Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: 2018

Monday, July 16, 2018

What to take with you to the PSAT

Is your child taking the PSAT this year? You'd better double check the list of required items, so they will be prepared. Here's what to take with you on testing day.



The proper photo ID


Last year, as my twins were getting ready to take their practice run at the PSAT, I suddenly realized they did not have the proper ID as required by the College Board. Since they were taking the test early, ahead of their junior year, neither of them had a driver's license or learner's permit yet, and we'd never had an occasion to get them a passport.

The College Board requires a government-issued photo ID in order to take the test. The homeschool identification cards many families use will not work, nor will their Social Security cards or even their birth certificates. There is a form on the site you can use in lieu of the required ID, but it must be notarized, so plan ahead.

Number 2 pencils


Bring two sharpened number 2 pencils with good erasers. Don't bring pens, colored pencils, or any other types of writing devices.

The right calculator


The College Board has a list of approved calculators. On the list are several graphing calculators and scientific calculators. If your student does not already have a graphing calculator, and will not need one in the near future, you may opt for a scientific calculator instead. These are a small fraction of the price of the approved graphing calculators, and will be adequate for most problems on the test.

If you are getting your child a new calculator, particularly a graphing calculator, for the test, make sure they know how to use it. Don't wait until a couple of days before the test to have them try it out. Graphing calculators are complicated, and it takes time to learn all the functions.

Social Security number


If your child has not memorized their own Social Security number, make sure it is written down for them. I suggest writing it in Sharpie on the back of their calculator. You can remove the ink with rubbing alcohol after the test is over, and your child won't have to keep up with a piece of paper with their sensitive information on it.

Comfortable clothing


Your child should wear comfy clothes on the day of the test, because they will be sitting in the testing room for up to four hours with minimal breaks. Because you have no way to know how warm or cold the room will be, layers are a good idea, with a sweater that they can take off or slip back on as needed.

EpiPen 


According to the College Board site, students do not need special permission to bring their EpiPen into the testing area, but it may be a good idea to inform the test coordinator or proctor if you have one, in case they need to administer it to you in an emergency.

Nothing else unless approved


Anything else you might bring into the testing area, including other medications, food or drink, or anything not on this list would have to be approved with special accommodations by the College Board. You need to contact them as early as possible to request accomodations if needed.

Don't forget, the PSAT is administered in October each year. If your student will be a junior this fall, this is the year that it counts. If they miss the exam date, they will not be able to make it up later. Younger students can take a practice run at the PSAT ahead of their junior year, but all students who wish to take the test should register early at a nearby school.





How to sign up for the PSAT

If you are a homeschooler, signing up for the PSAT is more complicated than if you were enrolled in public school. According to the College Board website, homeschooled students need to reach out to a local school to register to take the PSAT in the fall, and the recommend doing so four months in advance.


The PSAT is administered at many public and private schools, and you can do a search on the College Board site to find locations near you. Not every site listed will have space available to take homeschooled students, especially as the testing date in early October draws near, so make contact as early as you can. Do not wait until the end of September and expect to secure a spot, as test coordinators have to order their materials in advance.

The PSAT is an important test for college bound students to take, and unlike other exams such as the SAT and ACT, it is only given in October each year. The PSAT is used to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship, and a good score can also open the door to hundreds of other scholarships associated with the test.


The only time the PSAT actually counts is when taken during a student's junior year, and if they miss that date, they won't be able to make it up later. Students can take a practice run at the PSAT ahead of their junior year, though, and since they have nothing to lose by doing so, I would definitely recommend it.

Coming up next on the blog... what to take with you to the PSAT. There's one item lots of parents forget, and you can't take the test without it! Do you know what's on the list?


Saturday, July 14, 2018

My Disorganized Path to Homeschooling Success - on sale now!

Just in time for back to school, my first book, The Unplanned Homeschooler: My Disorganized Path to Homeschooling Success, is available for 75 percent off the list price if you make your purchase at the link below using the coupon code, SUCCESS.



