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Support Groups and Why I Love Them

July 26, 2011
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During my home schooling years I belonged to several different support groups. Each met a different and specific need.

Throughout my home schooling years I belonged to a faith based support group that was a life line for our whole family. It was at group meetings that I heard different approaches to the way home schooling could be done, and got great ideas to improve our home schooling experience. Family events gave my husband an opportunity to meet other home school dads. Educational field trips and semi organized sporting events provided an opportunity for our children to meet and develop relationships with other children whose families shared similar beliefs and values.

Another support group I belonged to, offered great free resources and also planned some pretty awesome events where our  children could “socialize”.  Art classes and drama classes culminating in well attended performances were the highlight for my children.

The school board that we were affiliated with, also offered support through knowledgeable facilitators and organized family events. We didn’t attend as many of these as were organized because of distances, busyness,etc. But those we did attend were fun for the kids.

With all these various groups you would think I had more support than I needed. Not so. Several moms I met through various means lived close together and we formed another type of support group. We got together on a regular basis just to pray for each other, our children and our families. It was also a safe place to express frustrations and fears, and to get a new perspective.

If there are no support groups that have been organized where you live, consider organizing an informal one of your own. You can set your own agenda and meet as often as you consider feasible (in your busyness of life). All it takes is one other mom or family with similar concerns. You can get a few children together at a sports field to play scrub baseball, go frog hunting at a nearby pond, or attend live theatre together. The possibilities are endless and not limited to museums and zoos. I know a lot of women use blogs, good “help” books and even home school magazines for support. However, I feel it is sometimes only face to face that meets the needs of the day – like a smile and a supportive hug.

Calgary Support Groups

July 5, 2011
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Not from Calgary? Don’t be afraid to use the phonebook and internet to find support groups in your area.

If you’re part of a support group that isn’t listed here, please let us know so we can add your group and let others know!

Foothills Christian Homeschool Association

“Our purpose is to be a source of encouragement, friendship, and support to one another in our homeschooling journey. Although we find an intimate level of community through our Christian faith, anyone interested in homeschooling is welcome to join us. We always encourage people to get a babysitter for the kids and make this an evening to refresh your spirit and experience genuine fellowship with other homeschooling parents.”

See their website http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FCHA/ for more information.

Calgary Christian Homeschoolers

This is a group for Christian parents from in and around Calgary who want to support and pray for each other and discuss issues that relate to Christian Homeschooling.

See their website http://groups.yahoo.com/group/calgarychristianhomeschoolers/ for more information.

Alberta Highschool Homeschoolers

“For parents of Alberta highschool homeschoolers (teens are welcome too, of course!). We will discuss the special challenges of homeschooling through the highschool years.”

See their website http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/AB-Highschool-Homeschoolers/  or http://www.attachmentparenting.ca/HomeEducation.html for more information.

Calgary Homeschool Teens

Meant for homeschooled teens, ages 12 and up, to plan field trips, activities, chat, and more. Parents are welcome to join, to offer ideas, support, and opportunities.

See their website http://groups.yahoo.com/group/calgary-hsteens/ for more information.

Calgary Homeschoolers United

“Our goal is to unite homeschoolers of Calgary and surrounding area and our mission is to have fun together by sharing thoughts, ideas and opportunities in an open forum setting where we stand united and open the doors to opportunities one step at a time!”

See their website http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/calgaryhomeschoolersunited/ for more information.

Recommended Summer Reads

June 28, 2011

Relaxing in the backyard with a good book while the warm summer sun comforts you is a great summer activity. The only question now is, what will my kids be reading? Every parent of an avid reader knows how difficult it can be to keep up with book screening when their child is going through them as if they are going out of style. Book lists are great resources for parents who want to let their child read safe and trusted books. “Read for the Heart”, “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle”, “Honey for a Woman’s Heart”, “Honey for a Teen’s Heart” and “Honey for a Child’s Heart” are four that we highly recommend. Speaking to other trusted Mom’s and asking their opinions can be another good way to find some gems for your reader. Here is a booklist of novels that we have fallen in love with.

