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Monday, May 9, 2016

What's in the Fine Arts Bundle from the 2016 Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition?

When you ask homeschooling parents what they have the most difficulty teaching, many of them reply with fine arts. There are highly recommended, tried and true resources out there for math, language arts, history and science. But great resources for art are like well-hidden gems.

That's why I am really excited to be a part of the Fine Arts Bundle in the 2016 Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition sale. The Fine Arts Bundle is one of 15 bundles in the sale, and priced at just $20, it's quite a bargain.

I think the real test of any bundle sale is whether you will actually use the products in the bundles. Are they resources your kids will enjoy, and do they cover topics you'll want to teach? As one of the authors included in this year's Fine Arts Bundle, I think the answer is yes.

My own product, The History of Rock and Roll, took weeks of hard work and research. I created the unit study for a co-op class I was teaching, and meticulously collected samples of representative work from rock and roll artists from the birth of the genre in the 1940s to modern times. With videos, graphics and lessons parents can read aloud or give to older students to use independently, this is an extremely user-friendly music appreciation course your students will actually enjoy.

A few of the other products in the bundle include a detailed coloring journal, much like those you would find in art stores and a book with dozens of lessons on drawing horses. These are two products I know my older daughter would love. Also, there are unit studies on famous artists and two art appreciation introductory books by a well known publisher you are sure to recognize. These are solid resources that may spark an interest in the visual arts.

This bundle also includes notebooking pages on dozens of the world's greatest poets, and I know many parents struggle to introduce poetry studies in their curriculum.

There is so much more included, in both visual arts and music. If you have been looking for resources you will actually use in your homeschool, you'll want to see all the products you get for just $20 in this bundle. Make sure and click the link to pre-register for this sale. You'll be entered for a chance to win ALL the bundles, and you'll get a coupon so you can save even more when the sale starts!
(Affiliate links)

Build Your Bundle 2016 - Save 86% - 96% on #homeschool #curriculum! #BYB2016

Win ALL the bundles in the 2016 Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition sale!

Oh my gosh! I have been so excited to share this news, and finally, I can! I was chosen to be one of the contributors in this year's Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition sale. I'm so excited to be part of such an incredible sale! There are so many great products, more than 200 in total, by a carefully selected group of authors and publishers, and everything is discounted - up to 96 percent off retail.
(Affiliate links)

The sale starts on May 16, but you can get a sneak peek at some of the awesome products and the many bundles available right now. Even better, you can enter for a chance to win ALL the bundles! Click the link above to go, go, go and get registered right now for this year's contest and see the different bundles available for 2016!

I almost forgot, you get another bonus for registering early for the sale. It's a coupon you can use to get an even better deal on the bundles you want!

Get your homeschool curriculum shopping done early with the 2016 Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition sale, and don't forget to check out the Fine Arts bundle. That's where you'll find my History of Rock and Roll unit study! I'm really proud to have been included with such a great group of publishers, and I can't wait to shop for my own selections at this incredible sale!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Helping an Infertile Friend Survive Mother’s Day

If you know me at all, outside of this blog, you know that my journey to motherhood - and by association, homeschooling - did not come easily. This Mother's Day, I would like to share one of the first articles I ever published, originally on Yahoo about four years ago. I hope that you will find it of some value today. Happy Mother's Day to those who are celebrating, and much love to those who are just making it through the day.

I suffered through almost a decade of infertility before giving birth to my twins. By far, the hardest day of each year for me was Mother’s Day. I remember with vivid clarity the last Mother’s Day I ever went to church. They asked all the mothers in the room to come and line up at the front of the church to receive a rose and a thank you from the congregation. The elderly assistant pastor who had never married was the only other woman left standing in the pews besides me.

I felt so conspicuous and left-out, and I vowed never to put myself through another Mother’s Day service again.

If you have a friend or loved one who is dealing with infertility this year, you may be wondering how to delicately handle the holiday. Of course, Mother’s Day is a happy day for most people, and one to be celebrated. But the fact is, infertility makes the day insufferable to many women. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help them make it through a particularly tough time.

Cut her some slack

If your friend does not want to go to church on Mother’s Day or join the family in taking Grandma out to brunch, don’t push the matter. Leave her alone and let her have some space. For an infertile woman, Mother’s Day is like a day of loss, of mourning the child you do not, and may not ever have.

She is not being selfish, and she does not need to be pressured to join in. Mother’s Day is just too emotionally charged for many infertile women to handle in the public eye, and that’s okay.

