How to Start a Writing Club

I am leading a Writing Club this year at True North Homeschool Academy and to say I love it is an understatement. I love words, teaching people how to use them effectively and watching the enthusiasm and joy young writers take in expressing themselves and sharing their creation. Happy Sigh.

Have you ever wanted to start a writing club?  Check out True North's easy steps for forming, and leading, a fun and engaging writing club.

There is still time to join our fantastic writing club (we have new members joining us this week) but if you’d like to start a Writing Club where you are at, here is a simple format to get you started.

First, set goals and time frames.

Set goals for the group or have the kids set their own individual goals. In our group, our students set their goals for the year and then share their writing/reading goals (because writers are readers) for the time between now and the next time we meet.

Set a clear structure for the club so the kids know what to expect and how to prepare. The very nature of a club is less structured than a formal class, but creating set time ensures that you keep moving forward and as many students as possible have a chance to read and share their writing.

Next, add writing prompts.

Start with a writing prompt. The kids love this time, regardless of age or ability. Set a timer- not too long, not too short- 5-15 minutes. Read the prompt and then let the kids write. No talking, just writing. When the timer goes off, give everyone time to read their response to the prompt.

Sit back and revel in how amazing the kids are! You will be blown away at the diversity, ability, and creativity! No critique or formal feedback, though you’ll probably notice that often the kids will give each other unsolicited encouragement and support and cries of “Wow! That was amazing!”

Where can you look for writing prompts?

  • Pictures from all time periods
  • Memes
  • Scripture
  • Famous Quotes
  • A sentence or two from a book
  • A snippet from the news
  • A few lines of poetry
  • Snippets from other subject areas
  • Math formulas
  • Science facts
  • Graphs
  • Funny photoshops

The sky is really the limit. Last week our prompt was from the news, “This storm can kill!” and the week before a quote, “Absence of faith is not lack of faith, but control.”

Then focus on skill building.

I am a poetry writer, reader and advocate from way back, so I often bring in poetry forms and tropes as part of our skill building. Many great writers include poems and songs to develop their characters, and I want the kids to have these tools available to them.

Other ideas include working on dialog, tropes, sentence structure and variations, plot devices, characteristics of genres, humor, applying literary analysis to one’s own writing and so much more! I usually allow for about 20 minutes on this section because I’ll present the skill and then give them time to work on it.

Next, write and share feedback.

Take time to have 2-3 kids share 5 minutes of their writing each week (the writing that they are doing on their own- apart from the writing prompts) and have everyone listen well. Then, allow the class to give feedback and assessment on the writing. I set clear parameters for the kids on this as our goal is to give each other constructive feedback and information that will allow each person to grow and excel as writers.

I teach kids about the “sandwich” method of giving feedback (2 positives, one critique, one positive) and encourage them to find both strengths and areas of weaknesses in the writing- offering possible solutions. This feedback teaches how to give and receive feedback, simple literary analysis, and how to listen well. We also work on presentation skills, and the kids know that they’ll have to introduce themselves and their work to contextualize for the audience before they begin.

Book reviews are also great!

Because good writers are good readers each student shares a book they’ve read, gives a brief critique, what the liked or disliked about the book and gives it a 1-5 star rating. We’ll be publishing our books lists each semester, so stay tuned!

Finally, have plenty of extra resources.

For our Writing Club, I also make sure the kids know about resources like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as well as writing and reading contests.

Our writing club has kids ranging in age from 12 to 17, some have written very little, and some have written a couple of books already. What we do have in common in a love of words and a desire to hone our ability to craft with words.

Start a local Homeschool Writing Club, but if you don’t have the time or inclination, we’d love for you to join ours! (you can join any month of the year). Or, if you have a local group, we can work with you too.  We are partnering with co-ops and class days to bring quality education TO you, regardless of where in the world you are! We have special prices for groups. And if you don’t see something you are looking for in our catalog, be sure to let us know – we can work together to make it happen!

