Encouragement from the Boyer Family

You may know the name Marilyn Boyer. A mother of 14, homeschooling veteran of 30 years (!), with a few more still ahead of her, a writer, and a speaker at homeschool conventions.

This past weekend I joined a couple hundred other women in Oak Brook to receive encouragement and vision from Marilyn. I took many notes and came away with lots of fresh ideas and enthusiasm for loving my children and taking full advantage of the relationship we build with them through homeschooling.

Even if you could not make it this weekend, she has a wonderful gift to share on her website.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you a simple link to get there, but I can give you some directions. Go to the Boyer website, The Learning Parent, and float over the “Categories” tab. From there click on “Boyer Products” or “Boyer Resources.” These should both take you to the same place. You will need to go to the second page of resources, looking for one entitled, “Educating for Eternity.”

You can purchase this resource on CD, or you can select the downloadable version for free. It does take a while to download, and as mine is currently downloading, I can’t yet tell you the wonderful information it contains. But, knowing Marilyn, this will be a great encouragement to listen to.

In this recording you will learn:

We all want our children to catch the vision for God and grow up to serve Him. But how do we begin? Rick and Marilyn Boyer, home education pioneers of thirty years, believe the Bible contains the best plan for the upbringing of wise and competent children. Seeking wisdom from God`s Word and applying it to their own lives, they have trained their fourteen sons and daughters, some of whom are now parents and passing on the vision to their own children.

In this session you will hear Rick and Marilyn- with five of their adult children- explain the scriptural method for passing on a vision of powerful Christian living from generation to generation through family discipleship!

She has such a wonderful heart and shares so sincerely about her journey as a homeschooling mom. I would encourage you to take the time to download this resource, and to check out some of the other resources they have available.

Some other resources that have caught my attention: For You The Signed (a new one that she mentioned this weekend, about the signers of the Declaration of Independence, you’ll find this on their home page), audio books by her husband “Uncle Rick,” and many other books and audio resources for the homeschooling family — Getting it all done, homeschooling with toddlers, etc.

Gymnastics classes in the Fox Valley area

Excel Gymnastics has long served homeschoolers in the Fox Valley area with a homeschool gymnastics class at their Batavia facility. This class meets on Thursdays from 11:00-12:00 for kids ages 6 and up.  They also have preschool classes (3-4 years) and a Kindergym (5 year olds) at the same time (the preschool class is 45 minutes long).  The class is at Excel Gymnastics in Batavia (2301 Main St., Batavia).

They have offered to recreate this class at their St. Charles facility if they can gather enough interest.

Amy is spearheading this effort and any questions or interest should travel through her (see email below). She shared some of her thoughts on her children’s experience in Excel’s homeschool gymnastics class:

We love these classes and the coaches (at the Batavia location) are fabulous.  We have done gymnastics classes through the park district and other locations and our experience at Excel far surpasses these other classes.  This is a great opportunity for exercise and I have even seen boosts in my kids self esteem since starting these classes.  They offer classes for preschoolers at the same time, which is very nice for families with younger kids as well.

New Class Possibility:  Suggested time is Wednesdays from 11:00-12:00 at the St. Charles location  (3N800 Peck Road, St. Charles).  Coach Tony said that there would be a preschool class (45 minutes) at the same time and that they could also combine 4 & 5 year olds for a Kindergym class as well.  The homeschool gymnastics class would be for kids ages 6 and up.

The new session starts next week, but they said they could start the new homeschool class anytime in case families were not ready to start next week.  They need only 4 kids to start the class! And, they have great sibling discounts available right now (25% off the second child’s class!)

Please email Amy (asebas0900@sbcglobal.net) as soon as possible if you would be interested in this class for one or more of your kids. You will need to let her know how many kids you would like to enroll, their ages, and which location (Batavia or St. Charles).  If they hear from enough interested students to get a new class going she will contact Coach Tony at Excel and let him know so that they can move forward with making these arrangements.

Thanks to Kris Besic of Positive Connections Homeschoolers for passing along this information.

Review: MathScore

Math is one of those core subjects that all students need to study. It is also one of those subjects that often elicits groans from its prisoners, I mean students.

Fortunately, there are many great resources for helping your child through math while reducing their discomfort and maximizing their benefit in the process.

MathScore provides students a place to learn their math, enhance their skills, attack their weak points, and build their mastery of basic math, computation, and applications of these skills.


Product: MathScore.com
Details: A web based program that allows students to work on math skills online. The program awards them with points for building their math skills in both speed and mastery.
Price: $9.95 per month for first child (introductory rate, after two months this goes to $14.95), $5 for second, $3.95 for third. There are other discounts for ordering for multiple months.

What we loved . . .

