Online Tools for Homeschool Planning

*Disclosure: I received a free Homeschool Planet membership for review purposes and am being compensated for my time. I am not required to give a positive review.  As always,  I am sharing my honest opinion with you. This post contains affiliate links.

Online Tools for Homeschool Planning - four sites that work for me and keep my homeschool on course!

I am a pencil and paper kind of girl. I have a stack of yellow notepads filled with lists and ideas. I eventually need to implement those ideas however, and that’s where I make the switch to online planning tools. I use these four online planning tools to keep our homeschool humming.

Online Homechool Planner

This is my first year to use Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op and I can already tell it is going to be a game changer! What usually takes me a couple hours to accomplish was done in under 30 minutes with this online planner.

Homeschool Planet

I take a couple of days each summer to loosely plan out our entire year. I’ve learned to number our weeks instead of date them; it’s easy to shift our schedule in case of something like illness without messing up the calendar. It can get a bit frustrating because it never fails that I skip a day when planning out lessons. And of course I don’t notice until I’ve finished. Break out the eraser. *sigh*

My very favorite feature of Homeschool Planet is that I can effortlessly rearrange my plans. Skip a day during my planning session? I can simply pop in an extra day wherever I want. Miss a couple of days due to sickness? I can choose to shift all assignments by two days. There is also a feature that allows me to copy assignments from one child to another. This is very handy when scheduling something like Math, where everyone is doing the same lesson number on the same day.

Homeschool Planet Assignments

The planner has two parts – scheduled and unscheduled. I plug our group work into the scheduled section, and each child’s independent work into the unscheduled. I am able to add check boxes to the assignments so we can easily keep track of finished work.

The pic above is the calendar view. There is also a planner view that creates an assignment list for each child. I can then email or text the assignments, or print them out for my child to use as a checklist for the day or week. It should be a cinch at the end of the year to print out a copy for our portfolio evaluation.

Homeschool Planet Daily

Homeschool Planet has a FREE 30-Day Trial if you would like to play around with all of the features. I am not normally one to encourage others to spend money on extras (I have a website about homeschooling for free!), but I am making an exception for this planner.

IF you have the room in your budget, I believe it will make a big difference in organizing your school year and keeping it running smoothly. It will be particularly helpful for those of you homeschooling several kiddos.

Follow Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op:

Detailed Homeschool Planning

Since I like to piece together my own curriculum plan for many of our subjects, I need a place to map out the resources I want to utilize. I use Evernote to organize all of the links to worksheets, articles, and videos for the year. I add in checkboxes by each link and check them off as I assign them.

Evernote Biology

I also have a note in my Evernote School Planning notebook for pages to be printed. I compile the list during the summer as I’m planning, then spend a day or two printing. All the links & files are on one page so I don’t have to waste time hunting it all down when I’m ready to print.

Evernote Print

I tried using Evernote to send weekly assignments to my teens, but it proved a bit tricky because it is very easy to accidentally erase lines when trying to click on them. I’ll stick to using it as a brainstorming tool for now.

Seasons & Holidays

Pinterest is hands-down the best way to save seasonal and holiday ideas for our homeschool. The key to using it efficiently is to have very specific boards. You don’t want to have to wade through one huge Holiday board each month.

pinterest collage

I have a homeschool AND a regular board for each holiday season. My homeschool boards are for crafts and lesson plans that I want to use during school hours. My regular boards are for recipes, home decor, and traditions.

Take a look at my Pinterest boards to get a better idea how I use them. The holiday boards are about halfway down. You will notice that I also have boards for each subject – these are for saving ideas that catch my eye but may or may not be used.

Brainstorming the Year

Sometimes I come across a website or curriculum that I might want to use for the next school year, or even further down the road. I create a LiveBinder for each school year, make a tab across the top for each subject, and save the webpage of interest.

LiveBinders

I have a LiveBinder button in my toolbar that allows me to easily add a site to one of my online binders. One thing I like about them is that I can view all of the webpages inside the binder without having to  load new pages. It’s very easy to flip through each summer to see if there is something I want to use.

I made my 2012-2013 binder public so you can get an idea how it works. It is also a great way to organize recipes or holiday ideas if you are not a big fan of Pinterest.

Use What Works

Each of these online homeschool planning tools has a time and place in my year. I’ve tried many others and these are the ones that work for me, but that doesn’t mean they will all work for you. Give them a try and see!

I am not an expert in most of the tools – I spend quite a bit of time searching through the help sections. I will be glad to answer questions about them if I can! Just leave a comment below.

What online tools do you use to organize your homeschool?

Spring Subscribe

Everything You Need to Know Fact Cards

This post contains affiliate links.

