Tuesday, February 23, 2010

AAS Beehive Reader ~TOS Review

Marie Rippel, creator of All About Spelling, wrote a delightful reader that correlates with All About Spelling ~Level One. She graciously sent our family this reader to review. The Beehive Reader 1 {160 pages} is a beautiful hardcover book with charming illustrations and sweet, interesting stories.

My 2nd grader took the book out of my hands when it arrived in the mail. He was able to read through the book quickly and then read it again to his younger sisters. When asked, "What's your favorite story?" He answered, "The Bat and King Sam"...funny story! I plan to use this book with my 5-year-old, who will begin AAS Level One soon. I know she will enjoy learning to read the book her brother has been reading to her!

I like the fact that each new story in the reader adds a new reading concept {one at a time}, so it is not overwhelming for the child that is learning to read. And the reader is 100% decodable {correlated with All About Spelling 1}. It is a solid teaching tool that offers fun, interesting stories...hard to find a reader that does both!

Take a LOOK inside the book! You do not have to use All About Spelling to use this reader. It is a wonderful reader no matter what phonics program you use! You can purchase it online for $19.95.

The exciting news is this is the first book in the All About Reading Short Stories series! The next book will be out this spring, so stay tuned...I'll keep you posted! I know this is going to be an awesome reading program!

Go HERE to read more reviews, from my crewmates, about this delightful reader. EnJOY!

Love Legos? Love Star Wars? Check this out...

Hearthside Homeschool Reviews has an incredible giveaway for a 471 piece Lego Star Wars set! Wow...super cool! Go check it out! & EnJOY!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Math Mammoth ~TOS Review

What is Math Mammoth? A LARGE {mammoth} collection of Math resources! They offer a complete collection of supplemental math options for grades 1-12 and complete math curriculum for grades 1-5, all at incredible prices and an easy, instant download format!

The really cool thing about Math Mammoth is ALL the options! The program includes 4 different series:

  • Blue ~ grades 1-5; concentrates on a few topics only {clock, fractions, geometry}.
  • Light Blue ~grades 1-5; complete, self-teaching *mastery-oriented* curriculum.
  • Golden ~grades 3-8; problems only {organized by grade}, for reinforcement or practice.
  • Green ~ grades 3-7; problems only {organized by topic}, for reinforcement or practice.

For this review, I received the Light Blue {grade 4 } complete curriculum [$29.70]. The complete set includes Part A & Part B, 156 Lessons to each part...super value! I placed my daughter according to the placement guide on the website. We have always used Singapore Math and it is heavy on word problems...a true 'mental math' program. I was happy to find that this program is as well! I was impressed with the fact that it requires a lot of thinking on the child's part.

I really like the fact that Math Mammoth Light Blue Series is a textbook/workbook combined. Each new concept is explained in the worksheets, so no teacher manual is needed. The beginning of each new chapter has some general 'helps' for the parent/teacher. I like this format, because it was easy for me to 'jog' my memory on some of the concepts...with them right there on each page. I'm able to place a new sheet in Katelyn's workbox each day and she works on it independently! Everything she needs is right there on the sheet.

I'm going to order some Golden Series worksheets to use for extra practice & review. At $12.50 a grade level...what a deal! I'm loving this site...the options are endless and the value is incredible! Go HERE to download 280 FREE worksheets and check-out all the good stuff!

And if you have a question about a certain series, you can read more reviews HERE. Each crew member reviewed a different series...lots of wonderful reviews to meet your needs! EnJOY!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Zeezok Publishing ~TOS Review

I received a Presidential Penmanship CD, from Zeezok Publishing, to review. You have probably heard of Zeezok Publishing. They sell The Great Musicians Series. I did not realize they had other wonderful resources, so I was happy to receive the Presidential Penmanship CD-ROM. This Complete Program CD-ROM contains handwriting practice pages for first grade through senior high and sells for $39.99, it comes in six different handwriting styles [I received the Italic style]. It is also available in an E-book format for $9.99 per grade level.

