Saturday, August 23, 2008

Scheduling the Easy Way - A 5 Step Plan

It's that time of year. Everyone is gearing up for school. All of the stores are having "back to school" sales on everything from school supplies, clothing and even furniture. Parents are anxious, students are feeling dread, and everyone's pocketbooks are getting thinner. BUT this need not be the case!

We can keep our spending under control and we can be prepared and confident for a new school year. We can even pass that enthusiasm onto our kids so that the sense of dread is replaced by a sense of anticipation and excitement. So let's get started.

But first, take a moment to read an archived article on the subject of How Not to Overspend on Curricula if you still have some purchasing to do and then click right back here to get your scheduling plans in place.

Step 1: Plan Your Subjects

Consider the ages and grades of your school children and decide which subjects they need to study this year. Obviously, you want to cover the basics primarily when your kids are still young - reading, writing and arithmetic. As they get older, you will eventually drop formal reading lessons and even handwriting assignments and begin to focus more on what they are reading and how they express themselves. Most students are ready for grammar and spelling by 3rd grade, if not earlier. Arithmetic will one day be replaced by algebra and higher math and science and history will become of greater significance to their studies as they progress through the years. At some point during your children's education, you may want to add in other subjects such as foreign language, logic, fine arts, debate, and geography. Did I miss anything?

But I hope that it is obvious that you do not want to try to cover all of these subjects with all of your students every year. It is just too overwhelming. Pick 5 or 6 subjects that your students are most in need of and let the rest go. These are the subjects that my children study at these grade levels:

Grades K-2 - Reading, Handwriting, Math, and History (w/narration)
Grades 3-6 - Math, Grammar, Spelling, History and Science
Grades 7-8 - Math, Grammar, Spelling, History, Science and Logic
Grades 9-12 - Well, lets just say that it gets to be quite a bit more! We'll cover higher math, literature, grammar, history, science, health, fine arts, debate, government, foreign language and various electives. But not all in one year!

By the way, we do our writing assignments across the curriculum so we do not separate it out as a separate subject. I hope that makes sense.

Step 2: Purchase Your Materials

Hopefully, you have already purchased the majority of the curricula, books and other materials that you plan on using this upcoming year, especially if you intend to start school sometime this month. If you have not, then you might want to hurry up and do so and perhaps even request expedited shipping. I am not your stellar example as I just placed all of my orders last week, but I also do not intend to start school until mid-September, so I should have plenty of time still to review the materials that will begin to arrive over the next 2-3 weeks and get my scheduling done before we start school.

If you have not decided on what curriculum you want to use, or have it narrowed down to 2 or 3 choices, then this is the time to ramp up your online and offline research and make some decisions.

Your online research includes checking out the websites of the curriculum providers that you are considering (do a Google search), reading reviews that have been posted online and asking questions on homeschool chat boards. Your offline research will include asking your friends' opinions, visiting your local homeschool bookstore and browsing through your favorite catalogs.
Some curriculum companies offer a "trial run", meaning if you don't like it after 30 or 60 days then you can return it for a full refund. You may want to consider this if you are still unsure which program to use for your children.

Step 3: Set Aside Some Time

Ideally, I would suggest that you find a weekend between now and when you start school to get away with your husband and get your final preparations in order. This is not exactly a cheap option, but priceless when it comes to the time that you will have to strategize with your spouse and get your goals and schedule out on paper. The place you would choose would need to fall somewhere between boring and exciting. Let me explain... if you just pick a motel down the road to "get away", most likely the view will not inspire you nor the surroundings intrigue you when you need to take a break and get out for a walk.

On the other hand, if you choose to head for the lake with your ski boat in tow, you might not get anything accomplished because who wants to think and strategize when you can be out waterskiing! My husband and I often head for a quaint inn on the Oregon coast which has breathtaking views, fantastic restaurants and not a whole lot to do but sit on the beach or take a walk through the foaming surf. It's an ideal place for us to talk, to dream, to set goals and to get our thoughts out on paper.

