Welcome!

menkatieMy name is Diane Heeney, and I’ve been homeschooling for over a decade. We have three children, aged 18 (just graduated), 15 (our 10th grader), and 9 (in 4th grade). In the course of our homeschooling journey, I’ve experimented with many different types of curricula and methodologies to find just the right “fit”. We’ve done everything from K12 Virtual Academy to Charlotte Mason, BJU, Abeka, Rod & Staff, and lots of things in between. I’m not an expert by any means, but I have learned a few things and hope to encourage you as you try to educate your children.

In April of 2012, I found myself mid-semester and really hating what we were doing for our homeschool. So, I pulled my kids out, gave them a reprieve of a few weeks (just reading and basic math) and spent hours on the internet, scouring for resources. I needed free or very low cost. I found many wonderful things to use, but in the process I also found lots of great stuff not suited for our needs. I couldn’t stand to let all those sites and freebies just vaporize…and that is how Schoolin’ Swag was born. We are now nearly 4,500 members strong.

This blog is a new extension of that group. Here, I hope to share more of our own personal journey, and helps beyond just the posts and links I share at the group. I was inspired to try this, after meeting with a few new homeschoolers this past week, and realizing that, even though I’m not “notable”, or an expert… what I can share might still be of some value to others.🙂

So, welcome! Bear with me, because it will take a bit to get this rolling!

Picking the Twaddle Out of Your Noodles

roastnoodlesYesterday was a bit frustrating for our oldest. He had a couple of quizzes, and one of them was the sort that required psychic ability in order to answer some the questions. The interpretation of truth was a bit subjective, and if answers were not given according to the thinking of the assessment writer, well, they were wrong. It reminded me of this humorous portion of an “I Love Lucy” episode:

  • Mr. Mooney: I’ve been trying to find Mr. Burns’ file. It is not under the B’s.
  • Lucy: Oh, I must have put it under the X’s.
  • Mr. Mooney: Why would you put the B file under the X’s?
  • Lucy: That poor little file never has anything in it!
  • Mr. Mooney: Well, where is it??
  • Lucy: Well, wait a minute. Oh, I bet I know what I did…you see, Mr. Burns, I always have trouble remembering names, so I took a course in word association. Now, “burns” reminds me of fire.
  • Mr. Mooney: So you filed it under the F’s?
  • Lucy: No. “Fire” reminds me of “stove”.
  • George Burns: So you put my file under the S’s?
  • Lucy: No…”stove” reminds me of pot roast.
  • Burns (to Mr. Mooney): It’s your turn.
  • Mr. Mooney: You filed it under the P’s?
  • Lucy: No, pot roast reminds me of noodles.
  • Mr. Mooney: Mrs. Carmichael…you’re making me angry…
  • Burns: She’s making me hungry!
  • Lucy: And noodles reminds me of my mother!
  • Mr. Mooney (to Burns): Your turn.
  • Burns: “Noodles” reminds you of your mother?
  • Lucy: Yeah, she made the best noodles! And I’ll be that’s where I put your file.
  • Burns: Under “noodles”.
  • Lucy: No, under “gravy”.

This is one of the reasons I love having a front row seat for educating our kids. I was able to come in the back door on that quiz, see the way some the questions were phrased rather ambiguously, and make a judgement call.

Yes, I have eliminated quiz questions. Sometimes I’ve tossed out entire assessments because there was a better way to see if my child had assimilated knowledge. I don’t think questions which ask for ridiculously detailed information are necessarily profitable. What was the name of a certain prominent person’s second cousin’s husband’s pet? Nope.

I also know our kids, and I have watched them shaping into who God intends for them to be. Because of that, I can decide if certain questions, projects, even subjects should carry more weight with regard to time and focus. Yes, we fulfill what the state requirements mandate; but we do it our own way, and reasonably.😉

Some material is simply twaddle. I really dislike busy work immensely. Things which occupy time, but don’t serve to build or teach much of anything (except perhaps patience) are subject to educational extinction in our house.