Show her a good time

Earlier or later in the week, or maybe even a week or two before, do something especially nice for your infertile friend. Take her out to lunch, go see a movie, or spend the day out hitting the junk stores. Show her a really fun time, and do your best to help take her mind off the holiday and give her nice things to think about.

If you are going out before the holiday, don’t make a big deal about Mother’s Day being around the corner. Just get out and have fun together. But do be prepared to listen if she wants to talk.

Let her talk if she wants

Follow your friend’s lead. She may need to vent about how she is feeling, or she may want to keep her feelings to herself. If she decides to share her pain with you, let her talk. If she doesn’t open up the subject, then just let it be.

Don’t be flippant

Women who are dealing with infertility need people around them who are caring and supportive, not people who are flippant or worse, judgmental. Don’t minimize her desire for a family by telling her she can have your kids, that she should get a dog, or that maybe she is just not meant to be a mom.

Also, don’t tell your friend that she should just give up and adopt. Adoption is very personal choice, it can be extremely complicated, and it is not something people "give up" and do. The wait to adopt a child is often years long, not everyone is accepted, and it can cost far more than most people realize.

Whatever you say, just try to be supportive and offer your hopes and prayers.

Stand up for her

If you notice other friends or relatives giving your infertile friend a hard time, stick up for her. It is bad enough that she is dealing with a pain that many people do not understand, but it is even worse when others choose to kick her while she’s down. Your friend will appreciate it more than she can express if you stand up to the bullies on her behalf.
I am so thankful to be a mother after so many years of infertility. I still prefer celebrating quietly at home with my family rather than making a big show of things out in public. I think a part of me will never truly get over thinking of Mother’s Day as sort of a cruel joke on the infertile women of the world.

I feel blessed every single day of the year to be a mom, and I don’t really need a big party on a greeting card holiday to make me any happier or more fulfilled. I hope every mom-in-waiting gets a lot closer to her first Mother's Day this year!      

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Don't worry about cursive

I am about to take the most controversial stand I have ever taken as a homeschooler, maybe even more controversial than taking sides on the great vaccination debate or publicly endorsing a presidential candidate. I know it's risky, but I trust you to take in what I have to say with an open hear, so here it is:

Teaching cursive writing doesn't matter.

Oh, gasp! I know, I know. Please read on, though, and I will explain why I have come to this shocking conclusion.

"If you don't teach your children how to write in cursive, they will never be able to read the documents our nation was founded upon, or letters from their great aunt Sarah, and civilization will surely come apart at the seams." Those are the grave concerns I have read over and over since becoming a homeschooler. 

Some parents, in fact, list the failure to teach cursive writing in their local schools as one of the reasons they started homeschooling in the first place. 

I'll be honest, I wasn't excited about teaching cursive when I became a homeschooling mom. I hated writing in cursive when I was in school. It hurt my hand, and it took me three times as long as printing. As soon as I was allowed to go back to printing, I happily did so and never looked back. But, as a student educated in the '80s, I learned to write in cursive as part of the standard curriculum, like it or not, and I figured I would teach my own kids in due course.

As it turned out, though, I didn't teach my children to write in cursive, other than to sign their names. I put it off, in favor of other learning opportunities, thinking I would eventually get around to it. When my twins turned 14, and we had still never made it past the letter B in their cursive book, I admitted to myself that it might never happen. 

But that's when I made an amazing discovery. My twins could read cursive with no difficulties! Out of curiosity, after one too many of the scary doomsday cursive conversations on Facebook, I brought out samples of cursive writing, from handwritten notes in a scrapbook made by my kids' great grandmother to copies of historical documents. With very little hesitation, my 14-year-old twins read everything that I put in front of them. 

Now, my younger daughter was not able to read the cursive samples, but that was because she was not yet a fluent reader of print. My older two, who could both read printed English fluently, had no trouble recognizing the letters that look similar in both print and cursive, and could easily decipher the unfamiliar letters through context. 

I, of course, rejoiced, not only because I now realized I did not have to teach cursive formally after all, but because I was confident that my failure to do so would not doom America! Hooray!

So, although the sample size of my little experiment was small, I am confident that anyone who can fluently read printed English can, with just a little effort, read the same words in the many varieties of cursive used over the previous generations. 

And with that knowledge, I tell you, you don't have to worry about cursive. Teach it, don't teach it... do what you want. Either way, your kids are going to be just fine.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A review of 'Under Construction: A Young Writer's Workbook'

I was recently given a copy of "Under Construction: A Young Writer's Workbook" to try out with my kids. I have known the author of this workbook, Amanda Zieba, since we were both starting out as freelance writers. I've always admired her work, so when I saw that she had put together a writing curriculum for middle to high school age students, I was excited to check it out.

