50 States Progress Trackers

Our 50 States memorization work is coming along nicely, alhamdulillah. My 7th grades is working her way through memorizing the 50 state names, capitals, and postal abbreviations, as I mentioned in my 10 Ways to Learn the 50 States post.

Our State Study Mastery Goals:

  • Correctly identify a given state on a blank outline map (and/or on state shape flashcards)
  • For a given state, give its capital
  • For a given state, spell its capital
  • For a given state, give its two letter postal abbreviation
  • For a given capital, give its corresponding state
  • For a given capital, spell its corresponding state

My daughter studies them on her own each day with the help of the free Sheppard Software and then later on in the day I quiz her. Besides quizzing her on where each state is, I also give her dictation to help with the spelling and capitalization rules and that has helped greatly because she is more conscious of correctly capitalizing the capital names than she was before we started.

To help keep on track, we've done a few things to track her progress:

  • Progress map - as she learns the state name and it's location, capital name, and postal abbreviation, she colors in the state on a blank outline map (in this case, she studies them by region so she colors in regions as she masters them--3 more regions to go, woo-hoo!):

  • 50 States Progress Tracker - I created this so that not only does it act as a tracker, but also a reference chart should she need it.  As she learns a state, she records the capital name and its postal abbreviation. When she has mastered each of these pieces of information, she can check it off on the tracker:
50 States Progress Tracker

It also acts as an aid for me when I am quizzing her so that I don't have to sit there and think up a state name and capital off the cuff.

Maintaining the Knowledge

Once/as the states have been memorized, it will be important to keep reviewing them on a regular basis to commit them to long term memory.  So, I'm borrowing a review system idea that I have seen used for things like memorizing scripture.

Basically, once a fact is known, review it:
  • Daily for five days
  • Then, choose an odd or even day and review the fact for a whole week on odd or even days
  • Next, choose a day of the week, say Sunday, and every Sunday for a month, review that fact
  • Finally, choose a day of the month (say the 26th) and on the 26th of each month review that fact.  
Since we are studying states by the region, I would keep them chunked together and review the capital name, state name, location on a map and postal abbreviation on assigned days.

You can make the review system easier to follow by using index cards with tabbed dividers marked (daily, odd, even, one for every day of the week, and then 1-31 tabs). Then, you would simply make a card for each state and move the card to the appropriate tabbed section).

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Order of Operations (PEMDAS) Graphic Organizer

A graphic organizer I made for my daughter. There is space in the right column for students to give an example.
Order of Operations Graphic Organizer

Order of Operations Graphic Organizer

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Operations with Integers Graphic Organizer

This graphic organizer gives rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing with integers.
Operations with Integers

 I left a few spaces for my daughter to respond such as to write examples or fill in the signs.

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Classifying Verbal Expressions by Operation - Graphic Organizer

Students classify verbal expressions. Comes with a list of verbal expressions.  

For older students, I stumbled upon this gem:

The first page of the download gives example English phrases translated into algebraic expressions:

The second page gives a mega list of English terms and shows the operation they represent

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Algebraic Expressions Graphic Organizer

Algebraic Expression: a mathematical phrase that contains variables, constants, and operations

Coefficient: a number multiplied by a variable

Variable: an unknown value represented by a letter or a value that varies

Operation: an action or procedure such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division

Constant: a value that stays the same (a standalone number)

Term: variables/constants separated by plus or minus signs

I adapted this graphic organizer from a foldable at the Equations Freak blog.  I love the foldable but my kids don't get so excited over them, so I just made something they could put in their notebooks. However, I generally have them cut out the graphic organizers and glue into their notebooks as I think it makes them stand out more.

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Real Numbers Graphic Organizer

Real Numbers Graphic Organizer

Natural Numbers:
(the counting numbers) 
1, 2, 3, ....

Whole Numbers:
0, 1, 2, 3.... (the natural numbers and zero)

...-3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, ....
the natural numbers, whole numbers and negative whole numbers

Rational Numbers:
A number that can be expressed as a fraction or ratio
e.g. 1/4, 1.5

Irrational Numbers:
cannot be written as a simple fraction
e.g. 3.1415926535897932384626433832795.....  (pi)

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Absolute Value & Opposites

Definition of absolute value:
distance from zero


  • | | is the symbol for absolute value
  • absolute value is never written with a "+" or "-" sign 

|4| = and |-4| = (I gave my daughter several examples and she had to find the absolute value, but initially I was going to have her give her own examples.

