Reality Homeschooling

Thank you all so much for hopping over to my blog for the past 10 Days of Organization! I hope you enjoyed not only my posts, but also those of the other HOTM hoppers.

Speaking of HOTM, the winter conference starts TODAY!!! Click here to purchase your ticket if you haven’t yet. What is an “online conference”? A conference in your jammies!! An online audio conference uses the Internet as a conference venue. You will be able to access the conference from anywhere in the world using simple browser software which we provide. This software is compatible with all computers including Macs. All you need is a computer, internet connection, and speakers! 

What you can expect:
  • Live sessions, entirely online, with some of the homeschooling community’s most popular speakers and authors.
  • Free access to download and save the MP3′s from all the sessions, as well as all the handouts, chat logs, and presentations.
  • Participation in real-time question and answer sessions with all of your favorite speakers.
  • A Swag Bag full of downloadable goodies.
  • A chance to win some amazing door prizes (during last year’s conference, we gave away $2000 worth of giveaways!)
  • The opportunity to make some new life-long friends and experience some fun and fellowship. 
All for only $14.95!!

On another note, please check out this fabulous new resource from my friend, Bonita Lillie:
What happens when the ideal image you have in your mind doesn’t match the day-to-day reality of homeschooling? Join Bonita, a veteran homeschooling mom, as she candidly talks about the joys and struggles which homeschooling families face on a daily basis. Learn how to reconcile your homeschooling ideals with realistic expectations, how to survive a crisis, and how to decipher what your children really need to know to thrive in this world. Lower your stress level and find true freedom in homeschooling!
I truly believe that everyone who is currently homeschooling or thinking about homeschooling in the future, would benefit from this information.

Check it out today; it’s only $6.95. Hands_On Essays Original Manual

Finally, I want to let you know what to expect in the next few months. Blogging every day does not normally happen–sorry! For now, we’ll go back to our regularly scheduled 2-3 posts a week. Most of them will be about organization and homeschooling, as usual, but expect a few reviews and other topics as well. I also plan to return to answering everybody’s comments (as long as I can find your blog or an email address). I’m happy to address any organization or homeschool question you may have as a blog topic, if you can’t find it in my past posts. Just let me know!


Research Remembered

Here’s my article that posted over at Heart of the Matter Online today.

What do you personally remember about research from your high school years? Do you have good memories or bad memories of it? Now, what about your teenagers? What kind of research skills are you teaching them? Will they be prepared for college research?
Research, in my mind, has several components with one basic goal: getting the facts straight. Doing research can mean as little as double checking a date, as much as running a full-blown experiment, and all the in-between levels such as finding primary and secondary sources (both print and online), reading them, and documenting the findings.
When I was fourteen, my father completed his PhD. I remember being proud of how smart he was (and still is!), as well as proud of myself for helping him with some of the research and documentation for his dissertation. No online sources were available back then, and while he wrote his actual dissertation on a computer, he kept a large file box with note cards for the resources he accessed. I would file new cards in the proper spot and help him find the cards he needed. Although I realized how much research he completed back then by the time that it took away from our family, I appreciate the level and effort that it took more now that I am older.
Unfortunately, the high school that I attended placed a very low value on teaching research and writing skills. I think I had to write one essay during that whole four years. When I got to college, I was in for a shock! Every class I was in required multiple essays of varying lengths and differing levels of research. I learned properly about the research process in a basic-level English rhetoric class I took my first semester. The professor was engaging and understanding, which helped make me feel more comfortable with the research and writing processes. I still remember the very first blue-book exam that I took. It was in a social work (my major) class, which I enjoyed and understood, but I didn’t know what an essay exam would be like and was at a total loss when I read the prompts that I was expected to answer. Even more of a shock was the F that I received on it. While I was horrified, instead of turning me off to academia, it spurred me on to work harder to master taking essay exams and writing papers. I succeeded, because I later graduated summa cum laude.
Your children will thank you (perhaps not until they’ve graduated from college!) for teaching them effective research and essay writing skills.

Q4U: What’s your best tip for teaching children about research skills? Please share it with the rest of us!


Should You Pay Someone What She’s Worth?