Everything You Need to Know in a Box

My youngest child adores fact cards. We have a basket full of colorful flash cards from the Target Dollar Spot. Several books filled with animal fact cards sit on a homeschool shelf. She loves looking and touching and learning.

*Disclosure: I received a free set for review purposes and am being compensated for my time. I am not required to give a positive review.  As always,  I am sharing my honest opinion with you.

Sweetpea actually did a little dance when I opened up our box of Everything You Need to Know Fact Cards from Silver Dolphin Books.  They were developed in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute. There are two levels of these beautiful cards available: Grades K-1 and Grades 2-3. Be sure to enter the giveaway below!!

Everything You Need to Know 1

Using Fact Cards for Summer Exploration

I’ve learned to pay attention and take note when my daughter starts asking questions about certain cards. That is my clue to use those particular cards as a jumping off point for further exploration. I can then hunt up some videos, craft projects, and recipes to go along with the cards.

Summer break is the perfect time to pull out a box of Everything You Need to Know Fact Cards. Choose a place to start and then hop on over to Pinterest to find some fun crafts and activities. Maybe even do a theme a week.

Everything You Need to Know 3

For example, let’s say you choose the dinosaur cards from the Grades 2-3 set. Everyone is talking about dinosaurs because of a certain blockbuster movie. 😉 For Dinosaur Week, you could make dinosaur ice eggs, excavate some salt dough dinosaur bones, and eat some fossil cookies. If you are a “mean” mom, you can even assign a dinosaur writing project. 😀 (Note: the dinosaur cards do not contain dates, so you are free to tailor them to your beliefs.)

Coming up with themes is often the hardest part of planning a fun summer. The Everything You Need to Know cards solve that problem.

Everything You Need to Know 4

Fact Cards as Kindergarten Curriculum

My favorite use for the Everything You Need to Know Fact Cards would be as an inexpensive Kindergarten or First Grade curriculum. Simply add in a math and a language arts program. If you choose those from my list of free homeschool curriculum links, you can create a a complete Kindergarten or First Grade curriculum for under $20!

There are a couple of ways to divide up your cards for the year. You can do topical studies by working your way through one subject at a time, or you can study cards from several different sections at a time. You could also assign subjects to different days – Monday is geography, Tuesday is science, etc.

Fact Cards 2

The durable cards are tabbed and labeled at the top. You can just stick the cards you’ve used in the back of the box each day without the headache of having to sort them back out at the end of the year, as long as you keep the topics together.

Once you have decided on the cards that you will use for the school year, you can turn once again to our good friend Pinterest to add in worksheets and activities. I chose a few categories from the K-1 Box and hunted up some fantastic Pinterest boards for each one to get you started.

Space/Solar System   1, 2, 3, 4 

Five Senses   1, 2, 3, 4

Plants   1, 2, 3, 4

Money   1, 2, 3, 4

Colors   1, 2, 3, 4

Animal Habitats   1, 2, 3, 4

States   1, 2, 3, 4

Continents   1, 2, 3, 4

Weather   1, 2, 3, 4

Parts of the Body   1, 2, 3, 4

Those are only about a third of the categories between the two boxes, so you could realistically get several years out of them.

Homeschool Kindergarten for Under $20

Be sure to check out the Silver Dolphin blog for more activities! Follow them below for fun product updates and freebies.

Giveaway

Silver Dolphin is giving away 10 of the Everything You Need to Know sets. You can choose either the K-1 or 2-3 set. Open to U.S. addresses only.

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum for High School English

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum

*Disclosure: I received a free set for review purposes and am being compensated for my time. I am not required to give a positive review.  As always,  I am sharing my honest opinion with you.

Sometimes I really miss our early years of homeschooling, when our schooling had a decidedly Charlotte Mason flair. Our days were spent reading lovely books and exploring nature. Then came high school.

I realize it is very possible to apply Charlotte Mason’s principles to a high school curriculum plan. However, I am a non-multitasking momma of five kiddos that range from kindergarten to twelfth grade. It’s just not going to happen.

What I HAVE done is try to avoid boring textbooks as much as possible when choosing curriculum for my high schoolers. We definitely fall into the Eclectic category. The downside to this is that I worry about gaps in their education because we are not just going step-by-step through a book.

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum has really helped to bridge that gap for us.

PAC English IV

My twelfth grader has been working her way through English Literature and Philosophy. Instead of one large book, each of the four chapters has a text workbook and an activity workbook. There is also a Teacher’s Key with activity keys, quizzes, quiz keys, tests, and test keys. It is encouraging for my daughter to be able to work towards finishing one book and starting the next.