If you absolutely cannot get away for a weekend or even an overnighter, then consider scheduling an afternoon or two at the library. This will give you the time you need to focus without the constant interruptions of family life (as charming as those interruptions can be!).

Step 4: Open the Books

Bring all of the core books that you will be using this year with you on your scheduling day or weekend, as well as any teacher's manuals that came with your chosen programs. Bring, also, any books that you will be using for the first month or so of school. The tools that you have chosen for your children's education will help you to determine your daily and weekly schedules. Here's how...

Let's use a grammar book for our example. Let's say that there are 120 lessons in the grammar book. Take 120 and divide that by 36 weeks in the school year. Your answer is 3.33 and that means that your student will have to cover 3 and 1/3 lessons per week to finish the book in one school year. What this means to me is that I will need to schedule grammar for this child at least 3x per week. Perhaps a goal that you have for this child is that they catch up from last year. Then you might want to schedule 4 lessons per week. Or maybe you honestly don't care if you finish every last lesson in the book, then 3 days should suffice. You get the idea.

How about math? Let's say that the book only has 90 lessons. Well, 2 1/2 lessons per week may not be enough mathematical stimulation for this particular child. You may decide that you do not mind if your student gets ahead in this subject, so you bump it up to 4 lessons per week. These are decisions you will want to make for each student and each subject as you look through each of the core books and teacher's manuals that you will be using with your children this year.

Here are some suggestions for how many lessons to cover each week, but by no means are these hard and fast rules, so make your own decisions and feel confident about them based on your own goals that you have set for your children and the books that you have chosen to use this year.

Math - 4-5 days per week
Reading/Phonics - 5 days per week
Handwriting/Copywork - 4-5 days per week
Grammar - 3-4 days per week
Spelling - 2-3 days per week
Writing - 2-3 days per week
History - 3-5 days per week
Science - 2-3 days per week
Foreign Language - 2-4 days per week
Logic - 1-2 days per week

Step 5: Write it Out!

Now, by this time, you have invested some significant thinking time. You want to get your ideas out on paper so that you can continue to use this information all year long. You don't want to have to go through this process again this year unless you change your program or curriculum at some point during the year.

On a piece of paper, draw out boxes for a typical school week. You may not want to schedule your subjects for specific times of the day but prefer to simply schedule the order of the subjects. Either way is fine. Personally, I choose a start time for school, but after that we just keep plugging along until all of the scheduled subjects are completed for the day. We take breaks when necessary!

You can keep this schedule solely for school subjects or you may want to include chores and other weekly events on your schedule as well. Rework the schedule until you are satisfied with it and then type it up on the computer. Post your schedule once completed in a prominent place and place one in each child's school notebooks as well. You can't follow a schedule that you don't see!

Here are some examples of schedules from previous years. I don't know if they will be helpful to you at all because we are all so different and operate within our families differently, but I wanted to post them in case you can glean anything of use from them.

General School Schedule - list of subjects and order to be tackled
Specific Time Schedule - initials represent different children
Specific Week Schedule - for one child only

On this last schedule, I set time aside every Sunday evening to look ahead through the books and determine exactly what each child would be doing during that particular week. I typed in page numbers and specific activities onto the individual schedules that I kept for my two school children that I had at that time. I now have four children in school along with a toddler and a baby on the way. I will not be making these specific schedules for the children every Sunday night this year, but I will be looking ahead each Sunday to see what we'll cover during the week ahead to determine if I need any supplies, library books, etc.

Well, I hope that I haven't overwhelmed you and that you can appreciate how scheduling your school year in advance will alleviate most of your worrying and wondering about whether you are covering all that you should be this year. But please remember that your schedule and your plan are only tools to help you. You are not a servant to them, they are servants for you. If it's not working, revise it or ditch it altogether and start over. You are the teacher. Modify your schedule or your books to make them work for you.

