Thursday, July 12, 2018

Homeschool Planet

When two of my friends who quite honestly are vastly different told me that they used Homeschool Planet I thought that was interesting.  I should have stopped right at the moment and realized that this was something I needed to take notice of.  Instead, I foolishly delayed looking into it.

But luckily, I am no longer foolish.  This spring I took the plunge and did a free trial of Homschool Planet from the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  Within 3 days I purchased a year subscription which they added on to my 30 day trial.  It changed my life. Truly!

The Homeschool Planet is an online planning, calendar, and scheduler.  It is a way for you to post the lessons that your students need to complete AND more importantly at my house, know whether people have actually completed them!

I love this!  I pull up my view and say things like. . . Why is math not completed?  I am confused as to why you have not done that for two days?  Hmm, it looks like you will be doing math on Saturday.   I also say things like, WOW!  You completed all your work today. Look at how close we are to the end!  I am so proud of you!

The other part that has been powerful for my students is that it has the feature of moving all the assignments forward.  My students began to understand that not doing something adds it on to the end of the year.  It was a good visual reminder.

You can also add music practice, track grades, put your vacations in, send your students an email with their assignments, and much more.

So this would be a great time to try a free trial.  They are also giving away a free lesson plan with purchase.   I HIGHLY recommend it.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Create! A Girl's Guide to DIY, Doodles and Designs by Ashley Mays

Ready, set, create! Whether you’re an aspiring artist or a just-starting-out doodler, Create! A Girl’s Guide to DIY, Doodles, and Design is the perfect book to inspire your creative side. From coloring pages to quick-and-easy crafts—like photo frames and duct-tape bags—and everything in between, this full-color book from the trusted Faithgirlz brand provides step-by-step guides to more than 50 fun and easy projects. Learn how to make your own DIY projects, create one-of-a-kind jewelry, and draw like a pro. Perfect for individual use or for sleepovers, birthday parties, and more, Create! is sure to bring out your inner artist.

I saw the cover of this book, and I had to know more!  Create is a crafting books for girls ages 8-13.  The book includes d├ęcor crafts, frames, duct-tape projects, jewelry, designs, doodling, and coloring.  The book includes crafting ideas with pictures, step by step directions, and ideas to elaborate on the crafts called “Jazz It Up.”  It is part of the Faithgirlz series.  

My girls are crazy about this book, and it already looks well loved.  They like the variety of the projects included in Create.  The book includes projects that you can easily do with supplies at your house, and other projects that require some basic supplies you would get from a craft store.  I told them to start with what they were able to do and make a basic list of what they would like to buy.   That has worked very well.   I felt like the crafts were realistic for this age group.  

The pictures are wonderful and give you a good idea of what the craft will look like when completed.   I enjoyed looking through Create and my daughters have spent hours gazing at the book.   It would be a great gift with a few supplies from the book included. I would highly recommend Create to anyone with tweens.  

  I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review

Some pictures of the crafts made by my daughters.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Psychology Nerd Guest Post by Dr. Tim Rice

I found Tim Rice's  site one day and was intrigued with his perspective and his textbook. I asked Dr. Rice if  he would  write a guest post for Ohio Homeschool Assessments, and he graciously agreed to.  Please welcome him!  PS At the end of the post there is a special discount code for his text.  

Psychology Nerd Guest Post 

I’m biased. I admit it. I have a strong favorable bias toward psychology. You might call me a psychology nerd. I love psychology and I think every Christian high school student should study it. I’ve made a career of teaching psychology from a Christian worldview perspective.

You may be biased, too. You may have taken psychology in college and encountered professors who believed that the Christian worldview had no place – who ridiculed Christianity as unscientific, irrational, or silly. You may think teaching psychology, and doing it from a Christian perspective, is difficult or not important.

Teaching psychology’s subject matter is not difficult. There are many inexpensive (or free) resources to help students learn the content.  Bringing your Christian worldview to class is easy too. You can do it. It means simply to help students understand and interpret psychology’s subject matter via a vis what the Bible says.

Psychology is often defined narrowly – the study of the brain and behavior. Some people think psychology is all about mental illness, counseling, and psychiatric medications, but psychology is much more. A Christian approach to psychology begins with the belief that we are created in God’s image and likeness. Psychology is the study of God’s grandest creation – you – your joys, sorrows, memories, ambitions, identity, personality, will, morality, development, and more. It’s the study of your heart, soul, and mind. As such, the Bible has lots to say about psychology.

In every psychology class students learn about psychology’s major schools-of-thought – behaviorism, Freudian psychodynamic psychology, humanistic psychology, and evolutionary psychology. Each is a type of worldview that makes specific claims about human nature – what it means to be human. When we compare psychology’s worldviews to the Bible, we see that the Christian worldview is not silly. It is the most logical, internally consistent, and meaningful framework for understanding everything, including psychology.