I decided to use this product with my son, so my focus for this review is on the 2nd grade pages. The CD-ROM is broken down into each grade level, so I printed out the 2nd grade level and made a 'copywork book' for him to use daily. My son enjoys studying the presidents, so he really enjoys having this book, knowing each quote came from some of his favorite presidents! And having an uncle named Thomas Jefferson makes it extra cool!

In the 2nd grade pages, the child copies 36 quotes centered around the founding principles of the United States and character qualities such as honesty and hard work. These quotes are short enough to memorize, so together we chose a quote for him to memorize [one every three weeks; two per six-week term]. I allowed him to choose the ones he wanted to memorize, which made it more personal and motivating.

Here are the two he chose to memorize, [past six-week term]:
  1. "It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible." ~George Washington
  2. "He who knows best knows how little he knows." ~Thomas Jefferson

Things I like about this CD:
  1. All grade levels on one CD-ROM...print off only what you need!
  2. Can be used for all 4 of my children, all 12 years...great deal @ only $39.99!
  3. Delightful, 'meaty' quotes that are well worth memorizing!
  4. Short daily lessons that tie history & character into copywork.
  5. Meaningful penmanship practice...no boring drills!
Here are some sample pages to view.

Now is the time to begin planning for next year's curriculum. You will want to add Presidential Penmanship to your *must have* list! I know you will love it!

My other crewmates reviewed this product and other super products [including the Great Musicians Series] from Zeezok Publishing...go see HERE.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling [Apologia Press]~TOS Review

Apologia Press sent each member of the Homeschool Crew a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell, to review. And all I can say is , "Wow, wow, wow!"...where was this book when I first started down my homeschool journey?

This new version has been revised and updated and includes 500 pages of everything you could possibly need to know about homeschooling! A '*must* have' for newbies (or those curious about homeschooling) and a '*must* have on the shelf' resource for veterans.

I must admit that I have not read a 'how to' book on homeschooling in many years. When I see a book like this I usually think it is for those beginning homeschooling, so I did not think this 'homeschooling guide' would benefit me much, being that I am a 7-year homeschool veteran. ;) Boy, was I wrong about that! From the very first chapter {Determining Your Destination} I was hooked and it was hard to put the guide down. I've learned SO much! Part 4 of the guide: Preventing Burnout really spoke to my heart and refreshed my soul. This is truly a guide that belongs on every homeschooler's book shelf.

SO what does it cover? the Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling includes 10 parts:
  1. Homeschooling: Is It for You ~ looks at the challenges and advantages of homeschooling and also includes information for single parent families along with tips for success.
  2. Choosing a Curriculum ~ "How do I decide?", learning styles, curriculum fairs
  3. Organization and Planning ~ learning environments and daily schedules
  4. Preventing Burnout ~ examines 5 ‘Burnout Busters’
  5. What to Teach ~ When and How ~subject-by-subject guidelines
  6. Homeschooling Teens ~ "Should you do it?",course study, college admissions
  7. Computers in the Homeschool ~ Hardware and software
  8. Creative Solutions ~ toddlers, reluctant learners, transitions [school to home]
  9. Measuring Your Success ~ assessment methods and targets
  10. Resource Guide ~ products/supplies, academic contests and competitions
Go see a sample chapter [Six Ingredients of a Successful Home School] and the table of contents.

This incredible guide can be purchased directly from Apologia Press [$20.00] or from Amazon [$20.00].

Go HERE to read more great reviews on the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog!

*Apologia Press gave me a free copy of the Ultimate Homeschool Guide to review, in exchange for my honest opinion of the product. I'm grateful for the opportunity!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dollar Homeschool -Ray's Arithmetic ~TOS Review

Ray's Arithmetic

Ray's Arithmetic
is a math series that covers K-12 grade...from counting to calculus! This was America's standard math text for 50 years. It is a part of the Eclectic Education Series...

The Eclectic Education Series (EES) is a set of textbooks which from roughly 1865 to 1915 WAS education in the United States,
almost exclusively. They were the standard textbooks in many states and were chosen independently by over 10,000 school boards as their standard textbooks.
The Ray's series includes a total of 38 books. These include the 12 core Textbooks, + Answer Key's, Teachers Editions, and several intriguing books of mathematical pursuits for the aspiring student, such as Surveying and Navigation, Astronomy, Book Keeping, and Physics. It comes as a CD and is meant to be a 'printable' curriculum...you print what you need, when you need it. The CD sells for $59...yes, $59 for a curriculum that covers K-12 and can be used with all of your children! Incredible! Click HERE to see all that is included on the CD.

