Field Trip!

Pull out your lesson plan books and the white out, because you might need to make some room for this.

Brand new this year to the Chicago area is a program sponsored by Macy’s, various library systems, the Sun-Times, and Lite FM. This program allows library card holders to “check out” a free museum pass each week starting September 1.

Because this hasn’t started yet, I can’t tell exactly how this will work, and even the librarians don’t have all the answers. But, you will definitely want to make visiting your local library a weekly event, and leave lots of room for FREE field trips.

Through the Museum Adventure Pass Program, library card holders can go to their library, choose from the available passes they would like to use that week and receive a print out that expires one week later. After the expiration date (whether they used it or not), they may return for a new pass. The program involves twelve various sites this year including Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

What to do:

– Check the list of libraries to make sure yours participates in the program

– Check the list of cooperating museums for the various passes available (you won’t know until you go to the library for sure what the availability is at that time, but this website will show you what the possibilities might include).

– Visit your participating library to check out a pass (one per library card, and these are not transferable)

– Take a field trip!

– Thank the museum and other program sponsors for making this available to us!

The passes do vary (and all this is spelled out on the website). Some include four admissions, some only two, some offer other specials and discounts (buy one, get one; gift store discounts, etc.) Read them carefully, and make sure you understand what you are getting.

This is brand new to our area, so you might get some funny looks the first time you use the passes. A great chance to practice patience. 🙂 And, you might want to call ahead to confirm their acceptance of the pass.

If you want to see how this has the potential to grow, check out the Detroit area website and the Minnesota websites which have already enjoyed this program and continue to expand the number of museums offering free tickets.

What an incredible opportunity, don’t forget to take advantage of this!

(If you want to make sure that you don’t miss out on all the great resources and tips to enhance your homeschool, please subscribe to the Chicagoland Homeschool Network using the buttons on the right sidebar. And, if you are on Facebook, you can become a fan and receive reminders and notifications there as well).

Homeschooling quote of the week

Let children alone-…the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions – a running fire of Do and Don’t ; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way and grow to fruitful purpose.

~Charlotte Mason

Painting - Helping with Chores Pictures, Images and Photos

With a strong resemblance to Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it,” this quote reminds me to stay the course, especially with the little ones.

Lax discipline comes much easier in the short term. Intentional training takes consistent effort, but reaps immeasurable dividends in the end. As I work with my four and five year olds, I cannot let up. Not with harshness, but working with kindness and compassion, I need to capitalize on the teaching moments that erupt throughout their days.

Humility, obedience, gentleness, self-control, attentiveness, diligence. The lessons they have to learn far outweigh the Algebra that will come soon enough. They will eventually learn about great personages of history, but for now, I cannot neglect their life lessons. Now I must model and instill in them the faith that will give them the backdrop for all of that.

Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg Giveaway

LegolandDon’t miss out on your chance to win a free family pass (for 2 adults and up to 4 children) to the Legoland Discovery Center. The contest will be open until September 15. Be sure to leave your name in the comments of the post and spread the word!

Whether you win or not, be sure to check out their homeschool days on Wednesdays. More info on their site

Info on a free book on homeschooling

Received this interesting tidbit thanks to

Laurel Springs School is giving away FREE copies of “Homeschooling and Loving It.” Normally, this popular book sells for $15.95.

Here’s the Coupon Code: LSS
Go To:
Limit 5 copies per person. While supplies last.

Be sure to watch the short video on the ordering page, telling all about the book. I used the “Homeschooling & Loving It” method with my own children and my son has just gone off to the college of his choice. It works. I don’t know how long the copies will last so be sure to get your copy right away.

Legoland Discovery Center discounts


A representative from Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg contacted me recently about letting you all in on a great deal. More than likely you have heard about this exciting facility, and maybe you have visited. However, maybe you haven’t. Maybe the admission prices made you reconsider, especially when you start adding up all of the members of your family. Maybe you didn’t know what to expect when you arrived.

If that sounds anything like you, or if you have any Lego lovers in your home, then you will want to check out this offer they have put together especially with the homeschool family in mind:

At the LEGOLAND Discovery Center we aim to make learning fun! Journey through an informative LEGO world of color, interaction and creativity for a visit your children are sure to remember!


Special rates will be available for Chicagoland Homeschool Network families on each of the following Wednesdays during the 2009/2010 school year:

  • August 26 through November 18, 2009 (each Wednesday)
  • January 5 through March 17, 2010 (each Wednesday)
  • $7.00 per Child plus a FREE workshop
  • 1 FREE adult for every 5 children booked
  • $7.00 per additional adult


Students get a chance to build towers and test them on an earthquake table.
Grades 1-3,Science/Math

Educational Objectives
This 30-minute workshop helps your children:

  • Learn about structures such as houses and towers.
  • Learn how to increase the stability of tall structures through hands-on experiments in a workshop.
  • Relate hands-on activities to the experience of the attractions in the LEGOLAND® Discovery Center.