This book is perfect for new homeschoolers or anyone who needs encouragement as they move forward in their homeschooling journey, especially those of you who are feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.

I understand that homeschooling can be stressful, especially as you navigate the ever expanding sea of curriculum and try to outline a workable plan. It helps to know that you are not alone, and that you can find your way, establishing a rhythm as you go.

Every child is unique, and so is every homeschooling parent. You don't have to do school just like everyone else in order to be a homeschooling success!

Pick up the downloadable version of my book for the lowest price ever - just $1.00 for a very limited time if you use the coupon code, SUCCESS, and purchase through the Learning Tangent Homeschool Marketplace. This deal will only last through August 31, and then the amazing discount will be gone for good.

And don't forget to check out The Unplanner - quite possibly the most affordable professionally-bound homeschool organizer on the market. It has all the pages you need, and none of the ones you don't!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

If I can do it, you can, too... or maybe not

"If I can do it, you can, too." That's the message you hear repeated on the recent iPhone X commercial below, and it's an attractive and affirming sentiment that I'd never thought about much until one of my kids casually said, "Nuh uh," at the end of the commercial.



It got my attention, such that I actually hit pause on the TV remote and asked what he meant.

"I can't balance on a soccer ball," he replied. "I don't know how they can do those things, but I can't. And don't even say I could if I practiced really hard. I know what you're thinking."

He was right. I have always had a strong tendency to believe that you can do anything you put your mind to, and that with enough hard work and practice comes success. And even though I know that there are exceptions, I've always really come down firmly on the side of, "If I can do it, you can, too."

It seems like such a positive affirmation, but is there a problem with the idea of, "If I can do it, you can, too," especially when it comes to homeschooling? What if you or your child genuinely can't?



Here's the thing. I was the type of student to whom most subjects always came pretty easily. With the exception of foreign languages, which were difficult because of a hearing impairment, learning things in school was as simple as paying attention and reading the required material. It just sunk in. And learning things as an adult has been just about the same.

But the problem is that if learning comes too easily, you might assume that it should be easy for others, too. If you can do it, they should be able to, too, right? Well, maybe or maybe not.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Homeschool hints for huge savings on school supplies

Some people think homeschooling has to be expensive, but one of the best parts about homeschooling is that you can save tons of money on back to school. I didn't even have a clue how much I could really save until I'd been homeschooling for a few years. Now I know!



Having grown up going to public school, I was really trapped in the mindset that I needed to buy all the supplies on the back to school list to have a successful year. It's just not true. Homeschoolers aren't likely to need new scissors, rulers, school boxes and backpacks each year. Markers and colored pencils can last longer than a year if they are cared for well.

Experienced homeschoolers know it is easy to whittle down that list, saving big time on the supplies we need - and only the supplies we need - while skipping the superfluous purchases that might otherwise drain our wallets. Here are a bunch of my favorite money-saving tips, along with a few splurges you might want to consider.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Replacing your homeschool materials after a disaster

Disasters can happen to anyone, and when they do, the best you can hope for is that you are somewhat prepared to handle the damage. One of toughest things we, as homeschoolers, go through when facing a disaster is the complete or partial loss of our children's educational supplies. You may have hundreds or even thousands of dollars invested in your homeschool materials! How can you teach if you lose your curriculum and all the extras that go with it?

https://pixabay.com/en/people-girl-kid-child-flood-water-2561562/


A couple of years ago, a homeschooling friend of mine in Louisiana lost practically everything in the floods that inundated her town. Her daughter, an avid reader, truly mourned the loss of her books. It was heartbreaking to see the devastation. A while later I lost a whole shelf of homeschool books in a much smaller disaster involving a leaking pipe in the wall behind one of my bookshelves.

The thing we had in common was insurance. Thankfully our homeowner's insurance helped me to replace my kids' books quickly and easily. All I had to do was show the adjustor the damaged items, along with proof of their value, and he added those to our settlement.