Things I like about Ray's Arithmetic:
  1. Follows the Charlotte Mason style~ short, effective lessons & no twaddle!
  2. An abundance of word problems ~makes your child think!
  3. Every concept is carefully explained, and all of the subjects follow one after another in a very logical progression.
  4. Lots of history is tied into the word problems ~ “General Washington was born A.D. 1732, and lived 67 years: in what year did he die?”
  5. You only print out the text needed...lots can be done orally or on a whiteboard.
  6. Love, love, love the graphics [I've added an example below].

And here are some more sample pages.

Overall, this is a superb math curriculum that will create a strong 'mental math' foundation. It will take a little time to learn the new program and implement it...it is VERY different from what is on the current market, but it is effective and well worth the time you invest! The Manual of Methods {included on the CD} will help you learn the program and how to teach it.

You can order the complete CD from Dollar Homeschool for $59. Take a look at their Eclectic Education Series ~complete K-12 curriculum...incredible deal! You can order it for $159 {includes Ray's Arithmetic}. If you ever break or misplace a CD, Dollar Homeschool will replace it for you for only the cost of shipping. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee on all of their products.

Read reviews on the EES and more Ray's Arithmetic reviews HERE.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Grapevine Studies...NEW website & Sale!

Grapevine Studies launched their *NEW* website and it is wonderful! You have to go check it out. Last summer, I wrote a review for two of their products and I cannot say enough good things about them!

To celebrate the new website, they are having a super sale that will be going through the end of February. They also have a great newsletter.

Dentist Anxiety...Real fear?

This week I had to have a root canal. It was my first and I was absolutely terrified! It's funny how people like to share their root canal stories, much like a birth story...almost always a horror story! With the exception of two friends [one being my mom], I heard a lot of scary scenarios. My appointment was late in the day, 4pm, which was sheer torture because I spent my day worrying/praying/worrying/praying/worrying...by the time I actually made it to the dental office I felt sick! I sat in the dentist chair and began to fill like the walls were closing in on me. When my dentist entered the room and asked how I was, I quickly let him know that I was not happy to see him! He said, "I get that a lot".

I was given a local numbing medicine and I began to pray [again]. God put Kate on my mind. She's a little girl with brain cancer. I've followed her progress from the beginning, 7 months ago. I thought about how fearful I was, a grown woman, of such a simple, easy procedure. Kate is 6-years-old and she is facing SO many hard, difficult procedures. Tears began to fill my eyes as I realized that fear was an everyday feeling for that precious little girl...so much to be afraid of on a daily basis. As I prayed for Kate, my fears melted away. I just needed to refocus! As the dentist began to give me 'THE shots' I did not feel it and the whole procedure went amazingly well!

I share my root canal story to encourage you...it's not bad at all! My best advice is to pray & not worry! To help you not worrry, pray for others, it takes the focus off yourself. Speaking of praying for others, please visit Kate's site and pray for her and her family, they are facing some difficult procedures over the next few weeks...reason for REAL fear. They need and cherish our prayers.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

TOS Magazine Subscription for only $9.95!

NEW 1 Year TOS Magazine Subscription
For a limited time, enjoy a full one-year subscription (U.S. print only) to The Old Schoolhosue Magazine for only $9.95. Use coupon code PRSUB995 at check out. Each issue is packed with homeschool advice, information, and resources. You'll be inspired, encouraged, and reminded that you are not alone!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Math Tutor DVD ~TOS Review

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Two wonderful products from Math Tutor DVD recently arrived in my mailbox: Young Minds Numbering and Counting and The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor. The kids were excited to have 2 products that they ALL could enJOY!

