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Why You Should Include Some Distance Learning in Your Child’s Education

By Renee Metcalf

One thing homeschoolers love is freedom! We piece together our own learning program, choose our own schedules, go at our own pace. It is a remarkable time to be homeschooling because we have an exhilarating menu of options. At one time, homeschooling may have consisted of Mom and the kids around the kitchen table, but home education has many faces now. No longer can homeschooling be so simplistically defined. One of those options is online learning, also called distance or virtual learning, or digital education. For certain, it is a trend that is here to stay. We would no more regress from technology than we would revert to horse and buggies for transportation.

Although distance learning is convenient, saving money in gas and time in travel, it has much more to offer.Teachers in a digital classroom engage more sensory pathways by using media such as videos, interactive whiteboards, and games. Less time is wasted setting up equipment or settling in which means more time for learning. Most importantly, your children are not limited to teachers in their geographical region, but can access the best anywhere in the world. Rather than being an isolating experience, online instruction is a liberating one.

Socially, students flourish in an online environment where they have the opportunity to connect with more people of diverse backgrounds than when meeting in a face-to-face environment. Videocams allow students and teachers to see and interact with one another. Negative peer pressures are minimized, giving students confidence to express their opinions and ideas. Whispering back and forth is difficult since students are not sitting next to others as in a face-to-face class. Negative comments can be more easily ignored. Timid students can ask questions of instructors through a private chat. Ideally suited to shy or reluctant students, distance learning makes them more willing to take risks. What happens most often when meeting online is that students learn to respect other people’s opinions and ideas. Frequently, they make friends online, exchanging contact info, and sometimes meeting up in person.

One of the criticisms of online instruction is that it doesn’t work for kids who are not disciplined. But  ironically, online education fosters discipline. An asynchronous class (a self-paced schedule) which does not meet in real time, requires a young person to learn to manage and schedule his/her time effectively. This is one of those milestones of maturity that parents want their children to develop. Distance learning is poised to teach it. Synchronous classes (meeting in real time), on the other hand, have a more traditional structure in having a set meeting time and specific due dates for assignments.

Keeping up in class is easier online. Typically, online teachers are more available through text, chat, or email than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. In the event of illness or absence, a student can watch a video of the recorded class and receive the same instruction at a convenient time. Recorded classes can also be used for review by all students.

Several states (Virginia, Idaho, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan) now have laws on the books requiring virtual education for graduation (Sheehy). Others are sure to follow. They know that even if a young person does not attend college, employees of the 21st century will attend virtual training and hold virtual meetings during their careers. Computer competence is key. Many professors have transformed their classes by the use of online platforms. Some college classes are “hybrids,” a blend of online and face-to-face. Students are expected to know how to contribute to online discussions, create digital artifacts, and to generally navigate the online environment.

You probably already do some form of digital learning. If you use a tablet, a smartphone, watch a video, listen to an audio book, read an e-book, or browse the Internet, you are already immersed in digital learning. It’s only one more step to learning in the online classroom. Children who learn to navigate instruction that is delivered online, will be better equipped for the adult world and 21st century demands.

Sheehy, Kelsey.  “States, Districts Require Online Ed for High School Graduation.”  U.S. News and World Report.  U.S. News and World Report, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 4 Feb. 2015. ♦


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LEGO as an educational tool

What kid doesn’t enjoy playing with LEGO bricks? Now, you can turn your homeschooler’s pastime into a lesson in science, engineering, and math. LEGO Education is a program that seeks to turn LEGO’s famous building sets into educational tools that homeschool parents and classroom teachers can use to get their kids engaged in hands-on science and math learning.

Homeschool parents can now order LEGO kits designed to provide a structured yet fun way to learn about math, robotics, simple machines, and more. For more information, visit LEGO Education’s homeschool-specific page.