Before you answer, “YES, of course,” please take a moment. It’s not as simple a question as you might think. Before you answer that first question, reflect on these points.
1. Are you more interested in the price of something than its value?
2. Are you more likely to dash off an email complaining about something quicker than thanking someone for their information or a job well done?
3. On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to post a comment on a blog thanking the author for his free information?
4. On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to tell someone about a great product/service you just found?
5. Are you more likely to complain about the price being too high rather than praise someone for their work?
6. Are you more likely to complain in public and thank in private or the other way around?
Many people who make a living providing a service or information products tell me that they are much more likely to be asked to lower their fee/price than they are to be thanked, even when they provide them for free! Web designers, for example, are quite often approached to provide free services. In fact, many of the people asking don’t even ask nicely!
“Can’t you just redesign a few pages for me? After all, it’s not like it’s costing you any money. Just some time!”
What they don’t seem to “get” is that it has already cost the web designer dearly to come by this specific expertise and obtain all the software she now possess in order to make that happen! I always wonder how that customer would feel if the roles were reversed and that web designer had asked her customer’s husband (the accountant) to just do her taxes for free. After all, it’s not like it’s costing him any money. It’s just taking his time away from paying customers who could put food on the table for their family.
Does she even understand the position she is putting this web designer in by asking for freebies in this way? It communicates a lack of respect for her as an expert, a lack of respect for her time and a lack of respect for her right to make a living and provide for her family. It also puts the web designer in an uncomfortable position. If she says yes, she is bound to do the work for no compensation. If she says no, she risks communicating that she is selfish.
What would happen if this web designer were to give a great deal of her time away for free? Who do you think would lose? If you answered only the web designer, herself, you would be wrong! Her clients would suffer also, because she would probably have to take on a job to make ends meet. She would no longer have time for her paying clients who would have to find someone else to do their websites. Her non paying “customers” would lose too! Do you think she would have time to do web design for free if she wasn’t bringing in an income for her family and wasn’t able to pay the upkeep on the software and websites she maintains?
I hear ya out there! Sometimes, especially in this economy, you simply can’t afford the very fair price of someone’s services…and hey, sometimes they OFFER to give them away. It’s their choice if they want to offer this for free. I’m just taking advantage of it. Right you are! However, how often did you personally email the host of a free event to express your gratitude for all his hard work during the year to put this event together? When’s the last time you sent a short email thanking the author of an eBook you were able to download for free for the years of research he put into it? How often have you helped them get the word out about their product or service? How often did you cry SPAM if they so much as mentioned that they make a living by offering these products or services?
We teach our kids to say thank you, but in my experience, most adults say it far less than their children do. Most adults don’t understand the power of thank you either. It’s a lesson I often include in my communication studies.
That web designer understands how tough things are in this economy. That’s probably why she offers her services at a discounted rate when she could make so much more under different circumstances. She knows how difficult it is to put food on the table. She is self employed! That’s probably why she offers some of her services for free.
A little compliment goes a long way and can create an environment where the even MORE is given back. It’s precisely because so few show thankfulness that it will be noticed. A heartfelt thank you will cause her to want to give back even more. That’s the power of “Thank You”. A small thank you can brighten her day or make her forget a bad encounter. A little appreciation for her work can give her the strength to continue on in the face of difficulty.
“He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.” Proverbs 22:11
And how much time does it take to dash off a short email with a line of thanks? Less than a minute of your time can make all the difference to someone else. Now imagine what a blessing you could be if you took two minutes and made it public? What blessing could you bring to her if you took three and a half minutes and passed along her website and told your friends or Yahoo group how much she impressed you?
At the very least, and even in this economy, you can certainly afford to pay someone what she’s worth. Pay her a compliment! Pass along her information. After all, it’s not like it’s costing you any money…just some of your time.

This article was written by JoJo Tabares, who graciously allowed me to reproduce it. Here is the link to her original article. I have often been asked why editing costs so much (it doesn’t!), and I have been very frustrated by writing for free for so many different venues that I run out of time to market my writing to paying clients.

JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills which has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer. Her articles appear in homeschool publications, such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which also endorses her Say What You Mean curricula. You can also find JoJo on web sites such as Crosswalk.com and Dr.Laura.com. For more information on communication FUNdamentals and Christian-based communication skills for the whole family, please visit http://www.ArtofEloquence.com.


New/Wannabe Author Resources

Writing isn’t as easy as it looks. Well, maybe just putting words on paper (or on the computer screen) isn’t too difficult, but getting those words to sound ingenious is a little harder. So is having those words published so that other people can read them.

Felice Gerwitz–author, speaker, and mentor–has a plethora of resources available to help you realize your dream of becoming a published author. She recently launched a brand new, exclusive Premium Author’s E-Course and Members Only Group. To win a FREE membership (and lots of other goodies), head on over to her Information in a Nutshell blog for the details and a survey.

