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I’ve Been Quiet Because…

Last week our family was supposed to be on vacation. Toward the end of the week prior, we were packing and I was pulling posts together for the blog, and then the family we were camping with called in a panic. Water was pouring into their basement. 

That Thursday night there was a flurry of texts and phone calls as we checked to see how they were doing. There was panic when her husband set out in his canoe to help rescue neighbors from their quickly flooding homes. 

Never did they dream the words ‘flash flooding’ would so change their little town, White Sulphur Springs, WV. 

Maybe you saw some of the pictures on the news. Houses literally floating off their foundations. Neighborhoods in complete devastation. Roads gone. Over 25 people dead.

Vacation seemed like a rather ridiculous option at that point, and my husband and I headed over to help our friends and the White Sulphur Springs community. You all – I can’t even adequately put into words all that we saw. Here’s an update I shared with some friends via Facebook: 

Today we delivered meals into one of the hardest hit areas of the flooding in West Virginia. I stood next to a man who just held my hand and cried as he looked at his trailer. Mud everywhere and a complete loss. Nothing to salvage. He looked at me and said, “I know it may not mean anything to others, but it was all I had.” And he just cried.

Other than holding his hand, there was nothing to say. How do you even respond, other than saying how sorry you are and crying along with them? So we stood and cried together and he talked. As we left, he told me, “God bless you – have a great day!”

After losing everything – well, I really didn’t even know how to reply other than praying for him and hugging him. Which truly – it seems so trite in a situation like this.

Most everything we saw the past few days in White Sulphur Springs hasn’t been saved to film – because really, a picture shows so little of the story and seems like an intrusion on something incredibly personal to so many.

It’s just devastating.

Our family is working on ways we can still help. The surrounding communities have been pouring in help and relief, but there is so much that needs to be done in the upcoming weeks and months. 

The community itself has been pulling together in amazing ways, gathering donations and feeding families before emergency relief was available.Witnessing the support for and from everyone was truly amazing. The church we connected with though lost four members – three from one family alone, and everyone is reeling from the loss. 

 

One organization, Samaritan’s Purse, already had teams in some of the hardest hit areas, scooping mud and debris, cleaning out houses, and helping restore homes for families – long before Red Cross and FEMA were even on site. If you would like to help with any of the relief efforts, they are one that I would highly recommend partnering with – whether it be putting together a team of volunteers to help physically with restoration or sending a monetary donation for disaster relief. There are other wonderful organizations as well, but our family has been involved with Samaritan’s Purse in the past and they are an organization we know and trust. 

More than anything, will you continue to pray for the families impacted by this storm? 

July 2016 Planning Pages – Free Printable

July 16 planning pagesFor our family, June meant swim season kicked into full gear, our oldest started her first real job (WHERE IS THE TIME GOING, PEOPLE??), the girls had a week-long service camp they attended, and the days started to get hotter – so I spent some lovely time reading at the pool while the kids practiced a plethora of flips off the diving board. Ah…summer!

But how can it be we are already halfway through the year?? This past month, my entire ‘brain’ – if you will – was wrapped up in the pages of my planner. To help you get your days and weeks a little more organized, I have July 2016 Personal Planner Pages for you all to use, and I truly hope they are a help to you in the upcoming weeks. 

A Peek Inside My Planner

If you’d like to take a look at how I’ve set up my yearly planner, I’ve explained it more in this post here, as well as given links to my favorite binder and colorful tabs (because pretty makes life fun too, right?).

Yearly Planner example from Homeschool Creations-5

This year I’ve done a little something different and pulled my planner out of the binder and had it spiral bound at Staples. Loving it so far!!

July 2016 Personal Planner Pages

You can download the July 2016 Personal Planner Pages by clicking the green download button below. There are 12 pages included as a part of the download: the month at a glance and then weekly planning pages as well, with a page that goes a bit into May as well. Each month I’ll be offering a free download for that month’s planning pages, so you can check back and download them as they become available.

Download button

 

Purchase the Yearly Planner

Yearly Planner from Homeschool Creations - daily, monthly, and yearly pages to get you organized

Add to Cart
 

If you like the layout and want to start planning out the rest of your year now (and next year too), purchase the full Yearly Planner for $4.99. The calendar includes month-at-a-glance pages and dated weekly pages through December 2017.

Don’t miss my student planner and weekly homeschool planner – available as well!

Don’t Miss The Daily To-Do List

Daily to do list free printable

 

My Daily To-Do List is pretty basic, but hopefully it will work for you too. There is an area to make a list of things to accomplish, household goals, appointment, meals for the day, and even a space to record exercise and water intake. Each page in the document is identical so you can print them off, cut the page in half, and have two lists. If you print them front to back, you’ll have four to-do lists and save a little paper.