Pictorial representation:

Here is a vocabulary graphic organizer I made for my 7th grader:

 Absolute Value Graphic Organizer

10 Ways to Learn the 50 States

My 7th grader's homeschool program doesn't start until September 1 and she's been bored lately so this week we picked up with memorizing the 50 states, their capitals, and their 2 letter postal abbreviations.

At first she was just using the great free online software at Sheppards Software's USA Games to learn and drill the states and capitals everyday.  She's learning them by regions. Then, at some point each day, I orally quiz her.  It's being going very well, alhamdulillah, but she still had a lot of time on her hands (even with other subjects she's been studying) so I decided to branch out and have her try other activities.  So here are some activity ideas for learning the 50 states:

Play Games
Drill daily with games at Sheppards Software's USA Games. There are also some quiz games at Seterra. We start off with the Sheppard's Software because I like the way it breaks the quizzes down into several regions so it's a little more manageable. Seterra does break down into regions but fewer so we typically play Seterra once my kids have learned a great deal of states.

Give dictation daily on the state names, capitals, and two letter postal abbreviation.  You can give a state name and have your student write it down. Then have them write down the state's capital and two letter abbreviation. You can change it up and give them the state capital the next time and have them supply the other two pieces of information, etc.  Giving dictation or having kids write the names and capitals is a great way to help with learning/reviewing capitalization (as I have found out).

State Shape Flashcards
Drill student with state shape flashcards (cards with only the state shape on it and student must identify the state. You can also have them give the capital and postal abbreviation).
  • I found some neat State Shape electronic Flashcards at Quizlet. These are neat because not only are they flashcards but there are a few games that you can play as well. (I love Quizlet!)
  • Printable State Shape Flashcards at Squishlogic - these are simple and old schooly feeling but neat. You cut them out so that they are two sided cards and on one side is a state shown in blue and the surrounding states are outlined. On the flip side is the name of the state name and capital.
Learn the Two Letter Abbreviations of Each State
Geographic Clue Cards
Make up a set of cards with geographic clues (such as which state is directly north of California, or which three states are bordered by the Pacific Ocean on their west coasts).  You can number each card and cut them out and have student randomly select a card and give the answer to the clue. Or, you can just leave the card set intact on a sheet of paper and have student use a random number generator to pick card numbers. I hope to have a set of geographic clue cards available here, but I am leaving it as a learning activity for my daughter to create them, in shaa Allah......

Region or State Mini books/Notebooks
A fairly common activity is to have students create a 50 states notebook with facts about each state, usually a state per page.  I've tried this in the past and we didn't get too far so I decided to try this time by having my daughter create a book of some sort of regions (since she is learning the states by region with the Sheppard Software). Some suggestions for this are to make mini books for each region and it would include each state in the region and facts about it and a shape picture of the state). Another idea is to make posters/brochures for each region where each poster or brochure features the states in the region and some facts about the region and each state.

You can google and find many free state notebooking pages/books.  

Learn the Capital Names
My daughter is using Sheppard Software to learn these and I quiz her on them daily.

Current Events
Find a current event for each state and summarize it and show how it could affect your or what you think about the events that unfolded.

Progress Map
As your student learns different states, have them color the mastered states in on a blank outline map. It can be very encouraging for them to see their progress.

Map Drill Worksheets
  • You can do the traditional map drills by giving  your student a blank USA map and having student fill in the names of the states. Or you can give your student a blank numbered outline map and have him or her write the states according to the numbers. I don't generally do these type of drills as it requires printing out a lot of maps (unless you perhaps use a plastic page protector and dry erase marker). A variation of this would be to use the blank numbered outline map, have student draw from number cards (1-50) or randomly generate a number and whatever number they draw, they find the number on the map and write the state's name (capital name and abbreviation can also be written).
  • Another type of drill is to give a state, capital name, or 2 letter abbreviation, and your student gives the other two missing pieces of information (e.g. You say or have written "California" on a worksheet, student must give/write the capital name and 2 letter abbreviation. ) You could make this into a worksheet or do it orally.

