TH Art Guild – Toulouse Latrec – March 9, 2016



Each month, we get together for our Art Guild. We’re using the book ‘Discovering Great Artists‘ as our guide, and so far, it’s been great! Several of our families have the book, and work lessons into their personal curriculum during the interval between art classes. This month, we’re studying Henri Toulouse Latrec, and the kids made event posters inspired by his style.

If you’re interested in joining us for our next class, visit our group on Facebook!


San Jacinto & Battleship TEXAS – March 2, 2016





TH Science Fair 2015

This week, our group hosted our annual homeschool science fair. We had 15 students participating, with 11 projects (some siblings did group projects), with students ranging in age from pre-school through high school.

We met under the pavilion at Village Creek State Park in Lumberton, which is a great place for outdoor group events (if you’ve never been there). They have plenty of tables, a large grill and a playground all within a few feet of one another. If it had been warmer, we’d have planned lunch out there, but since it was so cold, we didn’t stay long.

The kids all bundled up and presented their projects one by one. There was quite the spectacle when it came to demonstrations, from the rainbow effect that fluid viscosity creates, to self-inflating balloons hat demonstrated carbon dioxide, dancing raisins, and non-Newtonian fluids with oobleck – they had a great time and showed off their scientist’s skills with flair.

From the older students, there was a great display of research-based thinking and psychology, from a project centered on meditation, to communicating with dogs, and several great experiment-based entries on hydrophobic sand, wind resistance and parachute design and a really cool experiment that floated water on top of water!

We were really proud of our students, and the effort and ingenuity that they put into their projects this year.


Secular Homeschool Conference – Roger’s Park

Triangle Homeschoolers Summer Mini-Conference

Today, our group held the first ever secular homeschool conference in Beaumont. It wasn’t a big fancy affair; there were a total of 7 moms and 12 kids there. But you don’t need a huge group for an event to be successful!

Our seminar covered the basics of getting started. I said that I would post links to many of the things we talked about today, so here they are:

*Homeschooling and Texas Law*

Homeschooling Law in TX  (synopsis)

HSLDA website

  • In Texas, homeschool families are considered private school and as such, are are not subject to regulation by the school district or state (this includes standardized testing and compulsory attendance edicts), and are exempt from school-time curfews (with identification).
  • Since homeschooling is legal in Texas and operate independently from a school district, you do not have to allow the school district representatives to ‘review’ or ‘approve’ your child’s curriculum.
  • The only the requirement for legal homeschooling in Texas is to homeschool in a bona fide manner, with a written curriculum consisting of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. This can be as simple as a sheet of paper with these subjects written on it.

*Methods and Philosophy*

The method an philosophy has to do with how you think that children (your children) learn best, and what you think school should be. We all start out with preconceived notions about these things, and sometimes, we find that we were right all along. Other times, we may need to choose a new direction. Reading about the various styles of homeschooling that are out there gives you a ‘niche’ for what you are already thinking. For the most part, why re-invent the wheel? Homeschooling has been around for generations. Though each new generation adds a new twist on an old idea, when you’re just starting out, knowing where you fall in the ‘structured…. unstructured’ scale can help find resources that will be closer to what you’re looking for and makes a good place to begin your research. Here are overviews of some of the more well-known methods and philosophies out there:

*Learning Styles and What they Mean to You*

Everyone gathers information about the world through three sensory receivers: visual (sight), auditory (sound), and kinesthetic (movement). Some people rely most on visual cues, others prefer auditory input, and still others learn best through movement. Educators refer to these differences as learning styles. How does knowing your child’s learning style help? By identifying your child’s dominant learning style you can tailor their education to lean heavily in that direction so that they learn best. Public schools tend to be ‘one-size-fits-all’ in their approach. Homeschooling with an eye toward your child’s learning style will help make schooling more enjoyable for you and the, and maximize their learning potential.


