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Support Groups and Why I Love Them

July 26, 2011

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

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 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 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  or 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 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 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

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

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

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.

Geography by Age and Learning Style

May 10, 2011

Looking for a complete geography program? Here are a few suggestions:

Runkles Geography – Grades 6-12

Perfect for the busy parent who has little to no time for prep work. Discover the physical geography of the world continent by continent.

Great for parents/students who are:
  • Into the workbook-style approach

Hungry Planet – All Ages

The main idea behind this book is food consumption in various parts of the world (did you know there isn’t a single McDonald’s in Greenland?). But the chapters also discuss various geographical facts. This book is purely secular, so if you’re wanting to take on a biblical viewpoint, we recommend combining it with Operation World.

Great for parents/students who are:
  • Into unit studies

Around the World in 180 Days – Grades K-12

This program covers geography, history, religion, culture, key people, and current events & issues. This is family friendly, as it is a multi-age program; if you have children of varying ages, then you may want to take a closer look at this program.

Great for parents/students who are:
  • Into unit studies

Canada, My Country – Grades 1-3

This book goes over physical geography. Only one book is needed per family/classroom, as it includes reproducible pages. This softcover item covers subjects such as political & physical maps, symbols of Canada, the Canadian government, our Canadian freedoms, and outstanding Canadians.

Great for parents/students who are:

Geography: Province to Province – Grades 4-8

This book covers human geography. You and your child(ren) will learn about the country’s economy, and some cultural information about each province and territory. Find out about the Alberta flower, the Ontario shield, the New Brunswick bird, and more.

Great for parents/students who are:


For those who are interested in just maps:

World Maps CD – All Ages

You can print out new maps again and again and again! This learning tool has over 130 PDF pages of world maps, which is perfect to help determine locations of countries, cities, landforms, rivers, and bodies of water in  relation to the world around you.

Great for parents/students who are:
  • Into the hands-on approach

Geography Coloring Book – Grades 6+

Are you serious about geography?… or coloring? This is stuffed with maps and information. Be sure to see our website to get a hint of what this book covers.

Great for parents/students who are:
  • Into the workbook-style approach

World Reference Maps & Forms – Grades 3-6

This resource includes teacher resource pages, reproducible maps and globes, map transparencies, glossary of geography terms, and answer keys. And all you need is a few minutes a day.

Great for parents/students who are:
  • Into the workbook-style approach

Outline Maps of the World – Grades 1-8

Over 50 reproducible maps, with illustrations of world continents, countries, and bodies of water.

Great for parents/students who are:
  • Into the workbook-style approach

Map Trek – Grades 1-12

With accurate maps that show the world then and now, this resource also contains lesson plans for grades 1 to 12, and a CD-ROM with reproducible student maps and pages.

Great for parents/students who are:
  • Into the hands-on approach


For the hands-0n learner in the house:

PuzzleBall – Ages 6+

Have you seen these?! Perfectly curved so you can make your own globe out of puzzle pieces! No glue necessary – unless you want that thing permanently displayed 😉

Professor Noggin’s: Geography of Canada – Ages 7+

What do you know about the largest North American coutry? This game encourages kids to learn interesting facts about the physical geography of Canada. Contains trivia, multiple choice, and true or false.

GeoPuzzle – Ages 4+

Put together a puzzle of North America, South Africa, or the world.

10 Days – Ages 10+

Travel across the US, Africa, Europe, or the Americas. One of our homeschooling moms has had her children combine the four games! Sounds tricky (and time-consuming), but they say they had good time doing it.

Geosafari Talking Globe – Ages 8+

It’s a globe that talks. Need I say more? (If yes, please click the picture for more information.)



Great for visual and hands-on learners (especially if you’re cutting & pasting your own timeline) and for people of all ages, timelines are quite often under-appreciated. They have the ability to take all the information you have bouncing around in your brain, and line it up into perfect sense. There is a reason “logic” is in the word “chronological”.

History Through the Ages

A wall chart with important figures and symbols from our past. Try combining it with the History Through the Ages Record of Time.

Adams’ SynChronological Chart of History

Wonders of Old

With dates pre-marked from 5000BC to the present, this blank timeline (available as a hardcover book or CD-ROM) will allow your student to gain a better understanding of history.

Timeline of …

Four separate 10 foot timelines, covering ancient, medieval, new world, and modern history. Each category has over 125 timeline stickers included.


All of the above items can be found at Please note that we have more geography, map, and timeline resources available.

Kirsten Goes To Conference

May 2, 2011

Note from Lisa: I’d like to introduce you to our newest staff member, Kirsten! She is a graduated homeschooler and we enjoy having her work with us at CHER as she quickly learns about all the different choices we offer. Recently she worked at the AHEA conference in Red Deer with us and she’d like to share her experience with you.


