculum | Comments Off on Can I make my own curriculum?

Kids Love Getting Mail


But how much can you trust a total stranger with your kid’s mailing or email address?

There are options, and here’s some we’ve checked out.

For years on my site I’ve had an affiliate relationship with The Circle of Friends Penpal Club. This is for girls 7-17 years old only. This is a web-based system with “bad word” and “personal information” filters. There is a small entrance fee, but this is just enough to discourage those who aren’t serious about participating: $12 a year. Click on the JOIN button to sign up.

Another service contacted me, and offered to send me a sample of their product, My Bear Mail. As I was a little worried because of the play on words in their name, I had them send samples to my 8 year old grandson and my sister-in-law, Sue, a second grade teacher. I asked both to write me what they thought of the product. Each got a stuffed bear, who appears to be sending letters from all over the world, giving short lessons on the geography and history of each region visited.

My grandson got the bear and the mailings over time. Want to know the best part? He thinks they are coming from me directly! He thinks I’m on some sort of world tour, I guess. Even though he’s a big boy, he still found the bear endearing, and very much enjoys getting “real mail” from time to time.

Sue got the whole package at once. She had tried in the past to get penpals for her 2nd grade students, but it never worked out. The penpals were not consistent about writing back to each student. Having all the letters at once, she told me, makes it easy for her to plan her lesson around each letter. The kids always think each just arrived. There is no worrying that letters won’t arrive or some child will not get a letter.

From time-to-time I’ll update this post with other child-safe ways for your child to get involved with a “penpal” who is about as safe as anyone could make it.

By Ann Zeise

posted under Curriculum | Comments Off on Kids Love Getting Mail

Borders Educator Appreciation Week


30% Discount During Borders Educator Appreciation Week, March 19 – 27, 2010

Current and retired educators save on purchases for personal of classroom use.

Borders Gift Cards
A perfect gift for a homeschool mom, especially for spending during this event!

A great 30% discount off the list price of almost everything in-store*, networking opportunities, and giveaways— this and much more await educators during Educator Appreciation Week, March 19 – 27, 2010 at Borders.

Borders will honor current and retired teachers, librarians, homeschoolers, school administrators and daycare facilitators with 30% off the list price of nearly everything in stores including books, teaching resources and materials, music, movies, educational toys and games, gifts and stationery and even Seattle’s Best Coffee café products.

To take advantage of the 30% discount, homeschoolers need only present proof of home education status, which can be a copy of any notification document or an identification card with a current date. Borders recently increased its everyday classroom discount to 25% off classroom purchases, but the special 30% discount during Educator Appreciation Week can be applied toward classroom purchases as well as items for personal enjoyment.

Special Reception

Saturday, March 20, 2:00 – 6:00 PM
Note: Receptions not held at Borders Express or Waldenbooks

[From Ann Zeise: Do check with your local store to see if their events coincide with the national events. There may be variations. Also, at the store near me, they brought out promotional books that they were not allowed to sell, and allowed all us attending to pick what we wanted to take for free!]

Daily Inspiration

Borders has created an online resource trove at www.borders.com/teaching dedicated to meeting the professional needs of educators. The site is rich with expert recommendations for classroom materials for all stages of learning and development as well as enriching features, such as the Teaching Zone Video Channel where educators can garner a daily dose of heartwarming inspiration from such bestselling authors as Pat Conroy and Kate DiCamillo, who talk about the importance of learning and the critical roles teachers played in their lives. The site also includes “postcards to inspire,” touching e-messages that can be quickly and easily sent to special teachers — just because.

In addition, Borders has also created the “Borders Teaching Zone” Facebook® page where educators can muse about the latest developments in the world of education, learn about hot new and upcoming titles and get the lowdown on upcoming events at Borders.

*Certain exclusions apply – check with store for details.

posted under Curriculum, Events | Comments Off on Borders Educator Appreciation Week

What is the best homeschool curriculum?


I get this question so often and without any supporting information that I thought I’d post an analogy.

A woman rushes into a large shoe store, one with a zillion shoes for men, women and children, corrals a sales clerk, and demands to be shown the best shoes they have.

The clerk tries to narrow down her choices, but she will have none of it. Who are the shoes for? What activity does she intend the shoes to be used for? What size is needed? Are they for herself or someone else? What style, brand and color do they prefer?

“I just want your very best shoes, in the size that is the most popular,” she insists.

Read more.


posted under Curriculum | 1 Comment »