Learning Styles

  • Auditory – listeners: They may learn to talk early on, and may enjoy listening to tapes and playing musical instruments. Auditory learners are often talkative. They may like to read aloud, recall commercials word for word, or do tongue twisters. In school, they may memorize math facts much more easily in a song or poem than from flash cards.
  • Kinesthetic – hands-on: Kids who love taking things apart to see how they work, or who are obsessed with building toys may be kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic kids are often in constant motion, their movements are well coordinated, and they are anxious to crawl and walk as quickly as possible. In a classroom, kinesthetic learners can be fidgety. They’ll often be the first to volunteer to do something —anything—active. They want to do an experiment not watch it or read about it.
  • Visual – watchers: As babies, they are often drawn to lights, colors, and movement. They revel in colorful toys and piles of picture books. Visual learners enjoy and learn easily from pictures, handouts, videos, and films. In school, they can learn science principles by watching a science experiment rather than having to conduct the experiment themselves.

Not leaving the teacher out, there are different teaching styles, too. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the ability to tailor-make your education program. Everything is yours to try, tinker with or discard in favor of a new or changing idea or need. As a teacher, you’re interacting with your child in a different way than as a parent. The two are closely related, of course,  but what you want for your child may be different at an age, o what they need from you may call for more or less structure. So learning your teaching style is also helpful. I am sure there are more, but the way I like it explained best is Directive, Guide and Facilitator. All of these can work with basically any schooling philosophy or method, though it might take some finagling.

Teaching stylesTeaching Styles

  • Director – had total control over all aspects of the child’s education. Parent sets mood, tone, lessons, materials, and every aspect of what the child learns. I see this as more of an elementary level style of teaching, though some children who tend to be easily distracted may work better having everything laid out for them.
  • Guidance – Parent still sets most tone, but has slightly more input from the child. Parent helps guide the child to subjects, activities and research that are in-line with his/her interests and goals. I see this as more of a middle-school style of teaching, though may work for independent children who work well alone.
  • Facilitator – Parent is solely there to facilitate – to learn about and promote learning through the child’s interests. And/Or the parent is there to help, but the child’s education is largely self-directed. I see this more of a high-school age style of teaching, but also works well for children who are very self-motivated and who need little by way of encouragement.

Obviously, this list is not complete, but may help you determine what your style is, and what your child may need from you. Often, if you have more than one child, each of your children may need something different from you.

*Curricula – Finding What Works*

Finding the exact right curricula can be absolutely overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of options, and often many options associated with different methods. Finding what fits your family can be challenging at best. First, knowing what fits in line with your personal philosophy and what method you want to use is important. That will eliminate may curriculum options right off the bat. Identifying your student’s learning style and your teaching style will further narrow the options. Once you have those things out of the way, there are several places you can begin.

Grade level (or age/peer group) can be a good place to start. If your child is being pulled from school, unless you know they were behind, you should be able to pick up with that grade level work. If your child was consistently getting lower scores, it might be worth it to drop down a grade and work on cementing the previous foundations before moving on. Don’t feel bad if you need to do that; your student will soon catch up and even surpass his peers.

Many parents feel that it’s a good idea to have a ‘spine’ – a framework that tells you what your child ‘should be’ learning. This is often found in the scope & sequence. What is ‘scope & sequence’? A couple of options are:

Core Knowledge K-8th Grade Sequence 

Texas Education Agency Scope & Sequence

You also want to figure out your schedule. Many homeschoolers take more frequent, shorter breaks than public schools. We school for 4 weeks, then have a week break, then pick up again. Others have different schedules; you’ll find out your own. That may be closely aligned to the ISD, or may be totally different. Do what works for your family.

*Getting Started – Homeschooling, Year One*

Tip #1: Don’t buy anything ‘big’ the first year – no curricula, don’t re-model your house. There are PLENTY of free homeschooling resources that you can use the first year. The last thing you want to be is locked into an expensive curriculum that both/either you and/or your child hate(s).

Tip #2: Look at your first year as an ‘exploratory’ year. Try different styles, experiment with times and days, try out different methods. See what works and what doesn’t. After a fully year, you’ll have a much better idea of your teaching style, and of your child(ren)’s learning style. You’ll be able to spend that whole year trying new things and ideas and will have a much better idea of how YOUR homeschool will work when you start planning for Year 2.

