A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February Is...

This is the month we celebrate love, watch for a groundhog's shadow, and place more focus on black history. All great things to occupy the short but dreary winter month of February. But in our homeschool, I don't like to limit the study of black history to one month of the year. It really is simple to incorporate black history (or the study of Native Americans, those of Asian descent, or any other race for that matter) into your normal homeschool routine. As a woman of Irish ethnicity, I find it important to openly and honestly discuss the good, bad, and ugly of my family history ~ even if some of the details aren't all that flattering to the Irish as a whole. And as an Irish woman who has studied the life of her people during the dark days of Queen Victoria's rule, I have found my heart to be very tender toward those who have struggled to find their place in this world, no matter their race.

Whenever we study history, or read literature with a "real life" setting (in other words, not when we read a book about life on Mars!) I try to incorporate some focus on the people groups involved. It's actually pretty easy, and hardly takes much extra work for me. I just plan ahead and request some library books on the topic. And if I didn't plan ahead, well, then I use Google, and encyclopedia, or find a resource somewhere on my overflowing homeschool bookshelves!

For example, if you are reading about the Lewis & Clark expedition, take time to read up on France. Why did Napoleon want to sell all that land? And why did America want to buy it? What were the trade routes commonly used via New Orleans? And what kind of people lived there? This will lead you to an understanding of the Creole people from that area, and will probably open the door to more discussion about topics such as slavery, French-American-British alliances, the lifestyle of riverboat traders in the 1800's, and perhaps even a pre-study of some of the famous men who later died at the Alamo! Then there is the study of Native Americans - which is an enormously broad topic that does not get enough attention, in my opinion.

Studying about the Second World War? Include some facts about the Tuskegee airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers. Reading the Little House books during family read aloud time? Try and find out who settled in the Dakotas, and why (here's a hint: a lot of Irish settled there after fleeing Ireland and perhaps fleeing the gangs and troubles of New York City!). Mom, are you reading Upton Sinclair's classic The Jungle? Why not discuss some of it's subject matter with your children and do some family research on life in the meat packing industry of Chicago, and the Polish people who settled there.

One day when I am with the Lord, I am going to worship before His throne with those from every tongue and tribe and nation. Since it's a part of my forever, I think I ought to spend some of my homeschooling energies on it.

Happy Homeschooling!

Day 259 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, February 8, 2013

Digital Learning Course from Homespun School

Homespun School is an online learning site that offers a variety of options, including literature, history and web design. My daughter, who is in the 9th grade, took their 6-week Digital Learning course. I could not be more pleased with the end result!

The Digital Learning course teaches via hands-on student work. Over the course of six weeks, students create a digital portfolio (which can be improved upon if the Digi-Designs course is taken at a later time) and covers website building basics, creating bumper stickers, embed codes, Web 2.0, and a fun online shopping spree (using imaginary money, of course!) Digital Learning is described as a "foundational course to help get you the web-savvy you need" ~ and it really does live up to this promise.

Classes are held in an online classroom at Edmodo, which is a safe, members-only site. No one outside the class with have contact with your child. Parents are provided with access to the classroom, with one exception; they are not able to post on the classroom wall (which really is for the best, as it helps facilitate independent learning). The classroom at Edmodo is set up in a style similar to Facebook, making it easy to use with a familiar feel. All assignments are given here, as well as additional information needed to complete assignments and grades. I also received emails from the course instructor, Mr. Chase, each week. I never felt "out of touch" with what my daughter was working on, which is a plus for me as a homeschool mom. (You can find out more about Edmodo at

The Digital Learning course is best suited for students in 8th grade on up. And the class time is based on Carnegie Units, which is the standard used in public education systems to measure the amount of time students spend on a task (doing seat work, basically); this in turn is the common way public schools measure progress toward high school graduation. A Carnegie Unit is often used as a credit hour in high school. So, if you are wondering if this course can be counted as high school credit on your child's transcript, the answer is a resounding "YES"! You can expect your child to spend between 5 and 12 hours per week on coursework ~ which equates to 72 Carnegie Units. One full high school credit can be given for 122 hours of work, so this course counts as one half a credit upon completion. If you are looking for high school electives for your high school student,  consider this course.

The grading scale is based on a point system. Each assignment is worth a given number of points, and each week about 100 points can be earned. In addition, there are opportunities to earn extra credit. My daughter enjoyed seeing her points increase as each assignment was graded, and she ended the course with an average above 100%. Students who work hard and finish well may have their work featured in the "Portfolio Hall of Fame", which can be found on the website's Digital Learning page. 

Here is a very brief run-down of the course: the teacher, Mr. Chase, gave assignments to the class each week (usually several times a week). He provided students with the amount of points each assignment was worth, along with instructions, links for web tools and resources to help complete assignments, and a checklist that was filled out for each assignment. But he aimed to enable students to learn web design on their own, without being spoon-fed. Considering that the purpose of this class is for students to be able to design a website from beginning to end, completely on their own, it makes perfect sense that he expects them to learn by doing rather than depend on him to provide each and every answer. Of course, help is available as needed, so students aren't on their own by any means. But they are encouraged to attempt to solve problems and find answers on their own before requesting help from the teacher. If your child could use some real-world experience working on their own, this course would work well.

Be willing to encourage your child along the way. Take the time to look at their assignments, their websites and their portfolios. They can have a lot of fun with Digital Learning, and the hard work they put in can be very rewarding ~ but they need to share their work with you in order to really "complete" this course. I cannot recommend this course strongly enough. It is an excellent resource available to the homeschool community.

To see the website my daughter built during this course, click the link below ~

To see some of her other work on the web, visit these sites ~

Finally, to sign up for the Digital Learning course (or any other Homespun School course) to to

Thank you for taking the time to read this review, and may the Lord richly bless you and your family as you homeschool for His glory!

Day 258 done :)

Jan L. Burt