First we watched, the award-winning, Young Minds: Numbers and Counting What a fun, delightful video! My little girls (5 & 2) loved it! The intended purpose of the dvd is to teach young children numbers and counting up to 10, but it also teaches many animal sounds (REAL animal sounds-not animated), colors, names of objects, and action words...all set to a background of classical music! The graphics are vivid and feature real pictures of animals, flowers, & nature objects. We are a 'nature loving' family, so the nature pictures in the dvd were a big hit. My 5-year-old already knows her numbers, colors, objects and sounds well, so she pretended to be my 2-year-old's teacher and enjoyed pointing to the numbers and counting along. Overall, we like it and it's a great dvd to use in our preschool corner. This dvd is $19.99 and you can purchase it HERE.

The 2nd item we reviewed was The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor. This is an excellent *8 hour* instructional dvd set [2 dvds]! It is not 'fancy' by any means...a simple white board is the only prop, but the instructor, Jason Gibson, does a great job of walking you through each problem step-by-step. The dvd set is broken up into 15 teaching topics, which makes it is easy to skip to the exact area you need to cover. Each segment is short and easy to work into your daily math time.

Here are the 15 topics covered:

Disc 1
Section 1: Adding Whole Numbers
Section 2: Subtracting Whole Numbers
Section 3: Multiplying Whole Numbers
Section 4: Dividing Whole Numbers
Section 5: Adding Decimals
Section 6: Subtracting Decimals
Section 7: Multiplying Decimals
Section 8: Dividing Decimals

Disc 2
Section 9: Adding Fractions
Section 10: Subtracting Fractions
Section 11: Multiplying Fractions
Section 12: Dividing Fractions
Section 13: Percents, Part 1
Section 14: Percents, Part 2
Section 15: Ratio and Proportion

Jason Gibson, founder of MathTutorDVD.com and teacher in all of the videos, states on his website...I pride myself on providing quality educational content at affordable prices, and I have a passion for making "complex" subjects easy to understand.

The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor sells for $26.99...SUPER price for 8-full hours of instruction! AND there's a bonus:

LIMITED TIME FREE BONUS: Each new Math Tutor DVD customer receives 60 minutes of FREE live online tutoring available 24/7 through Tutor.com! A $35.00 Value!

Also, the money-back guarantee is incredible:
Every DVD on MathTutorDVD.com comes with a Money Back Guarantee! Our DVDs are guaranteed to raise grades immediately. If you are not fully satisfied, simply send the DVD back for a full refund.
Visit Mathtutordvd.com and take a look at all they have to offer...you will find MANY, award-winning, instructional dvds that cover:
- Basic Math
- Word Problems
- Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Advanced Algebra, Matrix Algebra
- Trigonometry & Pre-Calculus
- Calculus 1, Calculus 2, Calculus 3
- Physics 1 (Newtonian Motion)
- Physics 2 (Oscillations, Waves, and Thermodynamics)
- Physics 3 (Electricity and Magnetism)
- Probability and Statistics
- Unit Conversions

And go HERE to read more TOS Crew reviews.

I received these products for free in exchange for my review as a member of the Crew. No further compensation was received and I offer my honest opinion.

Kinderbach ~TOS Review

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I have always wondered if KinderBach would be something my preschoolers would enjoy, so I was very excited when given the opportunity to review it (I received a 3-month, free trial for my honest review). My older two will be taking piano lessons at home, beginning next month, and I have been searching for a good music program for my preschoolers...I found it!

KinderBach is a simple, fun, & effective way to teach piano skills to your children (ages 2-7). Through the use of online video sessions or lessons by dvd, your child [& you] will learn .
Learning is gradual and child-paced so you can go as slow or as quick as your child needs. KinderBach uses playful 'piano pals' to teach note reading, rhythm, singing, and composition. My 2 & 5-year-old LOVE Dodi & Carla the Caterpillar the best!

KinderBach offers a solid curriculum that provides a solid music foundation...Basics are basics and KinderBach covers them using language children understand. Youngsters will learn music vocabulary, note reading, rhythm, physical technique, ‘do, re mi’ singing, listening skills and music composition plus the joy in making music.

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This became a daily lesson that I was able to work into our 'preschool time'. The lessons are short, approximately 10-15 minutes total [with the bonus activity sheets]. Long ago I purchased a music set that included rhythm sticks, so the little girls and I used the sticks to learn rhythm and it was great fun! We use the other instruments as well and they love our music time together.