For me, setting up our space helped get me in the frame of mind. Having our school space separate from the ‘home’ seems to help us all focus a little better. That’s not to say that we’re trapped in here during school. We’re just as likely to work on the living room floor, retreat to their own bedrooms, have school on mom’s bed, have school outside, pack up and head to the park… all totally valid options. But just having that space helps me out a lot.  Of course, that’s not practical for every family, and many families just don’t want that. Again, do what works for you! There are so many options – if you don’t know what you want right off the bat, start with one thing, then change it if it doesn’t work. Flexibility is one of your greatest ‘teaching tools’.


Another tip is to join a homeschooling group. If there’s not one in your area, start one and you can learn together with the other th logonewbies. If there is absolutely nothing in your area, find a good forum or group to join online. Having someone you can talk to to vent, praise your children bounce ideas off of, share resources, talk about your latest field trip, gripe about your non-supportive family or in-laws… whatever – having that support is absolutely essential in my opinion.

The blogosphere is awesome, too. I have learned so much from reading other blogs! Moms that inspire, Moms that I am in awe of, Moms that make me laugh, Moms that really make me think… there are SO MANY homeschooling moms of every variety, of every style and method – it’s truly amazing how much these bloggin’ mamas share. Feel free to check out my sidebar – there are tons of links!


If you were able to be with us today, THANK YOU for coming out! If there is anything missing from today’s mini-con, please comment and let us know! Hope to see you soon!


Getting the Most Out of Acrostic Poetry

[Image: acrostic-poems.jpg] I love acrostic poems. You take a keyword, write it vertically and then use each letter in the word to write a word or line of poetry about the keyword. Many of us have written acrostic poetry using our names with adjectives to describe ourselves. But its uses go beyond a simple name and personality writing exercise. Have you ever considered using acrostic poetry to help your children review key concepts in science, history, social studies or geography? Maybe you have tried this and the assignment felt forced or fell beneath your expectations. I’d like to encourage you to take another look at acrostic poetry.

As an educator, I often had my children write acrostic poetry while finishing lapbooks.  More often than not, the exercises were difficult and I always felt that the lines lacked depth.   I liked acrostic poems and felt they were useful in helping my students write down terms and ideas we had discussed in different history or science units but something was lacking.   What was lacking?  Proper exposure and practice with writing acrostic poetry, or for a more technical term, scaffolding.  Scaffolding is a method of teaching that begins with intensive teacher or parent involvement and as learning progresses less help is given until the student can do the work on their own.

The use of scaffolding and acrostic poetry is discussed in the article “Extending Acrostic Poetry Into Content Learning: A Scaffolding Framework”, by Elizabeth Frye, Woodrow Trathen and Bob Schlagal in the journal The Reading Teacher (2010). I’d like to share with you some of the key ideas from the article in hopes that you too can use acrostic poetry to its fullest with your children.

Begin your lesson by visiting the internet or your local library and find poems and children’s books made from acrostic poems to read to your children.  Pick a variety of types and styles and pay careful attention to find poems that use literary devices in them, the richer the lines, the better. Ask questions that get your children thinking about the tone and devices used in each poem.  Here are a few websites with book and poem examples.  This is the most fortified that your scaffolding can be!  You are immersing your children in the beauty of poetry.

Next, demonstrate to your children by writing your own acrostic poem.  Be creative as possible, with the use of alliteration, assonance, metaphor and simile, etc.  Show your children the process of writing.  Have them help you with ideas and modify those ideas and demonstrate your willingness to be creative.

Finally, it is time to peel away some of your support and allow your children the opportunity to write their own poems.  The scaffolding is shrinking.  Take the time to look over the poetry because the job is not done!  Now it’s time to add the details.  Reintroduce some of the poems that were read, think about what literary devices could be utilized to make this poem sparkle and shine.  If you have more than one child, allow them to help one another with ideas and thoughts.