Zieba is both a teacher and a published novelist, but she doesn't just bring her own expertise to the table in this workbook. "Under Construction" features more than a dozen pages of advice from other published authors with tips and helpful instructions from writers who have managed to turn promising ideas into published works.

It took me a while to actually write this review, because once I got the book in hand, I knew I wanted to actually go through some of the activities and share the workbook with other homeschoolers I know to get more feedback. I had a feeling it could be an excellent resource for homeschooling families, but I wanted to be sure.

It turned out the other homeschooling moms with whom I shared the book were impressed. They liked the fact that the spiral bound book, with just over 140 pages, was not overwhelming and that the lessons were short and open ended.

They agreed that one of the best things about this resource, besides the low price, is that it doesn't feel overwhelming. Often, writing assignments are overwhelming to young writers, especially those who are not confident with their skills. This resource includes a relatively small amount of space for each exercise, which of course can be expanded by adding additional sheets of paper, but the original allotted space encourages novice writers to give exercises a shot without feeling intimidated.

Another thing we all loved about the book is that it includes so many different types of writing. Of course, students ought to practice the standard five paragraph essay, but this writing workbook also encourages them to explore not only fiction, non-fiction and poetry, but also screenwriting, graphic novels, and more.

I would not use "Under Construction" as a standalone language arts curriculum, and it is not marketed as such, but I do believe it would work very well as a supplement to any language arts curriculum you are using for your middle school or high school students, especially those who may be considering a career as a writer.

"Under Construction" encourages all writers to use their imaginations, to be brave and just put their ideas on paper. Each exercise is short and easy for students to relate to their everyday lives, such as finding a message in a bottle or describing what is in a main character's closet.

Perhaps the best part of using this "Under Construction" with my own homeschoolers: They don't groan when I get out the book. You can order a copy on Teachers Pay Teachers or by contacting the author directly. And if you are interested in using this workbook for a co-op or other class, make sure to contact the author to check on a discount on combined shipping and tell her the Unplanned Homeschooler sent you!

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my objective review.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fools' Day is here: Prank your kids with love

Our family loves April Fools' Day, and we have a great time pulling pranks on one another, as long as they are done in a good spirit and without anyone getting hurt or seriously disappointed.

This year, the objective to my prank was to instill a brief episode of panic in my kids, and then let them off the hook. It worked perfectly! You might want to borrow the prank to pull on your own kids. Here's how it worked.

I called my kids to the kitchen in a rushed state of anxiety. I handed them each a pot, and told them we needed to hurry and fill all the pots and pitchers we could find with water, because I'd just gotten a text from our utilities department that they would be shutting the water off in less than an hour, and it would be off for the next three days.

"Why?" they asked, as they began to fill pots in confusion. I explained that they had to replace a line, and that was a big job.

Suddenly, I gasped and said to my older daughter, "Oh NO! Do you know a place where we can use the bathroom outside in the back yard without the neighbors being able to see? We can't flush the toilets if we have no water!"

She was aghast. My younger daughter looked totally confused and scared. My son just kept filling the biggest stock pot in the kitchen, asking, "Why? Why would they do this to us?"

I said, "I don't know, son. Maybe they're doing it because it's April Fools' Day."


I am genuinely surprised I didn't get sloshed with that pot of water! But we all ended up laughing, and thankful we wouldn't have to go potty outside. I only wish I'd had an accomplice handy who could have shut off the water at the outside valve as the kids were filling up their pots. Oh well, it was still a hoot, and my plants got a nice drink, too!

Learn to fix appliances online: Inspire your kids and save a bundle

Broken appliances happen to all of us. Parts wear out and we're faced with the torturous dilemma: should we try to fix the old appliance or go buy a new one?

If you are reading this, you're probably like me and don't have piles of cash lying around to just buy new appliances every time something breaks. That's why, at least for me, broken appliances are a serious headache, and they make me face one of my biggest fears, that I will waste lots of money trying to fix a problem only to discover that it is beyond repair and I have to buy a new one anyway.

Repair calls are so expensive. You could be looking at $80 to $100 or more just to get an expert in your front door, only to find out your appliance can't even be fixed. If it can be repaired, you'll be out even more for labor and parts, and those parts that can be quoted at virtually any price because you have no idea what you're really dealing with.

But a lot of appliance repairs are relatively simple to perform, and they can make excellent research and hands on learning opportunities if your kids are old enough to help out. Here are a few tips to help you get started.