I’m biased. I love psychology. I believe that every topic points toward God. We need not be intimidated by psychology. We should prepare our students to boldly bring their Christian worldview to psychology college.

Besides, psychology is an easy A.

If you use the code "Becky" at Dr. Rice's Store you can receive 10% off your purchase!  There is an especially good deal on the book and workbook currently!   I own them both.  :-)  

Dr. Rice is the author of Psychology: A Christian Perspective, High School Edition and Homeschool Psych: Preparing Christian Homeschool Students of Psych 101 and other works. He has introduced thousands of students to psychology from a Christian perspective through his textbooks and in his live online classes. Tim and his wife Tina are 26 year veterans of homeschooling. You can reach Dr. Rice at

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Guest Post: The Beauty of Units by Michelle Sager

I worked with Michelle's family for many years and always loved seeing her unit studies. When she told me about her current project, I asked her to share about it on Ohio Homeschool Assessments.  Please Welcome Michelle! 

The Beauty of Units

Schools sometimes call them “thematic units”.  Basically, a Unit Study is a flexible study of one topic that encompasses some, most, or all of the scholastic subjects (language arts, math, science, social studies, art, physical education).  Some Units are hands-on while some are strictly virtual; some are literature based while some are based in math, science or history.

We were lucky enough to discover Unit Studies fairly early in the research phase of our journey to homeschooling.  We didn’t understand their importance right away (another story for another time), but our children enjoyed learning with them so much, that we quickly grew to love them!  So much so, in fact, that we began turning everything into a Unit Study – chemistry, biology, anatomy, fiction and non-fiction books, the Olympics, movies, Girl Scouts, and family trips (even a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada!).  We became an eclectic homeschooling family. I think the term eclectic fits our family better than relaxed, since every day is different, and there are many days where the learning is quite intense and doesn’t seem relaxed at all.

Why We Love Unit Studies

My family’s love-affair with Unit Studies began in October of 2008 with a free sample from  We wanted to inject a little bit of fun into our routine and found a Unit on Autumn and fall leaves that included literature, writing, math, earth science, chemistry, spelling, geography, vocabulary, art, hiking, computer knowledge, and probably a million other things I can’t remember!

  • We went to our local park to collect different leaves, then my children used the computer and some library books to identify the trees by the leaf shape and created a scrapbook of the identified leaves.
  • We used a map to find the peak color-change times in our country and in the process learned the location of all 50 states.
  • We went back to the same park to estimate and count the number of leaves per branch. That information was then used to guess which types of trees carried the most leaves, and which environment was more leaf-producing; a closely packed woods or a carefully landscaped park. 
  • There was an entire day spent studying photosynthesis, leaching the color out of the leaves with rubbing alcohol and coffee filters, learning which leaves contained which chemicals.
  • We looked at tree rings, seeds, bark, animals that rely on trees for food and shelter, and anything else they wanted to study.
  • We made some stained-glass leaves with wax paper, crayon shavings and an iron, read and wrote poetry about autumn, and had a lot of fun!
  • The children found a locally produced video at the library about autumn in the Smoky Mountains.  At the time, the Smoky Mountains were in our backyard, so we took multiple hiking trips into the park, and identified trees while we hiked.
  • We even took pictures of it all and created a family website to share our “schoolwork” with out-of-town family. It was a fantastic week!

We love how adaptable Unit Studies are; how creative our children could be; and most importantly, how much they enjoy learning when we used them!

Add and Subtract

There were some parts of the Unit that our children would find boring – so we skipped those.  There were some additional things we could do – so we added those. Unit Studies can be as simple or as complex as you want or need.  (As simple or as complex as your children want or need.)
Multi-level Unit Studies allow children of different ages to learn the same topics at the same time. They are adaptable to your children and your location.  We were blessed to live in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains during peak color-change time and took full advantage of it. We even managed to “sneak in” some Tennessee state history during one of our trips to the woods.

Where Are the Units?

There are many quality Unit Studies out there for a nominal fee or even free.  We found many Units that we changed rewrote, added to, subtracted from; made into whatever our children needed.  We also used some Units ‘as-is’. There are a LOT of resources out there.
Publishers’ websites usually have Teacher Guides available as a free download and can help you turn a novel into a Unit Study.  Lapbook templates and notebook pages can help you create a Unit Study on just about any topic.

What Makes a Good Unit?