Have you ever wanted to start a writing club?  Check out True North's easy steps for forming, and leading, a fun and engaging writing club. #homeschool #writingclub #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy

Should I Homeschool? The Big Decision.

There’s always a lot of talk and questions every from those considering homeschooling. Perhaps you are wondering “Should I homeschool?”  It’s always frightening to take the road less traveled. If you are sitting on the fence, take heart. Here are some easy questions you can ask to determine if you should homeschool or not.

Should I homeschool? It's a question that many parents face at one time or another. Check out these easy questions to determine if you should homeschool.  #homeschool #newhomeschoolers #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy

1. Define your nightmare.

If you did or do, homeschool, what would be the worst case scenario/outcome for you? My worse case nightmare would be illiterate kids that lived with me till the day.I.die. I like my kids. Really. I don’t like cooking three meals a day, cleaning up after everybody, managing rides, and schedules and laundry. The people rock. The workload, not so much.

The 2nd nightmare is that I go a bit nuts. Actually, the 2nd nightmare is more my husband and kid’s nightmare. It does occur on occasion. Fortunately, the benefits of homeschooling outweigh the nightmare. (Right, honey?!)

2. What steps could you take to repair the damage?

You know, if the worst case scenario panned out. A solid phonics program. Installing locks on the door. Move with no forwarding address. Prepare the children well. Engage, or marry, a good therapist.  Wait, I did that one!

3. What are the outcomes/benefits, both temporary & permanent of more probable scenarios?

You know, if you were more successful than the worst case scenario. My kids would be literate (and literary). They would move out, have successful, amazing lives of their own.  They would travel the world, make friends, and influence people.  They might even earn degrees and money.  Hopefully, they will have joyful marriages and healthy, delightful kids, laughing out loud and loving the Master of the Universe.

4. If you were forced to homeschool today, what would you do to get things under control?

You know, if you HAD to homeschool. For example, I would start by developing my teaching skills and plan for the year, then creating a seasonal and daily schedule. Next, I would order an excellent curriculum, based on my plans. Enroll in quality enrichment programs. Develop a lifestyle of learning. De-clutter my house. Streamline my life. Strategize in order to get it all done.

5. What are you putting off out of fear?

Are you delaying deciding because you think you’ll fail (see step #1), or because you think you’ll go nuts? (see step #2)

6. What is it costing you? 

Your kid’s safety? Your kid’s learning environment?  What is the motivation to even consider homeschooling? What do you hope will be different if you begin homeschooling? Write the vision and make it clear.

7. What are you waiting for?

Will the cost diminish if you wait or procrastinate or will the cost increase? If the cost will increase, perhaps it’s time to take a leap of faith and jump on in. C’mon! The water’s just fine!!  So we know the question is “Should I homeschool?”, but what’s your answer?
Ready to take the plunge? With our online classes, academic advising, and fantastic electives True North can help you today!  Let us help you be the best homeschooling mom you can be.
Pursuing Interests through Homeschool Electives

Pursuing Interests through Homeschool Electives

When I first made the decision to homeschool my son who was just starting Kindergarten, I began to look at curriculum.  I soon discovered there were THOUSANDS of choices! And that was just for one subject! I soon found that there were favorites among homeschoolers – for example, the “Saxon-eers” and the “Math-U-See-ers”!

Electives are sometimes harder, though.  Everyone is looking for core curriculum, but electives are based on interests, which can vary widely. While classes and activities are readily available, the sea of information can be overwhelming at times.  

Personally, I am a big believer that our children should have some choice in their homeschooling, especially if there are struggles in one or more academic area. That is some of the benefits of homeschooling, and it helps prepare them for making choices and career decisions as teenagers and adults.  

Here are a few ideas for pursuing interests through homeschool electives. Some are free, the others are worth every penny…

Homeschool Electives for the Child that Loves Animals:

Does your child love animals?  Does he love to go to the zoo, visit the animal shelter and pet shop?