Read how my kids reacted in our first night time fire drill!

Most homeowners today are required to have insurance, and although not all policies pay for all types of disasters, this is the absolute first and best thing you can do to protect your homeschool supplies.

If you are a renter, the decision whether to get insurance is usually left up to you, and unfortunately, many renters choose to forego this small expense and take the risk. I suggest you consider how much you have invested, not only in your books and other homeschool supplies, but everything else in your home. The cost of renter's insurance is so small compared to the cost of replacing everything in the case of a disaster. Don't let your failure to plan ahead become your family's great regret.

Help from government agencies


If you are the victim of a large disaster, such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, major earthquake, wildfire or similar situation, you may be entitled to help from government agencies. In addition to assistance from agencies like FEMA, the federal government offers tax assistance to those who qualify through the Benefits.gov website.

Help from the community


Members of your own local community may be eager to help you get back on your feet if you are the victim of a singular disaster such as a house fire, sink hole, or major theft. Don't hesitate to reach out to charitable organizations in your town or your state. Be flexible if you can, but be specific about the materials that were lost if you find folks who are willing to help you replace them with identical items.

Help from fellow homeschoolers


No one knows your needs quite like other homeschoolers, and many homeschoolers give generously in times of disaster. Check with the HSLDA charitable branch, The Homeschool Foundation to see if they might be able to help. Also, contact your state homeschool organization to see if they have a charitable outreach, or know churches or other organizations that offer help in your area. And definitely put the word out in your local homeschool group or co-op, in case other members might have usable materials they would like to pass your way.

Help from publishers


You may be able to get help from publishers of certain homeschool curricula if you reach out and let them know your situation, but please understand if they are unable to help. Let me explain this the best I can, because I have seen many recent comments online accusing publishers and distributors of greed or heartlessness because they were unable to replace lost materials after a disaster.

I am a publisher of homeschool books and materials, such as The Unplanner and The Periodic Table Matching Game. I price my products very low, to pass savings to you. But if you bought a copy of The Unplanner from me, and it burned up in a fire or molded in a flood, I couldn't replace it or even give you a significant discount without paying for that out of my own pocket. That's because the profit I get from each paperback book is just a tiny percentage. So as much as I would love to help, I could not afford to do that, especially if I got multiple requests per year.

Book publishers, and even popular distributors like Christian Book Distributors, would face significant financial strain if they replaced physical copies of books and resources for every homeschooler who wrote to them with such a request.

Now, if you could show me that you had purchased an e-book or downloadable, I would be much more able to replace that resource than something in print. That would cost me time, but not much in the way of money, and that's something I can more easily afford as a small publisher.

So if you make a request for assistance, be grateful for anything the publisher or distributor can give, and please be understanding if they cannot. Remember, if just 100 people per year made requests with an average cost $500 from a large company like Christian Book Distributors, that would add up to $50,000. That's enough to pay at least one worker for a whole year! If 1000 people made similar requests, that would add up to half a million dollars. That's a huge chunk of a company's bottom line. Don't run down a publisher or distributor, threaten to boycott or spam them, or question their Christianity because they aren't running their business as a non-profit charity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

On the renaming of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

This week brought the greatest controversy I have witnessed in the homeschool community since I started homeschooling nearly a decade ago. I am talking about the renaming of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award by the Association for Library Service to Children. The award is now named the Children's Literature Legacy Award, a title that the association feels better represents "its core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect."



There was a lot of hysteria following the ALSC's announcement, including outrage that libraries would be pulling Wilder's books off the shelves, or that the edtions would be edited, or even that all books with a historical point of view that did not fit with today's values would be destroyed. While we should indeed resist a Fahrenheit 451-style world, I don't think that the renaming of this award merited so much panic.

 To be clear, I DO NOT believe in editing the work of historic authors to fit modern sensibilities - which is not what happened here. I believe that an author's work should stand as written unless they edit it themselves, on their own, before they die. We cannot and should not change the authentic voices of those who came before us, even if we disagree with what they had to say.