A good Unit is engaging and helps your children want to learn.  The topic is not the most important part – if your children are learning and they want to do more learning, then it was a success!
This is far from a complete list, but we have used, adapted or created Unit Studies based on:
  • Literature -  The Long Winter, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, The Hobbit, Romeo & Juliet, The Indian in the Cupboard, Anthem, Atlas Shrugged, The Hunger Games Trilogy, 1984, Fahrenheit 451…
  • Seasons -  Autumn, Winter
  • The Winter Olympics 
  • Animals
  • Government & Elections
  • 50 States
  • Girl Scout Badges
  • Our own community when the Grandparents came to visit
  • Science -  Anatomy, Chemistry
  • Holidays -  Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving
  • National Whatever Day -  The National Holiday-of-the-Day or Person-of-the-Day
  • Trips -  Indianapolis & St. Louis, Colonial Williamsburg (w/ Jamestown & Yorktown), Hilton Head Island (w/ Savannah), Las Vegas
  • Join our Eclectic Family

Now that we have almost completed our homeschooling journey, I am working to make our original Unit Studies available to others, complete with ideas for adapting the Units.
Begin with a free course in How to Create a Unit Study (with a Sample) – the sample is a study on Bats.  This course shows you how to create a Unit Study with any topic:
The first Unit I have completed is a trip to Hilton Head Island and Savannah.  This one is perfect for turning a family vacation into a learning experience:
I am working on the rest of the Units and other courses as fast as I can!  
Full Disclosure
Becky’s freestyle assessments are PERFECT for eclectic homeschoolers like us!  My family has used her services since the 2010-11 school year when we moved back to Ohio.  It was a question she asked me a few years ago that prompted me to offer our original curriculum and Unit Studies to others.  So, I must say THANK YOU Becky for encouraging me over the years!
An eclectic home educator for 10 years, Michelle believes engaging your children in the process of planning, developing, and evaluating their own experiences will cultivate a lifelong love of learning. 
Eclectic learning lets you incorporate life into learning instead of dividing life from “school”.  This means all learning, such as family trips, chores, videos, music lessons, family game night, and the dinnertime discussion about the museum you visited last year all count as “school”.  You can help your children see how things fit together.  Since life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it isn’t divided into subjects and it only makes sense to learn-as-a-whole.
Operations Manager and Editor for SpearPoint Solutions, Michelle is also a contributing author to the book, Living a Wealthy Life: Stories of Gaining an Abundance in All Five Forms of Wealth.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Repost: The Joy of Journaling

  A question I get so often is how do I get my student to write?  Here is one idea.  It was posted last year at Ohio Homeschool Assessments.  

Writing. . . it can be almost be a bad word among home educators.  It is easy to feel you are not doing enough, and it can be a struggle with our students.   I want to share about the benefits of your student keeping a journal.  It is an old idea that might be a great fit for your student. 

First, there are some universal truths about writing and writers. 

1.  Few people are born great writers.  Really.  Most writers work very hard to develop their craft over time.  It is a tedious process.  To do this. . .

2.  Writers must write.  You can not become a writer by thinking about writing, dreaming about writing, or even reading others writing.  Though any of those things may help, you must write to become a writer. 

3.  Many famous writers have kept a journal or diary.  For instance, Franz Kafka, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain, Virginia Wolf, George Lucas, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Isaac Newton, Anne Frank, Madeleine L'Engle. . . 

“You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,” 

~Madeleine L'Engle

Having your student keep a journal is an excellent strategy to improve their writing.  A simple notebook or word processor is all you need to get started.  For most students I would simply set a timer for 15 minutes and tell them to write until it buzzed. 

Decide ahead of time whether this will be a journal that is only for the student, if it is one they plan to share with others, and if they want you to give feedback.  My daughter and I wrote back and forth in a journal to each other for many years.  My feedback kept her writing.  It also deepened our friendship

So whether you grab a loose-leaf notebook and fill it with paper, a composition book or a fancy journal, having your student keep a journal is a valuable way to encourage them to write.  

P.S.  Below I have included some fun ones I found on Amazon.  Just for fun.  

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Changing Questions. . .

I still remember when I decided to home educate.  It was a well thought through decision.  My husband and I talked about it extensively.  We extensively looked at  curriculum, we thoughtfully made sure our children had outside activities, and we made sure they had responsibilities at home.  We spent hours making things work.  But, the questions came.

Are you sure you can handle this? 

I mean you were a teacher, but all the kids will be in different places?  

What about socialization?  Aren't you worried?

Don't you think your kids will hate it?  

What about high school?  How are you going to complete labs?  

They will never get into college or get a scholarship.  

So we answered these questions over and over again.

Are you sure you can handle this?  I am pretty sure.  I have been handling having  them since they arrived.  I think this is a great choice for them.  We have really thought through this.