Have a great school year and enjoy the process,

Terri Johnson
Knowledge Quest, Inc.
Make this the best year ever!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our three winners!

We held our drawing yesterday and these are the names that were drawn out of the "hat" (well, it was a bowl, but that doesn't quite sound right, does it?)

Devriesfam - Allie won the iPod Nano
Brittany (teacherbritt) - winner of $150 KQ gift certificate
Michelle Winter - winner of $150 KQ gift certificate

Congratulations ladies! Thank you so much for posting your reviews of our products at the Amazon and CBD websites. We are so grateful and hope that you enjoy your gifts. Thank you to the rest of you as well as you all posted approximately 80 reviews across those two websites covering over 10 of our books.

We'll do this again sometime as it was a whole lot of fun!

God bless,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

5 Essential Ingredients to Homeschooling Success

We’ve all seen it… or, at least, heard about it… the homeschooled child who wins the geography bee, or the one who graduates at the age of 15, or the one who excels in musical accomplishments…

Now, obviously, a student does not have to be homeschooled in order to accomplish one of the feats above, nor does every homeschooled child excel in such notable ways. However, every homeschooling parent desires for success in teaching their children at home and launching them into the world to become all that God has intended for them to be.

The flipside to this statement is that no one wants to fail when it comes to teaching their children at home. So, what are the five necessary ingredients to homeschooling success?

The first one is the desire to foster a closer relationship with each of your children and your kids with one another. If you don’t want to spend more time together and deepen these relationships (or, at least, want to want to spend more time together), then homeschooling may not be the best choice for you. However, I am sure that you have heard it said before that at the end of the day, no one is going to say, “I wish that I had spent more time at work… or by myself… or with my canary…” No, the universal regret that aging and dying people declare is their sadness over not spending enough time with their loved ones. Teaching your children at home is an amazing opportunity to spend more time with your dearest loved ones and have no regrets.

The second ingredient to homeschooling success is a teachable spirit on the part of the parent. This is essential because, like it or not, you will learn so much more teaching your own children than you ever did in school the first time around. So, you might as well like to learn.

On that same note, the third essential ingredient to successful homeschooling is creating a home environment that is conducive to learning. This may show itself differently in each of our homes, but the result is the same – a place where kids can learn and enjoy it.

A home that is conducive to learning may have quiet and cozy reading nooks, bookshelves crammed with great books, a listening corner complete with headphones and a beanbag chair, uncluttered smooth surfaces for writing, stacks of coloring/activity books and colored pencils, a place to gather together and talk about the day’s events. You get the idea… Create centers in your home that make learning fun and accessible.

The fourth ingredient for a successful homeschool is 2 hours of your time to devote to your children’s studies. Truly, when the one-on-one teaching method is employed in your home, you do not need all day in order to get things done. In fact, a child in K-2 grades might be finished with her schoolwork in as few as 45 minutes (of course, that probably does not include the time that you spend reading together because who can get enough of that!).

At the other end of the spectrum, you might not need that much time with your middle schooler or high schooler either, because they become such independent learners by this age. The kids that will need the majority of that time that you have designated for school – those full 2 hours – would be your students in 3-6 grades as math and grammar assignments might get a little more involved.

The final ingredient for homeschooling success is a library card. That’s right! With access to a huge roomful of books, a world of learning opportunities is at your doorstep. Let’s say that your child is interested in insects or flowers, electricity or magnetism, transportation or inventions… check out as many books as he can devour on the subject and then some more. Watch your child light up with the delight of learning.

With these 5 essential ingredients incorporated into your homeschool, you will experience successful learning in the lives of your children, because this is the measure of success – children that love to learn!

Enjoy those learning moments…

Terri Johnson

Co-author of Homeschooling ABCs – an online class starting this month for brand new homeschoolers. Don't let self-doubt, or lack of experience, rob you of the best first year possible! Sign up for class at

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Are you brand new to homeschooling?

Don't let self-doubt, or lack of experience, rob you of the best first year possible!

