Hello Honolulu! Here Are the Handouts from CHOH

Thank you Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii for including me in your lovely conference. Here are the handouts from my sessions. Enjoy.

Hope for Weary Moms_There Is a Redeemer

Study Smart Student Strategies

Raising An Independent Learner

Cultivating A Love For Learning

21st Century Homeschooling



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Aim Academy 2015-2016 Registration OPEN

megaphone man

megaphone manRegistration is open for 2015–2016 Aim Academy classes. This is our 5th year offering classes aligned with AP®, CLEP®, and SAT®subject area tests. In years two and three, our enrollment grew 40%. Last year, we doubled in enrollment. We expect to do so once again. Our teachers are highly committed and responsive. We use the latest technology to support student learning, and we seriously enjoy working with kids.

We are pleased to have three highly experienced English teachers joining us this year: Anelise Farris, Susan Spivey, and Beverly Graybill. Anelise is a doctoral student in literature, experienced college-level instructor, and homeschool graduate. She is offering Intro to Literature and Academic Writing and AP Language. Beverly Graybill and Susan Spivey are veteran homeschool parents and longtime teachers at the local homeschool co-op where I (Debra) taught for 16 years. Both are beloved by their students and parents highly recommend their classes. Mrs. Graybill will head up our English classes for middle school students. And Mrs. Spivey is offering British Literature.

As always, AIM does not charge a registration fee. Tuition does not include texts, but teachers choose (whenever possible) materials that are widely available used. We are up-to-date with changes coming to the SAT in 2016. And we are deeply familiar with the latest versions of equivalency exams (AP or CLEP) so that our students are well prepared to sit for these exams by the end of high school. College credit for high school work—that’s our unique focus here at AIM. We want to help your students maximize their high school efforts, be more than college-ready by the end of 12th grade, and position themselves for academic success and scholarship consideration once they hit campus.

Find out more about Aim classes here.


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Aim Academy: Second Semester Registration Is Open

Hi all,

We have nine classes open for second semester enrollment. If you find yourself floundering midyear, several of our teachers have organized their classes so entering midstream is possible. This is also a great way to experience Aim Academy at a reduced price. You can find out more about each course here. And our popular payment plan is available for second semester registrations, too.

1. Introduction to Literature and Academy Writing

2. Creative Writing

3. AP Literature

4. American History

5. World History

6. Spanish 1

7. Spanish 2

8. Intro to Chemistry and Physics

9. SAT Math Prep (winter session)


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What Can You Expect from Aim Academy’s New Algebra 1 Class?


ostrich2-585x585This fall I (Kathryn Gomes) am teaching Algebra I for AIM Academy and one of the highlights of the class will feature Drexel University’s Problems of the Week.

Here is a sample of one of the pre-algebra problems…give it a try because doing some math in the middle of summer is good for you (or call over one of your kids and promise them an ice pop if they can get the answer before you.)

Raul and Esteban just started working at their uncle’s farm on the weekends. Their first task was to count the ostriches and llamas. When they reported to their uncle,

Raul said, “I counted 47 heads.” Esteban added, “I counted 122 legs.”

“How many are ostriches? How many are llamas?” asked their uncle.

“It’s getting dark and I promised your mother I’d get you home for dinner. There’s no time to count again. You’ll have to figure out how many ostriches and how many llamas there are from that information when you get home. Can you give me a call after dinner and let me know your answer?”

How did Raul and Esteban figure out how many ostriches and how many llamas there were?

Got your answer?  No giveaways here…you’ll just have to use the information in the problem to check your answer (because it is July and I know we’d all just scroll down to read it.)  But here is the best part.  It is not about getting the answer, but how did you get it?  Did you take a guess?  Make a table?  Write an equation?  Did you spend time trying to draw a llama or wondering why llama is spelled like that?  And if someone else in your family tried it too, did they do it the same way as you?

All of these questions open up the process of problem-solving which is a very personal thing.  Many students get completely stuck on word problems because they are focused on trying to remember how they are “supposed to start” instead of just following their intuition.  In the problem above they might spend 30 minutes trying to decide what x should represent when guess-and-check could get them to the answer with no problems.  Learning how to hone and sharpen your own problem-solving strategies is the real beauty of mathematics.

This Algebra 1 class is aligned with the new redesigned SAT math section. You can find out more here. Register for Kathryn Gomes’ Algebra 1 class here.

Find out more at Kathryn Gomes’ website.