Workshops must be booked at least 1 week in advance. To reserve your workshop, please call 847-592-9708 or email
Go  here to download your Chicagoland Homeschool discount coupon (if the link doesn’t work for you, you can cut and paste into your browser):

Download and print off your coupon and bring it with you when you visit.

If you end up loving it, you can become a member (just $32 a year per person if purchased online) and enjoy it even more frequently, but either way you will more than likely come away with some great memories. Please feel free to spread the word about this fun learning opportunity.

It gets even better . . .

To help spread the word about these specially designed homeschool days, Legoland Discovery Center is giving away a free pass for one family (2 adults and up to four children) to enjoy their facility.

If you would like to enter this drawing you must leave a comment on this post. Everyone gets one free entry just by leaving a comment below. You can earn additional entries by spreading the word. If you facebook, blog, or tweet about the homeschool days at Legoland Discovery Center and this contest you can earn another entry, just come back and comment again each time, telling where you spread the word.

Contest closes on September 15 at 10:00 pm and the winner will be announced at that time.

Homeschool classes at the Discovery Center Museum

Discovery Center Museum
711 North Main Street
Rockford, Illinois 61103
(815) 963-6769

The Discovery Center Museum is offering special homeschool classes on Wednesdays this fall. These are geared toward a variety of ages and have an extra fee in addition to the regular admission rate.

See How We See I

Grab a scalpel — we’re dissecting animal eyes to see how we see. Examine lenses, make a camera obscura, find your blind spot, and more! Not for the squeamish.

Wednesday, October 7
Session 1: ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2: ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3: ages 10 & up; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4: ages 6 & up 3:30-5:00;

See How We See II

Take your vision to task and find out what makes colorful colors. Explore persistence of vision, negative after images, and the inner workings of the human eye.

Wednesday, November 4
Session 1: ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2: ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3: ages 10 & up; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4: ages 6 & up 3:30-5:00;

See How We See III

“Scope” out reflection as you make a working periscope, design a kaleidoscope, and use mirrors to play laser tag.

Wednesday, December 9
Session 1: ages 6-7; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 2: ages 8-9; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 3: ages 10 & up; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4: ages 6 & up 3:30-5:00
Contact the museum for more information or for mail in registration forms. Registration is either by phone or mail.

Homeschool classes at the Centre in ELgin

Coming this fall the Elgin Park District offers homeschoolers its regular gym and swim classes as well as a new ceramics class.

The following information taken from the Elgin Park District Brochure:

Home School Gym & Swim

Hey Home Schoolers – we have the perfect way to add physical fitness and socialization time to your curriculum. Our Gym and Swim program features a one-hour swim lesson and one-hour physical education class each week. A variety of sports and cooperative games will be played in our gym time and children will have some free time in our Adventure Island aquatic center at the end of their swim lesson. BL

Length: 10 Weeks
Resident Fee: $54
Non-Res Fee: $64
Min/Max: 28/60
Instructor: Staff Member
: $50
Location: The Centre, Fieldhouse Court #1

Course #         Date Day                            Time                                           Age
4475                   9/15-11/17                    Tue 1:00-3:00 pm             5-15 Yrs
4476                  9/16-11/18                      Wed 1:00-3:00 pm           5-15 Yrs
4477                 9/17-11/19                      Thu 1:00-3:00 pm             5-15 Yrs

Home School Youth Ceramics

Home School Children can add art to their daily curriculm by taking a ceramics class. This 1 ½ hr. class will have children learning to use coils, slabs and pinch pots to build pottery and sculptures in this guided step-by-step handbuilding class. All projects will be glazed and kiln fired. Since clay can be messy please dress appropriately. JM

Age: 6-15 yrs.
Instructor: Nancey Buechner
Resident Fee: $52
Non-Res Fee
: $57
Length: 1.5hrs/wk/5wks
Min/Max: 8/12
Location: The Centre, Ceramics Studio

Course #         Date Day                         Time
4700         11/12 – 12/17 Thur           1:00 – 2:30 pm

TOS Crew review — ALEKS

If ever a math program could be tailor made for the tech-loving, middle school aged boy, ALEKS would fit the bill. It has a much wider audience and application, but in my home it met with the most enthusiastic reception from Blake.

ALEKS describes itself as follows:

Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn’t know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for your children.

Overall, we really enjoyed our trial with ALEKS, so let me break it down for you.

What we loved (and, some of this I might not have discovered if my 12 year old had not had so much fun poking around to figure out all he could do with it):

Jump right in! You don’t really need to figure anything out ahead of time, it is ready to use once you start your subscription or trial. Pick the grade level for your child, and let them loose!

Student MyPie

Visible progress. As each topic is mastered the kids fill in wedges of their pie chart. The sense of victory is impossible to miss in those glowing eyes.

Very little writing! Once again, my 12 year old loved this. He loathes anything involving a pencil, but didn’t mind doing the few problems on scratch paper that he needed to since the vast majority of his work was typed or clicked in.