All you need are a few basic "how-to's" and your homeschool can be up and running in 48 hours or less. Would you be interested in a class that will show you, step-by-step, how to turn this first year of homeschooling into the best year ever? And receive over $200 worth of curricula from our partnering companies to boot?

Here's what is included with your class materials:

Free Bonus Gift #1 ($12.00 Value) Teaching Less While Your Child Learns More from Living Books Curriculum. This step-by-step book will show you how you can use living books to provide a quality education at an affordable price. The book includes such things as an explanation of the Seven Keys(TM) and Six Tools(TM) of a Living Books education, an overview of each subject , articles on narration, living books and planning a Charlotte-Mason style education.

Free Bonus Gift #2 ($29.00 Value) Dive into the ocean with Ocean Habitats (grades 3-6) and Under the Sea (preK-2) Project Packs from In the Hands of a Child. Each pack includes a Research Guide about the oceans of the world along with hands-on activities to complete a lapbook about oceans!

Free Bonus Gift #3 ($10.00 Value) Get started in writing with a gift from WriteShop. Included in this starter package is a 30-page lesson sample from WriteShop I (grades 6-10), an 8-day lesson from our brand-new early elementary WriteShop Primary, Book A (grades K-2) and StoryBuilders Sampler containing creative writing prompts for all ages!

Free Bonus Gift #4 ($7.95 Value)Foundations 1 Bible curriculum (Extra Big Sample). We believe that God's Word is essential for our children. Real homeschooling families want to read, study, memorize and apply the Scriptures together. We'll help you lay a firm spiritual foundation for your children.

Free Bonus Gift #5 ($36.00 Value) TEACH magazine is giving away the Mother Enrichment Package to our class members, which includes two digital issues of the magazine, an ebook entitled Organizing Happiness, and the "Queen of Her Castle" MP3 audio for your listening pleasure.

Free Bonus Gift #6 ($15.00 value) Teaching Science and Having Fun by Felice Gerwitz - a how-to-teach science in the home ebook that makes science fun and doable!

Free Bonus Gift #7 ($12.00 value)The Internet Scavenger Hunt - Introduce your kids age 12 and up to the Internet using's Internet Scavenger Hunt. Kids gather fun and weird facts about animals and geography as they crisscross the Internet using Google, after setting it to SafeSearch to screen out the bad stuff.

Free Bonus Gift #8 ($5.95 value) Get Organized! Easy Ideas to Make This School Year Great by Cindy Rushton

Free Bonus Gift #9 ($10.00 value) Big sample from The Schoolhouse Planner from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. 31 pages of helpful planning forms, lists, etc.

Free Bonus Gift #10 ($10.00 value) History Not Backwards! from TruthQuest History. Kids are right! To memorize the deeds and dates of dead people is the backwards, human-oriented history we learned. God is Creator: Past, Present and Future. So, history should show Him and His truths in convincing action!

Free Bonus Gift #11 ($5.00 value) Fifty Famous Stories Retold from Yesterday's Classics. A collection of many famous tales of ancient and modern times; some historical, some legendary, that have delighted children for generations. Included are such well-known favorites as King Alfred and the Cakes and Bruce and the Spider. The stories are admirably suited to inspire the young mind with lofty ideals and to give a taste for the best reading.

Free Bonus Gift #12 ($7.95 value) Values-Driven Discipleship: Biblical Instruction and Character Training Manual from Values Driven Family. As parents, we tend to react to our children's misbehaviors and fail to address the underlying heart issues. Values-Driven Discipleship offers sound teaching and Bible verses that help you to focus on what really matters: getting God's Word from the mind to the heart, so that behaviors are changed from the inside out!

Free Bonus Gift #13 ($10.00 value) Units from Far Above Rubies and Blessed is the Man by Lynda Coats. The Far Above Rubies unit study is designed to train girls of high school age to become the godly women our Lord wants them to be. It is based on Proverbs 31:10-31, and is designed to cover all subjects for a complete high school education, including many suggestions for expanding into specialized areas of interest. Blessed is the Man is a unit study based on Psalm 1. It is designed to train young men to fulfill their roles as future leaders in the Christian community and to be protectors, providers and priests for their future families.

