Friday, May 19, 2006

Blogging Hiatus

I'm taking a break from blogging for six weeks. Therefore, posts will be little to nil until the end of June.

I have to prepare for two conferences, go on vacation, and finish writing a book.

I will be at the Catholic homeschooling conferences in Denver, Colorado June 9th and 10th and in Lansing, Michigan June 17th. I hope that I get to see some of you there!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Free Poetry Lessons

If you don't already subscribe to ClickSchooling's email list and you like to use the Internet in your homeschool, then click here and join today.

From today's email:

Hi! It's Wednesday, May 17th, 2006 and time for Language Arts at

Recommended Website:
The English Room: 30 Days of Poetry

ClickSchooler's Lisa, Shyan, and Josephina recommended today's website that offers 30 days of free poetry lessons. While the site is geared for middle and high school students, the lessons can apparently be tweaked for all ages as Lisa wrote, "My 10 year old and 3 year old are both doing this and we're having so much fun with it."

When you get to the site you will see a brief introduction and a chart containing an index of the individual poetry lessons. Click on any lesson and a new page opens with instructions and examples. A few lessons contain links to other websites for further exploration into a particular type of poetry. (I found a dead link, but a quick search for that item on Google turned up lots of good results -- so don't let a dead link discourage further learning.) You'll find lessons on formula poems, cinquain, diamonte, writing poetry about a given topic or subject, writing poetry that follows a particular format, Haiku, Performance Poetry, and much, much more.

Diane Flynn Keith
for ClickSchooling
Copyright 2006, All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 15, 2006

Grocery Tip #11 - Leave the Cart at the Door

Even though you're doing a terrific job in preplanning your grocery trips, there are going to be times when you have a grocery emergency and have to run to the corner market for one or two items. It could be because you have an unexpected guest arriving or because your teenager decided to eat all of the eggs for lunch that you needed for the evening meal. Whatever the reason, don't let that little side trip turn into a shopping extravaganza.

When you walk into the market, walk right past the shopping carts. If you have to carry your groceries in your arms, you are not going to be as tempted to pick up that lovely $10 bouquet of gladiolas (my personal temptation) or that $5 bucket of ice cream that your hips don't need anyway.

Leave the cart at the door and only buy what you really need.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Keeping Answer Keys Organized

We use Saxon Math in our homeschool. Each child is, of course, using a different text so I have lots of answer keys to keep track of. What I have done is 3-hole punched each answer key and put them altogether in one 3-ring binder.

This not only keeps them all in one handy place, but keeps them in good shape. Before I did this, I found my answer keys falling apart, or the covers coming off, by the time I got to my second child. After all, they are getting daily use.

This isn't just a tip for Saxon Math, you can do this for all sorts of programs and texts.

Now most answer keys are pretty thick and impossible to hole punch with a standard 3-hole punch. My husband works in a school and has access to a power hole puncher. If you are not so fortunate, your local office or copy store should be able to help you out for a small fee or even for free. If they do charge you, ask if they extend their educators' discount to homeschoolers!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Memorization to Music

Little children have great memories. We can use that to our advantage and build a foundation for later studies by having them memorize important facts.

One way to do this is to put the facts to be memorized to music. Have you ever noticed that the ABC's are set to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"? Sing the state capitols, or historical dates, or whatever, to a favorite tune and they will be easier to remember.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling: Week 19

What is a Carnival of Homeschooling you ask. I was asking the same question not too long ago.

Click here to check out week 19 of the Carnival. The central theme this week is Albert Einstein.

Here's how it works. A different blogger hosts the Carnival each week. This week's host is Why Homeschool. In the week leading up to the Carnival, the host searches for helpful posts from other blogs to feature. For example, there is a link at the Carnival to my recent post about homeschooling conferences.Go check it out. It really is fun!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Grocery Tip #10: Making Use of Throw Aways

Your grocery tip for this week is to make good use of food most people throw away.

