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Homeschool ‘Mommy Marks’ and Universities #2


Two years ago we got the surprise of our lives when my son received a top marks-based scholarship from a university that says it accepts neither ‘mommy marks’ nor SAT scores.

Two weeks ago, the same thing happened to my daughter!  Needless to say, we are thrilled and exceedingly grateful.  God has blessed her studies both financially and academically.

After that first happy surprise two years ago, I analysed possible reasons why the university awarded the scholarship against its own guidelines, and I think they are still valid.

I also condensed our experience into two vital principles for homeschooling high school:

If you and your teen want to homeschool high school on your own and use ‘mommy marks’ on your university application, here are two things to focus on:

  1. Teens should work hard, following their interests while getting a solid basic education.  They should read widely, learn the techniques in How to Read a Book (reviewed here), individualize courses, enjoy hobbies, volunteer, enter competitions, and be balanced.  This will prepare them for life, for university, for the SAT, and for scholarships.  Preparing for life is, of course, most important of all but, really, the same methods apply to all of them.  “Characteristics of Top SAT Scorers” outlines this in greater detail.
  2. Moms should be diligent about preparing careful records of what their teens have studied.  There are many ways of doing this, but two aspects are crucial:
    • Keep track of all reading, educational activities, volunteer activities, hobbies, and competitions.  Back your records up, even if all you do is email them to yourself.
    • Present all this in a way that university admissions officers will understand and appreciate.  Believe in the value of the education you are providing and let that shine through in your description of your teen’s education.

So, if you are worried about homeschooling high school and about your ‘mommy marks’, take heart.  Diligent studying and diligent record keeping do pay off, for life, for university admissions, and for scholarships.  For more information, see the article I wrote when my son got his scholarship two years ago.

May God bless your family’s homeschooling journey.

For more encouragement and helpful information, visit Finishing Strong, Trivium Tuesdays, Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday, Monday’s Musings, R&R Wednesdays.

Review: Tales from the Circle C Ranch by Susan K. Marlow

Tales from the Circle C Ranch

Spunky horse-loving Andrea Carter has the run of Circle C ranch in 1800’s California and gets into adventure after adventure with her horse Taffy, her brothers, and her friends.  Her horse is truly special, her brothers save the day regularly, and she does her best to do so too.   From little Andi wanting to wear britches to a much older Andi showing her sister just what kind of a scoundrel her beau is, each of the short stories in Tales from the Circle C Ranch brings fun and excitement.

When it was time to review Tales from the Circle C Ranch, I finally found it tucked away near Miss 12’s bed (for convenient re-reading), and while I was reading it she was wondering where it had gone.  We both really enjoyed it and we highly recommend it.

Author Susan K. Marlow has written many books about Andi, and the dates of this collection are spread throughout the Circle C Beginnings series and the Circle C Adventures series, with notes explaining the relationship of each story to the series.  After reading Tales from the Circle C Ranch, I plan to get more of Marlow’s books for my girls to read and I’m sorry my older girls did not have the opportunity to read them when they were published.

Exciting and enjoyable, these wholesome stories will bring a sparkle to your daughter’s eyes and keep her reading, especially if she loves horses.

For more information, a lapbook study guide, and a preview of some of the stories, see Susan K. Marlow’s website.

This is yet another book in the in the 2015 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook.  For more encouragement, visit  Finishing Strong, Trivium Tuesdays, Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday Monday’s Musings, R&R Wednesdays Faith Filled Fridays

Disclosure: We received a review copy of this book from Kregel and have shared our own opinions.

When your Child Cannot Learn Well: Psychoeducational Testing at Home

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After a recent Sylvan Learning Center assessment, we were encouraged to get psychoeducational testing for one of our children.  However, the cost was $2000, way beyond our budget.  (Note that this is a service provided by independent psychologists who specialize in education, not by Sylvan.)

When I discussed that with the Sylvan lady, she said, “You can get her tested now and give her the tools she needs to succeed, or you can wait until she feels really bad about herself and then give her the tools she needs to succeed.”

Fair enough, and probably true enough, but that did not change the reality of the huge $2000 price tag.

So first of all, what is psychoeducational testing?  One official answer is “the psychological tests used to analyze the mental processes underlying your child’s educational performance.”  It typically involves many hours of assessment of many different factors–physical, psychological, emotional, and relational–that can affect schoolwork.  If a child is having difficulty learning, such testing can often give very useful information.

But what can a family do if a child obviously has learning difficulties but a professional psychoeducational assessment is not financially possible?

One education expert suggested that we would be able to get some idea of the issues involved by searching for the tests online and doing them ourselves.  Now, this is tricky of course.  We are in no way equipped to administer and understand the many fine nuances of these assessments.  On the other hand, if we do a test for ADD and it says our child has all the signs (or none of them), we have learned something important.

In that spirit, I have compiled a list of assessments of conditions that may impact learning.  I am grateful that our family does not need them all and hope that some of you will find something helpful in this list.

ADHD—parent’s point of view

ADHD—teacher’s point of view (since we are both parents and teachers, we can fill out both for extra clarity)


Autism Spectrum 

Autism in Toddlers


Life Skills

Strengths Check List  

Small Child’s Daily Strengths

Family Strengths

Depression (with self-help guide)

Depression Screening Tests (for adults, but still helpful for teens)

Obsessive Compulsive Screening

Anxiety Assessment and Hints

Bipolar Disorder 

Sleep Apnea

Chronic Fatigue

Nonverbal Learning Disorders

Communication Development (K-grade 5)

Speaking and Listening (birth to 5 years old)

Play Observation Checklist

Determining which Reinforcements may Motivate your Child (ages 2-6; ages 6-12; ages 6-13; ages 13-18)

Color Vision (preschool; school age)

How Stressed are You? 