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Summertime and the learnin’ is easy…






by Joanna Breault, contributing writer


It’s May! If you’re like me, your mind is already swirling with swimsuit decisions, vacation dates, and daydreams about casting off the bonds of a school schedule. It’s time to stash the workbooks and pull out the sunscreen!


But hold on a minute—let’s not lose the precious ground we’ve gained. We have worked hard to make our homes a place where learning happens. Let’s not undo the good we’ve done. Here are five simple ways to make summertime rich in learning and rest.


First of all, learn to spot and nurture intellectual appetite. If you’re the kind who follows a structured curriculum without taking many detours, this may be an adjustment—but it’ll be fun and fruitful once you start, I promise.


It begins like this:

“I wonder how long it would take to fly an airplane to the sun…”

“Hey Mom, look at this tadpole I found!”

“Can I build a fort?”

“Do you think we’ll see a shark at the beach?”


These kinds of kid-comments are easy to foul off or answer quickly when there are math problems waiting. But during the summer months, rabbit trails turn into the important journeys.


Instead of giving a one-word answer, try starting with “what a great question!” Your enthusiasm conveys that curiosity is a worthy pursuit. Then, offer to google the quandary together. Hit the library or your own bookshelves. Find a video on YouTube. Casually throw out follow-up questions or ideas.


Make sure you don’t take over or make it feel like school. Come alongside to affirm your child’s interest, and enjoy the journey as a co-adventurer.


This hunting down of information, making connections, diving into related topics—this is the stuff of true intellectual engagement. If summertime is marked by the thrill of independent discovery, that means young minds are continuing to grow and develop.


Secondly, let them be bored. 


Yes, you read that right. Don’t underestimate the value of giving children big swaths of time in which to be bored—and then find things to learn and do. It has been said that boredom is intellectual appetite; don’t satiate that appetite with a constant stream of activities, lessons, and media.


Many parents are buying into the idea that rigorous education should continue throughout the summer and that every moment should be structured. But no differentiation during summer months gives diminishing returns—kind of like only doing sit-ups, day after day. Doing something new—but equally cognitively valuable—is like cross-training.


No, letting kids be bored is not for the faint of heart—but we mothers are of strong stock, aren’t we? Tell them “I’m bored” will result in a chore assignment. Period. It’s crazy how fast they become un-bored.


Next, make sure reading is a big piece of the summertime pie. Use summer to build a foundation of “reading as a pleasurable activity,” if it isn’t already.


Allow more latitude in their reading diet than you would during the school year. Let them binge on Hardy Boys or The Magic Tree House series without worrying about whether Charlotte Mason would consider it twaddle. If your kid prefers magazine or newspaper articles, procure age-appropriate journals and make them available. If there are certain books you’d like to see them explore, be sneaky and leave them on the coffee or breakfast table. You never know what will be thumbed through over a bowl of cereal or on a rainy day.


Math is an area where it’s good to maintain some basic ground. But this can be done easily through games—card games, strategy games, and anything where players have to keep track of scores (Rummy, Spades, Scrabble, etc). Review fractions and measurement by cooking or baking together. Quiz the kids on their times tables or addition facts during road trips. There are also oodles of websites with free math games (check out funbrain.com and aplusmath.com to start). You don’t need to be militaristic about math review; just keep it on the radar and make sure you hit it from time to time.


Finally, just say no to electronic babysitting. Believe me, I know it’s tempting. They all sit so quietly and get along so well when riveted by something on a screen. But overindulging in media is a downward spiral. It retards cognitive development, reduces interest in mentally stimulating tasks, and stands in as a paltry substitute for truly enriching activities.


If you’ve gotten into a habit of keeping the kids occupied with computer games or movies, there will be howls of protest when you pull the plug. But they’ll adjust, and the dividends are worth it. Provide some art supplies or send them outside. Invite some friends over or plan a family activity. Yes, we all need downtime, but keep the screen time in check, using books and games as the go-to quiet time occupation.


Instead of banishing learning along with formal schooling, make intellectual growth a family companion this summer. It may be your best yet.

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Want to Know More About Aim Academy? Check Out This Video.

We recorded the recent Aim Academy informational. Here it is:

Aim Academy Informational


Thanks to our science teacher, Mrs. Dincher for editing this. Both Mrs. Dincher and Mrs. Adkins (our French teacher) show attendees around their class websites–which is a good overview of how all teachers use Canvas, our learning management system. And Debra Bell gives an overview of the webinar tool all teachers use for live classes.