Today, I punted a quiz. I saw my child struggling to decipher it, and making several attempts to answer the way the program wanted him to answer. He kept his cool. He did not get angry and storm off. He did not declare he hated the subject, hated the program, or hated school. He handled the whole thing maturely. So we went question by question verbally, and I tweaked the phrasing so he could comprehend more fully what he was being asked. His understanding was more complete after that than it would have been if he had guessed his way through, absently clicking buttons. He passed just fine, mom style. I commended him for his attitude and perseverance. I told him that was of more value than A’s to me.

Give yourself the freedom to do this.

For the love of learning,
Diane🙂

Common Questions about Lessontrek, and a Sneak Peek!

lessontrekblogimageLessontrek has been a very popular planning and scheduling tool at Schoolin’ Swag! Our friend Jason Pessemier has been hard at work, tweaking and upgrading as he can, to make this valuable tool even more user friendly and seamless.  I asked Jason if he would tell me what the most common questions about the product are, so users could find answers easily here at the blog.  Here is what he shared.

Common Questions

1. Question: How do I add hyperlinks in a lesson? I need to click to websites for my child’s assignments.

Answer: To set up, click a lesson block, paste the URL and click save. To access, navigate to the lesson block and click the Open button, then click the hyperlink in the upper left.

2. Question: How do I print in color?

Answer: Make sure your browser’s Print Settings is set to print in color. Most browsers set their Print Settings to Black & White

3. Question: What curriculum can I use in Lessontrek?

Answer: You can use any type of curriculum or you can create your own. Lessontrek was built to be as flexible and easy-to-use as possible.

4. Question: Can I add weekends to Lessontrek? We sometimes have classes or we like to add household chores to our calendar.

Answer: Yes, make sure to click the Show Weekend check box located inside your Student Home modal.

5. Question: Can I use Lessontrek if I’m a public or private school teacher?

Answer: Absolutely! We encourage anyone to use this if it fits their needs. School teachers are currently using Lessontrek and they love it.

Sneak Peek!

Here is a list of items Jason plans to add, as he is able:

  • Shared subjects/school years across multiple students
  • Bumping subjects/assignments
  • Monthly view
  • Report card printouts
  • Separate student/parent/teacher logins

There is some great pricing available right now at Lessontrek!

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Want to try a FREE TRIAL? Click here!

Got another question for Jason? Let me know in the comments!

Spoiled Rotten Mama Party!

spoiled3I am putting together a fun end-of-the-year giveaway at Schoolin’ Swag for our 4,600-ish wonderful, hard working, homeschooling mamas! Wanna take a peek at the lovely items being offered?

These items are being donated by mamas in our group, many of whom also have home businesses to help make ends meet. This is one of the few times each year that we allow personal advertising in the group, and I’m happy to give the opportunity to help a great cause! Homeschooling!

spr1From Charissa Rice (Mary Kay), we will have a bundle including the Satin Lips set and Ultimate Mascara!

From Rebecca Pahnke Thomas, we have Mint Bliss Energizing Lotion from Mary Kay (she is not business building, just being SO sweet in donating!) as well as Citrus Bliss Invigorating Essential Oil Blend from doTERRA!

From Hope Turner (Young Living), we’ll have a cute diffuser necklace and a bottle of “Stress Away” essential oil, as well as a couple of other samples and a Lavender Bath Soak.

srm5From lovely member Lynette Dickson, we have a hand crafted natural bronzer, using  the winner’s choice of combination of cocoa powder, rose powder, and ginger root powder for shimmer. Mmmmmmmmmm…chocolate and shimmer!

From Perfectly Posh member Leah Cherrone, we have the donation of the “Posh to meet you” kit by Perfectly Posh contains a Good Vibes BFYHC (big fat yummy hand cream-smells like mango with a hint of coconut), a Strawberry Fields Forever chunk (bar soap, smells like strawberry and lime–I LOVE THIS…SO yummy!) and a Santa Monica Smooth lip balm (peach, orange and mint, with a hint of caffeine). Also included in this bundle is a “dogbone” pillow made of  dress weight denim. It is medium firm (not softy soft, not hard).  It is designed for neck support and easy to carry or hang to store with the handles.

srm93Next, from Krysten Glor (31 Gifts), we have a $25 gift certificate to use however the winner’s heart desires! So many cute choices!

