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.

Charlotte Mason Homeschooler available to inspire your group

The following was received from a homeschooling mom excited about sharing her knowledge and experience with your homeschooling group:

Do You Need a Speaker for Your Support Group or Conference Workshop?

Let “The Charlotte Mason Girl” help you!

HI! I’m Sue Pruett, and I have been teaching my children with the gentle ways of Charlotte Mason for 9 years. I continue to study and learn of her ways, and constantly improve my methods. I love this way of educating my children, and I desire to show others how gentle and natural this way is! I am available to speak at groups or conventions – large or small – on a Charlotte Mason Education.

I have 5 children, and so I can also add the perspective of a Mom of Many to my mix. How do you achieve a good education for your school aged children, while not neglecting your pre-schoolers? I can help answer that question!

Talk topics I can deliver:

  • An Introduction to a Charlotte Mason Education
  • Living books – how to pick them, how to obtain them, how to use them.
  • Nature Study – Yes you CAN do it!
  • Scheduling and a Charlotte Mason Education – can it work?
  • You CAN start with a Charlotte Mason education Monday!(Or Tomorrow!)
  • It IS Possible to Teach ALL Your Children Well!

I have been speaking for over 5 years at local homeschool support group meetings, encouraging moms in their homeschool journey. I have a burden to see families not just survive, but thrive as they teach their children at home. Let me come and encourage your families as I introduce them to the Charlotte Mason method of education!

My husband and I own Ancient Paths Christian Bookstore, and we have been involved in supplying families with great books since 2005. We love to be a part of helping families disciple their children well, and we desire to continue doing so for many years to come. In making myself available for speaking opportunities, we are furthering our mission of helping families disciple their children well.

To learn just how easy it is to have me come to your group or conference, please contact me at sapruett {at} sbcglobal {dot} net.

TOS Crew Review — Web design for Kids


A quiet weekday afternoon in the summer — too cold to swim, too wet to play in the yard, light school work and chores already done.

Now what? The DVD cover caught my 12 year old’s eye and he popped it in. As I finished dinner prep in the kitchen I looked over and saw him absorbed. Then he was gone. Back again, gone again, back again. It would be helpful if we had a laptop I suppose. 🙂

What had he discovered? A wonderfully straight-forward, simple enough for a child to understand, intro to web design and HTML.

He didn’t need any encouragement from me to watch the video completely through, and he didn’t need any help from me to accomplish the tasks that the instructor, Brian Richardson (creator of Web Design for Kids), so thoroughly explained for his audience.

We loved:

  • Easy to follow. Clear screen shots to follow along with, basic instructions, and step-by-step teaching
  • Can be started with or without internet access
  • Opens up a door to learning and creativity. With the foundational information that this video presents you can take some solid steps toward basic web page creation, or just have a lot of fun trying out different codes, graphics, and color combinations.
  • A 12 year old could easily follow this independently.
  • Now I know how to spot faulty codes, change text color, make words move, and a few other useful html skills.

We tweaked:

  • Don’t know if it qualifies for tweaking, but we found it much easier to watch right on our computer since we don’t have a laptop. This worked well with half the screen showing the video, and the other half showing the notepad that we typed on.


  • For slow typers it can be difficult to keep up, but the pause button is just a click away. We found it helpful to work in pairs on this project so we could enjoy each other’s progress and help pause and type as needed.

On the website you can watch a quick one minute clip of the video and view samples of web pages other students have created using this class. The DVD runs approximately 1 1/2 hours broken into 7 sections plus bonus material.

He is currently offering this basic HTML introduction for $19.99 plus shipping with a money back guarantee. If you are interested in getting a grip on the basics of HTML, need something to keep a technologically enraptured child productively engaged, or maybe you are looking for material for a little computer unit in your homeschooling, this video can satisfy any of those needs.

For more reviews check out the TOS Crew’s blog

Individual schedules

We jumped back into school full time this week, fairly successfully, I have to say.

I admit, I am a creature of habit, but for some reason I let my routines slide in the summer. There is something terribly refreshing to me about starting a newly revised and enforced schedule. My house gets instantly cleaner, my days become more productive, emails get answered. It seems to work magic, for me, anyway.