Once you have completed this assignment, utilize it again and again in your homeschool.   Creative writing is an excellent tool for students to use in conjunction with reviewing subject material.  Your children will now have the practice and skills to make the most out of their acrostic poems and you have integrated their learning to include multiple subjects at one time.

Submitted by: Jessica Smith

The Balancing Act

Homeschooling Multiple Ages

When you are homeschooling multiple ages and /or juggling babies or toddlers, you can easily end up looking and feeling like this:

I will sheepishly raise my hand and say that I have been this woman.  Over the years though, I have come up with some ways to battle the harried pace of homeschooling a house full of children.

First and foremost, you have to BREATHE!   One of the great advantages of homeschooling is setting your own pace.  If you can shift your mindset from “school at home” to” LIFE is school”, you’ll find educational opportunities abound.   You can’t and you won’t get it all in this year, or any year.   Each season of life has its own opportunities and challenges.  The trick is finding ways to make that work for you and your children as you journey through the school of life.

This is my fifth year to home school.  I have yet to go one day without a little one under foot.  When we began homeschooling I had a first grader, a preschooler, a toddler and I was pregnant.  By the second semester, we had a new baby.   I remember that first semester with joy.  We started “homeschooling” almost as soon as my daughter left Kindergarten.  We spent hours pouring over books and websites learning about the solar system and then dinosaurs. When the baby came, I felt confident that we had logged enough educational hours that we took 2+ months off.

Finding balance as we began our second year was a bigger challenge.  Now instead of schooling one child, I was schooling two.   Tiny distractions abounded.  Instead of being a diligent student like my daughter, my son was unfocused and highly distractible.    I realized quickly, that I needed to change my priorities with him.  I shaved off many of the subjects I thought he should be learning and pared back those which he was learning.

Keeping the toddler and kindergartener entertained was vital.   While we read, I allowed the boys to build with wooden blocks.  While we worked at the table, I had beads for them to string.   Finding ways to keep their hands busy helped keep them quiet and focused.   Some days we would read our books outside on our trampoline or in my room on my bed.

Last year, I began the arduous task of formally teaching three students.    We spent the first semester focusing on the basics.  It was good training grounds for us.  As much as I could, I allowed my oldest to take her independent work to her room.  I found incorporating computer work for my son helped because he enjoys it.  I made time to lap book and teach phonics to my kindergartener.  We didn’t fit it all in though.  We lacked in read alouds and group learning.  History fell off our radar.  I could beat myself up for not doing an adequate job that semester.  But I don’t.  It was a semester full of challenges.  We struggled, plodding along with our workbooks, doing the best we could.

By the spring semester, we had gotten our footing.  We studied birds in-depth and American Indians.  We spent a few months reading, exploring, researching, lap booking and note booking.

It took us an entire semester to get to the point of incorporating the whole family into our studies. That semester of workbooks and independent learning was not a failure, even though I thought it was while we were working through it.

Here are some helpful hints from me to you:

1.        Expect a learning curve.  We’ve had whole semesters that were bumpy and disjointed.  We always make up for it after giving  ourselves some time to adjust.  Having a baby, adding new learners takes time.  Give yourself a break.  Take it slow.

2.       Have special activities or toys for your younger children to use during reading and table time.  Ideas include wooden blocks, plastic beads and pipe cleaners, an abacus, coloring pages, playdoh (if you don’t mind messes).

3.       Never underestimate the power of scissors and a piece of paper.  Many children can spend hours  cutting up paper into small pieces.  The mess you have to clean up afterwards is well worth the quiet.  Invest in a dustbuster or small shop vac.

4.        Make extra copies of worksheets for your little ones.  They might enjoy coloring at the table while you work.  If you lap book or notebook, make an extra lap book for your preschoolers.  Paste in pictures to color, letters to trace and give them stickers to decorate while your older students are working.

5.       If your older students need special attention, allow your toddler to watch a 30 minute TV program.  My youngest loves Barney, Caliou, Dora and Word World.

6.       Give your oldest students literature to read on their own concerning any history, geography, social studies or science material that you may be covering.