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Chemistry for Everyone – A Helpful Primer for High School or College Chemistry

Tuxedo Publishing
7827 Wintercress Lane
Springfield, VA 22152

By Jennifer Nairne

When I envisioned homeschooling my children, I wanted to create a safe and fun environment for engaged learning that inspired my kids to go beyond the traditional classroom restrictions in search of knowledge. It has not always been easy – grammar, for one, seems increasingly less applicable in everyday life and the subject does not lend itself to creative teaching. But we have always managed to incorporate the interests of our children and the content they need to learn to achieve our goals. That is, until we hit Chemistry.

As anyone with homeschoolers in high school will tell you, Chemistry is one of the most difficult and rigorous courses, prior to college. Dr. Suzanne Lahl has created a primer, Chemistry For Everyone, that is perfect for homeschoolers, as well as parent-teachers who may need a refresher on the finer points of the periodic table. Rather than peppering the book with practice questions and experiments, Dr. Lahl has focused on the conceptual understanding that forms the foundation for the course. Using “plain English” (rather than scientific gobbledygook), she frequently uses metaphors to explain many of the basic topics in chemistry in a very relatable way.

The book offers a “big picture” view of chemistry – reviewing fundamental concepts and how those concepts fit together. Even students that perform well on tests and love science can struggle when it comes to chemistry. This can be attributed, in part, to the traditional teaching and learning methods used in the classroom. Most Chemistry textbooks are incredibly technical and read more like a text on mathematics – dry and with little real-world applicability. Rather than promoting rote memorization and “plugging in” numbers into equations, Dr. Lahl wants students to gain a deeper understanding by encouraging learning and applying that knowledge. Using metaphors that make sense to high school homeschoolers, she walks each reader through the basic concepts of the Chemistry course and builds on each one to form a larger picture.

Homeschoolers and parent-teachers will appreciate Dr. Lahl’s approach in Chemistry for Everyone. Each chapter is succinct and contains informative illustrations that make complex concepts more approachable for young students.  While there are content-based review questions available in each chapter, the problem-solving advice and test-taking tips are invaluable guidance for any subject, not just chemistry. Students who have previously struggled with science would find her suggestions especially helpful and even parent-teachers, including yours truly, can benefit from the strategies offered. JN


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Brain Science & Technology Team Up to Help Struggling Readers & Writers

By Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC-SLP, ASHA Fellow

The statistics are daunting and the challenge is huge: almost 40 percent of fourth-grade students in the United States read below grade level; many more struggle with subtle writing and spelling roadblocks. As a homeschool parent, how do you make sure your child does not become part of that statistic? In addition to the right materials and a good attitude, it’s also a matter of understanding your child’s brain!

Most people learn to read and write quite effortlessly. Modern brain science shows that in the first three years of formal education, specialized circuits in the left brain develop lightning-fast interconnections that link speech sounds, letter symbols and meaning. By the fourth grade, this neural network allows reading and writing to “run in the background,” leaving the bulk of the child’s cognitive resources free to send and receive information. Neuroscience also reveals what is different about the brains of people who struggle with reading and writing, including inherited factors, and pinpoints instructional routines that establish more efficient brain activation patterns. Still, sorting out how to help a struggling reader or writer can be overwhelming and stressful for parents.

What Causes Reading & Writing Problems?
By the time a child is in early elementary school, parents may observe that the child’s reading and/or writing skills are not developing effortlessly. Recent neuroscience shows that there are two main types of struggling readers and writers:

  1. Those with good listening comprehension but weaknesses in aspects of the writing code (word reading, spelling and/or writing);
  2. Those with weak listening comprehension, with or without difficulty with the writing coding.

The first is described, broadly, as dyslexia and is far more common than the second, known as specific language impairment. Children with dyslexia may twist or omit sounds in certain words (e.g., amunal for animal or busgetti for spaghetti) or have trouble learning certain language patterns (e.g., ABCs, phonics or multiplication tables). In some cases, the only clear indication of trouble is spelling. In dyslexia, the difficulty begins with the sound structure of words. Children may be able to memorize words for a spelling test but soon forget how to spell them.