One feature I LOVE is the fact that each music lesson ties in the 3 R's ~Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic! How? ...by overlapping and enhancing basic math and language skills into each lesson. It makes my life easier, because I am not only teaching music, I'm also covering math and early literacy through fun, age-appropriate, hands-on activities that focus on music. I'm ALL for multi-tasking!

To use the program, you will need the following:
1. Piano/Keyboard [plain keyboard is fine]
2. Computer - for viewing web video lessons and/or printing activity pages
3. Hi Speed Internet or a DVD player
4. CD player (optional)
5. Craft materials - Scissors, printer paper, crayons, markers, craft paper, glue etc...for activity sheets
(examples below)

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Go see the sample Lessons and try out the free lessons! I think you will agree that this is a fun, affordable way to teach piano to your little ones.


  • $7.99 a month – Billed in a 1-time annual payment of $95.88 (Save 60%) or
  • $19.99 monthly subscription – Billed monthly for a year (12 separate payments)

You can also purchase individual dvds by level for $40.45 a level. Each level comes with an activity package that includes:

  • 1 engaging live action and animation DVD (3 hours of video)
  • PDF activity book on CD (with parent guide) – pages to complete with the DVD lessons
  • 1 audio CD with performance & demonstration tracks – literally piano ‘karaoke’ so your child can play along with the band!
The dvd sets are a good idea if you have younger children that will grow into this program. Miss Karri has some great 'value packages' to save you money!

And, with an incredible 30 Day Guarantee...you have nothing to lose!

KinderBach has a No-Hassle Return Policy for DVDs & CDs as well as a satisfaction goal for web members. There are no bad decisions with KinderBach. All Products carry a 30 day Money Back Guarantee.

In addition, all of our disks have a lifetime replacement should any be damaged or broken for any reason. We want you to be totally delighted with KinderBach.

Want to read more reviews from the TOS crew? Go HERE!

I received a 3-month, online subscription to Kinderbach for free in exchange for my review as a member of the Crew. No further compensation was received and I offer my honest opinion.

Saxon factsfirst ~TOS Review


From the publishers that you brought you Saxon Math, comes factsfirst. Factsfirst is basically a product that puts 'facts first'! It is... A personalized and fully adaptive online math product that builds a child’s confidence and helps develop instant recall of basic facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Although developed for Saxon Math, this product can be used with any elementary math program.

The main goal of the program is to help students improve their basic math fact skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Children work through the speed drills, quizzes and tests, and then they are rewarded with ‘arcade time’ where they can play after the completion of a unit...my kids love this feature!

When you first sign-on each child creates a personalized avatar ~ dressed head-to-toe to match your child's personality! Once the avatar is created, they move on to the units.


The units focus on mastering the basic facts by playing over 360 fun activities....
the lessons consist of five basic segments; new facts, commutative property, practice, quiz, and scoring. New facts are gradually introduced to children as they work toward mastery. Facts are grouped in units with each lesson in a unit introducing two new facts. A child masters these facts before starting another unit.


An overview sheet is provided for the parents to see how each child is doing on their various math facts. There is one sheet for each fact area: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division...the Math Fact Matrix provides an overview of your child’s performance on individual math facts. The Math Fact Matrix uses complex algorithms to present the child’s performance on individual math facts. It is weighted based on speed, frequency and other indicators of proficiency.


Overall, I like the fact that factsfirst concentrates on math facts! And I enJOY the fact that this program offers efficient, yet fun math fact drill—much more fun than worksheets! An online one-year subscription to factsfirst costs $49.99 and includes up to 4 student accounts.

Go check it out the FREE demo! And read more reviews HERE.

I received a free 90-day subscription to factsfirst in exchange for my review, as a member of the Crew. No further compensation was received and I offer my honest opinion.

Mathscore ~TOS Review


Mathscore is an adaptive math skills program that is both challenging and fun. Created by MIT graduates with a mission to improve the education of millions of students by providing a superior learning environment compared to existing solutions. The program supports 2nd grade through Algebra 1.