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Algebra 1: Not just how but why

Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

Kathryn (Bell) Gomes

“Just show us the steps!”


This is a common plea in my high school math class.  Many of my students don’t want me to explain why or how…and they definitely don’t want to have to deal with a word problem!  Instead they want me to just show them what to do.


But is this the best way to learn math?  Is it better to just learn one skill at a time then move on to something new?  Or should students focus on conceptual understanding and spend time on projects and multi-step word problems?  I did a mix of both when I was in school and I benefitted from both approaches.


In elementary school I worked on problems in a book called Figure Out which was a collection of word problems written by other home educated students.  The word problems were all mixed together so I had to learn to apply different skills at different times.  In middle school I joined a math club where we read biographies of famous mathematicians and traced the development of mathematics throughout history.  Additionally, we formed a MathCounts team and competed regionally against other schools.  We learned to solve word problems quickly using any method we preferred as long as we could find the answer.  Guess and check quickly became my favorite strategy. Afterwards we would all compare answers and I’d learn from my teammates.  In high school I used textbooks published by University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) that incorporated projects and challenge problems that encouraged me to continue using creative thinking as I mastered new skills.


However, math wasn’t solely devoted to projects and clubs.  There is always a set of skills that have to be mastered and there is no replacement for textbooks, clear examples, and lots and lots of practice problems.  In elementary school I worked on “mad math minute” worksheets until I had memorized my basic math facts.  In high school there was no alternative to memorizing trig identities with flashcards—there isn’t really a way to make that more exciting.  And the vast majority of time I spent doing math was devoted to completing a long list of exercises in a textbook. Without this foundation I never could have studied calculus or succeeded on the SATs– procedural errors would have bogged me down.


When I designed the AIM Algebra 1 course that I will be teaching this fall, I took all of these experiences into account.  We will be completing lots of practice problems, memorizing certain properties, and even taking time to review basic skills if necessary.  But students will also complete projects, discuss different methods for solving the same problem, and connect the content to their lives.  This combination of procedural and conceptual learning establishes long-term retention. And success in math is the first step to a love for math! That’s my ultimate goal for all my students.

Mrs. Gomes looks forward to welcome her first group of Algebra 1 students this coming fall. You can find out more about her class and approach here. She has been teaching SAT Math Prep online for AIM for the past year. She has been a high school math teacher for seven years.

Algebra 1  (7th-up) Kayte Gomes Mon 12-1 PM EST Register
SAT MATH TEST PREP(Fall 8/25-10/3) Kayte Gomes Mon 5-6 PM EST Register
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Seminar Handouts from Anchorage, AK

As promised, here are the notes from my presentations in Anchorage, AK April 2014:

8 Reasons Kids Learn Best At Home

Raising An Independent Learner

Developing Motivation

Motivating the Reluctant Learner

Creative & Critical Thinking Skills

21st Century Learning

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Field Trips: Let’s Go!




By Joanna Breault, contributing writer


 Finally, spring is here! If your winter was like mine, you’re greeting the warmer weather with something close to child-like giddiness. Instead of fighting spring fever in yourself and your kids, go with it! Get out of the house and do something fun — and, yes, educational. Field trips are a great antidote to the homestretch blahs, and now that the weather is nice, they feel a lot more doable. 


Things to keep in mind…


First of all, embrace the truth that field trips are an important part of your kids’ education.  You won’t have fun if you’re stressed about the workbooks pages you’re not doing. The hands-on, up close experiences that field trips afford are priceless; they bring book lessons to life and they are the moments your kids will remember. Field trips reinvigorate moms as well as kids — as long as you’re convinced that they are worthwhile and don’t feel like you’re getting away with something. 


For younger kids, focus on teaching about the local community. The fire department, a botanical garden, the doughnut shop, the police station — these can all be memorable destinations as long as you have an interesting guide. Call around and find out which sites and businesses do tours for little ones. Many even have hands-on activities they do for younger visitors. 


For older kids, connect your trip with your studies. Choose a historical site that corresponds with this year’s era. You can do the same for science — if you’ve studied astronomy, find a nearby observatory; if marine biology, visit an aquarium. If there aren’t good options for curriculum tie-ins nearby, create a simple unit study and then go on a field trip as the payoff. There’s nothing wrong with studying something for a few days and then following up with a trip. Chose an intriguing destination, check out related books and DVDs, pore over websites, absorb all you can, and then — hit the road! It’s amazing how tour guides go out of their way for kids who show interest or understanding. 