 

From Karen Daniels (Plexus), we have a 7-day trial pack being offered! I have loved the “Pink Drink”…certainly worth giving it a go if you’ve never tried it!

srm9From Ashley Moore’s Etsy shop, we have a $20 gift certificate to use toward her super cute selection of hair accessories and baby barefoot sandals (which are darling)!

srm91Now, from Dana Malone of One Buffalo (products with integrity), we are offering a bundle of natural, organic body care products, including:

  • Natural deodorant made with only organic coconut oil, arrowroot powder, non-GMO corn starch, organic shea butter, baking soda, beeswax and organic lemongrass essential oil
  • Lotion Stick – Mint, made with only organic shea butter, organic coconut oil, beeswax and essential oil

  • Lip Balm, made with only organic cocoa butter, organic coconut oil and beeswax

srm92From our wonderful crochet guru Denise Hockenberry, we’ll have a cute and practical spa bath set including 3 wash cloths, 6 face scrubbies, and 1 soap saver!

srm95Further, from Jen Figueiras (Jamberry Nails) we have a $20 gift certificate, plus a mini application kit and the 2 sheets of accent nails! Just in time for summer!🙂

srm98From one of our newest members, Brittany Barber (It Works), we have an Ultimate Body Applicator (value $25), which is a non-woven cloth wrap that has been infused with a powerful, botanically-based formula to deliver maximum tightening, toning, and firming results where applied to the skin.

  • Tightens, tones, & firms
  • Minimizes cellulite appearance
  • Improves skin texture & tightness
  • Mess-free and simple to use
  • Results in as little as 45 minutes
  • Progressive results over 72 hours
  • Made with natural ingredients

srm97Moving on (!), we have a Moonstruck 3D Fiberlashes set from Amy Hardy Moye (Younique)! Increase your lash volume by up to 400%!

srm99From our darlin’ brand new Avon rep Diana Doggett, we have a fun little package including nail polish (Pastel Pink), lipstick (Divine Wine), and Mark lip gloss duo (Glow Baby Glow and Girly Girl)!

pressingpause

Finally, from two wonderful authors, Karen Ehman and Ruth SchweKaren Enk (I LOVE “Hoodwinked” which was also co-authored by them), we have a copy of “Pressing Pause“! I am so tickled to be able to include this in our event!

When Failing is a Good Thing

failure2We have taken a new direction in our education, and it is more demanding with many more assessments and evaluations (read: quizzes and tests) than what our kids had been accustomed to. To them, it can seem tedious…but it helps me to ensure they know what they are doing before coming to that realization on a big exam.

I’ve often told our kids that failures can be a stumbling block or a stepping stone…the choice is ours. Today, one of the kids had an assessment on a math lesson and failed badly. We were about to see how that plays out in real life.

In going over the answers, I saw that at least half of the errors were simple things like not paying attention to the wording or the symbols in equations. This was not an official quiz, so I cleared all the work, had my student come by me, and we went through the assessment, question by question. We reviewed concepts. We looked up definitions. We worked things out on the Boogie Board. We even borrowed the brains of Sal Khan for one particular question. The result? When the assessment was retaken, the result was well above average. But that is not the best thing.

I didn’t look for perfection. I looked for education. Real learning. Not just the “I think I have an idea, and so I will color in this bubble” facsimile of going-through-the-motions education.

Coming out of this experience, I know my student has a solid grasp on where the weaknesses were in understanding and comprehension. Exactly. My finger is right on that pulse. When we were done with our session, we both knew the material (I’d forgotten all about “multiplicative inverses”…so, thanks Sal!) solidly. That’s important. It’s supremely key if we are going to call what we are doing e-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n. In the words of a family friend, “Do you understand what you know about that?” 