Our first day had its typical speed bumps. Phone calls that couldn’t wait, eggs that needed turning, squabbles needing peace, and preparations I forgot. Somehow, I had remembered to type up our daily schedule, but forgotten to print out the kids’ individual schedules.

Last year I decided to make the kids their own schedules to keep in their folder or by their seat that reminded them of what they should be doing throughout the day. While I have it all on the master schedule, it is helpful to have it boiled down in one easy slip to keep handy.

It looks something like this (each child’s is of course a little different):

All morning chores done by 9:00 (Bible time)

9:30     Missionary bio

9:45     Spelling and prep for day

10:00   Piano

10:15   Handwriting

10:30   Math with Mom

10:45   Math on own

11:00   Typing

11:15   Silent reading

11:30   English with Mom

11:45   English on own

12:00   PE / Clean school room

12:30   Eat lunch

1:00     clean up lunch chores

1:15     Study hall

2:15     AO Year 5 – with Mom and Paige

3:15     Notebooking page

3:45     Independent time

4:45     Cook with Mom on Monday

And, on Friday we stay together the whole day covering extra topics that we want to spend time on (foreign language, nature study, etc.)
So, today we had these in place since I finished them up last night, and today went even more smoothly. Something about everyone knowing which direction they should be going and having clear expectations on how to get there.

These individual schedules have definitely worked for us.

I know scheduling is one of the big questions of new (and veteran) homeschool moms.

Anyone else want to share what tips they use to make sure everything gets accomplished as needed?

Do you prefer schedules, routines, or more flexibility?

How often do you change your daily plan?

Labfest Grande Finale

Science Chicago’s LabFest! Triggers Reaction in Millennium Park

Blowout celebration offers hands-on science excitement in the heart of downtown Chicago

CHICAGO [July 28, 2009] – Science Chicago’s traveling LabFest! science festival is set to go out with a bang in downtown Chicago’s Millennium Park on Friday, August 21. After more than a dozen stops at CPS schools, local parks and libraries throughout Chicagoland, this finale event promises even more science discovery for Chicagoans and visitors of all ages in one dynamic and fun-filled summer day.

LabFest! in Millennium Park will give kids and families the opportunity to explore the sciences from – astronomy to zoology – in an interactive, memorable and FREE way. The day offers numerous hands-on activities, craft projects and games such as “Pop Fly” with Nate Ball, host of the popular PBS television series, Design Squad, where participants will have the unique opportunity to brainstorm, design, build and test products that are used in everyday life. The new season of Design Squad will air locally on WTTW11 Sundays at 11:30 a.m. beginning October 11, 2009.

“It’s all about making science and engineering accessible,” said Design Squad host, Nate Ball. “The Science Chicago initiative, just like the Design Squad TV show, features the importance of science and the design process in every aspect of our day-to-day lives – from riding a bike to recycling our garbage to making a call on a cell phone. LabFest! is an awesome opportunity to demonstrate the ideas that we share with our viewers every week. I’m even bringing one of the prototypes that our teenage cast invented on-screen!”

Some of the other exciting LabFest! activities at Millennium Park include:

• Build a 15-Foot Willis Tower out of LEGOS© – Work with architect Adam Reed Tucker to create a spectacular version of this Chicago landmark.
• Building Windmills – Engineer a functioning windmill with young Malawian innovator William Kamkwamba and author of the upcoming book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
• Beakman’s World – See a show by Paul Zaloom, award-winning performance artist and host of the Sony Pictures science television show, Beakman’s World.
• Bubbleology 101 – Don’t just blow bubbles, discover the science of bubbles and how the molecular nature of water causes a phenomenon called surface tension.
• Alka-Seltzer Rockets – Create a rocket out of a film canister and an alka-seltzer tablet.
• Space Robots – Learn about space exploration as you build and program your own LEGO space robot with experts from the NASA Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy.
• Solar Cars – Kids can design, build and race model solar cars while learning about renewable energy resources; then they can participate in one-on-one drag races.
• Oobleck – Take off your shoes and learn about non-Newtonian liquids when you dash across a pool of cornstarch and water mixture which will allow you to “walk on water.”
• I want to be a Vet! – Meet and talk to a veterinarian from the American Veterinary Medical Association and learn about animal health with the help of a real dog.