  • Science classes – classes are available on all kinds of topics – oceanology, zoology, entomology…these and more would be subjects this type of child would be interested.
  • Pre-Veterinarian classes – hands-on experience by volunteering for a local veterinarian or horse ranch
  • Unit studies about specific animals – there are lots available online, or make your own by pulling resources together.  For ideas, visit SPED Homeschool’s Curriculum page on Pinterest
  • Volunteering at the local animal shelter – Help train and care for animals to help them find their forever home
  • Visit zoos and national and state parks – so much can be learned by watching and seeing animals in natural and man-made habitats! Most zoos offer educational programs and classes, and state parks often include educational tours and information.
  • TNHA’s Biology Class – an awesome class for learning about animals down to the cellular level.

Homeschool Electives for the Child that Loves computers:

From Powerpoint to coding, the computer can make schoolwork seem a lot more fun!

  • Hour of Code – from pre-reading through high school, a great resource to explore and decide if this might be something you enjoy.
  • TNHA’s C# Programming Class – a hands-on class for ages 12 and up!
  • Game Design – Love computer games? Learn to design your own with this great class (12 and up).
  • Loves Designing and Building – This is my boys – the Future Engineer and the Future Architect!!!
    • Lego Club (check your local CO-OP or Library to see if they have one or start your own – Legos build problem solving skills and spatial awareness.
    • Variety of Building Blocks – From magnetic blocks to tinkertoys, having a variety of blocks allow children to explore how things might fit together under different circumstances.  
    • TNHA’s Digital Art and Design – as our world becomes more digital, this is a growing and necessary area to explore and become familiar with!
    • TNHA’s 3D Modeling – Pre-recorded awesome class students can complete on their own time schedule! Great ½ credit elective that his fun and exciting!

Homeschool Electives for the Child that Loves Languages:

Languages help us to understand English better, as well as gives us access to the world.

  • TNHA’s ASL I – Hands-on kinestethic language that is fun and useful in so many career and recreational applications! (Used by police officers, firefighters, scuba divers, etc).
  • Hebrew Classes from TNHA – Learn about the language and culture of the Bible! By understanding the context, you gain a deeper meaning and appreciation for the Word.
  • TNHA’s Latin Class – Latin is the foundation for many languages, it can help you to understand and appreciate many other languages including Spanish, French and Italian.
  • Flip Flop Spanish – Conversational, visual Spanish curriculum (See It Say It begins at age 3) – Now also offers a High School Spanish Course – Spanish Geniuses!

Homeschool Electives for the Child that Loves to cook or Loves Food:

Explore the world through food – try new things and have fun!

  • Explore cookbooks together – From Mediterranean to Rachel Ray, cookbooks can be a great learning experience! By trying new recipes, you can explore cultures and foods from around the world.  Broaden it into a unit study to explore more about the geography, influences and other factors that go into determining why foods are preferred in different regions of the world.
  • Volunteering at the local food bank or food kitchen – Community service can be a great way to meet people from around the world and from all walks of life.  It is also a way to teach a giving spirit and a humble heart.
  • TNHA’s Culinary Arts class – Fun to do together with your child, or allow your child to explore basics on their own!

Homeschool Electives for the child that loves space:

The moon and space seem so mysterious and far away, bring them closer with some awesome resources!

  • NASA has videos, articles and other resources – a great way to explore about the universe and what we know so far
  • Hubble Telescope Images – see pictures taken from space and what we are learning about our universe on a daily basis!
  • Visit an observatory or planetarium in your area – Most offer educational tours and great resources for learning more!
  • Loves Books – From classics to new, books open doors and allow your child to explore different universes!
    • Check your local library for reading programs – ours include great prizes for children and even adults!! Also, check your favorite restaurants to see if they have a reading club or would be interested in starting one!
    • TNHA’s C.S. Lewis Club – Explore these incredible books in this fun club!
    • TNHA’s Classics Club – explore Greek and Roman life through this fun and exciting club while being engaged in some fun projects!