So these are the ways we are currently using to memorize the 50 state names, capitals, and postal abbreviations.

Do you have any special activities that you have done to learn the 50 states? 
If so, please share in the comments to give others ideas!

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Tired of Fishing Around for School Supplies?

I've got a lot of kids at home--six of schooling age. That means a lot of school supplies. And it means a lot of lost school supplies.

Or a lot of time wasted trying to find those school supplies.

That's why I was excited to be accepted into the BzzAgent campaign to try the Big Pen pencil case for free in exchange for my review.

The Big Pen pencil case is one of the products in the Designed by Students product line available exclusively at Staples which were, well, designed by students---middle school students.

It's hard to keep up with things like erasers, highlighters, and pencil sharpeners. The Big Pen pencil case has all of those and more!  It's 5 school supplies in 1:

  • A zipper pocket
  • A highlighter
  • A pencil sharpener
  • An eraser
  • and of course, it's a pencil case
The Big Pen Pencil Case

Zipper Pocket
The zipper pocket opening is about 5 inches long and the pocket is about 1 inch deep. The zipper pocket can hold small things like paper clips or staples.

The eraser is a big, thick, chunky eraser that sits on the end of the pencil case. You can erase with it on the pencil case or take it off, but for us, it seemed easier to take it off.  And it erases fairly well.

Pencil Sharpener 
The pencil sharpener sits directly under the eraser and you can sharpen pencils with it on the pencil case or you can take it off. Since it sits under the eraser and the blade is on the top, the eraser portion helps keep the shavings in  and you can just twist the base that the eraser sits on to empty the pencil shavings. 

At the tip opposite the eraser is a mini highlighter. The highlighter pen portion unscrews from its pen cap and you can use it like a normal highlighter. I didn't know it unscrewed at first so it was hard to use until we realized it unscrewed. 

Pencil Case
With all the cool stuff, you may forget that it is a pencil case. It held about 6 writing utensils in there comfortably and it also probably depends on the thickness of the pens or pencils you put in there. The only thing I didn't like about the pencil case portion is that the highlighter pen part extends up into the pencil case area in the center so you have to make sure that you place tall pencils (like unsharpened ones) to the sides and not in the center. Not a deal breaker, just one of those things.

The Verdict
The Big Pen pencil case is a nifty idea. It has several essential homeschooling supplies right in one easy spot. Due to its cylindrical shape, it's easier to grip and carry over a traditional pencil case or box. It's easy to toss into a backpack and find and grab it quickly.

However, there are two drawbacks for me.  The first is that the center portion of the pencil case is made out of fabric. And it gets dirty. I tried wiping it with a sponge and it did get cleaner, but some stains did not come out.  It's a bright yellow color so stains show up easily.  The second drawback is that it's on the expensive side for me. It currently sells at Staples for $8.99 which is real pricey considering I have so many kids. But honestly, it would be pricey for me with just 1 kid. You could get a pencil box and the supplies it holds together at the dollar store for less than the price of the pencil case. But, it is unique and handy, and I think it, and the other products in the line would make great gifts for students.

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Decorating Your Homeschool Study Space

Decorating Your Homeschool Study Space

Whether you have a dedicated classroom, or a small corner of a room, enhancing your homeschool area with "goodies" can help provide a more enriching, motivating and instructional experience.  I currently don't have anything up as I have limited space (but even with this constraint I still manage to put up a few things usually so that could change in the next few weeks). But over the years, I have employed a variety of resources to pep things up and I wanted to share some ideas. Before I present them, though, I wanted to reiterate from my Getting Started Homeschooling post that these things are not mandatory. Learning still happens regardless of whether you have a spiffy decked out room or not.