But I DO believe that when you know better, you should do better. And today, we know it is NOT okay to characterize Native Americans as non-people, for example. So maybe continuing to glorify an author who did so, by handing out annual awards named in her honor, is not the best example we can set for future generations. I agree with the decision to rename the award.

Our public libraries are, and should be, among the most inclusive and accessible entities in our society, and this award given to authors who have made "a significant and lasting contribution to children's literature" should reflect the values of inclusivity and respect.

 The decision to change the name of the award was respectful and inclusive to many, many readers, like my own kids who are Native American children and were uncomfortable and confused by Wilder's characterizations of minorities. It leaves her work and the honor she received by being the first recipient of the award intact, but changes the award to be better for the future. It was a positive step for all.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

How is THAT element used?

We all know oxygen is essential for respiration for most of the animal kingdom, and carbon is the essential building block of all living things. We know mercury is commonly used in thermometers, and calcium is responsible for strong bones. But did you know that your car might not start if not for antimony? Or that Rubidium is essential in the functioning of the GPS system so many of us rely on today?

The more you know about the elements of the periodic table, and how they relate to YOU, the better they will stick in your long term memory. A while back, I shared a favorite book, The Periodic Table: Elements with Style, that personifies the elements in ways that can help students get to know them better.

This week, I want to share another resource, the Periodic Table Matching Game by The Unplanned Homeschooler, currently on sale through the Learning Tangent marketplace for just $2.99.



This fun game is reminiscent of the classic Memory games we all played as kids, but uses real world enformation and colorful illustrations by Keith Enevoldson, an engineer who had me swooning at the concise and colorful way he made the periodic table so relatable.


Using the Periodic Table Matching Game, your students can learn each element's name, symbol, atomic number and even how each element is used in the real world. The game is available in a convenient download. Just print the pages on cardstock and cut out the cards, then play with as many or as few cards as you like.

Study by groups or periods, study just the nonmetals, the transition metals, the noble gases, etc. There are so many ways to study the periodic table using this exciting game. Make chemistry more fun and memorable by adding the Periodic Table Matching Game to your collection of resources.








Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Unplanner, 2018-2019 is available now!

Are you still searching for the perfect homeschool organizer for your family? Well, great news! This year's edition of The Unplanner is now available on Amazon for just $7.99.


If you are looking for a professionally bound homeschool organizer that is affordable, easy-to-use, and has attendance sheets for up to six students, you'll want to check out The Unplanner. There are lots of homeschool planners on the market, but The Unplanner is different, because it has just the pages you need, and none of the ones you don't, so you won't feel pressured by an overwhelming amount of blanks. And best of all, you won't have to print and bind your own pages to get the organizer you want!

 Here's a sample pic of pages from The Unplanner. Printed in a 6 by 9 inch format, with a beautiful, glossy cover, this organizer is easy to carry with you wherever you go, or tuck in a cubby or on a shelf with your other homeschooling materials.



 Make sure to check out my store to see my other books. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Making your wellness a priority

In my last post, I mentioned that I had been doing all sorts of things that made me happy this spring. Most of them involved dirty and exhausting work, like rebuilding a deck, cleaning up flower beds, planting flowers and power washing just about everything my hose could reach.

I literally ruined clothes over the past few weeks with layers of sweat, grime, grease, deck stain and even blood, but the work was so fulfilling, because I was doing things I couldn't physically do a year ago, before I made my own wellness a priority.


Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/143842337@N03/32758828946


What I didn't tell you in my last post was that for the last several years I have been dealing with excruciating pain on an almost daily basis. Last spring, it got so bad that I couldn't even pick up a textbook with one hand, or drive an hour from home without pillows propped under my elbows. I was suffering from psoriatic arthritis and even teaching was a challenge because of all the pain in my joints.