Think about all of the vegetable scraps and bones that you throw away. Now is the time to get into the mindset of always asking yourself if something can be put to good use before throwing it in the trash can.

Because of my child with severe diet limitations, I began to make homemade broth years ago. After cooking up a delicious roast chicken and serving it to my family, I take the carcass, throw it in a pot with some seasonings and vegetable scraps, cover it with water, and boil it to death. The resulting broth can be frozen if it is not needed in the near future. You can do this with beef, pork, turkey, and fish bones as well. I also make vegetable broth if I have a lot of vegetables scraps. Believe me, homemade broth is way better than a bouillon cube mixed with a cup of water. And it's so easy, if you can boil water you can make broth!

One summer, my preteen daughter pickled watermelon rinds. Of course, rinds are not something you would normally eat, but pickled they're actually pretty good. I would say that was a pretty good use of a throw away!

Another way to make use of food throwaways is to compost. Over the years the harvest from our gardens have gotten better and better. Our flowers are bright and beautiful, and our vegetables are big and delicious. I credit this to our homemade compost. In addition to raking our leaves into the compost heap each spring, we throw in vegetable scraps, egg shells, newspaper, dryer lint (from cottons), hair clippings, the rabbit's droppings, lawn clippings, coffee grounds, and a few other odds and ends. No more spending oodles of money each year on top soil, manure, and peat moss!

One more idea for you all before I close -- Leftover Soup! When I have just a wee amount of vegetable or meat leftovers from dinner, not enough for a single serving the next day, I put it in a special container in the freezer. When my container is full, I make leftover soup. I mix it together with my homemade broth, perhaps throw in some rice, and I have a delicious soup.

This last Christmas, my husband and I were at a formal dinner party where the hostess served a wonderful cheesy broccoli soup which lead to a conversation about favorite soup recipes. When my husband was asked his favorite soup, his face lit up and he exclaimed, "My wife's Leftover Soup. It's the best!" I couldn't believe it!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Top Ten: Getting the Most Out of Your Homeschool Conference

This article originally appeared in Heart and Mind magazine.

The Thrifty Homeschooler
Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Experience
Maureen Wittmann

Are Conferences Worth the Money?
My husband, who has been involved in educational reform for more than two decades, keeps up-to-date in his field by subscribing to several good education magazines, reading all the right books, and attending conferences. We, as homeschoolers, are professional educators too and we should do no less.

We subscribe to homeschooling magazines, read all the great homeschooling books, and now conference season is upon us. Is it possible to be thrifty and still attend a conference that asks us to fork out anywhere from $20 to $40? To answer this question we must first define the difference between thrifty and cheap. Thrifty is getting the most for your money. On the other hand, cheap is getting something of little worth.

When considering whether or not to attend a homeschooling conference make sure not to be cheap. Instead ask yourself if and how the conference will benefit you to determine if it is worth the money.

Ordering curricula sight unseen is never a safe bet. Conferences offer you the opportunity to see a lot of the great curricula available to homeschoolers, whether you plan to make a purchase that day or sometime in the future.

Conferences are also beneficial in other ways. We all have something to learn and attending the talks can give you ideas to improve your homeschool. Talks also often offer encouragement. Just being under one roof with hundreds of other homeschoolers is rejuvenating. I always come home from our Michigan conference pumped up and ready to face the next school year. To me, that alone is worth the cost of my admission ticket.

Saving Money in the Vending Area
Interestingly, when I speak at homeschooling conferences, my Thrifty Homeschooler talk is often scheduled during the final spot of the day. If I was one to dwell on conspiracy theories, I might believe that conference organizers are worried that I will tell my audience not to spend any money in the vending area. No, instead of telling my audience to pass by the vendors, I try to help them buy wisely. We all have books and curricula that we need to purchase. In a nutshell, we need to remember to distinguish the difference between our needs and our wants.

Last year my friend Karen St. John, a key figure in putting together the Michigan Catholic Home Educators’ conference, helped me put together a top-ten list to make your homeschooling conference experience a successful one.