The first step
The treatments for dyslexia and specific language impairment are very different. The first critical step is a professional language processing evaluation, which is different from a psycho-educational evaluation and, since it is focused, can be a fraction of the cost. Professionals who are qualified to test for and diagnose language processing problems include appropriately trained psychologists, speech-language pathologists and clinical educators. A language processing evaluation involves gathering detailed background information from parents and then administering a battery of standardized and descriptive tests for such things as speech sound awareness, working memory and naming fluency. The results are collected in a report that includes all of the data, an initial diagnosis and a treatment plan outlining: 1) how treatment should be customized, 2) which assistive technologies are most appropriate 3) and mandated accommodations (such as extra time on tests).

The next steps
Dyslexia is not outgrown, but it improves with structured practice. The “gold standard” for dyslexia treatment is the Orton-Gillingham approach, which has been used, tested, researched and validated for more than 70 years. With its emphasis on specific language content, the Orton-Gillingham approach is multisensory, structured, individual, explicit and analytic. It is logical and cumulative, helping the child to progress toward benchmarks as he or she gains control of predictable language patterns.

Successful use of Orton-Gillingham treatment is not just a matter of having the right materials and step-by-step instructions. No two dyslexics have exactly the same processing problems so even good, off-the-shelf programs can be difficult for parents to apply without professional guidance.

Lexercise solves this problem using technology, bringing an experienced professional into your home, via web-conferencing, to perform a language processing evaluation and then to guide you in weekly, online Orton-Gillingham therapy sessions. It is private, secure, interactive and highly motivating.

Visit to use our free dyslexia screening test. To get answers to your questions and to schedule a consultation with a clinician, call 888-603-1788 or e-mail


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Heroes of Science: Marie Curie

by Laurisa White Reyes

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

We all know how much kids love science. That love will motivate some kids to become scientists one day, making science their livelihood. That’s why I believe it is just as important to teach our children about the great minds behind science as it is to teach kids about science itself. If you take a look at the life of any great scientist you will find a child fascinated with the stars, or the sea, or the earth. Children are natural scientists because they asks questions about everything around them. And that’s what scientists do. They observe something in nature that seems unusual or fascinating and they ask questions. And what makes them scientists is that after they’ve asked the question, they doggedly pursue the answer until they have found it.

Marie Curie was one such person. Madam Curie said, “A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.”

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867. Her father, Wladyslaw Sklodowki was a professor of mathematics and physics. From the time she was a young girl, Marie showed exceptional abilities in the areas of math and science. At 16 , she earned a gold medal upon completing her secondary education at the Russian lysee. At 18, she began working as a governess using her income to finance her elder sister Bronia’s education in Paris with the understanding that Bronia would later assist Marie.

In 1891 Maria Sklodowska went to Paris and studied Physics at the Sorbonne. She met Pierre Curie in 1894 and they married in 1895. Together they created an unparalleled team in the field of scientific research.

Several years earlier, a scientist by the name of Henri Becquerel discovered that the element, Uranium, emitted unusual levels of energy and that these radioactive rays could penetrate solid objects and leave an impression on photographic plates. He developed the term “x-ray”, “x” meaning the unknown.

Marie and Pierre wanted to know if Uranium was the only substance that gave off these rays. They found that a certain Uranium-containing mineral called pitchblende emitted a much higher level of radiation than the Uranium they extracted from it suggesting that there was at least one additional radioactive element within the compound. In fact, there were two.

In 1898 the Curie’s discovered the existence of Polonium (named for Marie’s homeland) and Radium. The unique qualities of these two new elements were such that they were 60 and 900 times, respectively, more radioactive than Uranium.

