For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Friday, August 1, 2014

Today I am Guest Posting

Today I am being featured on Lisa's blog The Canadian Homeschooler as part of her Canadian Homeschooler Spotlight series.

Go have a look, and learn more about me, as well as read about my experience as a Canadian Homeschooler.

The August Back to School Flash Sale at The Old SchoolHouse

August 1st marks the first day of the TOS August Back to School Flash Sale! Every day will feature a new sale on a different product. To catch all the big deals you'll need to check in every single day.
Sale items include:
  • - 50% off coupons (for digital products)
  • - 75% off coupons (for digital products)
  • - HUGE price reductions on all the 2014-2015 digital planners
  • - TOS gift cards
  • - and many, many other awesome deals and freebies
When will these items go on sale?! August 1st - but check in regularly so you don't miss a single price reduction. There will be a new sale every day for the entire month!
Take advantage of the TOS Back to School Flash Sale
Save money! Save time! 
Get prepared for this fall's homeschooling adventure!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Planning Series - Week 7: Creating Your Own Unit Study

For week 7 of this Summer Planning Series, we have Amy from Eclectic Homeschooling talking to us about Creating Your Own Unit Study.

Over the years we have been homeschooling, unit studies have been the highlight.  My kids have really enjoyed them and learned well with them.  I must say that it is my favorite way to teach as well.

Creating your own unit study isn't too difficult.  It just takes a little time.   It is also an excellent choice when you have a library handy and don't have much funds for homeschooling.  I've laid out the steps I've taken to create a unit study.  When I plan a unit study, I don't add in things like math, reading, language arts, or other subjects.  I just use the format to explore topics in depth.

1.  Decide on a topic
First of all, decide on a topic.  It could be on a content-based subject like history or science, or on a topic near and dear to your child's heart.

2.  Choose a spine
A spine is basically some sort of resource that covers the topic well.  It could be a book, a series of books, a website, or even a textbook.  This book or resource doesn't have to be used by your kids.  It can just be used to organize your study or it can be used as part of your study.

3.  Make an Outline
I like to go through my spine's table of contents and type it all out as subtopics.  This is your basic organization of the topic.

4.  Fill in the Outline
This is the most time-consuming part of putting together your own unit study.  Consider how your child learn best as you decide what to use to study the subtopics.  In our house I've found that it works best if we use a mixture of books, videos, and activities.  Sometimes the only book I use is the spine I had selected.  Other times, I use a variety of library books to cover each subtopic.

I find it important when choosing activities to only choose ones that I am willing to do.  If it seems like too much of a bother or a huge mess afterwards, I'll look for something else.   The best ideas for activities have come from when I am searching on Google or Pinterest.  Sometimes I use an idea that someone has already done and sometimes I change it a little.

Here are a few examples of a filled in sub-topic:

This one is from an Evidence for Christianity Study for my 5th and 7th graders.  It is organized around one book with some additional topics thrown in.  It is mostly me reading aloud/discussing and video watching

The Case for Jesus

Was Jesus Who He Said He Was?

  • Read The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict - The Case for Jesus - Jesus, A Man From History pg 32-33
  • Read The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict - The Case for Jesus -If Jesus Wasn’t God, He Deserves an Oscar pg 34-38
  • Read The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict - The Case for Jesus -Significance of Deity – Trilemma – Lord, Liar, or Lunatic pg 39-40
  • Watch videos here
Here is another example of a filled in topic.  This Magic School Bus Unit Study is using the Magic School Bus video series as a spine.  It involves watching the Magic School Bus episode, reading library books on the topic, and an activity of some sort.
Watch Magic School Bus “Hops Home” – Animal Habitats (Season 1)
Watch Magic School Bus “Meets the Rot Squad” – Decomposition (Season 1)
  • Read Squirmy Wormy Composters by Kalman and Micro Life in Soil by Hyde
  • Set up worm bin and observe how added items decompose over time.
Here is one more sample.  This one is from a World Poverty study I am doing with my first grader this year.  For this study, I am using 3 major resources.  Two of them are read alouds that I'm using to organize the topics and the third gave me activity ideas.  Here is a subtopic sample.  Here you will find a read aloud/discussion book, an activity, and a video I found on Youtube.