Like so many homeschooling moms, I wasn't doing a very good job of taking care of my own needs. My focus was on my family, but my pain was making it impossible to do my daily chores, teach lessons or even have fun with my kids. I couldn't put it off any longer. I had to find a doctor who was able to help me. 

Now, thanks to some pretty effective medication and months of physical training, I am stronger than I have been since my youngest was born, and that was ten years ago. Even better, with proper treatment, I am probably preventing additional damage to my joints and helping to preserve my future health the best way I can. 

Don't wait like I did


I am embarrassed that I let things get so bad before I got help for my arthritis pain. I knew, though, that this message was one of the first things I wanted to share once I got back online. We absolutely have to take care of ourselves and make our own wellness a priority.

Homeschooling takes so much dedication, it is easy to lose yourself as you tend to the tasks of planning and executing your children's education all while managing everything else that typical parents do. But the ten, fifteen, twenty or more years that a homeschooling mom might devote is too long to spend ignoring our health and well-being.

I have to say, I am so much happier and healthier than I was last year. I wish I had not waited so long to see a new doctor, or to try medication that I had honestly been afraid to take. It's been a game changer, with, thnkfully, little to nothing in the way of side effects. 

If you are feeling tired, worn down or in physical or emotional pain, please consider taking some time to address your health. The time you spend focusing on your own well-being is so well spent. You may think you are too busy, with your school schedule and taking care of your kids and your home, but a healthier you can accomplish so much more. Invest your time in feeling better, and make yourself a priority today!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

I've been doing the things that make me happy!

I took some time off this year, from the things that probably should have been on the front burners, to catch up with things I needed, or simply wanted to do. I let my blog go dormant for a few months, and I took several weeks off from school. I even quit cooking altogether for a while. 

And what did I do instead? 




I planted flowers. Lots of flowers, in baskets and pots and in flower beds that had been neglected so long I had to practically dig them up and start from scratch. 

I borrowed my mom's power washer and I washed all the things! If you haven't tried power washing, you should. It's addictive. I think, especially so for we mom types, whose work never stays done for long. It's so unlike laundry mountain, which just piles right back up the minute you get it knocked down. You can actually see the results of your efforts, and they are dramatic and beautiful, and last long enough for you to appreciate for a while.

I helped my dad and my son rebuild my deck, adding new railing and staining the freshly power washed boards that turned out to be a lovely light color, and not dark gray after all. 

The kids and I dug a hole, and not just any hole, but a huge rectangular crater in a rock-infested slope, 18 feet wide and deep enough to create a nice level space for the above ground pool we intend to enjoy all summer long.

And I took a lot of time to go to the gym with my friend, to eat better foods and get in better shape than I have been in the past several years.

Don't be afraid to let things slide


I probably lost readers during my hiatus, and I know I missed out on opportunities to speak. I was so late in putting together this year's Unplanner, I don't know if I will end up selling a single copy by the time it hits Amazon later this week. And do you know what? I don't even care.

I don't care that we "fell behind" and will be doing school through most of the summer, either, because I had so much fun through the spring. Besides, we're all pretty relaxed now that we're back to a somewhat normal class schedule, and after school, we can go jump in the pool!

Everything I did these last six months makes me happy. I'm loving my clean driveway and my fresh and welcoming deck. The flowers I worked so hard on lift my spirits every time I see a new bloom. And floating in my little backyard oasis, looking up into the trees takes me away from it all. I didn't know my life needed these things, but I'm sure glad I took some time off to make them happen.

Do something for you


There are 52 weeks in a year; not all of them have to be dedicated to school and housework. Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish. I think we need to take time for ourselves along the way, even weeks at a time if that's what we need. 

Please remember, the years you spend homeschooling amount to a huge chunk of your life, and you deserve to spend at least part of that time doing things that don't involve detergent or textbooks. 

You don't have to go dig in the dirt like I did, but do something that will make you happy, and that will have lasting results that you can savor over the weeks and months to come. You'll be glad you did.


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.