Marie’s next goal was to obtain pure Radium. It took three years, one ton of pitchblende, and thousand of hours of intense labor to collect a mere one eighth of a gram of Radium. My favorite part in her biography was the moment when after all the work was over Marie and Pierre applied one last chemical process to the very remaining amounts material in order to separate it from the pure radium they were attempting to collect. When the process was complete, they looked in their bowls expecting to find some small quantity of this precious metal. But their bowls were all empty. They were so discouraged that they left their instruments where they stood and went home. Late in the evening they determined that they would try again. Perhaps another three years or another ton of pitchblende would at last bring them to their goal. It was very dark outside when they walked into their little shed at the Sorbonne. As they entered they saw a glorious illumination lighting the room. Their precious radium, so small in amount that it could not be seen by the naked eye by day, was radiating light. You can only imagine the thrill they must have felt at that moment of discovery. On these results, in 1903 Marie Curie received her doctorate of science, the first woman in Europe to do so. Also in 1903, Pierre and Marie were awarded the Nobel Prize, shared with Becquerel, for the discovery of radioactivity, making Marie the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1904 Marie was appointed chief assistant in the laboratory directed by her husband.

On April 19, 1906 tragedy struck. While walking home on a rainy evening, Pierre fell beneath the wheel of a carriage and was killed. He left Marie and two young daughters to carry on without him. Though the event was devastating to Marie, it proved a turning point for her career. The following month, she was appointed the professorship which had been left vacant by her husband’s death becoming the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. In 1911 she was again awarded the Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry for the isolation of pure Radium, and became the first person to ever receive two Nobel Prizes.

By 1914, she saw the completion of the building of The Radium Institute at the University of Paris. Shortly thereafter, World War I came to France. With the help of her daughter, Irene, Marie devoted herself to the development of the use of x-radiography, or x-rays, for medical research. It was here that Marie saw her opportunity to best serve her adopted country. Though she herself had little experience in operating them, she managed to gain the government’s support of her idea to send transportable x-ray machines to aid in the treatment of wounded soldiers. She succeeded in aquiring 20 trucks for the Red Cross, each with its own machine, and led them out to the battlefront. Though she and Irene saved hundreds of lives with their “Petite Curies,” they themselves were unprotected from the radiation, the overexposure to which proved eventually fatal for Marie.

In 1921, Marie and her daughters journeyed to the United States where President Harding presented her with a gram of radium purchased as the result of a collection among American Women. Later she was made a member of the International Commission on Intellectual Co-operation by the Council of the League of Nations, and, in 1932, she saw the Curie Foundation in Paris develop and inaugurate the Radium Institute in Warsaw, to which her sister, Bronia, became director.
Marie died on July 4, 1934 of leukemia, the result of her exposure to the radium that made her famous. She was a woman of many accomplishments and honors, the last of which was given in 1995 when she became the first woman to have her ashes enshrined in the Pantheon in Paris.

Marie’s daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, went on to win her own Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935. Her other daughter, Eve, wrote and published a beautiful biography of her mother.

Radiography has become an integral part of medical research and treatment. Without Marie’s discoveries, we would not be able to x-ray broken bones, perform flouroscopies (using phosphorescent substances to locate problem areas within the body), or provide treatment for cancer and other diseases. Her observations, her questions and then her answers, have literally transformed the world we live in and have opened our eyes to the previously unknown. In her paper “Radium and Radioactivity” in which she describes in detail the properties and use of radioactive substances, Marie says “It is human nature to believe that the phenomena we know are the only ones that exist, and whenever some chance discovery extends the limits of our knowledge we are filled with amazement. We cannot become accustomed to the idea that we live in a world that is revealed to us only in a restricted portion of its manifestations.”

Her vision is shared by thousands of others who continually reach beyond the visible, tangible world we know and understand. It is this vision that led man to walk on the Moon, to create telephones and light bulbs, to build submarines and airplanes, to create information highways on the internet. When I crawl in bed at night with my kids and snuggle up to read them a bedtime story I often wonder what great things still await discovery. Will my four year old son, so full of questions about everything around him, one day grow up to discover the cure to diabetes? Or will my daughter, with her fascination with mixing concoctions of all sorts, someday revolutionize the world with some new compound the way rubber or Teflon or polyester has for this generation? We cannot know what lies in store for our children. But if we can show them that others have gone before them, they will be less intimidated to follow the same path. Like my mother has always said, “If someone else has done it, I can learn to do it, too.” And that’s exactly why the story of Marie Curie has such a special place in my heart. There are dozens of websites and books about Marie Curie. The best biography of her is the one written by her daughter, Eve Curie, possibly out of print but available at the library. A very thorough website is Here you will find not only a detailed biography, but also copies of her published papers and a history of radiology.