  • Flexibility — You can choose and switch levels as you desire. You can decide which topics to work on. The kids don’t have to be stuck on something frustrating, or stay on a topic that bores them. They can do a little and return later. Or, if they like to do one topic and complete it, that is possible as well.
  • Tracking — I would receive a daily email automatically that would summarize the student’s work. This would let me know the topics they worked on, the level of mastery achieved, and how much time the worked (as well as how much time they spent idle in the program). I really like that I knew not just how much time they spent on it, but also how much time they spent engaged with the worksheets.
  • They encourage rewards — They don’t have any built in rewards (games, characters, etc.), but they do encourage you to recognize your child’s achievement. When they reach that 100 level saying they have mastered a topic, don’t let their hard work go unnoticed. They do earn “trophies” that are displayed on a page that shows their progress.
  • Variety of approaches — Your child can choose to either simply begin the “worksheet,” follow a mini-lesson, or try some sample problems depending on their level of comfort in a given topic.
  • Free resources as well — Their website has free math worksheet generators and lessons available to everyone.
  • Timed lessons — Some kids might not do well with these, although they start pretty generous, but for my daughter they really helped her stay on track and not let herself get distracted. If she ran out of time, she had to work on that level again.

Some considerations . . .

  • Might be difficult to use as a complete math program. They do present that as an option, but I prefer to use it as a supplementary program or as a break from the regular math book.
  • The scoring confused me a bit. To master a topic they must reach “100.” There were too many classifications of accomplishment for me to really grasp — rating, points, percents, etc. I wasn’t quite sure why they had so many different ways of presenting the same information. It was like reading a standardized test result.
  • If you have a particular goal for your child in math, you might need to spend more time with them. Since they do have a fair amount of free reign once logged in (they could choose grade 1 material if they feel like it), you will need to guide them and make your expectations clear if you want to make the most of their time on the computer.
  • No frills. This program does not come with a lot of extras. It gets the job done efficiently, but when my daughter first tried it out she said it was “boring.” Now, when I let her try it for a couple days in place of her regular math text it became “fun.” So, I guess it depends what you compare it to.

MathScore meets a definite need in developing a child’s mastery in mathematics. It makes it easy for the parent to track progress, and provides tools for helping a child learn and excel at a variety of levels. I think it is reasonably priced, especially for families with multiple children. This might be a great tool if you are looking for something to supplement your current math curriculum or to help students retain knowledge during those longer breaks from school.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This web based program was provided to me free of charge from MathScore.com as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Homeschool Conferences

Did you know that we have four different homeschool conventions or conferences coming to the Chicagoland area this year?

The first one takes place in just a couple months. The InHome Conference (This is a non-religious based group):

March 18 – 20, 2010
Pheasant Run Resort and Spa
4051 East Main St.
St. Charles, Illinois

A little background on this conference taken from their website:

During the 90s, Illinois HOUSE planned and produced conferences for Illinois homeschooling families which grew in size and frequency until it made sense to incorporate them as a separate activity. In 1998, the Home Educators Conference Fund (HECF) was formed as an Illinois not-for-profit corporation and a section 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity. In both its volunteer base and its governance, HECF has drawn from a wide selection of committed and talented homeschoolers. Our presenters and volunteers are current or former homeschoolers from all over Illinois, and elsewhere in the US where homeschooling has flourished. HECF’s “InHome” event is a forum for grassroots insights; we enjoy sharing our experiences and recognizing the expertise within our own communities.

Then, in June, the Illinois Christian Home Educators have their annual convention:

June 3-5, 2010
Calvary Church

More details yet to come on this convention.

In August, the Chicago Homeschool Expo returns for a second year:

August 5-7, 2010
The Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center
1551 N. Thoreau Dr.
Schaumburg, Illinois 60173

From their website:

The Homeschool Expo is a “don’t miss” whole family two day event with hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of products where parents can review and purchase the latest curriculum, hear great speakers who give practical encouragement, and receive personalized help and answers to any question. Our workshops especially emphasize the practical aspects of working with children in ways that will promote their educational, social and emotional growth.

And, finally, Apologia Live is coming in October:

October 8-9, 2010, in Chicago, IL
Westin NW in Schaumburg, IL

Their website has this to say about this event:

These will be exciting, spiritually refreshing events specifically designed for homeschool moms and those thinking of homeschooling. We have planned these retreats with you in mind. Fellowship with like-minded women will encourage you and foster renewal. All of the speakers are veteran homeschool moms who know the pitfalls, the pressures, and the panicked-times of homeschooling. Yet they also know the joys, blessings, and eternal benefits of homeschooling. All of the messages will focus on different aspects of Standing Strong in Christ.

Plan now to attend one (or more) of these events to help keep your homeschool growing and meeting your family’s needs.

