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Monday, January 1, 2018

The most important things your middle schooler needs to know

This month, my post, 6 Important Things Your Middle Schooler Needs to Know was featured on Year Round Homeschooling by Misty Leask. I was excited to help her kick off a month of insightful posts aimed at families who are homeschooling middle school kids.

There are so many lessons for middle schoolers to learn, and during this month-long series parents will receive a wealth of knowledge from many homeschool bloggers. You may find advice to help with teaching math, or science, or foreign languages. You may learn more about strengthening your child's faith.

But as I thought about what I would choose to share, I kept coming back to the realization that middle schoolers are at perhaps the most vulnerable age, in the middle of some of their toughest growing-up years, and what they need, more than anything, is connection; to know without a doubt that they are loved.

Hop over to Year Round Homeschooling to read my post, and read more about how you can shore up your middle school kids and give them the strong emotional foundation they will need as they move oh so rapidly toward adulthood.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The responsibilities of the homeschooled student

Over the years, I have had more heart-to-heart conversations with my kids than I can count, and many of those have been about our roles as homeschoolers. So many of us tend to focus on our own responsibilities, as educators, and largely forget to teach our kids about their own responsibilities, as students.

Don't fall into that trap!

When our kids grow up, they will face expectations both in their family life and in the workplace. We have to train them to accept their responsibilities as students with diligence and grace, to treat others - including us - with respect, and to focus on their goals.

In essence, a homeschooled student's responsibilities come down to five points, illustrated in this infographic. If they can successfully manage these five skills, they'll be better equipped to learn any subject and take on any adventures that life sends their way.

Love this infographic? Please feel free to share or embed it straight from!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Taking a practice run at the PSAT

Did you know students can take the PSAT for practice, without it counting against them, as long as they take it before their junior year? That's what my twins are doing, and frankly, I'm a little jealous.

Photo Credit: Tavia Fuller Armstrong

Knowing that students often raise their scores on the SAT and the ACT when they take it more than once, I can't believe more of them don't take advantage of the opportunity to take a practice run at the PSAT in their sophomore or even freshman years of high school. But they probably don't know that they can, or they think that it will count against them.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Getting to know the elements of the periodic table

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Elements of the periodic table, homeschooling chemistry

Are you raising a child who tends to personify everything? I was one of those kids. I remember with almost embarrassing clarity one boring afternoon in my preteen years when I determined the gender of the numbers 0 - 9. For whatever reason, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 0 were boys, and 1, 4, 6, and 9 were girls.

I'd like to say with authority that there is strong scientific evidence that associates this sort of behavior with creative genius, but that would require scouring psychological journals. Speaking simply from experience though, I can say that my own tendency to personify things helped me to learn, especially when it came to science.

I assigned personalities to everything from different species of animals to various types of bacteria and even the elements of the periodic table in my mind. I think that's why I was so excited to find a complete set of the Basher Science books at a secondhand store a few years ago.

One of the Basher books is called The Periodic Table: Elements with Style, and it allows readers to meet and get to know the personified elements, complete with characteristics you would expect based on how they appear and react in nature. Sodium, for instance, gets along with everyone but is really high strung, sulfur is a prankster dressed sweetly in yellow, and iron is "at the center of everything."

Imagine my excitement when I realized, after recommending the book to our local co-op class, that there is a newer version, with more elements, each with its own descriptive page! It's titled, The Complete Periodic Table: More Elements with Style.

If you have a child who is interested in learning more about chemistry, you need to check out this book, currently on sale for 45 percent off the list price, but I don't know how long that will last.

Associating human characteristics with inanimate objects really has been a good way for me to learn and retain information over time. I believe the Basher Science books about the periodic table can help cement this information in your child's long term memory, too!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Spark a positive change in the world

For all the negative imagery we see on the news and in social media, I really don't believe the world is falling apart. I don't believe we're on the brink of a race war, or that most men are out to victimize women, or much of anything the media might have us believe about our fellow human beings for the sake of ratings. I believe that at the heart of it, there is more that unites people than divides them, and if we could all just try to treat each other the way we'd want our kids, or our grandmothers to be treated, the world would be a much better place. 

But it's hard to get away from those constant messages of division and hate. 

Homeschoolers can live somewhat sheltered lives, it's true. Their circle of interaction is typically smaller than the hundreds of peers other kids pass in the halls of a public school And in many families, their exposure to social media is more closely monitored. We can choose to minimize their exposure to the constant stream of negativity, and instead emphasize the good in the world.

That's why I think homeschoolers, in particular, have a tremendous opportunity to change the world. All it takes is a little spark.

One of the lessons I am working hard to teach my kids is kindness. I've noticed that they go out of their way to hold doors for others. They offer to carry things for people, or pick up dropped objects. These little things may seem ordinary, and used to be thought of as just good manners, but consideration for others is a learned behavior. 

I've been working to teach my kids, both through discussion and example, what a difference a kind word can make. Yesterday, while my mom and I were sitting in a waiting room at the cancer treatment center, I noticed the elderly black man with the furrowed brow sitting across from me. He had taken three or four deep breaths in a row, letting each one out in a slow sigh. I didn't know if he was worried or just uncomfortable. Then I noticed his shoes.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Chance to win a $1500 giveaway at the Teach Them Diligently Launch Party

Hey, friends! Don't miss the 2018 Launch Party for the Teach Them Diligently homeschool conventions. Your friendly neighborhood Unplanned Homeschooler is an affiliate this year, and maybe more. Can't say yet. I don't even have the scoop for sure, but I am really excited! And wow, there will be more than $3500 in prizes, including a couple from me and lots more from other fabulous folks who you might know even better!

One lucky winner is even going to win a $1500 family getaway! It could be YOU. But not if you don't come to the party. So click one of the images or this link here and come on!

Enter to win 'The Birthday Cache' Book and Activity Pack

Thanks to the generosity of my friend, author, Amanda Zieba, you can win an amazing prize package including a copy of The Birthday Cache, a book about roadschooled twins, Mason and Molly Miles, and their journey to adventure. Also included is The Birthday Cache unit study and The Birthday Cache journal writes.

This amazing package is perfect for homeschooling families who love adventure, or who are interested in roadschooling or geocaching. The Birthday Cache is available on Amazon, and the unit study and journal writes are featured in Zieba's Teachers Pay Teachers store. One lucky winner will receive all three, absolutely free!

Check out this description from Zieba:

While twelve year old Mason Miles and his parents love their nomadic lifestyle living and working across the nation in their RV, his twin sister Molly is craving a normal life and scheming to put an stop to their endless road trip. For their twelfth birthday the twins open a GPS receiver and fall in love with the sport of geocaching. When they stumble upon a mysterious puzzle cache will their travels become interesting enough to change Molly's mind?

This giveaway begins September 20, 2017 and runs until midnight, September 30, 2017. One winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entrants. Please complete all steps for additional chances to win.

The book and activities will be delivered in a digital download format. Winner will be notified by October 2, and must supply a valid e-mail address upon selection for delivery.