Hope you all have a wonderful month!! I’d love to hear your plans!

 

FREE Spelling Rules Posters – and something coming soon!

aar-l1-750x120-comingsoon2

For those of you who have used All About Reading Level 1, be sure to read through this post (because there is something to note!). If you’ve never used All About Reading before, you are going to LOVE this! Our family has been using All About Reading since it first released and hands-down it has been my favorite for teaching reading to our kids. Read more of our thoughts here

Mark your calendars, because in mid-June, the second edition of All About Reading Level 1 is set to release! 

This updated edition includes almost TWICE the content of the first edition, making it better than ever (get a sneak peek here). 

aar-l1-faq-materials-300x199

Here’s what you’ll find in the upcoming release:

  • 4 new lessons in the Teacher’s Manual and over 100 pages of new material
  • Over 150 additional pages in the new activity book including 30 new activities and 52 new Warm-Up Sheets
  • 17 all-new, fully decodable stories
  • no price increase!! 

Did you catch that – there isn’t a price increase from the First Edition to this new (and bigger) edition. That’s WONDERFUL news!!

Keep an eye out on their website so you can see when the Second Edition materials are available for purchase. 

Important Information for any First Edition Users

If you’re currently using the First Edition materials,  you won’t be able to mix and match First and Second Edition materials. So if you’ve been thinking of purchasing additional materials for another student, now is the time to get them.

The remaining First Edition materials will only be available while supplies last. Note: the first edition is still a fabulous program and can be used with future children, just be sure to grab a few extra student workbooks while they have them on hand. 

FREE Spelling Rules Posters

spelling rules poster

One thing I love about All About Learning Press other than their fabulous products, are their free printables – and their desire to give to the homeschool community. They recently released a set of spelling rules posters that are not only helpful, but beautiful – and FREE! Click HERE to download the posters

While you are over on their site, be sure to enter their monthly giveaway as well – you could win a $100 gift certificate! 

Enjoy the posters! My printer and laminator will be busy getting them ready for our kids!

 

Time is Almost Up!

The Build Your Bundle sale ends TONIGHT (5/23/16) at 11:59 PM EST! If you have been waiting and trying to figure out the best fit for your family, don’t hold off much longer – today is the day to buy!

the-eleventh-hour

If you need some suggestions, feel free to take a peek at what our family has purchased. Don’t forget the Buy 2 Get 1 FREE deal and the incredible bundle of bonuses with you receive with any purchase!

What I’m Getting from Build Your Bundle (and Why)

For the last week or more you’ve been seeing graphics, giveaways, and heard the Build Your Bundle sale is coming. The first year it was held — I was so very, very confused. There was a lot to wrap my brain around and at the end of our homeschool year, there are very few coherent thoughts running around in my head. I’m not at the point where I really want to think much.

BUT saving money on homeschool curriculum is always enjoyable, so I kept digging, trying to fully understand, and realized how much the could really benefit our family! 

In case you are in the same boat I was and haven’t quite figured out the ins and outs of the sale, here is a QUICK look at the different options and explanations. Definitely take a peek before May 23rd though – because the sale ends at midnight and then you can’t take advantage of the deals you find now! (Scroll down to see what we will be purchasing). 

Purchase a Pre-Assembled Bundle

One Week Only - Ends 5/23/16 - Save 92% on the Character Bundle

Click here to checkout the 2016 Build Your Bundle Sale!

There are 15 themed bundles to choose from, ranging in price from $10 to $40 (10 of the bundles are $20 or less). The above graphic shows what is included in the Character & Bible bundle for $20 (do you see Picture Smart Bible – a $49 value – in the center??). Each of the bundle prices have savings of 86% or more and range from Early Learning through High School and there are also additional themes such as Charlotte Mason, fine arts, and more.  

 

Build Your Own Bundle 
Build Your OWN Bundles (Pick & choose what YOU want to buy!)

If you see one item in one bundle and another in a different one – you can pick and choose pieces using the Build Your Own Bundle option. This is a wonderful option if you have between 5 and 10 products you’d like to purchase and would rather not get 5 different bundles. 

  • Pick 5 items for $25
  • Pick 10 items for $39 
  • Pick ANY 10 for $59* 

*There are a few exceptions, so be sure to check out this page for more information. 

Get a FREE Bundle 
Buy any 2 individual bundles OR Build Your OWN Bundles and get one free!

One of the best parts of the Build Your Bundle sale is the Buy 2, Get 1 Free option. Build two bundles and get a third free. Or  pick 3 pre-assembled bundles and the lowest priced one will be free.  

Pick up a Bundle of Bonuses

Each purchase includes a pile of bonus offers – over $250 in free products and discount codes! 