Very Young Readers

The Story of Ferdinand

The White Stone in the Castle Wall

The Magic Schoolbus Series

How to Make Apple Pie and See the World

If you Give a Moose a Muffin

*Three Weavers

Young Readers

The Tales of Old Mother West Wind (A series of book that teach various morals through a cast of loveable animal characters)

*Sarah, Plain and Tall (A Prairie tale about a widower who sends for a mail order bride to become a mother for his children)

*Courage of Sara Noble

The Littles (A series about a family of people the size of mice and about their everyday life under the floorboards of a regular size family)

*Boxcar Children (A series about four orphans who solve mysteries from their boxcar in their backyard)

*The Bridge (A medieval triology about the royalty of a fictional kingdom at war)

Middle Readers

*Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (About a boy surviving in the wilderness with just a hatchet.)

The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black (A medieval retelling of popular bible stories)

I Am David (A drama involving a 12-year-old boy who escapes from a prison camp and survives on his own in Europe)

*Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (A heartwarming tale about a mountain boy who loves his dog)

*Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery (An endearing tale of the everyday life of an everyday school girl growing up on PEI)

*Marguerite Henry Books (For horse lovers everywhere)

*Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (A Southern classic of a boy who would rather spend weeks rafting down a lazy river than wearing starch collars and attending school)

*Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (A prairie saga based on the everyday life of a contented farming family)

*The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (A fantasy analogy about the world of Narnia, where Aslan the Lion and the White Witch constantly clash)

Ella Enchanted (A fictional novel of a girl who must obey everything she is told)

Older Readers

(May include mature content)

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (A suspense novel written by one of the great creators of science fiction)

*Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (A Gothic romance of a young governess and her experience with the world)

*The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (A novelette presenting the concept of a man of pure good who can turn in to a man of pure evil)

*A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (A long story about a boy who becomes a gentleman)

The Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers (A story of a Christian living in Rome and her journey through the trials and tragedy that find her)

*Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (An epic fantasy story in the world of Middle Earth)

*Study guides can be purchased for these books

Why do I homeschool?

June 21, 2011
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When a brand new homeschooler comes into the store looking for some direction, I always point them to our Parent Resources section first. I think it’s important to know WHY you’re homeschooling before you try to decide what to use or how to make it happen.

There are a few general philosophies of homeschooling that most people can connect with. Of course, we’re all so unique that many of us will be a blend of a few different approaches but it is good to have a basic understanding of these foundations before you start.

CLASSICAL – This philosophy of education is based on the three stages of the learning process called the Trivium. The Grammar Stage, Logic Stage, and Rhetoric Stage. Many people break these into four-year increments;

Grade 1-4 is the Grammar stage where students learn the basics and memorize facts. Grade 5-8 is the Logic stage when students learn to make logical arguments and to reason well. Grade 9-12 is the Rhetoric stage when students are able to use all previous knowledge and begin to form their own world view and life philosophies.

One other hallmark of Classical education is that all subjects are interrelated and not taught in isolation. This means that you learn language skills while studying geography or history.

Here are some resources to help you homeschool the “Classical” way:

Case for Classical Christian Education

Teaching the Trivium

The Well-Trained Mind

CHARLOTTE MASON – Charlotte Mason lived in the late 1800s and developed an education model that was different than her peers – Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life. People who homeschool from this philosophy use “living books”, “dictation”, “narration”, and “character training”. They believe in educating the child as a whole person… not just segregating school from church or family, etc.

Here are some resources to help you homeschool the “Charlotte Mason” way:

Charlotte Mason Companion

Charlotte Mason Education

The Original Homeschool Series

TEXTBOOK -  If you and your children just love the smell of a brand new textbook or the open space of a workbook just waiting to be filled in, then this might be the homeschool philosophy for you! This approach usually follows the learning outcomes from your local school board since it is really copying the model of the public school system. It is also a great way to get started in homeschooling if you just feel overwhelmed with the other philosophies as it is straight forward and easy to follow. Just remember that the textbook is there to serve your educational goals… you aren’t there to serve the textbook.

Here are some resources to help you homeschool the “Textbook” way:

Streams of Civilization

Evan Moor products

Plaid Phonics

UNIT STUDIES – The general idea behind a unit study is to integrate as many different subject areas into one topic. For instance, we did a unit study on horses which covered Math, Language Arts, Science, History, Geography, Art, and Music.  This is a wonderful way to teach multiple children at once since you can just adjust the difficulty level for the older students but everyone can still study the same basic topic. It’s also a great way to engage a reluctant learner since you can choose topics that are of interest to them.