Pedriatic Symptom Checklist (children; youth)

Important note:  As I mentioned before, do-it-yourself psychoeducational assessments can be exceedingly helpful, but you must remember that in certain circumstances you will need to get a professional involved in the assessment and somehow pay the enormous cost of finding out why your child cannot learn well.  Also, don’t jump to a diagnosis on the basis of just one of these tests.

Remember:  If you do these tests certain results should, of course, send you to seek professional help for your child, while other results may give you ideas of things you can do at home.  May God bless you with wisdom as you make these decisions for your family.

Many of the above free assessment tools are listed here along with information about a wide variety of other assessments.  Other examples of such tests are also available.  Legal disclaimer:  I can assume no responsibility for how your family interacts with these assessments and remind you that professional help may be necessary.

For more encouragement and helpful information, visit Finishing Strong, Trivium Tuesdays, Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday, Monday’s Musings, R&R Wednesdays.

Disclosure:  I am not compensated in any way for mentioning any of these resources.

Review: Understanding Algebra 1 by Terri Husted

Understanding Algebra 1

Algebra strikes terror into the hearts of many and it is one of those topics that people often do not learn well.  In Understanding Algebra I Terri Husted, a recognized New York math teacher specializing in math anxiety, addresses these issues by presenting algebra clearly and systematically.  In her book, as in real life, she tries to make algebra her students’ favorite subject.

Written for grades 7-9, Understanding Algebra 1 is meant to be a complete one year curriculum.  It begins with technical information about our number system and an arithmetic review, then clearly explains how to solve equations, and then moves on to word problems, inequalities, and polynomials.  It tackles factoring, radicals, linear functions, systems of equations, and more with just the right amount of review and with clear explanations.  Fairly often math history or real world topics are included, and those are a valuable addition to any math course.

Most of the 362-page book is clear, with pages that are well-laid out and not overwhelming.  Colored boxes are used to make the important ideas stand out and to separate concepts and examples.  For students with average-sized handwriting there is space to do most problems in the book itself.  Answers with some explanations are given in the back.  Most chapters end with a review section that can be used as an evaluation or as the basis of a test.  A colored reference page containing all helpful equations is given in the back of the book, and there is also a glossary.

Comparison to other curricula:

Key to Algebra includes more hands-on discovery with less explanation.  Understanding Algebra 1 spells concepts out more clearly but has less practice.  Both are recommended for students having difficulties or working somewhat independently.

Singapore New Elementary Math 1 and 2 are much more thorough but their problems are more difficult than those in Understanding Algebra 1.  If your child is intimidated by math or just needs the basics, Understanding Algebra 1 is better; on the other hand, if your child is confident and may possibly move on to future studies involving math, the Singapore texts lay a more solid foundation.

Practical tip: 

Unfortunately the first three pages of Understanding Algebra 1 are wordy and overwhelming.  It’s not that the material is difficult, but it looks difficult, and for some students that is a serious problem at the beginning of a new book.  Basically this first chapter is a review of set theory, of the kinds of numbers that exist, and of the rules of arithmetic.  Although a standard math text may need to include set theory to meet government standards, I have never noticed set theory adding anything except a vague feeling of uncertainty to introductory algebra classes.  So, as a homeschool mom, you may wish to tweak this chapter and get review material from elsewhere until you are sure your child can do the review page, and then begin actually using this book in Chapter 2.

Possible improvements in the next edition:  

Put the reference page on the inside back cover, as is often done in advanced textbooks, so that it will be easier to find.  Include an index.  Redo the first few pages to make them inviting, not intimidating.  Start each new chapter on the right hand page, leaving a blank page or two if necessary.  These suggestions would improve the book, but if they are not big issues for your family, your children will probably enjoy it if they need a break from your regular math curriculum.

Would this work for your children? 

For basic Algebra 1, Terri Husted’s Understanding Algebra 1 is a valuable resource with a relatively low cost.  It could be used as a full curriculum, a remedial supplement, or a summer review program, and I especially recommend it if you need a basic text and want a break from your regular math curriculum.  Currently you can buy Understanding Algebra 1 from the Critical Thinking Press at a 15% discount (for any size order) using the coupon code BLOGR315.  For more details on this offer see below.

For all sorts of goodies for teaching math, visit Terri Husted’s informative math page.

I have also reviewed Critical Thinking Press logic resources and recommend them highly.

15% Off Any Size Order from Critical Thinking Press!

Details: Offer expires 5/31/2015 at Midnight PST. Use Coupon Code BLOGR315. Online prepaid orders only. Valid one per customer. Offer does not apply to iOS or Android apps, or manipulatives such as Attribute Blocks, Interlocking Cubes or Pattern Blocks. Offer may not be combined with other discounts or offers, and is not retroactive. Not valid on wholesale orders.

This review is linked to Finishing Strong, Trivium Tuesdays, Raising Homemakers, R&R Wednesdays, and Titus 2 Tuesday.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book and have expressed my own opinions.

Finding Joy in Another Clean Window

Spring Sunshine

We’re spring cleaning around here, a little bit at a time.  A few hours after Miss 14 and I finished this window area, the sun shone in and made the plants glow.

That sunshine brought joy, but it wouldn’t have if we had not stopped to see it, pay attention to it, and be thankful for it.  Perhaps we all need to learn to appreciate the small everyday gifts God gives us.

…because you can’t appreciate these gifts unless you accept them, and you can’t accept them unless you notice them, and you won’t notice them unless you slow down and open up.

Wishing you many happy moments this spring!

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