The Bundles in MY Basket

my byb curriculum bundles

Curious to see what I’m choosing this year?  I definitely plan on purchasing several bundles as well! Here are the main ones I’m focusing on (and why). 

  • Elementary 1 bundle ($40) – my two main reasons for choosing this one are Masterbooks Elementary Geography program (value $49.95) and also WriteShop Junior D (value $71). The Heroes of History will be a great go-along for our US History studies next year as well as A Journey Through the Centuries of America. The Reading Journal in this also looks GREAT. WriteShop has been our FAVORITE writing curriculum so far and all four kids have used it with great results. Definitely much to love in this bundle.
  • Character and Bible bundle ($20) – my main picks from this one include the Honor Club curriculum ($29.95), Parenting with Proverbs ($9), A Content Heart ($29), and the Picture Smart Bible OT ($49). The Honor Club curriculum is based off the book Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Arguing in You and Your Children, and we are definitely looking forward to that one (because – let’s face it – all kids can have stinky attitudes at times and we can use all the tools we can get!). 
  • Early Learning bundle ($20 – but free with the Buy 2, Get 1 Free option) – the primary reason I am purchasing this bundle is for the coloring book version of Picture Smart Bible ($47 value) and You Can Read sight words ($10) for my nieces/nephews. While we have used the older children’s version of Picture Smart Bible, Kaleb would prefer these coloring pages (which I skipped purchasing before) because I didn’t think he would like them.  

Note: While I did look at creating my own bundle for $59, for $1 more I was able to get two of the larger products (WriteShop and Picture Smart Bible), so the above combo ended up being a better deal for me overall. 

Really – there is a LOT, and it is easy to get overwhelmed because of the bundle varieties. It took me quite some time to finally decide which bundles to choose (really, the Elementary bundle was never a question). Be sure to create and account and start browsing soon though in case you need time to think! Once you create an account, it will save your cart (don’t make the same mistake I did last year and forget to log in!). 

If you have any questions about the bundles or the sale, feel free to email and ask too! 

Navigating Homeschool Standardized Testing

Navigating homeschool standardized testing - you CAN do it

(This post is an updated version of an earlier post, but one that definitely hasn’t lost its value over the years. With our standardized testing period coming up in May, I wanted to revisit some tips for navigating homeschool standardized testing.)

Pages of unfilled little circles can seem overwhelming. For many homeschool families, the words ‘standardized testing’ might strike a chord of fear. Although the tests are intended for the students, they can be a bit of a challenge for the parents as well.

Homeschool standardized testing was something that scared me to death at first. I was worried that our children would somehow massively fail the test and red flags would begin going up all over the county school offices and our children would be brought in for further evaluation. {For the record, that didn’t happen – grins}.

We live in a state where one of our yearly assessment options is submitting results from a standardized test beginning in the first grade. After reviewing the different testing options, we elected to use the IOWA test – it wasn’t as intense as some tests, but also covered a bit more than some other tests we reviewed. For consistency, we have used the same test each year to gauge our children’s progress. While our state only requires us to submit test results for three specific areas, we work on the entire test.

Are You Required to Use Standardized Tests?

Some states require yearly testing starting with younger children, other allow more relaxed testing standards, and other states require no testing at all. Remember that testing requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to check your state laws and know what is required from you and your children {check HSLDA for current information}.

There may be options for end of the year assessment other than standardized testing that can include a yearly portfolio, assessment by a certified teacher, etc. Again – know your state laws and do what you feel is right for your family based on the options available in your state.

For additional help, be sure to visit this post: Know the Homeschool Laws of Your State.

The Process of Standardized Testing

Choose a test that works for your family. Once you have determined the type of testing that is required for your state, you’ll need to find a test that will work for your family. Things to consider when choosing a test: Are you able to be the test administrator? What is the cost of the test? What areas are you required to test?

There are a multitude available, and below you’ll find a quick link to several of the most common test choices. Tests are available to order through various companies, so be sure to look around before deciding on the vendor.

    • IOWA Assessment Tests
    • Stanford Achievement Test
    • California Achievement Test {CAT}
    • Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills {CTBS}
    • Peabody Individual Test (PIAT)

HSLDA has a great resource page for families listing various testing choices as well as vendors that carry various tests.

Administer the test. Depending on the test you choose to use with your child, you may be able to administer the test yourself {be sure to get certified in plenty of time before the tests}. Some tests will allow you as the parent to test your child, while other require someone else do the testing for you. In our area there are private schools that will administer the test for a fee.

Testing time usually take 2-3 hours a day over the course of several days. Depending on your child, you may be able to squeeze more into a day. Our older children are now at the point where they don’t want to drag it out, and they request to get it done over the course of 1-2 days.