1. Come with lists of what you need, want, and would like to have, for the upcoming school year. It saves LOTS of time by asking “Do you have . . .” If the answer is no, you can move on to the next vending table. This list is especially useful when looking through the used book sales. Include any needed OOP (out of print) books on your list.

Conferences give you the opportunity to check out books and curricula up close and personal! Even if you aren’t buying that day, you can get a feel of what vendors, books, and curricula, fit your future needs. You may also find that new colorful curricula that has been getting tons of hype, isn’t what you need after all.

2. Always make sure that you check the used book tables before buying new books, as well as checking for vendors offering discounts and “conference specials.” Also look for opportunities to sell your used books and curricula. Most conferences offer such opportunities.

3. Many vendors will allow you to order ahead of time so that you can pick up and pay for your package at the conference - shipping free! Plus you don’t have to worry about the vendor running out of stock before you get to their table. It’s worth an email or a phone call to find out if a favorite vendor will do this. If you don’t get around to ordering in advance and your favorite vendor is out of stock, many will offer free shipping and handling if you place an order at the conference.

4. Vendors are often looking for someone who will man a table. Call and see if a particular vendor would like you to work their table and then check with the vendor coordinator for that conference to see if a table can be rented through the company you wish to represent. You can negotiate for books and curricula in exchange for your time, or if you prefer - cash.

5. If you are traveling from out of town, check out campgrounds for rates cheaper than hotels. The most fun that I have had at conferences is when I have traveled with girlfriends and we split the cost of gas and lodging.

6. If you like to enter all of the free drawings at the conference, bring some return address labels with you. That way you aren’t wasting time filling out your name and address over and over again. Keep in mind though, that vendors often times offer free drawings so that they can put you on their mailing list.

7. Make a budget and stick to it. Also keep in mind that smaller vendors, and often the conference organizers, do not take credit cards. You will need to bring an allotted amount of cash or your checkbook.

8. Register early for a discount. Often times, joining the state or local support group will get you a discount to the conference. (In addition to a regular newsletter, sometimes a HSLDA discount, local support, etc.).

9. Volunteers receive discounts or sometimes get in for free. There are all kinds of volunteer jobs to do. If you want to make sure to get to all of the talks, you could volunteer to be a monitor. The monitor sits in on talks and helps the speaker if a need arises. Some other fun conference jobs - pick up the speakers from the airport, open your home to speakers or vendors, take phone inquiries, registration, and so on. You can also volunteer your teenaged children. My teens have assisted with setup and takedown at our state conference.

10. Leave wee ones at home so that you can focus on the conference. I’m one of those moms who takes my kids everywhere with me. But on conference day I need to concentrate on the entire next school year and need to think clearly as I shop.

Maureen Wittmann and her husband Rob homeschool their seven children in Michigan. Mrs. Wittmann is coeditor and contributing author of The Catholic Homeschool Companion (Sophia Institute Press). She welcomes you to join her at The Thrifty Homeschooler.

This article originally appeared in Heart and Mind magazine.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Homeschool Library Connection

A big way to save money in our homeschools is to utilize the library. Check out this great email list to get started using the library effectively: Homeschool Library Connection.

From the website:

The library can be an awesome resource for homeschoolers, but is useless if it doesn't carry the books that we need.

The sole purpose of the Homeschool Library Connection email list is to help homeschoolers make purchasing suggestions to their public libraries.

I will present titles of interest to homeschoolers, including all of the information that you should need to make a purchasing suggestion to your library -- title, author, publisher, date published, ISBN #, price, and comments.

Let your voice be heard. If your library has a website go to it now and see if you can make purchasing suggestions online. If so, make a suggestion! If not, next time you visit the library ask for a patron request form and then fill it out!