So onto the list. A few years back, I surveyed fellow members of one of my homeschooling groups and they came up with some great ideas:

  • clock (regular or teaching)
  • wall calendar display
  • alphabet charts and strips (English, Arabic, Spanish, etc)
  • counting charts, 100s charts, skip counting charts
  • dry erase boards
  • felt board
  • reference posters (measurements, time tables, fractions....)
  • shapes posters
  • colors posters
  • science posters such as a periodic table, skeleton diagram, planets chart or poster
  • maps (US, world, state)
  • social studies posters (such as branches of the government, important dates in  history)
  • word wall for sight/high frequency words
  • student artwork, completed student projects
  • inspirational quotes (for kids and mom/dad)
  • progress charts
You can rotate items as students need them (for example, once math facts are mastered, remove that chart and replace with a new concept that needs to be mastered). You might add in items based on seasons or holidays.

What's on your walls?
Do you have items on your walls/in your study area that aren't listed? Please share in the comments to give others ideas!

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I've Decided to Homeschool, Now What?!?!? - A Guide to Getting Started Homeschooling

So you've decided that homeschooling is for you (or, at least that you want or need to give it a try). You're probably feeling overwhelmed and/or confused as to what your next steps should be (been there, done that).  In many ways, you are fortunate because there is a wealth of information out there. When I started homeschooling, there were just a handful of sites that offered advice and information on homeschooling; the opposite is thankfully true today, alhamdulillah. I've gotten asked various questions over the years regarding how to get started, so I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring as well.

Below I outline a series of steps for getting started homeschooling.  Except for the first step (which you may have done already), you could really do them in another order.  I just enumerated them by what was one logical sequence to me.

You may want to get a notebook or even a binder (probably better) started because during this endeavor to get started, you'll come across a lot of information and you want to stay organized so that you can refer back to that information as needed. (Organization is a skill you will definitely want to try to master during homeschooling, trust me).

1. Check Homeschooling Requirements for Your Locale

States and provinces differ on their homeschooling requirements but it is usually on this level that you want to start looking for information as to what is expected of you.  In some states, like mine, you must register as a private school to homeschool independently, in others you may simply have to register as a homeschool. Some states require portfolios and attendance records to be submitted regularly throughout the year, some don't. In some states you may have to meet with a teacher. You should be able to find out what is expected of you as a homeschooler, by visiting your state's department of education website.  In other countries, I've noticed that these are sometimes called the ministry of education. You can google state education departments or stop by this site which currently has links to each state's education department websites.

Binder Tip: You may want to set up a tab/divider with this information in your binder (perhaps labeled "Legal Requirements" so you can refer to it when you need it.  For my state, you have to fill out an affadavit with your school information so this is a handy place to keep a copy of it.

2. Find Out What You "Should" Teach 

Once you know what is expected of you legally as far as homeschooling, the next thought that probably comes to mind is "What should I be teaching?" Well, you are the educator, principal, superintendent of your homeschool, so in essence, you have control over what you will teach.  Some states require certain subjects to be taught, so you'll probably want to begin this portion of the search back at your state education department if you didn't already come across this information.

The typical core courses for education are: math, English, social studies, and science. In high school, students will also take electives and in lower grades, art and programming are common "extra" classes. You could add sewing, home economics, and religious studies etc. One resource that has been very valuable over the years for me in deciding what specifically to teach, is the World Book's Course of Study section where it not only lists the typical classes taken per grade, but also lists "standards," that is, specific topics and skills or expectations for a given grade level (Preschool to Grade 12).   Other resources that I have used to see what is generally taught at different grade levels are online table of contents of textbooks.  
A Quick Word About Grade Levels:
In the course of homeschooling, you may very well find that your student is "on grade level" for his/her age in some topics and behind or ahead of grade level in others.  This is VERY NORMAL in homeschooling. SimpleHomeschool.net has a great article on Stepping Outside the Grade Level which I highly recommend you read. The best approach is to tailor your homeschool curriculum toward each individual child. If he/she would be in 4th grade, but needs 5th grade English or 3rd grade math, then that's what you should give him or her. You can use traditional grade levels as a starting guide, but don't feel bound to them by any means. As the Homescholar put it:
"Focus on providing a curriculum that is challenging and not overwhelming. Be sure to keep it academically rigorous and encourage them to do their best, but guard against burn out and overwork that can lead to frustration."
One beauty of homeschooling is that you can choose the materials to accurately match your student's level in each subject.