You can send little messages to your math students through the ALEKS program, and they can send them to each other. Blake would send his little sisters challenge questions by emailing them screen shots and links to his problems and reward them with Webkinz dollars if they got it right. What a clever kid! He had to show me how to do that one. 🙂

Make your own quizzes. They give you so much flexibility in putting together a quiz for your child, and still without you having to come up with the actual problem. You can pick the length of the quiz, the topics it covers, when they have to take it, how long they have to take it, how much each problem is worth, etc., etc. And, they walk you through all of it, so I could even do it without my 12 year old helping me.

Weekly email updates. Each week, just in case I forgot to check obsessively throughout the week, they would automatically email me a summary of each student’s progress.

Online records and progress. You can see everything they do summarized into neat little charts for your knowledge. Attendance records show when and how long they were logged in, how many topics they attempted and mastered, their level of mastery of each topic and much more.

Master Attendance Report
(This is just a sample, not mine My kids did not spend hours every day on ALEKS)

No grading! That doesn’t need any more explanation.

What we tweaked:

– Because I let the kids work on their own, we had to lay down ground rules initially about when to use the calculator (only when ALEKS lets you use their calculator), how much time to spend on it, and avoiding distractions during logged in time.

– The assessment at the beginning is rather lengthy, and my kids got a little weary of the process. So, I let them complete it in more than one sitting. It was just fine. The next time they logged in, it put them right where they left off.


– This is designed for kids in 3-12 grade, but they wisely recommend younger kids (3-4 grade) have parental assistance in the process. I definitely agree with this. My 8 year old is not a strong reader, and could not always follow the explanations. It would be nice if they had an audio option or some animation to make it easier to follow for young readers. We knew it going in, but it did make it less desirable for her.

– Also, as with most computer programs, some kids learn to work the system. I assume he would eventually have to tackle these tough topics, but I found in watching Blake that when he picked a topic he didn’t like or found too hard, he went back and did something else. If we were to use it long term I think I would need to go through and assign him topics to work through at least some of the time so he didn’t just put them off.

– I would have like more review. Maybe I’m just used to Saxon and similar programs, but I didn’t feel like ALEKS had enough review built in to their program. It will review a couple problems at the start of each session, but I would be interested to see if the retention is there long term using this program.

Would I recommend it?

Definitely, in certain situations. Personally, I would probably not use ALEKS as our regular math program, but I could see using it to keep skills fresh through the summer months or breaks. It would also be helpful if you were taking an extended vacation where you would still have internet and wanted the kids to keep up on their math while gone. Or, in a time of family crisis it would be a great fill in to free up mom/teacher while not compromising academic excellence.

If you have not tried ALEKS before, you can also get a free one month trial and discover all they have to offer for yourself:

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

If you already know ALEKS is for you feel free to jump into a subscription. It regularly costs $19.95 per student per month, but they have other discounts for families and 6 and 12 month subscriptions.

To learn more of what others have to say about ALEKS, check out the TOS Crew blog.

World Vision event coming to Oak Brook

The following information is from World Vision and might be helpful to raise awareness of various needs surrounding the AIDS issue in Africa today. Please note that this is geared toward adults and older children (12 and up).

You’re invited!

We’re excited to let you know that World Vision’s popular Experience: AIDS exhibit is coming to your area soon. This amazing interactive, walk-through experience takes you on a virtual journey to Africa, where you’ll walk in the steps of a child affected by AIDS.

You already have a heart for the poor and oppressed of the world. Now, here’s a unique opportunity for you and your friends, family, and neighbors to come see, hear, and experience the life of a child impacted by the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time: AIDS.

This FREE exhibit (already seen by more than hundreds of thousands of visitors across the country) will open your eyes to the AIDS pandemic through stirring audio and captivating photography. Visitors tell us it’s like being transported to the heart of Africa.

So, don’t miss the chance to visit the World Vision Experience: AIDS exhibit and step into Africa. Reserve your tour time by clicking here. (Allow approximately 20 to 30 minutes for your Experience tour.)

The audio portion of the Experience contains situations that may be disturbing to children younger than 12. Parental discretion is advised.

To find out more about the tour and preview the stories, visit We look forward to seeing you there.

God bless you,

/s/ Rich Stearns
Rich Stearns
President, World Vision U.S.

Lake County Forest Preserves

The Lake Country Forest Preserves has a number of events to supplement your homeschool experience. Be sure to check out their calendar of events whether you live in Lake County or not.

They have all kind of events from Historical home tours, to nature hikes, to helping around the farm, to art, to water sports.

Coming up in September is a homeschool farm day, rescheduled from a rained out day in the spring.

When: Wednesday September 16, 2009
10:00AM – 12:00PM
Where: Bonner Heritage Farm (Lindenhurst)
Ages: 5 – 12
$3.00 per child (Lake County Residents)

$5.00 per child (Non-Residents)
Regular Registration Deadline: September 15, 2009
Registration Options: Register online, by telephone at 847-968-3321 or by mail or fax using this form

This often fills up, so be sure to register soon if you are interested.

See their website on the links above or call for more information.