Some tips:
--The form you need to fill out may be called a variety of things: patron request, item request, purchase suggestion, or something similar.
--Sometimes it's easier to ask a main library instead of a suburban or branch library.
--You'll have a better chance of a purchase at a big library than a small one which needs to get rid of books to save room.
--Titles published in the past year are more likely to be purchased. Librarians want their purchases to have a long shelf life and so are weary of older books.
--If you do suggest an older title, make sure to comment that it is a "classic" and will be checked out for years to come.
--Don't give up if you feel that your suggestions are ignored. Your voice will eventually be heard!
--Tell all of your like-minded friends to make purchasing suggestions too. There is power in numbers.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Learning Math through Living Books

If you like to use "real" books in your math studies, or would like to learn how to start, this is THE website to visit: Living Math

There is an accompanying email list at: Living Math Forum

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Homeschooling on the Radio

I taped a radio interview with Steve Wood last week on homeschooling and I just learned that it'll be aired tomorrow (Thurs., May 4th) from 2 to 3 pm, Eastern time. It's a Catholic radio show, Faith and Family Radio, but I think the interview would be helpful to non-Catholics too. In fact, I encourage you to invite family members or friends to listen. Steve tried to ask questions that would come from non-homeschoolers and those considering homeschooling.

To find a radio station in your area, or to stream online, go to and click on Radio. You'll also be able to listen to the interview after the fact at Family Life Center.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sharing Resources: Go right to the publisher

One way to save money is to cut out the middle man. This concept can be applied to our curriculum purchases. Some publishers will give discounts, as deep as 50%, if individuals place a bulk order. If you contact your fellow homeschoolers, you may just be able to get enough orders for such deep discounts.

We have someone in our homeschool support group who use to take orders once a year for a favorite publisher and as a result we enjoyed a 40% discount.

Now every publisher has different rules, so you need to take the initiative to contact your favorite publisher and ask. Some publishers require that purchase 10 of the same title, while another may only require that you buy $200 worth of any books. Larger publishing houses may require that you be an established business with a tax ID number.

Also, if you have a favorite education or children's magazine you may be able to get a discount for your homeschool group. In the case of magazine subscriptions, you will need to find out if the bulk order has to go to a single address, or if you can have the magazines sent to individuals.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Grocery TIp #9 - Sharing Resources to Buy in Bulk

Grocery Tip #8 was all about warehouse clubs. There are other ways of buying in bulk. I often times buy meat in bulk. Most recently, I split half of a side of beef with my friend Dawn.

This is a great way to save money, since meat is an expensive staple. I have an extra refrigerator/freezer given to us by my sister when she bought a new house, so I have lots of room to stock up. If you don't have extra freezer space, or have a small family, do like my friend Dawn and find a friend or relative (or several if need be) willing to split the savings with you.

Look for reputable businesses that sell quantities of beef, chicken, and/or pork. There are some fly-by-night companies out there that will rip you off, so ask around and find out who provides the best product for your money.

My most recent bulk-meat purchase came out to $1.79 per pound. The meat was flash frozen and nicely wrapped. I got all the cuts, from steaks to roasts to burgers, and they were well butchered. If you like liver, you would love to know that the butcher threw in 20 pounds or so of beef liver with my purchase. He also threw in some nice soup bones, which are nearly impossible to get at the grocery store anymore. Next time, Dawn and I plan to split a full side from this butcher, so our per pound cost will be even less.

ThriftyHomeschooler list member Cheryl writes:
Our family has lived on one income most of our married lives, 18 to be exact. We found the biggest saver of money is to buy our meat in bulk. We purchased a chest freezer one year with income tax money and keep it filled with meat and veggies. Once a year my hubby let's it run low to clean it, usually in January.

We buy 60 lbs. of chicken at time (usually from a meat distributor) and repack it to family servings. We do this for hamburger, beef, and ham. Now bear in mind that my hubby is a chef and can cut meat, so we buy the beef and ham whole and he cuts it. So in the long run, the only thing we buy weekly would be milk, bread, eggs and the specials that our local grocer has on sale. This keeps our grocer bill to about $50 a week and we have 3 children and a grandfather to feed.

It takes a little initiative and a little preplanning to save money, but it is worth it if it means that you get to stay home to care for and educate your children!