The year-long Science Chicago initiative, considered to be the world’s largest science celebration, wraps up in August. Since the launch of the program in September 2008, more than 300,000 people have engaged with Science Chicago programs and online communities.

“Science Chicago has been tremendously successful in building public enthusiasm for the sciences and positioning Chicago as leading city for cutting-edge science innovation,” said Cheryl Hughes, Executive Director of Science Chicago. “If you haven’t had a chance to experience a Science Chicago event, come to LabFest! at Millennium Park. It is a perfect culmination of this exciting year, as it celebrates the unique spirit of collaboration, hands-on learning and passion for science discovery that are the foundation of the Science Chicago initiative.”

Science Chicago will continue to serve as a resource for science enthusiasts through social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. The public may also visit the Web site for additional information on local science events and programs.

“It’s truly impressive that within the short span of one year, Science Chicago has inspired hundreds of thousands of Chicago residents of all ages to awaken their inner scientist and explore the many scientific resources of the region,” said David Mosena, President and CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry and Vice Chair of the Science Chicago Board of Advisors. “The Museum of Science and Industry is proud to have led this unparalleled collaborative effort, and it is our hope that cities and organizations across the nation will look to Science Chicago as a model for the development of similar initiatives aimed at inspiring the next generation of American scientists.”

Event Details:
Date: Friday, August 21, 2009
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Location: Millennium Park
55 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

For more information on LabFest! visit:

Argonne open house!

Argonne Public Open House 2009

Directions to Argonne
Download Program of Events (PDF)

Argonne is opening its gates to the community Saturday, Aug. 29, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — rain or shine. Nearly 100 engaging exhibits, demonstrations, tours and presentations are being planned for a day of fun and education for the entire family.

A program of attractions and events, including a map of the Argonne campus, will be available free at the Argonne gates and is downloadable here.

Photos and videotaping are welcome.

Come and enjoy our beautiful campus and learn more about exciting new research in:

  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Safety
  • Chemistry
  • Computing
  • Engineering
  • Biology
  • National security
  • Physics
  • Materials science and nanomaterials
  • X-ray science
  • Transportation
  • Nuclear energy


Tours include the Advanced Photon Source, the Western Hemisphere’s most brilliant source of X-rays for research; the Center for Nanoscale Materials; ATLAS, the Argonne Tandem-Linac Accelerator System; and the Argonne Wakefield Accelerator.

Featured presentations:

  • To be announced.


Argonne is located just south of I-55 near Darien. Visitors to Argonne’s open house may enter through any of three gates:

  • Northgate Rd.  located off Cass Ave. immediately south of I-55. Take the Cass Ave. exit south from I-55.
  • Westgate Rd.  located off Lemont Rd. immediately south of I-55. Take the Lemont Rd. exit south from I-55.
  • Eastgate  located off Cass Ave. near Bluff Rd., about a mile and a half south of Northgate Rd. Take the Cass Ave. exit south from I-55.

Shuttle service

Free on-site shuttle service is available all day.

Free all-day shuttle service to the open house is available for visitors who park in the Argonne Park, located on Cass Avenue, directly across from the Argonne campus and about a half-mile north of Bluff Road.

Food service

Food and beverages are available for purchase at Buildings 213 and 401. Snacks and refreshments may be purchased near Buildings 200 and 362.

Information booths

Information booths will be open all day near Buildings 203 and 362 to answer your questions about activities and services Information is also available from Argonne hosts wearing white baseball hats imprinted with “Argonne National Laboratory.”

Fall happenings — Chicago Ridge Homeschool opportunities

Many co-ops and support groups have exciting opportunities dotting their fall calendar. Check out individual websites (see tabs above for contact information for many groups across the Chicago area) for more details information about meetings and events open to homeschoolers in your neck of the woods.

The following came from a group in Chicago Ridge:

Here is a brief summary: (all are at 1 p.m.)

Sept. 11–participate in a Readers’ Theatre presentation of The Buffalo Storm

Oct. 9–Bicycle safety program

Nov. 13—Fine Arts Fest

Dec. 11—Stampin’ Up Christmas edition

All Homeschoolers are welcome to join us!  Please call to reserve your spot! 708.423.7753

The more, the merrier!

Constance VanSwol

Head of Youth Services

Chicago Ridge Public Library

10400 S. Oxford Avenue

Chicago Ridge IL 60415