So what do you think?  Do you believe in pursuing interests through homeschool electives?  What are some of your favorite choices?

Amy Vickrey is a homeschooling mom of a six-year-old and almost two-year-old, and the wife and caregiver of a disabled veteran who struggles with health issues and PTSD.  She holds a Masters of Science in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University.  Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth).  

Do you believe in pursuing interests using homeschool electives? See some great ideas on how to combine interest led learning with your homeschool elective choices. #homeschooling #electives #interestledlearning

Just because you are a homeschooler doesn’t mean you have to DIY everything

Just because you are a homeschooler doesn’t mean you have to DIY everything

I’m a Homeschooler. I DIY Everything. 

Just because you are a homeschooler doesn’t mean you have to DIY everything. In fact, I would propose that outsourcing some things is going to keep your homeschool life running more smoothly, keep your housework more manageable and keep your sanity in the sane zone! I’ve outsourced for years and it’s been such a stress relief to know that I don’t have to do or know everything!

Opportunities to Outsource

Classes through clubs, co-ops, areas academic class days, on-line classes, private tutoring.

Which Classes? Those that you don’t have the time or inclination to learn or teach, those with expert teachers available, those that are specialized or unique.

Testing. While we can get and use testing through our local public school, it comes with it’s own set of challenges, plus I never get the test results back. I found a great solution to that- a test that counts for standardized testing AND gives me access to the results immediately and keeps track of how my student tests from year to year! Check it out !

Academic Advising. What? You might be thinking right now that you didn’t even know your guidance counselor in High School. I saw mine twice throughout my entire high school career and that was for the brief moments it took to get her signature. So, Why, Oh Why, would you want to outsource something like Academic Advising?

As an experienced Academic Adviser who has worked with homeschoolers from around the world, some that were profoundly gifted and some that were profoundly challenged, and many in the middle, I can tell you that most parents who DIY this portion of their homeschool are missing things. Furthermore, it’s been hypothesized that those who struggle with creating Transcripts, often struggle with things like College Scholarship applications. What will a skilled Academic Adviser help you do and look for?

  • How to create personalized long-term SMART goals for each student that are do-able and bring peace to your planning
  • How to create a personalized learning plan that covers the bases AND takes into account my kids bents, challenges and passions, potential job opportunities
  • The difference between Vocational, College prep, and Honors Transcript
  • What types of things to put as addendums on your Transcript.
  • The Arts as well as Service and Work hours
  • How to Create a Transcript that credits your students life experiences and skills
  • How to prepare for vocational training or college
  • How to incorporate Dual Enrollment and CLEP classes
  • How to develop your student’s “otherliness” as they prepare for college admissions and scholarships
  • How to incorporate Fun and Free time into your life and the life of your students!
  • Utilizing conepts such as Morning Baskets to get serious academic work done while enjoying the closeness and togetherness of a homeschooling family.
  • Understanding what colleges really want to see on a High School Transcript
  • How to balance the Transcript and test scores.
  • Soft Skills

Whether you’ve have chosen this educational path with intention or are a reluctant homeschooler, linking arms with others to attain your vision, just makes sense! It’s a complicated world and expensive and giving your kids a jump-start into adulthood well prepared with little debt is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

Whatever your situation, you don’t have to go it alone! True North Homeschool Academy has a fantastic Academic Advising program that is going to knock your socks off, and give you the time and space to relax, make the valuable impact on your kids lives you were looking for and give you peace of mind about your plan. And if you don’t yet have a plan, we can help with that, too!

Just because you are a Homeschooler, doesn’t mean you have to DIY everything! And don’t forget, our Academic Advising program includes a Scantron Performance Series test!

From humble homeschool blog to remarkable opportunity

From humble homeschool blog to remarkable opportunity

How I went from a humble homeschool blog to a remarkable opportunity.

