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August 2016

Cool Stuff I Found at Homeschool Conventions

by Vicki Bentley, HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant

Vicki Bentley
Vicki Bentley

I love homeschool conventions!

The leaders of your state or regional homeschool organizations plan and work year-round to schedule speakers and exhibitors to inspire, equip, and encourage you in the homeschool journey. Not only do the speakers spark (or renew) the vision for strong families, home discipleship, and education, but the exhibitors also minister to parents by providing encouragement and tools for teaching.

I’m no longer officially homeschooling—my youngest daughter is 27—but I've still made quite a few purchases this year for grandkids (grandbaby #21 was just born this week) and for just fun family stuff, since most events are not only homeschool conferences, but family expos!

As I finish up most of my convention visits for this season, here are some nifty products and companies you might want to check out:


  • Lois Walfred Johnson has done extensive research for her devotional guides for middle school girls.
  • Has your child's change from cuddly infant to challenging toddler thrown you for a loop? Do you wonder how to teach your toddler to deal with frustration? What about obedience issues, naptimes, and tantrums? Find help for these questions and more in The Toddler Toolbox. Megan Scheibner, mom of eight, shares her tips in this eight-session DVD set.
  • In Linda Biery's Living Lyrics, children learn Scripture songs while practicing handwriting (basic manuscript, D'Nealian, or basic cursive) and completing other activities. The budget-friendly program includes a CD of very pleasant Scripture-based songs (I found them appealing even as an adult).
  • My Sermon Notes from Miller Pads and Paper is a spiral-bound half-size journal (50 sheets) for sermon notetaking. The journal includes space to write key Bible verses and life application thoughts.
  • You may know the National Center for Biblical Parenting as a source for Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller's insightful parenting books, but they also have family time activities for all ages, plus the kids' honor club for ages 3-12.

Foreign Languages

  • Classical Academic Press introduces Latin for children via DVD, as well as Spanish, Greek, logic, thinking skills, and other subjects for K-12.
  • Mango Languages is an interactive, web-based language program targeting ages 10 and up, with four years of instruction in more than 60 languages. Subscribe per month or per year. A parent can participate free with a child's subscription, and a multiple subscriber discount is available. They also have options for desktop use or mobile app (Apple, Android, Kindle, etc.).
  • Excelerate Spanish was written by a homeschool mom, incorporating brain research for a program that is not straight immersion but is content-rich for a conversational foundation. The curriculum includes a DVD program, a lesson book, and a workbook.

Fun & Games for Families

  • SET is a rapid-fire game of visual perception in which players identify patterns. No reading skills are needed, so even preschoolers can play. The game is for one or more players, ages 6 to adult (observant preschoolers have been known to compete handily with adults in our house).
  • The Brain-a-Thon Emporium has games, tips, travel games, and ideas for homeschool group game nights (even used as fundraisers!).
  • Discovery Toys has some nifty educational toys and games (translation: Christmas gifts for grandkids . . .) such as How the Weather Works, Simple Machines, Ten on the Spot, Mental Blox, Name That Country (maybe I should get this one for myself), and RhymeOut, plus a sturdy View Scope. And they've brought back two of my family favorites, the Number Scrambler and the Letter Scrambler—which we love not only for the educational value, but because there are no pieces to lose! Many of their products also have useful applications for children and adults with developmental disabilities. For ages infant through adult.


  • Northwest Treasures offers geology kits for preschool through high school, with a biblical approach to earth science, fossil records, radiometric dating, paleontology, and more.
  • Make science a cinch with Scinch, which offers kits, books, and games designed to spark your child's interest in science. For elementary and middle school.
  • Dr. Lainna Callentine, homeschooling pediatrician who does labs through, has just released her fourth book in the God's Marvelous Design series at MasterBooks. (In The Electrifying Nervous System, we learn that it would take a million computers to have the same amount of connections as the human brain.)
  • The folks at Hands4Building have thought of pretty much everything in their all-inclusive engineering and woodworking kits for students as young as 7.
  • Exploration Education has hands-on, project-based physical science kits with all materials included, for three different learning levels: K-3, 4-6, and 7-10.
  • I was excited to pick up a set of the ABCs series from JumboMinds, including the ABCs of Biology, ABCs of Chemistry, ABCs of Earth Science, and ABCs of Physics. With a target age range of infant to 6, these four little board books introduce the vocabulary of science in a simple, one-word-per-page format. The 3- and-4-year-olds in our family really enjoy them!