Clean Water

  • A Life Like Mine pg 6-17 Need for Clean Water
  • World Map – color 25% of the world to show those without easy access to safe drinking water
  • This is Gladys
5.  Setting it up to use it easily

I've found the most effective way to use a unit study on a schedule, is to schedule the amount of time you want to spend on it.  Then write out or print off your unit study and go through it in order.  Just cross off things as you complete them.  So if you want to spend an hour on your unit study a couple times a week, you just go as far as you can in that time.  Sometimes we will near the end of a year and haven't finished a study.  Sometimes we finish a study after a short while.  When you make up your own study, expect that it won't fall into the standard 36 week format.

Right now, I'm doing several different unit studies with my first grader.  One is currently on hold while we spend more time on the other ones.  One of the unit studies will last a year or more, one should last about a school year, and the other one will last a month or two.  Once we finish one, we just spend more time on another one.

Making your own unit study allows you to customize your child's education because you are choosing the books, activities, and videos with your child in mind.  You know your child the best.  It is also a very inexpensive way to cover content subjects and topics of interest to your child.

Amy is a homeschooling mom of 3 kids between the ages of 6 and 12.  As a mission-focused family they spend time learning about different cultures around the world and study several foreign languages.  She has been blogging at Eclectic Homeschooling since.

In this Series:
Week 1: Who Plans Homeschool?
Week 2: Planning an Eclectic Homeschool School Year Type A Style
Week 3: Planned Unshooling . . . Why?
Week 4: Meal Planning Made Easy
Week 5: Managing Your Home When You Have an Irregular Schedule 
week 6: Block Scheduling in Your Homeschool

Monday, July 28, 2014

Getting in Gear

  It is starting to smell back to school time. I myself have been getting my curriculum and getting my planning going. More than the books and schedules, I find that getting my mind in gear is very important. Every beginning of year is very exciting and promising, but as the year goes on lots of things start to dwinddle. This year I want to avoid that, so I figured I need to write down some pretty specific goals for me for this school year. I will keep them to five, as I ave heard it said that it is better to start small when setting goal to maximize your chances of meeting them.

1. Stay focused - I am a homeschooler, teaching and making sure my kids' school is done is my priority. By the same token I homeschool them so that they can have a spiritual education as well and I better make sure I work at it faithfully. Somehow,  these simple facts are easy to get lost in a lot of distractions such as Facebook, cleaning, and who knows what.

2. Finish all curriculum - I spend a lot of time investigating our curriculum. I chose them because I believe they are a good fit and teach what I want the boys to learn. Unless they turn out to really not fitting the goal, I do not see any reason why I should not see it to the end, beside laziness and complecency.

3. Train the kids in time management - My oldest is entering Middle School, now is the time for him to start to learn to take responsibility for his school  and his schedule. I anticipate this to be  long road but it is a necessary one, so I need to get myself ready for the push back and weariness of the task.

4. Be diligent and consistent. This is the most difficult for me. I have such a hard time to keep routines going. That is why this year I am returning to my 6 weeks on /1 week off schedule for our school. I have found the more frequent break to be helpful in keeping me diligent and consistent with our daily routine and schedule.

5. Pray for our homeschool daily. Now, here is where everything really lies. I cannot do any of this unless the Lord is whith me, and empowers me with his grace and Spirit. This is His calling on my life I need to rely on Him. I certainly need to learn to show and express my dependency on Him way more than I do at the moment.

How about you? What are your goals for this new school year?


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Planning Series - Week 6 - Block Scheduling in Your Homeshool

For week six of our Summer Planning Series, we have TaMara from  Tales of a Pee Dee Mama guest posting with us.

For the first time ever, I will be homeschooling a high school student this year. This isn't my first year teaching high school, though; I taught in one of the local public high schools for 3 years before having children of my own. During that time, our school moved from traditional scheduling to block scheduling. I really liked the concept and how it worked then, so when I began planning for our homeschooling high school years, block scheduling was one of my first decisions.

Block scheduling means that the student takes fewer classes a day, with each class lasting longer than traditional scheduling allows. Traditionally high school students take 7 to 8 units of credit, working on all 7 or 8 every day. Using block scheduling, students take 4 units of credit each semester for a total of 8 at the end of the year.