Blogging Beginnings

In 2007 and 2008, blogging had surfaced as an interesting new opportunity. Several of my friends were blogging and I was eager to get in on the action. Oddly too, I felt prompted to start a blog. You know that feeling; you have a niggling thought that won’t let go. I believe it was the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but that seemed silly to me. Why would it matter to God if I blogged or not? But, the prompting to blog didn’t diminish and so, tech skills or no, I gave it a go.

I learned as I went and found blogging buddies to compare notes with. My little, non-seo named blog was born. One of my first posts was a review of a curriculum I loved. I posted it because I wanted others to know about it, too. As a die-hard bibliophile I added book-reviews. I am constantly telling people, “Get the book,” and so book writing reviews was a natural addition.

My blog was simple and personal. I shared about what it was like to have a full house, with 5 kids with a 16 year difference between youngest and oldest, homesteading, graduate school, simple living, and more. I loved the fact that the art of writing gave me perspective on the hardships that we faced and caused me to be thankful for the blessings that we received. Blogging made me pause and reflect on what we were doing and why. It also opened up relationships with other homeschoolers around the world.

Curriculum Reviews

I continued to promote the books, curriculum and programs that I believed in and used. I began approaching companies about doing reviews for them and received products and curriculum in exchange for honest, well-written reviews. This is a more difficult art form than what it sounds like!

At one point, I heard about The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew and applied. I was accepted and beyond thrilled to be part of the team! With each review I did, I researched the company, adding links and details for my readers so that they could get to know the product and the company better.

Working Homeschool Momma

Five years ago, we did a review of an on-line class. My son loved it. I wrote the review and actually applied to the company for a job. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years but I created a resume, rallied some references and put in for a remote Advising position with a large educational company half way across the country. It was a shot in the dark because they required a Teaching License, which I didn’t have. My graduate degrees, however, proved sufficient. I was offered a job, not unlike one I held years ago working for a private graduate school.

I worked with this company for 4 years, and continued blogging, now as an officially recognized Working Homeschool Mom. It was a challenging adjustment, but I found that I was not alone as more and more families are homeschooling while both parents work.

Remarkable Opportunity

A year ago, I was working in a local coffee shop and a friend asked what kind of work I did. When I explained, she mentioned that Homeschool Works 4U was looking to sell. I called them to learn that sadly, the owner, Wanda Burdick, had died recently after a very short illness.

Wanda’s husband, Jeff, returned my call and we developed an immediate connection. He was interested in selling the business and after a few weeks we closed the deal. Jeff, by the way, continues to teach for Homeschool Works 4 U, now re-named to True North Homeschool Academy and if you are looking for an amazing Government & Economics or Western Civilization II course, consider his!

Since then, I have been working to re-build and expand True North Homeschool Academy. We have world class teachers who were or are homeschooling and decades of teaching experience between us. Our program consists of not only live on-line full year classes, but Academic Advising, Career Exploration Courses, an expanded Struggling Learners program, testing, community and more!

Linking Arms with for Success

Education has been the heart beat of our home for decades. My husband and I believe that Education is the Transmission of Culture and we are dedicated to transmitting a culture of Christ- Truth, Beauty and Goodness- when and where we can. True North Homeschool Academy gives us that opportunity in a fresh and new way. We hope you’ll join us on the journey; our mission is to link arms with you to help you have the best homeschooling year ever!

Obedience & Dipping in the River

From humble homeschool blog to a remarkable opportunity! I honestly believe that what I am doing today is a direct result of my starting a blog a decade ago. Such a silly, simple thing! I often think of why God asked Naaman (2 Kings 5:14) to dip in the river 7 times in order to heal his leprosy. Why not 3 or 10 times? I believe it’s because God wants us to trust Him implicitly, even when things don’t make sense to us.

Just Do It 

What crazy, humble thing is God asking you to do? I encourage you to do it! He often uses the simple, small, humble things to grow us to where He wants us to be.

To find out more about the amazing happenings at True North Homeschool Academy, check out our Catalog!

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