Binder Tip:Label a section of your Binder, "Course of Study" and put the information from this portion of your homeschool search in that section. When you have definitively chosen your subjects, you may want to fill out/make a Course of Study form (DonnaYoung.org has some great ones) which list the courses for a given year as well as the books/resources you will use.

Now as I said, the next steps do not have to necessarily be undertaken in the steps outlined below. Maybe for you, not all are necessary.

3. Discover Your Child's Learning Style

Discovering Your Child's Learning Style
If you have more than one child, I'm sure you have realized that they each have their own strengths, weaknesses, and interests.  One advantage of homeschooling is that you can pick curriculum or teaching methods that fit each child.  Some children may do better with a hands on learning approach while another child may learn better through listening. As with anything, you can google and find inventories, quizzes/tests or simply articles to read. To help you get started, I offer a list of some below:

Binder Tip: You may want to have a section for each student in your binder and keep information like this in that section for a specific student or you may have a section labeled "Learning Styles" and keep all of this information for all kids handy there.

4. Explore Homeschooling Methods and Approaches

So you thought you were ready to start picking curriculum? Well, you can, but you should know (if you already don't) that in homeschooling there are many approaches and philosophies and being familiar with them (as well as your child's learning style) can help give you direction for your homeschooling as well as aid you in selecting a curriculum that is a good fit for your child.
Among the homeschooling approaches, these are among the most popular:

School At Home
You use traditional school textbooks, you set a typical public school like schedule; essentially you replicate school at home. This approach is what many homeschoolers typically start off with because it's what they know. For some homeschoolers, this works and they stick with it throughout their  homeschooling journey. But for perhaps the majority of homeschoolers (or at least a good portion), they quickly (or may eventually) find that this brings about too much stress for mom or dad and the kids.  If it works for you, that's awesome. But if it doesn't, don't be alarmed. Try something different. And that's where researching the different methods now, can help.

Among the other methods:
  • Computer Based/Charter School Learning
  • Classical Education
  • Charlotte Mason
  • Waldorf
  • Montessori
  • Unit Studies
  • Eclectic
  • Unschooling
and there are others.....
Now, other homeschoolers have written more eloquently than I probably can on these methods, so I provide you with some resources where you can learn about these approaches as well as other approaches or methods of homeschooling:

5. Select a Curriculum

One of the biggest parts of homeschooling is, of course, choosing your curriculum.   The original definition of curriculum is actually the subjects and courses taken. In homeschooling, it has come to mean the resources that you will use to teach. Keep in mind though, that curriculum does not just mean textbooks. 

There are so many options when it comes to homeschooling curriculum, it can seem overwhelming. Here's a brief look at different types of curriculum. There are many more......

Out of the Box/Full Curriculum

Many companies offer a full curriculum already set up for you, based upon the grade level of your child. These tend to be very costly for a great deal of homeschoolers. But if you have the money and/or you want to have everything already planned out for you, this may be an option. An example of this would be BookShark.

Computer/Distance Learning

This is where you homeschool through a program that typically sends you the books and materials you need to homeschool (sometimes the materials can be accessed online instead or in addition). Some may offer teacher services where you are assigned a teacher to help you grade/teach or advise. 

These can be costly as well, but there are more affordable or free options available. A much more affordable option includes programs such as Time4Learning, which is totally computer based and it keeps records/track of your student's learning (though it does not offer high school diplomas). It's about 20 dollars per month.
There are free options as well, which technically fall under public charter schools.  Some examples of these include:
We have used these two programs in the past. They provide all the textbooks for free and have an online interface where students access lesson plans, lessons, and take tests and quizzes.  Work samples are required to be submitted on a regular basis and you are assigned a teacher that you must meet with typically once a month to turn in work.  Students (typically grades 2/3 and up) are required to sit for standardized testing in the spring of each year.  

Local Charter Public Homeschool Options

We discovered these a few years ago. They are basically the same thing as K12 and Connections Academy, however there is a local brick and mortar charter school where you meet monthly with an assigned teacher to submit work.  They provide the textbooks for free and tuition is free as well.  
I am not familiar with other states, but some examples of this (in California) are:
  • Learn4Life.org
  • iLeadExploration  (this is the school we will be schooling through this year, in shaa Allah. It is available in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Kern and Ventura counties in California) In this program, the parent gets to select the curriculum. Many of the other public homeschool program typically just use public school textbooks.
These can be nice options if you can't afford a lot of textbooks or want/need some guidance.

