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Cool Stuff I Found at Homeschool Conventions
by Vicki Bentley, HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens Consultant
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
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
- Lois Walfred Johnson has done extensive
research for her devotional guides for middle school
- 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
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
- 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.
Classical Academic Press
introduces Latin for children via DVD, as well as Spanish,
Greek, logic, thinking skills, and other subjects for K-12.
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.).
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!).
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
also have useful applications for children and adults with
developmental disabilities. For ages infant through adult.
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 sciexperience.com, has just released her fourth book
in the God's Marvelous Design series at
(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
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
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!
- 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
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.
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.
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
- 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
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
- 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,
Pulling together an eclectic curriculum?
has an extensive selection.
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
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 www.raddishkids.com.
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
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
”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
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
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens consultant
www.hslda.org/toddlerstotweens (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
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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