Mathscore can function as a full math curriculum
. It will save you a lot of time because it is paperless, instantly grades student work and provides appropriate solution explanations. Your children will learn at the fastest pace they can handle, often faster than the pace of public school environments.

Or Mathscore can function as a supplement to your math curriculum.
After each math lesson, have your child log into MathScore and find a topic that matches the material you just taught. MathScore will generate an unlimited supply of math problems and adapt the difficulty based on performance. Once your child achieves a rating of 100, mastery has been achieved, and it is time to move onto the next concept.

We are currently using Mathscore as a supplement program. Each day, after their math lesson, my children practice math facts [or extra practice on that day's lesson]. They enjoy doing their practice work on the computer! Each child starts out as a 'rookie' and they earn points for each worksheet completed. Their rank changes as they earn more points. Once they have mastered a topic, they earn an award. This has been highly motivating to my children and they want to do the extra practice each day! Each day they spend approximately 10-15 minutes [per child] completing their practice work.

Overall I think it is a great program with no fluff! I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a supplement or a complete, online math curriculum.

Go HERE for an instant FREE trial!

MathScore's pricing starts at $14.95/month for the first child and gets significantly cheaper beyond the first child. There is a special right now...$9.95/month for 1st child (good for 2 months).

If you make a lump sum payment, it can reduce the price for the first child. You can also put your account on hold while you go on vacation or have a break in schooling and then reactivate it with no penalty, so you are not having to pay when you are not using it...nice feature!

As always, you can go read more reviews by TOS Crew members HERE!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Homeschooling or public school at home?

Recently a heated, emotional debate surfaced within my homeschool yahoo group...should we split hairs on the definitions between true-homeschooling and state-based virtual schooling?

I say 'YES' we should keep clear definitions...why? For homeschool freedom! This article is worth the read! Let us not get 'cozy' in the freedoms we are enjoying as a result of the hard work from the homeschool pioneers...we should always be ready to 'fight' for our right to homeschool...free and clear of government control!

This is an article published in the HSLDA's Homeschool Court Report in summer 2007...it is excellent and worth sharing!

How Safe is the Homeschool Horizon?...Public School at Home

What would you say to a homeschool program that gave you curriculum, a computer, and regular access to experienced schoolteachers—all for free? Does it sound too good to be true? It just might be. Public-school-at- home programs (also referred to as virtual charter schools, cyber schools, or online schools—not to be confused with private online schools) are attracting thousands of homeschooling families. While these schools offer helpful services, homeschoolers should be aware that they are public schools, and as such, they present a growing threat to the private home education movement.

Public-school-at-home programs come in a variety of forms. The two most well-known models are public school online programs and home-based (or virtual) charter schools.

Many public school districts offer online classes, giving students the opportunity to take classes at the school or from home-students can take all their classes online, or use the online programs to supplement on-campus classes. Additionally, these programs augment enrollment at the public school, resulting in increased state and federal funding.

And then there are home-based charter schools—an innovative, fast-growing alternative to traditional public schools that seems to be particularly attractive to private homeschoolers.

Home-based charter schools are the 21st-century sequel to brick-and-mortar charter schools. All charter schools are publicly funded, and operate under the sponsorship of a state board of education, local school board, or other entities designated by the state.10

What makes home-based charter schools different is the opportunity for students to study from home. Some of these programs are centered around online instruction. Other programs provide a textbook-based curriculum and maintain parent/teacher communication via phone and internet. All of these schools use state-certified curricula, mandate standardized testing, and require the parent to regularly report the child’s progress.

The bottom line is that many of these schools place parents in the role of monitor or guide, not teacher. As Pennsylvania’s WNEP-TV 16 News Station explains in an online article on traditional public cyber schools, “Parents are not the teachers, but they are required to make sure the children are following the cyber school’s curriculum.”11

The Wisconsin Virtual Academy, an in-home charter school, describes the responsibility of parents who enroll their children in the program: “Parents (or other responsible adults) guide students through the lessons and ensure that children are learning. They also contact teachers when students are experiencing academic problems, help students manage their time and set goals, monitor student work, and fill out daily attendance logs. Parents are also expected to participate in regularly scheduled conference call[s] with their teacher(s).”12 (emphasis added)

According to the Center for Education Reform, virtual charter schools are active in 19 states, and 92,300 students are currently enrolled across the nation, as of early 2007.