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Vaccination Right or Wrong?


by Danielle J. Emel, ND/PhD

Medical doctors, as well as alternative health practitioners, can be found on both sides of the fence, fiercely arguing the pros and cons of vaccinations. Fear tactics are used to pressure parents to “protect” their children from “preventable” diseases. The myth of a society with no disease, thanks to science and immunization is rampant.

As a homeschooling mother of seven, and Doctor of Naturopathy/Natural Health, what follows is the reasoning that led me to NOT vaccinate my children. My decision was based on personal experience, as well as on research through books and articles.

First of all, what is behind the immunization philosophy? It is the belief that if we give a person the disease in a milder form, the body will, hopefully, remember how to fight it off, should it ever contact it.

I had been vaccinated against measles, whooping cough and mumps…and got all three of them, together…well, one following the other! The vaccination I had against tuberculosis was checked positive one week, negative the other, on and off during my school years. I could not use my arm for three days after a tetanus booster, and the smallpox vaccine given to me in my teenage years (before traveling to Eastern countries) got me quarantined for three weeks because my arm had swollen so badly (I could not put a sleeve on) and was oozing…Yuk! I was considered contagious! The irony of it was that during the time I was recovering, the World Health Organization decided that smallpox vaccinations were no longer required!

When it came time to immunize my first child, I hit the books. With each child, I turned back to research to find out what more had been discovered. Nothing I read in the literature about vaccinations positively convinced me that the benefits outweighed the risks, quite the contrary. Instead of approaching the subject through each specific disease/vaccination, I summarized their common traits.

1. Infectious diseases seem to rise and fall, whether we use vaccinations, antibiotics or nothing. Infectious disease rates had fallen sharply (95%) before vaccinations and antibiotics were introduced. The decrease seems to be due to improvements in public and personal hygiene and was noted in countries where immunizations became popular, as well as in countries not using vaccinations.

2. Vaccines are made by growing viruses/bacteria on decomposed proteins, taken from pig/horse blood, dog/monkey kidney tissues, chicken/duck egg, as well as from aborted fetuses. They must then be preserved, with chemicals such as mercury derivatives, formaldehyde, aluminum, acetone, etc,… which are known to be toxic; not really what I want to put in my children’s bodies.

3. Vaccine safety is highly questionable: SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has been linked to early vaccinations. A baby’s immune system is not ready for this onslaught of poisonous substances. There was no recorded case of autism before vaccinations. Serious neurological disorders and brain damages have been associated with vaccines. Hyperactivity, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, retardation, headache, rashes, anorexia, convulsions, allergies, screaming…are some of the “milder” symptoms.

4. Vaccines offer questionable protection against the disease: From 30 to 99% of the population contracting the disease have been previously vaccinated.

5. Some vaccinations seem to actually cause the disease more frequently than it prevents it (polio, meningitis, pertussis, iphtheria).

6. When we come in contact with a disease, it goes through the normal channels, such as nose, throat, digestive ystem…where our immune system encounters it and builds its defense system naturally. With vaccinations, we inject the disease directly into the body/blood, bypassing the designed first-line response to antigens. If the body is strong enough, it will violently react to this unnatural assault and reject it. In extreme cases, the person may die. AS is more usual, the body will tolerate and adapt to the poison, until later years, where its tolerance abilities are “used up” and multiple chronic/degenerative diseases show up. Another thought: vaccines contain protein, which can only be digested properly in the stomach and intestines, which they bypass. What is our body doing with these proteins? Some research shows that rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosis, leukemia, some forms of cancer, and other auto-immune diseases could be related to that problem.

7. Vaccinations seems to reduce our ability to fight other diseases, since quite a portion of the T-lymphocytes (agents of the immune system) get committed to specific antigens (foreign bodies). It is believed that with routine immunization, as much as 30-70% of the immune system can become committed to fighting those specific diseases, leaving us with little to fight the assaults of “new strains”. Moreover, the amount of antibodies we carry against a specific disease does not seem to influence our resistance to it!