7.       Block out time for each of your children to have individual lessons.  I work with one student while the other two do computer or independent work and then rotate.  This allows me to teach my youngest how to read without distractions.  I can then instruct, read, or complete a lap book  with my older students or to review writing assignments, etc with my oldest.

8.       Give your distractible students, bless their little ADD hearts, a file folder partition so that they may work with fewer distractions.

9.       Find computer programs to supplement learning.

10.   Enforce Encourage a quiet time after schoolwork is finished.  This will give YOU time to wind down, especially after trying days.  My children are highly encouraged to go to their rooms and read books and play quietly.  This takes discipline and effort but it’s WELL worth it.  Start out with 15 minutes and work your way up to an hour.  No TV during this time (at least at my house).

Homeschooling multiple ages is challenging.  I hope I have given you some ideas that you can incorporate into your home school.    Accepting and learning to grow during the seasons of your life is a wonderful tool you can give to your children.  Perhaps even more important than any date you could memorize or test you could pass.

Happy Learning in the School of Life!


Pp&j is a member of Triangle Homeschoolers and blogs about homeschooling her 4 children at Enlightened Life: Homeschooling Outside the Box.

Not Back to School

This time of year has parents all across town running around, stressed and frazzled. They’re so ready for school to be back in session, but getting everything ready is such a hassle. Finding just the right composition notebook, getting the best backpack, gathering pencils and markers and glue…

Contrast that with homeschoolers, who are really just ready to have the parks and libraries back to themselves during the day!

Joking aside, many homeschooling families and cooperative groups do follow a traditional school calendar. Some even follow the local ISD’s calendar, which makes it nice for the homeschooling families who have children in public school as well. That means that for a lot of homeschooling families, August is just as mentally stressful, but for a different reason.

Most of us are finalizing our curriculum choices for this school year, and if you’re new to homeschooling, then you might be struck now and then with a bad case of “What have I DONE?!?’ syndrome, which can be quite debilitating when you’re sorting through curriculum options. Even seasoned homeschooling parents are occasionally tempted into trying something new. Every year, it seems that yet another company is jumping on the homeschooling bandwagon, and many have had some pretty sweet offerings.

We can’t alleviate all your doubts, but here are some tips that might help stop your knees from knocking:

  • Be flexible – one of the best things about homeschooling is that you’re not really ‘locked in’ to any one style of learning or way of doing things. Smaller student to teacher ratios mean that you have a world of teaching options open to you that aren’t feasible on a classroom environment.
  • Remember that learning doesn’t mean desk work – think back to some of the things you’ve learned that have stuck with you the longest. Did you learn it sitting at a desk? Probably not! Again, since you’re not stuck with a large number of kids to organize, you can afford to be more open to accommodating different learning styles.
  • Don’t buy too much stuff – this includes curriculum! Overwhelmingly, one of the biggest mistake that new homeschooling parents make is buying too much. Material things do not equal a quality education. The most effective curriculum for your child is not always the most expensive one. Sure, lots of hands-on things are fun to have, but give yourself time to see what you’ll really need so that your money is well spent.
  • De-School – if you’re coming out of public (or private or charter) school, give your kids time to ‘un-learn’ school. Homeschooling usually does not look like learning in a classroom. Plus, how you think that homeschooling will work for you is rarely how it ends up working. You learn so much in the first year of homeschooling, and your ideas change so much that it’s a really good idea to take it easy for the first year and give yourself time to develop a style. That doesn’t mean that you’re not learning or that your kids aren’t; it’s just not learning like you’ve been taught to think of it.
  • Get support – Whatever your homeschooling plans are, support is something that all homeschooling parents need. It’s a tough job, to be both parent and teacher; having someone there who can talk us down from the ceiling on ‘one of those days’ is always a good idea.

If you’re local to Southeast Texas, then we invite you and your family to join us on Monday, August 23 at 10Am at Roger’s Park (corner of Gladys and Dowlen) in Beaumont for our “Not Back to School” Park Day brunch. Bring brunch-y type snacks and enjoy the strangely quiet park with us. Hope to see you there!