Getting A’s is all well and good, but if the grade is achieved by skillful guessing, or merely a rudimentary understanding (the “I’ll learn this for a test, but I plan to let it vaporize post haste!” kind), then we need to look more closely at how we are educating and less at the alphabet. Quizzes, tests, and exams are not the end. They can be used as a means to achieve learning, if we choose to grade smarter instead of harder. Grading, if you choose to do it, should be a used as a barometer. It should tell you if the synapses are connecting. It should never be interpreted as a reflection of who your child is. Let’s all remember that.

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My Grading Epiphany

 

Perfect Grade and Sticker on HomeworkDear Homeschool Mom,
Please read this post, especially if you have not been a fan of regular grading in your homeschool. Keep an open mind?
If you’ve followed our homeschool path recently, you know we switched to Monarch online by Alpha Omega Publications. We are nearly a month into it now. I think we’ve finally found our homeschooling “sweet spot”! 

What I Didn’t Expect

The Monarch program gives the kids assessments after every lesson Their comprehension is tested every day, to make sure they are engaged. They have regular quizzes and tests as well. You decide what your grading scale will be, as well as whether a particular assignment will be “open page” or “open book” or not. If there is a question in an assessment that you feel is redundant, unclear, or unnecessary, you can alter it in the teacher settings.
 
I honestly didn’t know how the kids would feel about all the grading. For myself, being more regular in “formal” evaluations has not only given me a more accurate, visual idea of how they are doing (and where we need to spend more time), but I really didn’t realize how much it would help them to thrive by actually seeing their grades. It has given them a more positive outlook toward schooling, and it shows:

What I Learned

I wasn’t much of a formal grader up until now. The kids did the papers and lessons, and I checked them. The kids would get a verbal assessment, but not much on paper to actually see for themselves. I would step up their work where I saw they needed more practice, according to what I observed each day. The grades went on our transcripts, but the kids rarely saw anything in the way of a letter grade or percentage on a regular basis. With this program, they have evaluations after every lesson, and they get immediate feedback. They know exactly where they stand. And surprisingly, they love it!
 
This program has also helped my husband to see the progress the kids are making. It is his hard-earned money which purchases our materials, so it is good for him to see he’s getting some bang for his buck.🙂 Because he’s not involved necessarily in a hands-on way with our schooling (he’s my moral support!), this gives him validation for what is happening educationally in our home. I like that a lot. 
 
I understand those who prefer not to grade, for whatever reason…but this was sort of an epiphany for me and our kids. They don’t have a classroom of kids to “compete” with (you know what I mean, I hope), and I’ve never really done stickers/rewards for school work…so this gives them a way to compete with themselves (which is the best type of competition IMO when it comes to education). 

If You Want to Look Into Monarch

Monarch automatically grades about 85% of student work. The remaining items are in the form of projects and written assignments the teacher needs to grade, and then enter by hand. I’ve found this program to be challenging for our kids, as well as thorough. The program keeps your records for you, and will print reports as well. Our 10th grader, who has some reading disability, can follow along as the text is read to him. You can choose the “voice” you listen to, and text is highlighted a sentence at a time, and within that each word is highlighted as it is read. That has been a very helpful feature for us, and it aids in his comprehension level. It has allowed him to do his work completely independently, which has been a huge boost for his confidence.
So, I guess this is not only a bit of a promo for Monarch (which you can get for 10% off here…and you can try free for 30 days here), but also for tangible grading for your students. I never thought I’d say that. But here I am.
For the Love of Learning,
Diane

Spring Cleaning, Curriculum Style

We have found a new direction for our schooling that provides quality education as well as convenience for us. It packs a punch financially, but getting the membership saves us a considerable amount of money over doing their monthly subscription. So, I have some items to gleefully clear out of my room (which is the storage for much of our school stuff).

I am a purger by nature. I’m also pretty frugal. Put those two together, and…you have this post.😉 So, here goes!