“Excuse me, ma’am, do you know where I can find The Three R’s?”

I turn around to see a pleasant looking lady with a kind smile on her face. The Three R’s? I haven’t even heard of the product before. I can’t imagine where I would even start to look for it. I turn my head towards the Language Arts section in an attempt to appear like I know what I’m doing.

“Is that a Language Arts book?” I ask, fiddling with my apron and hoping that the bright red color will distract the lady from my silliness.

The lady taps her chin. “I don’t think so. It was recommended to me by a friend, but I can’t remember what she said it was.”

I look around, trying not to appear desperate. Lisa and Brenda would know where I could find the book, but they’re both engaged elsewhere. I rack my mind for any memory of a product with that title, but I can’t think of anything. “Do you know the author?” I ask, only to buy myself a little time.

The lady refers to a sheet of paper with notes scrawled in many directions. I take the opportunity to glance around at the shelves around me. I don’t see it in the math or history sections.

“Ruth Beechick,” the voice grabs my attention and my eyes flutter back into focus. I’ve never heard the name before.

Just as I begin to panic, a second voice echoes the name. “Ruth Beechick?” I turn my head as a second woman steps forward. “The Three R’s?” I nod pathetically, and the lady smiles and gestures toward the Parent Resource section. “Right this way,” she says.

It’s always amazing to me how well home schooling parents know the products and resources available to them. This was my first time working at a conference with CHER, and the incident with The Three R’s was not the only time I received help from a stranger.

I’m learning fast, and every conversation I have with a well-informed parent brings me closer to knowing the materials. The conference was a great experience for me, and it was a good example of the fact that mothers are never alone in their endeavor to home school their children.

Why attend a home school convention?

April 21, 2011

Shopping online is great. Easy, fast, fits into my busy home school schedule. “Click click” and the books (and games, and kits and globes and…..) are at my door. But what do I need to order?

Print catalogues have their advantages. Portable – I can peruse it during that 12.5 minutes of dead time between driving my daughter to drama and picking up my son from Rock Climbing – and the reader-friendly, comfortable layout really helps highlight possible curriculum choices. But there are so many choices!

I was overwhelmed when I started home schooling (we have all felt that way), but it seems the more experienced I get, the more choices they throw at me! Do I want to stick with Reason for Science, or do I want to try the Exploring Creation series with their exciting new lapbooks? What is the difference between Life of Fred and Saxon Math, and which one is going to give my daughter the best foundation for highschool? Switched on Schoolhouse would make language arts so easy to teach, but my kids love the projects in the Write Shop elementary program. I wish I knew more about learning styles to help me make my decisions! What are other parents using, and why?

Take a step back from the planning, teaching, and doing that seems to fill every home schooler’s schedule to the brim, often overwhelming us to the point of exhaustion. Take a moment to re-focus, and examine the core of your home school. Better yet, take a weekend. A home school convention can be the perfect opportunity for you to examine why you home school, what your objective is, and learn about different methods & curriculums to get your family to where they want to be. Many speakers are not only informative, but encouraging. Fellow attendees can give you new ideas and insights into what has worked – or not worked – for them. Vendor workshops can give you the down-low on what’s-new. And of course, there is the exhibit hall, full to the brim with real books. Not just a write-up in a catalogue, or a picture on a website. Physical copies of books to flip through, browse, peruse, explore, examine, discover!

Now, it may be that you are the perfect home school parent, who already has the next school year planned out, week by week, in your Well Guided Homeschooler daily planner. You have had the opportunity to visit CHER’s showroom, so you’ve already browsed & examined and chosen all the curriculum and resources you need. You have everything pre-ordered to ensure they are all in-stock and on your shelves before the summer hits, so you can whisk your family away on an extended & educational cruise over the summer, knowing your t’s are crossed and your i’s are dotted, and you are ready to hit the books the minute you return. So why should you attend a home school convention?

There is more to learn at a convention than just curriculum. Speakers & topics at various conventions range from learning styles and teaching styles, to addressing gifted students or special needs. From encouragment to fundamentals. From academics to the arts, and from future building to family building. A convention is the perfect opportunity to take your spouse and spark discussion on what your mutual goals are for your family. Or take your home schooling girlfriends and turn it into an encouragement retreat. (Even the experienced & organised home school parents can use encouragement). If you don’t have close home school friends to go with, a convention is the perfect place to find some! If you feel you don’t need to attend because you’ve already settled into a comfortable routine – there’s nothing like another point of view to help you examine where you are at, challenge your thinking, or affirm your views. After all, we teach our children to “never stop learning”. Should we not lead by example, and look for learning opportunities of our own?