Free Bonus Gift #14 ($37.00 value) LightHome Sampler of Manuscript Penmanship and LightHome Sampler of Cursive Penmanship. These e-books from LightHome Publications includes sample pages from each of their manuscript and cursive penmanship books on many different topics. It also includes some pages with complete alphabets, some coloring pages, word search puzzles, crossword puzzles, Bible verse posters, and articles with ideas for P.E., geography and more.

Free Bonus Gift #15 (over $50.00 value) Selected resources from Knowledge Quest - to be revealed!

If you can believe it, there may be even more, as our partnering companies WANT to get their curriculum into your hands as you begin this homeschooling journey.

Find out more here -

Are you a veteran, but have friends just starting out? Just pass along this web address to them.

In our next newsletter, we'll talk about Scheduling the Easy Way - A 5 Step Plan. If you still have some scheduling and organizing to do before school starts, you will want to read our next newsletter. Sign-up for our newsletter by sending an email to

Until next time...

Terri Johnson

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Drawing will take place next Friday instead

Hey, sorry about that, but I had to scoot out of town rather suddenly this past week and I did not have access to my computer or blog while I was away. And that means that I was unable to conduct the drawing because I just arrived home today (Saturday).

In an effort to make sure that everyone gets a chance to view the list before the drawing actually takes place, I will just push it out to next Friday. The reason is that I need to make a mention of it in the KQ newsletter first, so that reviewers get a chance to make sure their names are on the list. I wouldn't want to leave anyone out.

Soooo... check back here next Friday, August 15th. And the winners will be announced at that time (Lord willing, of course!).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Here are the names for our drawing

Yay, we are getting closer. We will be having our drawing for the iPod Nano and 2 $150 gift certificates this Friday, August 8th. Big day! We are so excited!

I have compiled the names that have been entered into our drawing and am listing them here below. I am not including email addresses for your privacy and security. I have many of your email addresses at my fingertips because you sent them to me or included them in your blog comment. I also have links to many of your blogs. So I am not really too concerned that I won't be able to get in touch with you if your name is drawn. However, probably your best bet will be to check back here on Friday to see if you have won 1 of the 3 prizes, if you have not heard from me yet to notify you.

Here are the names that are going into the hat:

Kathleen Tice
MeritK - 3 entries
Nancy (nmelk3)
Kathy Aprile
Kathryn (adventuresoflearning)
Bradley A. Foster
Judy Finkell
c hill - 3 entries
shannon (alto woman)
Brittany (teacherbritt)
Karla (fosterheartsathome)
ignite youth
Suehaven (Susie) Neubaur
coastkids - 3 entries
CC (C in me) - 2 entries
Suzanne in LA
Susan (gentle & quiet)
Michelle Winter - 3 entries
R Somerville
Kari P - 2 entries
Danielle Hull - 3 entries
kathie - 2 entries
Missy M.
jane bullivant
materursa (amanda)
nikowa - 2 entries
lisa (crazyforjesus)
susan - 2 entries
cyndi kane
Kelly Frohnauer
Heather Brianna - 4 entries
Donna Cameli
Brenda Howard - 4 entries
Carolyn Hinton - 2 entries
Rebecca Ponce - 4 entries
Carolyn Yohe
Dawn Brown
Dot Dittman
Dacia Foote
Sharon Horton
Kathy M
Sandy - 2 entries
Devriesfam - 4 entries
Lynne Botha
Tanya (the mom)
D. Sacco - 2 entries
Debbie Phillips
Tammy C

If you have left more than one review and I don't have that listed, or I have left out your name altogether, just leave me a comment here and I will get that fixed. And don't forget to check back on Friday to see if you are one of the winners!

God bless,