Top 100 sites selected by Homeschool.com users

The following came in an email from Homeschool.com. They have compiled lots of popular and helpful links for homeschoolers and the cream of the crop come in their top 100 of the year:

Every year, Homeschool.com compiles a list of some of our favorite educational websites for you to enjoy in a convenient list you can keep handy. You can even share this list with your friends, family and support group. We asked our 8,500 Product Testers to send us a list of their favorite educational websites that they use most often. We had so many suggestions pour in that we’ve included over 100 sites this year. Many sites that made it on last year’s list are mentioned again this year. The top five sites for 2010 include:

The Top Sites

Note: Normally we would not include commercial sites on this list. However, so many people nominated a number of commercial websites, it seemed unfair to leave them off the list and they have been included.

So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and peruse through the list at your leisure. Click on a site and explore it for awhile, then come back to view even more great sites. A few new aspects of our list include the category of Music, as well as a variety of relevant and fun math and science sites.

For the other 95 sites, check out their article on the top 100 sites.

TOS Crew Review — Worship Guitar

I have long had this fascination with playing guitar. In fact, for the past number of years I have owned a guitar. You can often find it under my bed, in its dust covered case.

For some reason, that image of guitar accompanied songs around the campfire has not pressed me to learn it very well. I do pull it out and sing with my kids now and then, but I wouldn’t ask for much more of an audience than that.

Regardless of my poor guitar’s neglect, I did pull it out with some gusto as a package arrived that helped me do what I really longed to do with the guitar . . . Worship!

Worship Guitar Class DVD 1 and Book 1

Product: Jean Welles Worship Guitar Vol. 1
Details: A DVD and lesson book for beginner or advanced beginners. Includes introduction, 7 lessons and practice sessions, and Spanish subtitles if desired.
Price: $29.95 for DVD and book set.

What we loved . . .

  • Easy to pop in and use. You can come with no knowledge, or have been playing guitar for years, like myself (ahem). This DVD gives you a basic introduction to the instrument, tuning, and how to read chord charts and then jumps right into learning some well known praise choruses.
  • Jean has a wonderful presence. Calm and professional, and with a constant reminder of our goal — to worship our Creator — Jean does a wonderful job leading these lessons and keeping you in a worshipful frame of mind.
  • Worship focused. She is clearly not helping you learn guitar for pure entertainment or to advance your music knowledge. The purpose of these lessons is to worship God in your quiet times or in small groups. I never thought guitar lessons could be such a spiritual experience.
  • Includes various strumming patterns. I love the sound of broken chords, but had never learned how to actually do it. I could kind of figure it out on my own, but Jean walks you through it step by step.
  • Slow practice sessions. In addition to the lessons on the DVD you can also go through the practice sessions that have the same songs, but redone much more slowly which is helpful when you are learning and trying to switch fingers and learn strumming at the same time.
  • Help in learning to hear and sing on pitch. She didn’t spend a lot of time on this as it was obviously not the purpose of the course, but she gave me some hope for some of my “tonally challenged” children.
  • Free online sample. If you want to get an idea of what the course is like, feel free to jump on their website and see for yourself what Jean Welles has to offer.

Some considerations . . .

  • This is not a music class. This course was designed to teach you to play worship songs, a few basic chords, and some fingerings. It doesn’t get into pitch, identifying keys, or other techniques that might come in regular guitar lessons, or music classes.
  • You won’t learn a lot of different chords. After the first volume you will not be able to just pick up any book and accompany yourself or a group in singing. You might want to jump into Volume 2, or work on learning other chords, transitions and fingerings so your new knowledge is more applicable.
  • This is not for young kids. My 12 year old was able to follow along fairly well, but if you are looking for a course for younger kids, you would want to check out their course for kids 6-9.

When you compare this cost to private guitar lessons, you are obviously getting a deal. It’s still not a teacher that can look at exactly what you are doing and address your individual needs, so that’s not quite a fair comparison. However, it is still a good course to get you started. If you have a guitar just gathering dust under your bed and you would like to put it to better use, you would likely enjoy this class.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This DVD and book set was provided to me free of charge from Jean Welles Worship Guitar as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.

Discovery Center Museum Homeschool Classes

One of my family’s favorite children’s museums in the Chicago area is actually in Rockford. We have enjoyed a membership on and off at the Discovery Center Museum and appreciate that they appeal to a broader range of “kids” than many other children’s museums.

Coming up in the month ahead they have classes designed especially for the homeschooler:

Bring your child to Discovery Center Museum for memorable and exciting learning experiences. We can accommodate small groups as well as individual children, and we offer a wide range of schedules and themes.

Advanced registration and payments are required for participation in all Home School classes.