For some great test taking tips, be sure to check out this article from HSLDA: 7 Test Taking Skills to Teach Your Child

Return completed test. Once the testing period is completed, you’ll need to gather your testing materials and return the test and any additional testing materials to the vendor for grading. We typically send our results via certified mail so that we can verify they were received by the vendor.

Interpret and submit testing results. Trying to decipher all the numbers and norms can be a bit tricky. Here are a few articles to help you navigate the number maze:

Tips for Standardized Testing

Take a deep breath. As much as I worry about my kids and how they will do, they have always performed MUCH higher than the required norms. In addition, it has also helped me see areas that may need more attention from year to year (specific areas in math or language) and been an encouragement when they master and make dramatic improvements in those areas subsequent years.  

Be prepared! Spend some time the week before you begin testing reviewing the materials yourself {if you are the administrator} and preparing your child for what is coming.

Choose a testing environment that works for you. While some of your children may do well with lots of noise and action going on around them, quiet may be needed. You know your child better than anyone, so be sure to remove any distractions from the testing area {maybe a pet is a favorite distraction or your child is distracted by external noises}.

We’ve had different scenarios each year, but typically try to find a quiet spot away from other children to work on testing. There have been years we’ve had additional help {i.e. I tested a friend’s child while she watched my other ones} or we’ve had a fun movie marathon for the other kids to ensure some quiet time for testing.

Have lots of pencils, erasers, and necessary tools on hand. While super sharp pencils are wonderful, slightly dull pencils work a bit better to fill in those circles. Inevitably our children manage to break numerous pencils, so we keep a supply on hand along with the large erasers to help with any mistakes.

Some tests may allow for scratch paper or calculators, so be sure everything is in place before you begin. That way you won’t need to go scrounging for things at the last minute.

Take lots of breaks and make it fun. Before testing begins, I pull out snacks {as well as a few fun treats} and plan some break activities for the testee so s/he is ready to go. Every few sections of testing we take a quick break to grab a quick treat, take a bathroom break if needed, and then get back to work. After a good chunk of testing has been completed, we take a fun break to play Wii or something similar.

Hint: Be sure to avoid snacks that are messy and/or greasy – they could stain testing materials!

Get plenty of rest the night before. This pretty much goes without saying, but sleep {or lack thereof} can make a big difference in how your child will perform on the test. Don’t forget that mom needs to get some rest too!

Watch your attitude. This is just a test. If you are showing anxiety or hovering over your child, it can affect how your child responds to the test. We have one child who gets very emotional when she doesn’t fully comprehend something that is being asked on the test. Before testing I always remind our children that they do not have to score perfectly, know every answer – and it is ok if they don’t! They just need to do the best that they can.

CELEBRATE!! Our testing time typically marks the end of our school year – take a night to celebrate with an ice cream party, a special dinner out, or something unique to your family. Make it a night to remember!

 

Things to Remember for Before and After Standardized Testing

  • Know your state’s deadlines for turning in testing results. Our school district has a date for submitting testing results that differs from a few other key dates we need to remember {submitting our letter of intent, etc…}.
  • Leave ample time for test taking, returning the tests and receiving test results. Typically turnaround time is between 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the time of year that you test. Be sure to order and schedule your testing and leave yourself some wiggle room for sick kiddos so the testing results will be received in time to submit them to the appropriate offices.
  • Keep a copy of the testing results on file for your records. Several years ago we switched school districts and the school district we moved from refused to forward any of our testing and school records on file to the new district. Every year I made duplicate copies of the letters and testing results that were submitted, so I was able to quickly copy those and mail them in.

How Much Does Standardized Testing Cost?

If you are administering your own test, you can expect to pay between $20 to $50 on average. Some families choose to have someone else proctor the test, which can add an additional fee. The cost will vary based on the test that your family chooses to use for testing and also on the age/grade level of your child.

For example, we use the IOWA test {ordered from BJU Press} which actually dropped in price for our older children this past year. Part of this is due to the materials that are provided for testing. Because I am able to administer the test to our children, we do not pay any other fees other than return mailing to the company for scoring.

Keep Your Perspective

Standardized testing is simply a tool to assess your child’s progress. This isn’t a pass or fail test. For our family it has been a way to also look at the homeschool goals that we set at the beginning of the year and compare how those areas match up with what they were tested on. There have been years where one child has struggled in certain areas, and then the next year that child improved remarkably.

Remember that standardized testing is only a ‘snapshot’ of the progress your child is making. There is so much more to your school year than what is summed up in a few pages of a test!

Does your state require testing? What test has your family used for standardized testing? Do you have a helpful tip to help make standardized testing easier? Leave a comment and share!

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.