Felice has been there and done that, and she wants to share her hard-earned knowledge of the publishing world with you. Let Felice be your mentor and finally get that book out of your head and into the hands of your target audience. Visit her Web site for more great resources.

Disclaimer: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Fits and Starts

Wow! I was very honored to be featured as The Home School Mom’s Site of the Week this week! Thank you. As a result, I’ve garnered quite a few more followers. Again, thank you!

This seems like a good time to update my where-else-to-find-me status. Much to my great amazement, my articles have been (or will be) featured on TEN different sites in addition to this blog! Here’s the list:

Heart of the Matter Online, regular contributor
Lesson Pathways Blog, contributor
The Old Schoolhouse, First Mate on the ’08-’09 TOS Review Crew
Codex Publishing, newsletter writer
CurrClick, occasional newsletter contributor
Homeschool Buzz, my blog is linked, so my posts show up on their site
The Homeschool Watercooler, my article on portfolios won first place
The Homeschool Lounge, I’m a sistah & I’d love to be yours
The Home School Mom, SOTW 10/21/09
Anne Elliot‘s newsletter/blog, my article on how to plan ahead for Christmas will be featured there soon

I’ve got some other projects in the works, and if they pan out, I’ll be sure to update this post.

People have been asking me how I got started writing and editing, so here’s a glimpse into my journey. I think my journey actually started when I learned how to read. I fell in love with books and magazine in first grade. Shortly thereafter, I was circling grammar and spelling errors in the weekly church bulletin. However, becoming an editor or a writer never entered my mind until recently.

So, what happened? Well, the school I attended for middle and high school did not have a strong writing program. In fact, I think I wrote only two or three actual papers during my six years there. Boy, was I in for a shock when I hit college! I quickly recovered and did fairly well on papers there. I did a little bit of technical writing during my first few jobs after college. Then I started having babies.

My husband and I decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom, and I have been (mostly) for the past 14 1/2 years. While my kids were younger, I taught piano lessons from my house to generate a little income. As they got older, I branched out into teaching GED classes and running a private school music program. These things were good in their time, but I began to weary of living in my car. I decided it was time to look seriously for a legitimate job I could do from home.

A few years ago, I started thinking about editing and writing, but wasn’t sure where to start. A friend of mine suggested I start a blog. I said, “A what?” (Obviously, I’ve figured out the blog thing!) Shortly thereafter, I stumbled upon an affordable, reputable copyediting class online. I took the class, updated my resume, and blitzed every online market I could find. It took a few months, but I eventually landed a fairly steady job with a particular publisher copyediting books online from home as a freelancer. I’ve also done copyediting for a few other sources. About that same time, TOS was advertising for product reviewers. I made the cut (from over 500 to 100) and reviewed nearly 50 homeschool products last year. Some of my reviews were even featured in TOS newsletters.

The more books I edited, the more I thought to myself, I can write better than this. Hey, I think I even have a few unique ideas about which I could write. Through some online contacts, I found Heart of the Matter Online, an online daily blog and quarterly magazine for Christian homeschooling parents. I’ve since become a regular contributor, which has opened up other doors for writing (see my list above).

I’ve written some longer articles that I’ve sent off to traditional print magazines, received a few rejection e-mails, and a few interested emails. Here’s my true confession for this post: I have yet to see any of my work printed on glossy pages that I can hold in my hands. Sigh. Yes, I do have some articles that are pending, and I promise I’ll keep you all in the loop.

My writing/editing journey is far from over, but it’s definitely in progress. I’m enjoying learning new things, meeting new people (online), and expressing my thoughts and opinions via the written word. I’ve been blessed with over nine years of homeschooling experience and nearly *cough, cough* years of organizational experience. I love to pass on my knowledge and to help others on their own journeys.


What’s on a Shelf?

Have you ever wondered what kinds of resources a writer or an editor uses? Have you been wanting to kick your blog up to the next level? If you’ve aspired to that lofty-sounding title of published author, I’m going to give you a peek onto my reference shelf to give you a boost along the way.

The most important book to have on any reference shelf is a good dictionary. I know, that’s a let down for those of you expecting a great secret! Seriously, you’d be surprised by how many times I reach for it while I’m writing and editing. The gold standard is Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. The next most important resource I have on my shelf is Roget’s International Thesaurus, Revised & Updated Sixth Edition. Just so you know, it’s about the same thickness as the dictionary. Think how boring your writing would be if you used the same words over and over again. A sufficient thesaurus will expand your vocabulary and make your writing much more interesting. Another must have for a writer and an editor is a good grammar handbook. I have several, but one of the more accessible options is The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus. Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is another necessity on every writer’s (and editor’s) shelf.