***Please note that admission to and exploration of Discovery Center Museum itself are separate from the Home School classes.***

Home School Winter/Spring 2010

Preregistration required. To register, call 815-963-6769 or drop by the Discovery Center office during normal business hours. Payment must accompany registration.
Class registration opens December 18 for members,
December 22 for Public.

Class fees: $11 Members / $13 Public; ages 6 and up

High Voltage Science

If you like lightning, then this class is for you! Discover how to build up, store, transfer, and discharge electrical jolts both big and small. Have a hair-raising time with the Van de Graaff generator, discover which materials make the best charges, and get zapped by miniature bolts of lightning!

Wednesday, February 3
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+; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4 ages 6 & up: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Under Pressure

Explore the amazing science of air and water pressure. Use atmospheric pressure to hold back a flood, discover a barometer in your bathroom, and put on the squeeze to make a diver sink and float. Experiment with Bernoulli’s principal and Pascal’s law and test your own strength against the power of pressure.

Wednesday, March 10
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+; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4 ages 6 & up: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Simple Machines I

What are simple machines? Where would we be without wedges? How do screws help our lives? Get a feel for mechanical advantage as you lift an incredible mass with a GIANT lever. Build simple machines and measure their effectiveness as we explore forces and more in this class about levers, inclined planes, wedges, screws.

Wednesday, April 14
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+; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4 ages 6 & up: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Simple Machines II

Build a free-wheeling car, design a pulley-driven message-carrier, calculate the turns on a series of LEGO gears, and much more! We’ll turn the force around in this follow-up class about wheels and axles, pulleys, and gears. Note: While the Simple Machines I is not a prerequisite, this class will build directly on themes from that class.

Wednesday, May 5
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+; 11:00-12:30 p.m.
Session 4 ages 6 & up: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Lots of great classes in the works. Check out their website for more details and to register.

Midwest Creation Fellowship Writing Contest

MCF logo

Midwest Creation Fellowship, PO Box 952, Wheaton, IL 60187  PH: 847-223-4730

The Midwest Creation Fellowship is hosting their annual essay writing contest. Following are all the details taken from their website, as well as links to their website to answer any further questions you may have. They even refer you to an article on the Answers in Genesis site for more help in the actual writing of the paper.

Purpose: To encourage the development of skills in research, analysis and logical reasoning through preparing an effective presentation of a thesis in a creation-oriented paper.

Prizes: Senior High Level (Ages 14-18*)

  • $250 First Place
  • $100 Second Place
  • $75 Third Place

Junior High Level (Ages 11- 14*)

[NOTE: I think there is a typo on their site. The site lists both age categories as 14-18, but other material I have says Jr. High is 11-14, which I listed here. That makes more sense as well.]

  • $100 First Place
  • $50 Second Place
  • $25 Third Place

* Entrants 14 years old on April 30 may enter either Junior or Senior division

Topics: must strongly relate to the subject of creation vs. evolution, from a creationist perspective. Suggestions:

  • Why do cultures around the world…
    …have the same star constellations?
    …have very similar legends, such as a gigantic flood?
    …offer blood sacrifices to their god/s?
  • Reasons why I believe in creation
  • Vestigial organs: a vestigial argument
  • More topic suggestions

Note: MCF maintains a library-by-mail which can help supply resources for writing this paper! Join now to receive 1 year of access to over 600 titles of VHS, DVD, CD, print and audio media!

All entries become the property of MCF and will not be returned. Entrants will be notified by mail of their status, usually in July. Prize-winning entries may be reproduced and distributed by MCF. Winners may be invited to present their papers at an MCF meeting.


  1. Entries will be accepted beginning January 1, and must be sent by April 30.
  2. Mail your entry to
    MCF Contest, P.O. Box 952
    Wheaton, IL   60187-0952
    OR email it as an attachment
    to info@MidwestCreationFellowship.org.
  3. If it’s an electronic document, send it as a .DOC, .WP, or . PDF file.
  4. Paper must be:
    • typewritten
    • double spaced
    • up to 1500 words for the Junior High or 2500 words for Senior High
    • graphics may be included
    • Give references to sources of ideas, quotes and graphics. (Footnotes, endnotes and title page do not count towards the word limit.)
  5. Entries will include the author’s:
    • first and last name
    • age
    • home address
    • phone number
    • email address
    • school
    • If you’re 14 on April 30, choose which Division to enter.
    Essays will be judged on:

  1. Biblical and scientific merit
  2. Ability to communicate ideas
  3. Creativity
  4. Technical ability (writing skills, grammar, etc.)
  5. Meeting all stated rules of the contest.

If you would like to see a sample of earlier winners, you can take a look at the 2009 newsletter.  Sounds like a great opportunity for a science and English assignment!