Put Together Your Own Curriculum

Instead of buying a full curriculum, you can pick and choose your resources for each class on your own. There are hundreds of homeschooling companies that offer homeschool curriculum. An example of a company that offers homeschooling resources is Rainbow Resource which is very popular as it has such a comprehensive selection and the prices tend to be cheaper than other sites.

For most of our homeschooling, however, I never really purchased textbooks or materials. For 10 years, we lived overseas and had no way of receiving mail (or in some cases it was just too costly), so I put together my own curriculum through free textbooks, workbooks, and lessons that I found online. In addition, I have made a lot of my own resources (lessons, worksheets) as well.

When putting together your curriculum, don't forget to look beyond textbooks. You can find online lessons, such as the video lessons from Khan Academy, which are free.  You can find PowerPoints such as those at Pete's PowerPoint Station

When I started homeschooling, there were not so many resources for homeschooling. Now, the choices are staggering.  And many are free. If purchasing a curriculum is not really an option for you, look to the internet and even your local library which may have textbooks that you can check out. In our early days of homeschooling, we discovered a "book bank" which offered thousands of old school books from public schools for free, so look around for those as well.

6. Organizing Your Homeschool & Creating Study Spaces

Organizing Your House

Point blank---It's hard to homeschool in a messy, unorganized home.  That's just reality. And you may find that while homeschooling, your house is never up to the level of cleanliness that you think it should be. That's also reality.  But everything that you can do to get your household running smoothly will go a long way. So, if you haven't, set up chore schedules and laundry schedules, get rid of junk. 

Organizing Your Days

Now, I'm not just talking about school day schedules. I'm talking about your whole day.  Schooling is just one aspect of your day. The rest of your life makes up the rest of the hours and you'll want to get it organized. In turn, that can help  your school day run more smoothly, in shaa Allah.

I recommend starting with two things to organize your day:
  • For Muslims, start with the prayer times and build everything else around it. If your children are too young pray, well, you've still got to pray. Establishing "break times" around the prayers will help you get your prayers in and help older kids establish the prayers.  
  • Secondly, establish morning and evening routines. You don't want your kids to just get out of bed and "do school." They've got to eat, groom themselves, and help out  with chores to keep the house running more smoothly. Build these routines first (and then be diligent about your kids following them until they become second nature).

Organize Your School Year and Days

Organize Your School Year and Days

Start off by defining your school year.

Will you homeschool year around? Will you homeschool the traditional nine months and break for the summer. Some homeschoolers homeschool year around and then take a week break every 4, 6, or 8 weeks, for example. This method worked well for us because in the beginning, I didn't schedule any breaks and we would get burnt out and take an impromptu break (which is not necessarily bad). But I found that working hard for x weeks and taking a scheduled break was very motivating and perhaps lead to less burnout, Allahu ilm. Google around for examples of different homeschool schedules. Don't forget to include holidays as days off in your schedule if you observe them.  Muslim homeschoolers typically take off days for Eid and Ramadan and you could also take off voluntary fasting days such as Yawmul Asharah or Yawmul Arafah to encourage fasting and provide a short break.  Once you decide, it's a good idea to draw up a yearly calendar and distribute it to your kids (and post it on a wall as well) so they can know what to expect.

Define your weeks and days

There are many ways you can structure the school days and weeks. Some school for the traditional Monday - Friday. Some school for 4 days (Monday - Thursday) and have Fridays off. Some school over the weekend and leave a work week day or two off so errands can be run without interrupting the school day or so that field trips can be taken when places are open. Define your work week. Again, you can start off with the traditional school week and tweak as you see what actually falls into place for your family.

For your days, you can use a traditional school day schedule, with specific time periods for each subject everyday. You can do block scheduling where you set up chunks of the day (a morning session and an afternoon session, for example). You might choose to only do certain subjects on certain days of the week or study science this week and social studies the next.  You have that flexibility. You don't have to do all classes everyday (though most feel good about keeping math and English a daily thing).  When I started homeschooling, most resources I read said to get  math and English or more stringent subjects out of the way in the morning and save the afternoon for lighter subjects and projects. But sometimes the afternoon seemed great for math for some of my kids whereas for others, it was best to start the day with it.