What this looks like at our house:
The Boy will work on 4 classes from August to December. This year it will be Bible, Ancient Literature, Ancient History, and Computer Science. Then he will work on 4 new classes from January to May. This year it will be Chemistry, Geometry, Spanish I, and PE.

There are several benefits to block scheduling.
  1. Young people can focus on just a few subjects at a time, allowing for better retention and understanding.
  2. Young people can take sequential classes within the same school year. We're planning on The Boy doing Spanish 1 in the spring of this school year, Spanish 2 in the fall of the next year, and Spanish 3 in the spring of that year. Being able to move through this way should allow for better retention and less loss of knowledge between classes.
  3. Young people are better prepared for the semester schedule of most colleges. While transitioning from high school to college will still have its challenges, hopefully adjusting to having semester-long classes won't be one of them.
Anyone else using block scheduling in their homeschool?

TaMara is a homeschooling mama of 5 small people, ages 6 to 14. She's been homeschooling for the past 10 years. Prior to that, she taught students with learning disabilities in public school. She blogs about her family's adventures in homeschooling and life at Tales of a Pee Dee Mama. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

In this Series:
Week 1: Who Plans Homeschool?
Week 2: Planning an Eclectic Homeschool School Year Type A Style
Week 3: Planned Unshooling . . . Why?
Week 4: Meal Planning Made Easy
Week 5: Managing Your Home When You Have an Irregular Schedule 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HomeSchoolPiano - TOS Review

Adding the Arts to our homeschool is often a challenge. Music lessons most often seem to be a luxury, yet every one would agree that they offer great benefits to the education and development of our kids.

Recently we were privileged to be able to review HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books put out by HomeSchoolPiano. We receive a lifetime subscription to HomeSchoolPiano -Complete Set of Books for up to 5 students. What a blessing!

I hoped to have my violin player get a start on piano, as his theory is not that great, and have my 4th grade level piano player learn some improvisation. So we tried to use this 3 -4 times a day.

The details:

HomeSchoolPiano is a subscription program that gives you access to online piano lessons. These lessons are suitable for all ages, even adults.

Once you purchased a subscription it is for life and you have access the online lessons plus 3 books worth of downloadable music sheets to be printed out for use along with the lessons.

The lessons can be streamed and/or downloaded.

The course divides as follow:

CorePiano = absolute beginner

Book 1 = beginner, maybe brushing the dust off and coming back to piano

Book 2 = beginner to intermediate (starts incorporating more complicated concepts, songs and improvisation ideas)

Book 3 = intermediate (toward the end of this book we are getting into concepts like syncopation, voice leading and more advanced scales for improvisation)

Each books consists of about 6 units which are set up in the same way: 
  • Rhythm exercise
  • Song sheet
  • Improvisation exercise
The online lessons themselves are divided into:
  • Technique
  • Rhythm
  • Ear Training
  • Note reading through songs
  • Improvisation
The lessons are streamed and a teacher, at a keyboard, teaches the concepts and shows you how it is done on the piano. Then the student is supposed to go and practice whatever it is he was just taught on his/her own piano. This part of the process is very important as the lessons build on the skills acquired as you move on. The streamed lessons are about 5-15 minutes depending on the skill being taught.


Homeschool Piano has 2 payment packages:

1. Success Package (One payment of $299):
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students. 

2. Payment Plan (Payments of $99.97 per month for three months): 
Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students. 

The goal of the course is to ultimately teach students to be able to improvise and be very confident at the piano.

The Teacher:

Millie Myette is a music graduate from Berklee College Music. You can read more about him on the about us page on the website.


I like the concepts of the course. I like the way it is incremental and builds one upon each others. I like the inclusion of the improvisation element. It covers the important elements of any music course, that is, technique, note reading, and rhythm.  However, somehow my kids were not taken by it. I found it difficult to have my kids get to the computer everyday and do their lesson. When they did do their lesson, they were not very enthusiastic to practice what was taught. Some of it might be because they found it a tad boring, especially the technique and rhythm part, which tends to be repetitive, but which you do have to teach. Another reason might be my youngest does not have good rhythm and ear skills, so he found it hard to practice those.