I mean you were a teacher, but all the kids will be in different places?    Well, yes they will all be in different places.  Just like when I taught, and all the kids were in different places academically.  They will learn to be independent learners.  We feel like they will be OK. 

What about socialization?  Aren't you worried?  Yes, we are worried about socialization that is why we are home educating.  :-)  We believe that life is lived with people of all ages and that is why we are home educating to give our kids that opportunity.  We believe parents are great role models.

Don't you think your kids will hate it?  Right now they are pretty excited, and we will take it a year at a time.

What about high school?  How are you going to complete labs?    Well, we are going to take it a year at a time, but there are online classes, co-op classes, and distance courses.  About labs, well there are co-ops and online labs.  You can also buy lab materials for home use.  (you would be surprised what you can buy online)  We have dissected a cow's eyeball, a cow's heart, a pig, a frog, and we have our own microscope.  We have beakers, a fire blanket, and all sorts of chemistry items.  Our kids have completed most of their labs successfully in our kitchen.  We are good.

Well I guess. . it just sounds so risky. Plus you know. . . 

They will never get into college or get scholarships.    Well. . that one I can finally answer. (Brag Alert)   Well our son got into University of Cincinnati,  Ohio State, Duke, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech,  and MIT with scholarships and aid.  Plus scholarships from the Elks, Coca-Cola, Samsung American Legion, P & G, National Merit, and other organizations.  He was also  one of 116 a Presidential Scholars for the United States, one of 3 for Ohio.  I feel like he did alright.

So I thought the questions had pretty much stopped. But, then I talked to my neighbor.

 I saw my neighbor and we were talking about graduation I told him our son was going to MIT and we homeschooled him.    The only question I got was. . . Can I send my kid down to your house to homeschool with you?   

As we graduate our students from high school I feel like I have some different things to talk about on the blog.  Let me know if there is something you would like to hear about.  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Guest Post: Internet Kids Road Trip

I was excited to learn about this book. Welcome Anna Blake to Ohio Homeschooling this week!

The story behind our family project started about 12 month ago when our home office computer was badly damaged by a ransomware virus. We lost most of our photos and important documents due to gruesome act of the hackers.

At the time, our son Max was only 6 months old, and some of the photos we lost were his newborn one’s. So, that virus not only damaged our files, it stole our most precious memories.

That’s when it hit me, in a world where electronic devices have become our best friends, it’s inevitable for our kids to follow our footsteps. As we all know, the online world is full of dangers, be it sex offenders, identity theft, or ransomware viruses, our kids are as vulnerable as ever. I guess because we just recently had our first kid, both me and my hubby became especially paranoid about kid safety. Plus, all those scary stories you see in the news on daily basis.

Did you know that law enforcement officials estimate that more than 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment?

After surveying dozens of parents that we personally knew with kids ages 6-10, we realized that 90% of them do not supervise their kids’ online activities, and those that do, do not educate their kids about risks associated with the online world. However, all of them showed interest in our idea of an educational book that talks to kids through a captivating storyline and colorful illustrations about the internet. I guess it’s easier for all of us to let some book educate our kids instead of us doing it in person :)

That’s how “Internet Kids - Road Trip”, a book about staying safe online, was born. From the getgo we’ve decided that both printed and electronic versions of the book will be absolutely free (we even pay for shipping). This way, we can get it into as many hands of little girls and boys as possible.

During the past few months, we’ve worked with a published kids book writer to come up with a storyline and address all safety concerns that we’ve collected from our mommy surveys. My husband and his very talented sister hand drew all characters and came up with the illustrations. For a while our home looked like a publishing house, with hand sketches all over my kitchen countertops, bathrooms and even under our pillows. Max would steal them from the office desk and try to hide pages whenever he could.

I’m happy to say that our first batch of 1,000 books is currently in print (YAY!) and we have a waitlist of schools that agreed to distribute them to their students. Still, that is just a drop in the huge ocean of readers nationwide that will hopefully benefit from it. Meanwhile, we’ve started to work on our next book series, focusing on another touching subject, kids bullying.

As Kofi Annan once said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

I wish all of you and your families to stay safe and have wonderful experiences such as family road trips :)

If you would like to get a free copy of “Internet Kids - Road Trip” book, please visit:

About Anna Blake
Anna is a stay at home mom, wife and owner of very demanding cat, from sunny Chatsworth, California. When she is not busy chasing her 2 year old around, you can find her trying out new salad recipes or re-watching favorite chick-flick movies.
Together with her hubby they educate kids and adults about internet safety through their website and recently created an educational children's book "Internet Kids - Road Trip".