“If we can’t beat ’em, let’s join ’em”

One mission of these virtual schools is to provide a choice for parents who homeschool their children, states Instructor, Scholastic’s magazine for schoolteachers.13

Kansas public school superintendent Randy Weseman said, “Our virtual school is mostly home schooled students. My philosophy is to work with families and help them become comfortable with public schooling.”14

But according to Christopher Klicka, public schooling is exactly what many homeschooling families have rejected so they can be free from governmental oversight and train their children according to their own beliefs and values. Klicka surmises that state departments of education recognize that homeschoolers cannot be persuaded to enroll their children in traditional public schools. So, the home-based charter school model is the departments’ way of saying, “If we can’t beat ’em, let’s join ’em.”

While home-based charter schools seek to attract homeschoolers for many reasons, the possibility of increased funding creates a powerful incentive. Just as traditional public schools try to find ways to count homeschoolers as part of their enrollment, thereby increasing per-pupil funding, home-based charter schools provide another way to assimilate homeschoolers into the public school system—and pad charter school budgets with extra government dollars.

“As HSLDA has pointed out in the past, the issue is money and control,” says HSLDA President Mike Smith. “The higher the student enrollment, the more money the school receives.”

Why are charter schools a threat?

Accountability to and control by the government are key components of home-based charter schools. For instance, the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School (PAVCS) provides parents with a complete curriculum and testing requirements, connects parents with a teacher who monitors the program and to whom the parent is accountable, and requires parents to maintain attendance logs, among other conditions.

“The government takes responsibility for the education of children enrolled in virtual charter schools,” reports the Wisconsin Parents Association. “[The government] controls these schools; and dictates the knowledge, skills, and values their students are to acquire.”15

Because of this responsibility to the government, home-based charter schools also lose the “genius of flexible, individualized homeschooling,” Mike Smith says. The self-pacing of a home-based charter school, by nature of its government accountability, can never match the flexibility and tailored curriculum that homeschooling offers.

Parents’ ability to integrate religious beliefs with their child’s education is also limited in these schools. Because home-based charter schools are publicly funded, they are restricted from using religion-based curriculum. For example, MTS Minnesota Connections Academy explains that parents interested in their program should be “comfortable with a secular curriculum.”16 (See the March/April 2007 Court Report to read about one mother’s experience with the curriculum restrictions of a home-based charter school.)

“These are the same issues we fought so hard against in the ’80s and ’90s—in order to win the right to be free from this kind of control,’ says Christopher Klicka. Not only does government control restrict the flexibility and religious component of a child’s education, but it could eventually lead to another problem: If homeschoolers submit to government supervision through these public-school-at-home programs, public school officials and legislators may be further encouraged to regulate independent homeschoolers.

The Idaho Coalition of Home Educators and Christian Homeschoolers of Idaho State elaborate on this threat of increased regulation:

The IDEA [Interior Distance Education of Alaska] program initially included significant freedom and flexibility. Gradually those freedoms have been curtailed as calls for ‘accountability’ have gained traction. The same will occur in Idaho. And sadly, those calls will encompass not only those families enrolled in this [Idaho Distance Education Academy] program, but all traditional home schoolers, as well. The lines that have historically separated public school students from home schoolers will be sufficiently blurred to make it significantly more difficult to maintain our precious home schooling freedoms.17

Home-based charter schools may fit the needs and lifestyles of some parents and children. But for parents who want to train their children spiritually and academically, at their own pace, these programs contain some of the same roadblocks to that goal as do public schools. It may be hard to resist free services and to see home-based public schools as a challenge to homeschooling—but it will be even harder to regain homeschool freedom once lost.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow, beautiful snow!

I LOVE waking to snow! Greg and I were SO excited last Thursday night when it was sleeting and we woke to LOTS of beautiful snow! It snowed ALL day Friday...non~stop and we ended up with 7" of fluffy, white snow!