Here is where the road divides between the author and the editor. Let’s go on the author road first and take a look at those books. Both The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style and Christian Writers’ Market Guide (2009 edition) are indispensable for not only appropriate style guidelines in the Christian genre, but also for where to send your writings in order to get published. Both books contain helpful tips and articles for newbies as well as seasoned pros. Since I’m fairly new to writing for publishing, I’ve invested in a few helpful tools. I’m currently working my way through Ethel Herr’s An Introduction to Christian Writing. It has not only helpful ideas, but also exercises to work through that reinforce the concepts introduced. For the Write Reason by Marybeth Whalen (of Proverbs 31 Ministries) provides a month’s worth of encouraging devotionals in the form of stories of the journeys that thirty-one published, Christian authors took on their path to the printed world.

On the editor’s shelf are several more style books, even though every publication usually has its own specialized style sheet. For general books outside of the academic realm, The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition is the mainstay. Newspapers and magazines tend to follow the guidelines set forth in Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, otherwise known as the APA style guide. (I do not actually own this one.) Colleges tend to use the MLA Handbook. Many of the differences between these style guides are formatting and citations, so you will find that rules for things such as hyphenation are the same throughout all styles. If you’re editing for academic theology, you’ll need The SBL Handbook of Style as it pertains especially to quoting and using ancient (biblical) texts.

There you have it: the main reference books I use to edit and to write. Oops, I almost forgot the most important book: The Bible. While I’m not trying to toot my own horn, I will list my credits here just so you know I’ve got a few of them. I write about once a month for Heart of the Matter Online, a wonderful resource for Christian homeschooling parents. I’ve had a few articles show up in Currclick‘s weekly newsletter, and I write the bi-weekly newsletter for Codex Publishing. As far as editing goes, I’m a professional, freelance editor, and I mostly edit books for publishers, although I have edited some other projects. Before you go putting me on a pedestal, just let me mention that I also have an email box full of rejection letters from magazine editors. I have definitely NOT arrived yet (where ever there may be!), and am still a sojourner on the path to being a published author. Please let me know if you’ve found this list helpful and what steps you’re taking on your journey towards getting your writing published.


Let the Adventure Begin!

Students can have FUN while learning to write a REAL novel and get a high school English credit in the bargain! Sound like a novel idea? Not if you’re using the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum.
The One Year Adventure Novel is for high school students who love to write. It’s also for students who hate to write, and for all those who fall in between. The creator of the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum focuses more on the process than on the mechanics, although those are certainly not neglected. The writing process is broken into small, manageable DVD lessons with workbook and writing exercises to reinforce the concepts. Quizzes are even included, although you are certainly free to eliminate them. Students also study a number of classic adventure novels (to fulfill the literature part of the English grade) to give students direction and goals at which to aim. Online forums give instant peer feedback and support. If you’re worried about piloting your writer through the process because you are not a writer yourself, have no fear, clear guidelines for critiquing and assigning grades are given.
Never has a curriculum been so anticipated or enjoyed as the One Year Novel at our house! I haven’t seen my daughter this excited about school since kindergarten! It is well worth the $199 price tag.

Calling All Creative Writers!

Exciting News from TOS!

Attention writers! Grab your pencils and get those creative juices flowing!

The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is hosting our second Storytime Writing Contest! We have two creative fiction categories: adults (16 and up 2,500 words or less) and children (15 and below 1,500 words or less). Deadline to enter is March 16, 2009. $7.95 fee per entry.

Grand prize winners in both the adult and child categories will receive prize packages valued at over $1,000, publication in the Summer 2009 issue of TOS, and publication in our Storytime 2009 Compilation E-Book. Eleven Honorable Mentions from each category will also be included in the E-Book in addition to receiving gifts from top homeschool companies.We look forward to reading your entries!

For a detailed list of prizes, official contest rules, to meet our judges, and to upload your story, please visit: www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com/Short_Story_Contest.php.

Need help teaching writing? We have over 200 writing products in the Schoolhouse Store!

Sissy (my 13 year old) can’t wait to enter! She’s forever writing stories and adding chapters to the stories she’s already written. She also draws elaborate, detailed pencil sketches (and they’re very good!) of all her characters. In fact, one of the things she does most frequently with her online besty friendy is saga. That’s where they take turns (or sometimes work simultaneously) writing a story. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of story she writes for this contest.

Keep watching my blog for a review of a great, affordable creative writing tool!