Prices have a little bit of room for negotiation. ;) 

First, I have this Pre-Algebra set from Teaching Textbooks. We have really liked the approach of this math. Great for visual and auditory learners. Easy to understand instruction. Pages are a wee bit tired. Gently used, with a little bit of highlighting. Disks work fine. Asking: $100 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Christian Light Level 4 books I have available are all new. The two text books are like new, with only light wear. It is not the complete set, but most of it is there. In most subjects only the first couple of workbooks are missing. All answer keys and teacher editions are new. Asking $200 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Algebra 2 and Health high school texts from BJU Press are gently used. Asking $20 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

I have the Life of Fred Language Arts for high school, complete set. Great condition, only a few pencil marks in one book. Books C and D are like brand new. Asking $60 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Easy Spanish and Webster’s Spanish dictionary are also gently used. Asking $20 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Story of the World, Volume 3 set has some light wear. Includes Student Text, Activity Book (all pages intact), and Test and Answer Key (like new). Asking $65 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

I apologize for images which have turned or rotated. I can’t seem to figure out how to edit them in WordPress! If you would like a better image, respond to the email below, and I’ll be happy to send you one.

 

If you are interested in any of these items, please send an email to blest2bwest@wyoming.com . I’ll try and respond promptly with any further details you need.

 

Why I’m Educationally “Pro Choice”

doorsI’ve been mingling in homeschooling circles for quite some time. I’ve found that homeschoolers can be among the most opinionated and adamant people on the face of the planet. It’s true. The same resolve that helps us remain committed to our cause can make us prickly and caustic when considering the choices of others. And it can get very ugly. I want to say a word about that.

We love the freedoms we enjoy in our country. Right now, we still have the freedom to choose how we’d like to educate our children. What we seem forget is that the same freedom which allows one person to homeschool (in whatever style they like, as long as it meets state laws ), also gives another person the freedom to choose the public school, or a private school, or a charter school for their child. That should be a unifying idea. But it’s often not. Because we like to think we are right, and if we are right, then it only follows that we are right about everyone else’s kids as well. Like it or not, that can happen.

I’m enthusiastic about homeschooling…most days.😉 I’ve changed our approach and methodology several times. Switched up our curriculum more times than I can count, because the “sweet spot” keeps changing as our kids change and grow. I’ve considered the public school option a few times (I’m pleased to say our current location has a very small, conservative school with a low teacher/student ratio that is ideal if pursuing this option), but God keeps calling my heart home. My heart.  It’s what’s right for us right now.

Here are the facts:

  • You are the parent of your child.
  • You know your child best.
  • You know what your home life, schedule, financial situation looks like, to make an informed decision.
  • You know what type of environment will help them thrive.
  • You know where your kids are at spiritually, and what will best help them to grow. I’ve seen some kids positively bloom in a public school experience, while for others it was disastrous.
  • You know whether you would thrive as a full-time home educator. Many simply don’t. And that’s okay!
  • You know what type of approach is going to best match their learning style.
  • You are prayerfully responsible for this decision. No one else.

At Schoolin’ Swag, we have parents who have chosen homeschooling as the option for all of their children. We have others who have some at home, and some in a brick and mortar school. We have still others whose children are all being schooled outside the home, and the parents wish to have resources to be actively involved in extending the educational process into their home environment, or need resources to support the academic approach they’ve selected. For instance, asking in the group for ideas for a science fair project that isn’t yet-another-baking-soda-and-vinegar-volcano.😉

We welcome all of the above. We do not tolerate criticism of any approach. We are not “my way or the highway”. Some don’t like that, and they leave to find a more targeted group for support. Squabbling doesn’t help the cause of education. We are all in this together, in the best interests of our children, helping them to love learning.

I have friends all across the globe, successfully educating their kids using all of the paths mentioned above. I love and celebrate them all. This mom thing is hard, and tiring, and sometimes worrisome.  We really should be supporting each other. We can all get a bit “barracuda” if we choose to, whether the issue is schooling, breast feeding, vaccinations, teaching cursive, having sleepovers, consuming red dye and high fructose corn syrup…the list goes on and on and on.

I think the defensiveness comes from not having our own personal mission statement formulated. Do we know why we are doing what we’re doing? What is the basis of our choices? We have to be well grounded in the whys. This will help us. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom 12:18)

Make your choice. Rest in it, friends.