Study literary themes using historical texts

This English IV course studies historical authors who were “firsts” in their fields. Their writings are used to study literary themes, enhance vocabulary, and build moral character. The activity workbook is a good mix of multiple choice, discussion, and essay questions. *You can view samples at the bottom of this page.

These are just a few of the writers covered in the first chapter:

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Phyllis Wheatley
  • Thomas Paine
  • Anne Bradstreet
  • George Washington
  • Samuel Adams
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The reading is meaty and meaningful, and the assignments really make my daughter think about what she is reading instead of just regurgitating information.

PAC samples

PAC is not just for Advanced Homeschoolers

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum courses are advanced, but that doesn’t mean they are only for students pursuing an accelerated education. My daughter is not college bound at the moment. She will be interning with my husband after she graduates. But we don’t want her to take the easiest path just because she doesn’t need the extra credit. We want her to stretch her mind and, more importantly, strengthen her character. I simply break up each activity section into what I think she can handle in a day. I love the flexibility!

Another benefit to the individual chapters is the ability to purchase only what I need. I decided to give PAC a trial run with my tenth grader, so I ordered chapter one of the English Composition Skills course and also the digital Teacher’s Key. (I can’t wait to get it!) If it works for her, I will purchase the entire set next year.

More details about Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum

The PAC curriculum is also available in digital format through “Audio Enhanced Textbooks” which read aloud to students while simultaneously highlighting the text on the computer screen, smartphone, or tablet.

PAC is in the process of incorporating QR codes into all of their courses, allowing the students to access extra content via smartphone. As of now, the only course with this technology is biology.

Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum offers these discounts:

40% off for

  • homeschool groups (minimum purchase $1000)
  • single parents

20%  off for

  • ministry families
  • military families
  • farmers and ranchers
  • first responders
  • foster parents

Call Paradigm at 325-649-0976 for a discount code to use during the checkout process if you fit into one of these categories.

I really look forward to adding Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum to our school lineup next year!

Connect to Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum:

January Subscribe

Hands-Off (for Mom) Homeschool Writing Curriculum

Essay Rock Star Online writing Course

Non-fiction writing. It is the thorn in my homeschool side. I had no problems writing papers in high school, so it came as a surprise that writing is such a difficult subject for me to teach. There is no black-or-white answer key when it comes to grading an essay. I also find it hard to deliver constructive criticism to my little writers without crushing their spirits.

*Disclosure: I received this Essay Rock Star class at no charge and am being compensated for my time. I am not required to give a positive review.  I always share my honest opinion with you. This post contains my affiliate link.

When offered a chance to review one of the Essay Rock Star online courses from Fortuigence, my 9th grader volunteered for the chance to ditch the writing book for a few weeks. 

The Basics of the Essay Rock Star Online Writing Courses

Lily Iatridis, the founder of Fortuigence, has multiple degrees and more than a decade of classroom experience. She acts as a personal writing coach for these self-paced online courses. 

The Essay Rock Star Course is  a five step program that covers all the basics for high school requirements and college entrance exams. It covers the following essays, which can also be taken as individual classes if you just want to work on a specific style.

My daughter chose The Expository Essay as her course, which is broken down into seven lessons and assignments. She had to submit a sample of her writing as a pre-assessment.

How It Works

The student logs in and accesses the classroom. After choosing the current lesson, she watches a video, reads or listens to the lesson, and submits the assignment. Ms. Iatridis then emails corrections and suggestions. The student cannot move on to the next lesson until this assignment is fine-tuned. Extra help is available anytime throughout the course.

fortuigence classroom

What We Liked 

~ Writing Mentor ~

Lily Iatridis is very kind but also direct. Many of the video lessons that we’ve done in the past were so scripted that they became monotonous, but watching her videos is like sitting across the table from her and having a conversation. My daughter felt like she formed a relationship with Ms. I (how she signs her emails). Ms. I made sure to say something encouraging in every email that she sent.

~ Examples ~

There are plenty of pdfs provided to show examples of what is being expected. It is very helpful to be able to print out a sample outline when having to create one of your own. 

~ Multiple Ways to Learn ~

Each lesson has an instructional video and a written lesson. There is also an audio version of the lesson. Links are given for the course rubric, examples, and writing organizers. Need more help? Click the “Ask the Instructor” button.

~ Self-Paced ~

There is absolutely no insistence to speed through the course. No timer. No due dates. It took some of the pressure off of my reluctant writer. 

~ Mastery ~

There are no grades given for the assignments. Instead, the student must master each step before being allowed to advance to the next lesson. We use the mastery approach in our homeschool for most of our subjects, so this really appeals to me.