Here are some resources to help you homeschool the “Unit Study” way:

Five in a Row

History of the Horse

Prairie Primer

COMPUTER BASED / ONLINE  – Many schoolboards offer online courses so if your student is the type who can really relate to this environment and learns well this way, ask your faciltiator what they might have to offer. You could also look into a program called Switched on Schoolhouse. For students, multimedia features such as videos, animated clips, interactive timelines and learning games, as well as immediate grading and feedback add lots of excitement to the learning process. And parents benefit from highly adaptable features such as time-saving automated lesson planning and grading, customizable record-keeping options, and many other flexible curriculum options.

Here are some resources to help you homeschool the “Computer Based” way:

Exploring Creation series on CD-Rom

Saxon Dive CDs

UNSCHOOLING – this is an educational method whereby formal school work  is generally replaced with real-life learning. There is really no right or wrong way to unschool and it will look different for each family who chooses this route. Some ways of learning you will find in an unschooling family are reading, playing educational games, singing, dancing, hobbies, writing, etc.

Here are some resources to help you homeschool the “Unschooling” way:

Science Kits

K’Nex building sets

Educational Games

ECCLECTIC – This approach takes the best of all the above and creates a tailor-made program. I have found that most of my homeschooling friends fall into this category. We may be die-hard “Charlotte Masoners” one year then, due to circumstances in life, take an Unschooling approach or decide that this is definitely a year for Textbooks. As we journey through the years, we each find the things that work for us as homeschooling parents as well as the particular needs of our students.

Learning Through Summer

June 14, 2011

It was a pleasant July day in South Dakota. The sun was not too warm, and the breeze was not too cool. I remember looking up at the giant carved faces of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and the others. I remember being intensely curious as to how the massive heads could have been carved so smoothly from Mount Rushmore.

Before the trip had started, my mother had read my siblings and me biographies of these fine American gentlemen. We knew all about Abraham Lincoln’s cabin and Franklin Roosevelt’s bear. We all had our own opinion on the story of Washington’s cherry tree and whether it was truth or fiction.

“Look at this,” my mother lead the way to a sign explaining the explosive techniques they used to carve the mountain. “It says here,” she said, pointing to another sign about Thomas Jefferson. My mother had said this trip was just for fun, but with many homeschooling mothers during summer vacation, she also had the hidden agenda of education.

Another fond memory I have from my childhood is the time we went out to the pond to catch frogs. We came home with a frog in a jar, and showed it to my mom. By the time we had named it; my mother had looked up whatever she could find about the frog’s species, habitat, and eating habits. Then she encouraged us to do the same, and we were able to look after the frog for a week before letting it go back into the pond.

Summer can be an excellent time for learning. Without the rigid schedule of the school year, it’s easier to use the common, every day things as lessons. Anything from gardening, to camping, to family vacation could be an opportunity to teach students about things that they normally wouldn’t have the chance to learn.

Does Home Schooling Have Its Rewards?

June 7, 2011
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It has been a few years since my last child graduated from home education, and I can truthfully say I miss home schooling. You may say that you can’t imagine such a day coming. I know that is what I felt each year as the school year was winding down and we were ready for a vacation from formal studies. But all too soon the day came when my daughter graduated from university and my son left for college. Home schooling was a thing of the past and that day comes for all of us.

Home schooling your children has many rewards, the chief of which is the time you can spend together. You aren’t limited to hours at the end of the day when everyone is tired and cranky. Instead, you are with them through all their ups and downs, learning together, and building strong family relationships. Lasting memories are made when the whole family works together , plays together, and travels together. I particularly cherished the moments when I, as their teacher, got to see their “ah-ha” moments – those moments when they finally caught a concept they had been struggling with.

Another reward of home schooling was the knowledge I acquired on the journey. In my own years of schooling, I paid little attention to “boring” history and classical literature. However, I learned to love both as my children developed an interest in those subjects. And, by the time I had gone through school for the third time I had lots of lost data and concepts forever ingrained in my mind. Watching my children learn to love acquiring new knowledge rubbed off on me and the mentor became the mentored. Shhh -don’t tell my kids!

New Spring Arrivals

May 26, 2011
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Smell that? That’s the smell of victory. Or maybe it’s new books. Regarding the latter, it’s always nice to get a new addition to the library. Here are a few new ones that CHER has added to it’s stock:

Foundations in Personal Finance

Dave Ramsey’s program is meant to “empower students to make sound financial decisions for life”.

Everyday Battles

Author Bob Schultz is renowned for his previous books: Boyhood and Beyond, Created for Work, and Practical Happiness. This is the perfect addition to finalize your collection.

Paperblank Journals

Different sizes and designs available.

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