8. Vaccinations are based on the germ theory, which says that bacteria/germs cause diseases. However, during the time that Pasteur introduced his “germ theory” (1822-1895), Bechamp demonstrated that bacteria function in whatever medium they find themselves, changing shapes and functions with the medium. In other words, Pasteur theorized that germs cause diseases and Bechamp that diseases cause germs. (Flies are attracted by rotten meat, but do not cause rotten meat). Claude Bernard, considered to be the father of modern medicine, sided with Bechamp, saying that the general condition of the body, known as the terrain, was the principal factor in disease. Pasteur eventually rejected his germ theory, and on his deathbed is reported to have said: “Bernard was right. The seed is nothing, the soil is everything.”

People may carry meningitis bacteria, or microbes linked to influenza, tuberculosis and other illnesses, yet never develop the disease. On the other hand, people having a specific disease are not necessarily infected by a specific germ. In research, different strains of bacteria have been put into a uniform medium: soon afterwards, they were all similar. On the other hand, when a specific germ (pneumococcus) is put into a certain medium, it can change into a streptococcus: if we put it into a different medium, it becomes a staphylococcus. Back to the first medium: you get a pneumococcus again.

Why then, do we cling to the germ theory? It seems to be a part of human nature to prefer to blame external forces for our ills, rather than discipline ourselves. Also, there are political/economic reasons for continuing the myth. Immunization is big business: conflicts of interest rise when faced with disclosing adverse reactions or failure to protect. Results can be manipulated, biased and/or ignored.

9. Are childhood diseases that disastrous anyway? Statistically, a child has more risk of dying in a car accident, then from dying from any of the childhood diseases combined. If children were to contract such a disease, they could be monitored by the medical establishment, as well as helped with complementary medicine, such as herbs, homeopathy, supplements, etc. Furthermore, it is believed that childhood diseases help the body get rid of toxins on a regular basis, as well as teach it to fight small battles, keeping it in shape should it ever have to fight a big one.

10. The immunization decision has be to based on a comprehensive approach to health. Naturopathy is based on the premises that the condition of our body is of utmost importance in regard to maintaining health. In accordance to this belief, the real focus should be to keep a healthy immune system, by balancing proper nutrition, rest, exercise, and a cheery disposition. Loading the body with unnatural substances, which it does not know how to digest, living sedentary lives between concrete walls, feeding our minds scary information (news, movies), ignoring our needs for rest and relaxation, predisposes us to disease. People under stress are more apt to “catch a bug” than peaceful, happy individuals.

In our family, natural healthy lifestyle has always been a priority. My children have had colds, maybe once a year or every other year (usually after the Birthdays/Thanksgiving?Christmas season, where we relax our standards a bit), but get over them quickly. They may have had a bout with whooping cough, several years ago: we had little sleep for three weeks, but got over it. At the time, I had 5 children: four got it, one did not. My children have been around kids with chicken pox numerous times, but never contracted it. I believe they were strong during those particular times.

Known facts that are worth mentioning: breast-fed children are immune to polio, as long as they are nursing. Increased consumption of sugar has been linked to polio outbreaks, as well as lower immunity in general.

There are other ways to prepare against possible outbreaks. Dr. A. Pulford wrote “No disease will arise without an existing predisposition to that disease. It is the absence of the predisposition to any particular disease that makes us immune to it. Homeopathy alone is capable of removing these predispositions.” (quoted from Homeopathy and Immunization, by Leslie J. Speight). Also, people who have come in contact with a disease such as whooping cough and poliomyelitis were administered homeopathic preparations, and none of them developed the disease. During the cholera epidemic, it was well documented that homeopathic treatments were superior to traditional approaches.

In the end, the vaccination decision is not based on sound scientific principles, but on philosophy. Philosophy is based on beliefs and assumptions, in which one must develop faith.

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