~ Hands Off ~

It was SO nice to be able to step away from the writing boxing ring. There were a couple of times when my daughter asked for my opinion on her assignments and I almost stepped in until I remembered … “Nope! Turn it in and see what Ms. I has to say.” . How wonderful to feel confident that she was receiving the instruction she needed.

The Downside

You knew there had to be one, right? We had a bit of a struggle keeping on track since there are no deadlines. Admittedly, this had to do with summer starting and our usual schedule being out of whack. It is NO fault of the curriculum. Just be aware, if you have a lollygagger or day dreamer, that you will need to stay on top of it with some sort of dedicated time for writing.

Thoughts from the Teenager

  • She enjoyed interracting with a real person that she could contact if she needed help.
  • She understood exactly what was expected from her.
  • “I still don’t love writing, but this is my favorite writing program so far!” (This is the first one she’s actually liked!)

Essay Rock Star

BACK TO SCHOOL SALE

All of the Fortuigence Essay Rock Star Courses are 25% off if you purchase by August 18th using the code: 505-0-1520893

There is a 100% Money Back Guarantee, good for up to 14 days once the course is started.

GIVEAWAY

Fortuigence is giving away an Essay Rock Star short course (winner’s choice). Contest ends 8/22/2014, 11 pm EST.

Click the image below to fill out the entry form. 

Essay Rock Star Giveaway

 

You might be interested in these Fortuigence freebies:

Connect with Fortuigence:

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Write from History: A Writing Curriculum for Kids Who Don’t Like to Write

write from history

My 5th grade son dislikes writing. He would say “hates” if I let him. He’d rather be whacking something, taking it apart, or building it in Minecraft (where he would then whack it and take it apart).

Finding Write from History was like a breath of fresh air. It is a Charlotte Mason writing curriculum that uses primary source documents to teach writing, grammar, and history.

There are four books from which to choose:

The two levels cover grades first through fifth, but can be used on into middle school due to the upper level writings included in the books. The difference in the two levels is the reading difficulty and copywork style. You can pick manuscript or cursive. The readings are in the form of historical narratives, primary source documents, poetry, and cultural tales. A grammar section is located in the back of the book with lessons for color-coding the copywork. We have a grammar curriculum that we love so this one was a bit too basic for my son, but it would be a great fit for a beginner grammar course. Update: Brookdale House now offers Sheldon’s New Primary Language Lessons if you want to add a more formal grammar curriculum.

toc

Each lesson includes these activities:

  • Reading
  • Oral Narration
  • Copywork
  • Grammar
  • Dictation

As a member of the Write from History launch team, I chose to review Write from Medieval History Level 2 Manuscript Models. We will be moving into this time period after the first of the year, and though my son writes beautifully in cursive, I didn’t want him to have to concentrate on that aspect. In fact I didn’t address his handwriting at all. I figure it will improve as he gets used to the longer copywork passages.

copywork

A few of my favorite things:

FlexibilityThis is a history supplement, so you just browse through the table of contents to find a passage that matches what you are studying. You can work your way from start to finish, but you don’t have to. The grammar is broken down into a new part of speech each month and works with any lesson in any order. I’ve always combined as many subjects and ages as possible in our homeschool (one of the reasons I love Charlotte Mason). These lessons are easily adapted for multiple ages because you have the freedom to structure them any way you want.

Scheduling- A detailed 5-day suggested schedule is included, as well as a couple of optional schedules.

Definitions- Many Charlotte mason newbies get hung up on the differences between narration, dictation, and copywork. There are a couple of pages of helpful definitions and examples to help you straighten it all out.

Interest Level- Because we aren’t starting medieval history for another month or so, I let my son browse through the table of contents and pick what he wanted to read. (He chose his first selection because it was one of the shortest copywork assignments. Ha!) I knew we had a winner a few minutes later when I heard the words that are music to this momma’s ears, “Hey Mommy! Did you know….?”. And while he still doesn’t like to write, he enjoys seeing exactly what is expected from him so that he knows when he is done.

definitions

A couple of my not so favorite things:

Lack of Answer Key for Grammar- Answer keys make my job so much easier, but a little birdie told me there could be one in the works. 😉

Too Much Flipping- It can get a little awkward switching from front to back to look at the grammar lessons or optional exercises, but there is an easy fix for that–> get the eBook! I will definitely go the eBook route for future courses. Super simple to pick the topic I want and print it out when I need it.

The Write from History books are priced at $22.99.

Your reluctant writer with thank you!!
(Or maybe not, but I bet they will no longer hate writing.)

I received a free book for the purpose of giving my honest review. No other compensation was given. My affiliate link is used in this post – thank you for supporting my site through any purchase you make!