I think this is a very solid, comprehensive course that could benefit many. Once I find time to get into it for myself will I definitely try to to give it a go. As for the boys, I will seek to plow at it still as the skills that it teaches are really useful and my boys could surely use them. I love the jazz bent of the overall course.

A few aspects of the program to note:
  • It picks up from where you stop on the last session.
  • You can see the notes and the fingers playing clearly.
  • The songs used are catchy.
  • Sometimes it is a bit technical and hard to follow. You may have to listen to the lesson a couple of times to get it.
  • It is a lifetime subscription.

One advantage to note is the flexibility of the program as you can use it on any device. I have to admit we had some login issues at the beginning of the review due to change of server, but since then it has worked like a charm.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Planning Series - Week 5: Managing Your Home When You Have An Irregular Schedule

For the fifth week of my series on planning, I have Davonne from sharing about how to keep order in the home when you have an irregular schedule:
Hello! I’m about to begin my sixth year of homeschooling and I’ve had a very irregular schedule for the past several years. I’ve worked full time for short seasons, I worked part-time (on irregular days and times) for eight years, I’ve stayed home full time, worked from home, and everything in-between.

In addition to that, my husband is a business owner who’s nearly always the last one to leave the office and the first one to go in when works needs done on a Saturday.

In the midst of all of this, our children have become very accustomed to doing schoolwork in the car or at the office and all of us have learned to be flexible. We’re definitely not perfect at home-management (or anything else!), but we have learned a lot over the years.

Here are six ways to maintain order in the midst of an irregular schedule:

  1. Maintain a basic daily routine.

    A basic routine should include having good sleep and wake times, completing morning chores (getting dressed, tidying bedrooms, etc.), and eating meals around the same time each day. When you keep those things somewhat consistent, fitting in other activities and work projects will be a lot easier.
  2. Always have snacks and activities.

    Whether you’re at the office, on a field trip, or just running errands, it’s never fun when everyone is hungry and the kids are bored!

    Some people keep a basket of toys in their car. We just take a little activity bag with us each time we leave the house. You could even keep a few picture books in the car for your pre-readers.

    Even if you’re not planning on being out for a mealtime, always take snacks. I like to keep homemade muffins in the freezer to grab-and-go when we’re in a hurry. Peanuts, fresh fruit, or dry cereal are other easy snacks to grab on your way out the door. And don’t forget the water-bottles!
  3. Take a little time to clean.

    I’ve found that having a few home blessing hours throughout the week goes a really long way in helping us keep our home clean-enough when we're extra busy.

    I wrote more about home blessing hours here, but the basic idea is to take an hour to clean your home, thus blessing those who live within it.

    Even if you don’t have an hour, setting the timer for 15 minutes and having everyone rush to accomplish as much as possible in one or two rooms can make a huge difference!
  4. Keep meals simple.

    You can feed your family nutritious meals without spending hours in the kitchen each day!

    For example, my family generally eats eggs, oatmeal, muffins, or cereal for breakfast. Then we have leftovers for lunch. Dinners generally consist of a simple meat, rice, and a cooked vegetable. If we get hungry between meal times, we have fruit!

    If you’d like specific meal-planning tips, read Kimberly’s article about easy meal planning.
  5. Complete school-work on the go.

    If you homeschool, many school subjects can be completed verbally or in workbooks while driving or while waiting at a doctor’s office. Audio lessons or audiobooks can become your new best friend!

    While it’s difficult (and stressful) to try to force your kids to do their schoolwork in the car, you can encourage it. Tell them things like, “You’ll have two hours in the car this morning. If you finish your schoolwork while I’m driving, then you’ll have the entire afternoon free when we get home!” That’s a win for the students and teacher!
  6. Keep a positive attitude.

    Sometimes the kids will be grumpy (you will be too!), your home will be a mess, and your schedule will be overloaded. When that happens, responsibly drop what you can, snuggle your kids, have a home-blessing hour, and choose to embrace the moment!

What tips do you have for maintaining order in your home when you have an irregular schedule?

Davonne Parks blogs about organization, simplicity, and heart-filled motherhood at She’s also written two eBooks, “101 Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms” (free to her blog subscribers) and “28 Days to Timeliness: Tips and Confessions from a Semi-Reformed Late Person.”