And how many hours should you homeschool? Some people spend all day homeschooling. Some only spend the mornings. You might start off with a traditional schedule and then gradually make changes as you see fit. You can surf online for examples of school day schedules. Once you've got a schedule in mind, write it down on paper and share with the kids. You may also find that the schedule you keep depends on the curriculum you choose so if you set up a schedule later but find that it won't work for your curriculum, you may need to tweak it at that time. And, although it may be easier (for you) to keep all kids on one schedule, doing the same subjects at one time, in reality, it might not work out so well for the kids (some might finish way ahead of the allotted stop time, some may still be working at the cutoff and need a great deal of time more). Flexibility is key in homeschooling, you've got to try to balance between what is good for the kids and what you are able to deal with as well.

Organizing Your Study Space(s)

Notice I didn't say homeschool classroom?  Many homeschoolers have a dedicated room for homeschooling, like a classroom. Some have a dedicated area of a room (such as the dining table or a corner) for a study area. Some have, well, neither.  Sometimes we've had a schoolroom or area, sometimes my kids have studied in their room, sometimes my kids have studied in MY room. My husband believes that sitting at a table or desk is the best. In my experience, the best has turned out to be sometimes on my bed with several kids surrounding me so I can help them as needed. You might start out with desks or using a table but find that for some of your kids, lying on their bed studying works for them.  And, don't be alarmed or disheartened when you see all the beautiful homeschool classroom pictures online. If you are able to set up a dedicated room or area, that's awesome.  But if that's not possible due to finances or space constraints, make do with what you do have/can provide.

I've found some really cute classroom decorations at the Dollar Tree or the 99¢ store. So if you are on a tight budget, be sure to check those places out. I've found some great calendar wall displays that you might see in a classroom, for example, and they are just a buck!  Sometimes you can find places online, such as government agencies or organizations, which will send you posters that you can hang up. And finally, if your finances, don't permit, you can find a lot of neat resources from fellow homeschoolers online or make your own! And, there have been times, like now, where I don't have a single chart, calendar, reference chart, etc. up on the wall--but learning still takes place. 

Lesson Planning

Once you have selected your curriculum, you'll need to plan it out (unless you purchase a curriculum that plans out the days for you). A simple way to plan is to plan for the year by taking a look at your textbooks or resource books, calculate the available days you will have for instruction and divide it by the number of pages or lessons in the book.  This method is simple, but sometimes not the most efficient. For example, some concepts may take longer for your student to grasp and you may want to spend more days on a lesson than just one.  

Some homeschoolers plan for an entire year at once. Some homeschoolers plan by months, some by weeks, and some day by day.  I really don't recommend day by day planning as I did that for many years and it can be very stressful.  I suggest planning for the year if you are able to and tweaking as necessary, but if a week ahead is all you can get, well that's something.  Preparation is key ---as Benjamin Franklin said, "Fail to plan, plan to fail." I've found that to be so true in homeschooling--so as hard as it may be for some, try to conquer that lesson planning. You don't want to wake up each day and just wing it. You need to have some type of goal to work towards (which lesson planning provides)  On the other hand, I've fallen prey to overplanning --making up elaborate lessons that were just too grand and didn't get finished because they just weren't practical. When planning your lessons, do try to go beyond the textbook with audios, videos, PowerPoints, games, living books, and field trips, but sometimes, doing a lesson right out of the book is ok too.

The beauty of homeschooling is that there is much room for flexibility. So while I suggest planning for the year as much as you are able to, realize that your "year" can be 12 months. Or 13 or 14, etc.  If you are using textbooks, at the very least, see how many lessons you will need to do to complete it and make a list of them and use it as a measure of progress.  If you remember your own schooling years, you got a lot of the same stuff in math and language year after year. So, if your child has mastered a topic, say nouns, there really is no need to keep doing the same type of grammar exercises in nouns, each year.  That can save you some time to concentrate on the topics that are more challenging.  Make your curriculum fit your student, not the other way around.  And, by the way, if you decide to change your curriculum mid year, know that many others have done that as well.  