Language Arts

  • Many families are already familiar with the Orton-Gillingham language approach for children and adults with dyslexia and other learning challenges. But did you know you can get The Gillingham Manual (8th edition) from Educators Publishing Service?
  • Games for Reading: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Read (Peggy Kay)-70 games for home and on the road, to encourage your child's reading skills. This includes bingo games, rhyming activities, mazes, puzzles, and suggested reading lists.
  • Kids in grades 2-12 can improve reading comprehension in just 10-15 minutes per day with WordBuild. Dynamic Homeschool WordBuild is based on morphology, the study of units of meaning—particularly Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes. There is no memorizing word lists, and students think it is fun!
  • The Institute for Excellence in Writing has added several new programs to its offerings—a few that caught my eye are Speech Boot Camp (intro to public speaking, with DVDs); their new Fix-It! grammar series; and a primary arts of language (PAL) program, featuring both reading and writing components for primary students.
  • Got a budding author in your home? Published writer Rachel Rittenhouse has written The A+ Student's Guide to Writing and Publishing, as well as novels geared to the 8-16-year-old readers.

Social Studies

  • Tapestry of Grace has added a one-year survey of history, as well as a primer level for K-1. And parents might enjoy Marcia Somerville's homeschooling/parenting encouragement in her new book, Love the Journey.
  • Notgrass Company's history books read more like fascinating storybooks and include primary source documents. I like that the entire plan is built into the book and includes read-alouds, family activities, timeline, creative writing prompts, and more. Uncle Sam and You is a civics course for grades 5-8. Their unit studies include Celebrate Thanksgiving, Celebrate the Savior, and The Olympics. Their Draw to Learn series is for all ages.

Other subjects

  • In The Homegrown Preschooler, Kathy Lee and Lesli Richards focus on "teaching your kids in the places they live." Want to see the book fleshed out into a workable plan? Check out A Year of Playing Skillfully. Also available: sensory kits, handsewn books, and other developmentally appropriate learning tools for ages 3-7.
  • Maybe you've heard of AWANA in church groups? AWANA now offers student kits for individual family use (ages 2-18), plus club registrations for homeschool groups.
  • A+ Interactive Math provides online tutoring or full math instruction books, CDs, web-based help, and more.
  • For Charlotte Mason fans, Simply Charlotte Mason offers free downloads, weekly articles, and tips, as well as curriculum.
  • Looking for a computer? Affordable Computers finds computers coming out of business leases, then refurbishes them and offers them at a deep discount, so you get corporate-grade hardware at academic pricing. While they don't come loaded with programs, the guys there can also set you up with open-source office software.
  • Classical Academic Press presents classical subjects taught creatively. The books and DVDs include games, puzzles, online games, flash cards, and more for subjects such as Latin, Greek, logic, literature, and poetry.
  • Pulling together an eclectic curriculum? Heppner's Legacy has an extensive selection.
  • With LessonTrek, in just a few minutes you can set up your school year and subjects, create lessons and assignments, record grades, and more. Try it free for 14 days, or take advantage of the options of monthly or annual subscriptions. Their web-based program seems to be pretty intuitive and is basically drag-and-drop.
  • In her new book, Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Mom (Apologia Press), Mary Jo Tate addresses the very concerns, comments, and fears that I hear over and over again from moms across the country. This book is really 16 books in 1, covering every topic from using time wisely (including setting goals and handling interruptions), to training children in responsibility and service, to homemaking and home business. She transparently shares her unique challenges as a single parent; not only does she encourage other solo parents, she equips married friends with practical tips to help the single-parent family.
  • As a cooking enthusiast, I was thrilled to see the Raddish cooking kits from Geared to ages 4-12, each kit includes laminated recipe cards/folders and activities for three dishes in the featured cuisine of the month. In addition to the dishes, the kits focus on learning a new kitchen tool skill each month. The tool is included, as well as a patch to iron on to your child's apron after the skill is mastered. For families with multiple children, extras tools and patches may be purchased.

But Wait—There’s More!

Be sure to visit our earlier newsletters for more gotta-check-‘em-out links to past convention treasures—Bible and devotions, character, preschool, social studies, language arts, math, science, foreign language, various teaching approaches, fun and games, and other goodies.

”Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.“ Philippians 4:8

What were some of your favorite finds this year? I’d love to hear what you liked and why!

Wishing you vision and inspiration as you plan for the upcoming year,

Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens consultant (Yes, we have a web section just for you!)

Did you know that HSLDA members can follow up reading this newsletter by calling or emailing one of our education consultants for personal recommendations and encouragement? If you are not a member, please consider joining!


Of course, this is just a teensy smattering of the wonderful resources available to parents. Just because I am fascinated by something, doesn’t mean that you’ll love it for your family’s needs. This month’s resources list is not exhaustive by any means, and inclusion or omission of an item should not necessarily be construed to be an HSLDA endorsement or censorship of any resource. Some materials may not be written from your family’s worldview or may include resource suggestions inconsistent with your worldview so, as always, parents are encouraged to use discernment in selecting materials appropriate for your family’s needs.

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