Here’s something important — think it through. Envision the whole day. Ask yourself what you’ll need to keep any stroller/carrier-bound siblings happy, what kind of snacks or drinks you’ll want, how much cash to have on hand, and how long you should stay (even the most focused kids max out after several hours). There’s nothing worse than being harried (or hungry or late or lost) on a field trip because of a failure to plan. 


If you can, have an expert join your crew. If you go with someone who loves the topic or activity, even field trips can be to a commonplace site will be enlivened. Even if you’re going to a destination that has paid tour guides, bringing along a passionate friend who engages children well can make the experience unforgettable. 


Finally, reinforce afterwards. Discuss your experiences over the dinner table as a family. Have the kids draw a picture illustrating what they saw, or make a video for their grandparents about the day, or dictate so you can type up their words for a “field trip journal.” Just make sure the debriefing doesn’t feel like a chore. 


Now get out there! And if you need out-of-the box ideas, check out 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12!



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Q&A with Debra: handling doldrums and feeling behind

Is it spring yet?


Is it spring yet?

Is it spring yet?

Today, I address some of the most common and pressing quandaries of springtime homeschooling…


Q: Everyone around here is either burned out or has spring fever, myself included. How do you find motivation this time of year?


A: Do something new. Decide to take a week and totally break the routine. Brainstorm for ideas with your kids; ask them “what can we do to break the monotony?” You can do a unit study or a service project in your neighborhood. Study the history of your town or go on a field trip. Your break can be as simple as putting aside the regular stuff and just reading a really good book together.


Or tell your kids that you’re taking a break to become experts on something new. And then all of you (mom included) choose a topic and check out books from the library. After learning about your topics, everyone gives a lecture, pretending to be a professor and teaching the others about your topic.


Whatever you do, just make a memorable moment. Those are the things kids remember anyway — exceptions! And then after you’ve had a break, go back to the grind. But you’ll find that those breaks really do energize you.


Q: Help! I just realized my kid is behind in our curriculum. What should I do?


A: When parents tell me a child is behind, I first want to know why the parent thinks so. Is it possible the child is just not developmentally ready for the task at hand? While children go through the same developmental steps in the same order, the pace at which they proceed can vary dramatically. Oh boy — I wish I could convince parents to get comfortable with this truth. God did not design our kids to do the same exact things by 8 years and 2 months. Standardization is a man-centered invention because we are trying to mass educate kids. They aren’t built that way. They are designed for an individualized education. Ask yourself, is my child developmentally ready for this task or subject? What indication do I see that he/she is?


But let’s say a child is behind but is cognitively capable of catching up or doing better.


First, don’t rush to catch up. The initial steps in any new endeavor — i.e. learning to read, Algebra 1, whatever the challenge — should be slow and measured. Let the fundamentals really sink in. You will find the child will be able to pick up speed if he or she really understands the basics.


Second, we have to motivate our children. They are the ones who really have to provide the brain power behind learning. Our job is to give them good reasons for doing so. I found that talking through the importance of a subject or assignment was a necessary step I couldn’t skip if I wanted my kids to be motivated. I needed to learn to listen to what my child thought, and to help each one build his or her own reasons for putting effort into schooling.


Third — and I guess I should have said this first — we have to build faith in our kids. When I would remember to pray with my child before we began a tough subject, everything really changed. Then the focus was on God and how we were asking Him to help us. It took pressure off my child to measure up. It was less a problem my child had, and more an opportunity for God to show Himself faithful and able on our behalf.


Q: Okay, I’ve done all of that. We aren’t going to rush and my child seems willing to put in effort to catch up. How do we do this practically?


A: Here are some ideas:


1. Use the summer for intensive remediation.

2. Find a tutor.

3. Clear the schedule and just focus on the area needing attention.

4. Do it first thing in the morning or when your child is most attentive.

5. Find a competition, such as Math Olympiad or writing contest, to give a child a reason to work hard.

6. Make an incentive chart with a reward at the end that the child values.

7. Make it a team effort, with everyone in the family devoting two weeks to improving in a specific area. Quiz each other at dinner.

8. Find a game that helps kids practice the skills or content in context. We used 24 (a card game) a lot to practice arithmetic and then algebra. 

There are more suggestions in the chapter entitled “Motivating the Reluctant Learner” in my book, The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling.

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