Homeschooling is a wonderful experience. But it is also a challenging one.  You may have some students who will work hard and get their work done and others who are just not interested or motivated and provide a great amount of resistance.  In homeschooling, there is truly no one size fits all schedule or curriculum and you have to be open to being flexible to respond and try something new when what you are doing just isn't working. It's tough, but just because it's tough doesn't mean you can't do it.  Some will graduate their homeschoolers.  Some will try homeschooling and eventually revert to or turn to public or private schooling or tutoring. The key is to do what you think is right for your kids and don't worry about what others are doing or what they will think.  

Phew! Feeling overwhelmed? That's normal. I've been homeschooling for over 18 years and sometimes I still feel overwhelmed sometimes or like I am back to square 1. If you can find a support group whether online or in person, that can make a big difference for you.  There will be a lot of trial and error.  Embrace it.  And  remember, homeschooling does not have to be school at home. If it works for you, great, if not, don't despair. The purpose is to educate our children; yes, we give them knowledge that they can take out into the world and use/apply.  But it also includes helping them develop the powers of reasoning and judgement and coping and other skills to make it as a mature adult.  And a lot of that you can't get from books.  You get from life. Don't get so bogged down with homeschooling that you forget to live.  Embrace the lazy days where you may not crack open a book but you stop and smell and discuss the roses which leads to a discussion of the beauty of creation and ultimately why we were put on this earth.  Or, you decide that you want to try a new recipe and everyone is in the kitchen helping out, getting an impromptu math lesson on fractions, and learning to be a part of a team. Or you read a news article about a recent event and you spend hours discussing it, giving an impromptu lesson in geography and history.  This all is education. This all is homeschooling.

Economics Resources

Lessons/Tutorials/Teaching Notes & Articles

Economics Textbooks (high school)

  • PASS Economics (brief, concise; great if you don't need to get too indepth)
If you are interested in obtaining a digital copy of this book, please fill out the contact form in the bottom right hand corner of this site.

Economic PowerPoints

Indus Valley Civilization Learning Resources

Indus Valley Civilization (~  2500 BC-1200 BC)

These are some resources that I collected and used with my oldest daughters several years ago when we studied this ancient civilization.

“The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the world's first great urban civilizations. It flourished in the vast river plains and adjacent regions in what are now Pakistan and western India.” (Harappa.com).

Teach India Project's Indus Valley Civilization

Article: “How the Indus Valley Sites Were Discovered;” videos, slide shows, stories, and games! Also links to sites such as Mohenjo-Daro.net and others, so this is a great one to start with)
Ancient India.co.uk's Indus Valley Presentation – read a story, explore, and play a game.

Teach Indus! at Harappa.com – classroom activities, articles, and other downloads

Around the Indus in 90 Slides (Harappa.com)

Also visit Mrdonn.org's Ancient History section as he has loads of resources to learn about this civilization!

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Use This Resource to Add "Flavor" to Your Social Studies

Food Timeline -Studying a particular era in history? Find out what types of food and recipes were eaten/made at that time and make some!

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Round Up of Some of My Favorite US Geography Resources

Here is a quick round up of some of my tried and true US Geography resources over the years....


Sheppard Software Online Games – learn the states, capitals, and geographical regions.

imageAnimated States and Capitals (downloadable game) – “Learn the U.S. states and capitals. A full screen clickable map of the U.S. is used to teach names and locations of states and capitals in a variety of ways. When the student completes ten problems they are rewarding with a silly animation using 3D graphics.” Heads up: Now this is pretty old school so it may not work on newer computers, this has been around for some time.


SeterraSeterra (downloadable game) – “Seterra is a geography program with 70 different exercises. With Seterra you will be able to learn about countries, capitals, flags and cities You can test and improve your knowledge of world cities, capital cities, countries, geographical features, and flags.”


US States Flashcards – some of the best I have seen; packed with information. On one side is the shape, flag, bird, and mini regional map of where the state is. On the back, there's oodles of facts, such as the capital, nickname, size, etc..

US States/Capital Flashcards from Teacher Vision

United States and Capitals Flash Cards