Thursday, March 20, 2014

Online Homeschool Classes Offer Unique Opportunities

Q: What do a campground, India, a car, a church parking lot, a backyard, a library, a coffee shop, McDonald's and many different U.S. states have in common?

A: They're all locations from which CBB students have attended class! 

In case you think we've started hiring models
for our blog photos, Tori Howard is
actually a  CBB student!

The changes in homeschooling over the last decade amaze me. I remember ten years ago teaching my kids, along with  a few other children, how to write in my living room. Now I'm meeting with students from all over the country without leaving my home office. We're able to  share computer screens, do research online together and even break out into other "rooms" for conferences and group projects. 

Honestly, I am not always gracious about technology. It frustrates me to watch companies continually "upgrade" software and products before even fixing the previous versions' weaknesses or to see evil people use it to scam and harm others. But my students have changed that viewpoint for me. Now, I find myself appreciating the unique opportunities that online classes provide and wishing my own children had been blessed with the ability to make friends with classmates from all over the country.

Socialization, a common worldly criticism of the home schooling community and a word that many of us despise due to its distortion, even has a place in the online community. While your children may meet almost anyone online if you're not careful, CBB teachers and students provide healthy relationships from a Biblical perspective. So, kids get to directly interact with one another and other Christian adults in a safe environment. I love that.

As I was watching and evaluating my communication students give speeches recently, it occurred to me that we're not only preparing them to speak well, but they're also learning to use the electronic environment that has become so common in the workplace these days. Our students will be comfortable and confident, even in the corporate world, meeting with other professionals to collaborate and give presentations.

Even though it's possible for students to get distracted while online with Facebook, family life around them as well as other forms technology, practicing the ability to focus provides another benefit I had not considered when moving my course to the virtual classroom. I have students who are now much more attentive that they were in the physical classroom. 

Finally, I am impressed with the level of communication I receive from my students since we've moved CBB online. I am not sure if it's because they feel more comfortable connecting that way or if they now relate class to the computer, but students are more likely to ask me questions between classes, send emails and even text than before. It saves all of us so much time in class when this communication occurs outside of that essential hour of instruction.

Are online classes perfect for every family? Of course not. But there are many benefits that I hadn't anticipated when we made the transition to the virtual classroom and I will take the positive surprises from whence they come!

If you have any questions about CBB online classes or comments about how your children have responded to our virtual classroom style, please feel free to share them. I am sure other parents would find them helpful.

In Christ,

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Home, Sweet, Homeschooling

Don't Be Afraid to Get Up in the Morning!

Fall, 2013 –
Mom: Ok, let me go through the check list: kids awake, dressed and eating breakfast.  DD1's books and homework sheets in the folders placed in the backpack; DD2’s  co-op project in backpack; DS's phonics to be completed in car while waiting for DD2 and DD3; baby changed, diaper bag restocked with an extra change of clothes, snacks, wipes, bottles, etc., lunch packed for everyone and all loaded in the car to drop one off on this side of town, then the other on that side of town. Wait, did I turn off the oven? Did we feed the dog and let him out? Wait, did he come back in?

Twenty minutes down the road –
DD2: Mom, I forgot my book and my co-op project! AAAAAAHHHH!!


Fall, 2014 –
Mom:  Ok, let me go through the check list: kids awake and breakfast eaten. Turn on computer, log in, class starts.

Done, Classes by Beth comes to you without all of the hassle. Live interaction with classmates and teachers with classes from a Biblical worldview! Homeschooling the way it is meant to be, at home.

Aaah…Home, Sweet, Homeschooling

Leave us a comment about what your "Home, Sweet, Homeschooling" moments are like. Check us out and see how we can help you stay home for homeschooling.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Featured CBB Student Post: Scott Rowe on Procrastination

Scott Rowe, a student and intern with CBB, understands the many challenges of home schooling. As the oldest in his family, an athlete and an outstanding student, Scott often finds himself having to prioritize. Please comment and let Scott know what you think of his blog post. 

“Procrastination is the thief of time” – Edward Young

Procrastination affects everyone in life at some point or another.  But what is procrastination?  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines procrastination as “to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done”.  Most people only think of procrastination as waiting longer than you should to work on something.  However, it can be more than that.  Rushing to finish assignments, hurried work, and stress over school work can all be symptoms of procrastination.  This can cause bad grades, unneeded stress, and feelings of anxiety.  So how can procrastination be stopped?  While it really comes down to the effort and the determination that you have, consider the following tips that  help overcoming procrastination.
  •      Make a list of common things on which you procrastinate on.  This is a simple as it sounds.  Some school assignments are just more fun than others.  Write down the ones that you have trouble completing.  Your list can include assignments from difficult or boring classes, or even chores that you dislike.
  •         Schedule your time.  This is a very important step.  If you skip this step, you will continue to procrastinate.  Don’t just mentally assign deadlines or state times that you will work on your assignments.  Write it down.  Write everything down.  Schedule times for school, chores, and other activities.  Make sure to prioritize things that you tend to procrastinate on.  Then stick to your schedule as much as possible.  Continue to tweak your schedule as necessary.
  •         Break difficult things down into smaller portions.  Obviously, (unless you procrastinated) you are not going to write a major essay in one day.  Your schedule needs to reflect that.  Break large assignments down into smaller parts.  For example, in the case of the essay, perhaps write one paragraph one day, two paragraphs the next, and edit it the following day.
  •         Eat your big frog first.  Pick the assignments that are the hardest and most boring to you to work on first.  Completing your hard assignments first will encourage you to work on other assignments.  Also, you are usually the most motivated when you first start working on your assignments.
  •      Reward yourself.  This step is vital to keep yourself motivated.  If you do not practice this step, you will quickly burn out.  Rewarding yourself can take any form you desire. For example, after completing a task, reward yourself by spending fifteen minutes on Facebook, reading a chapter in a book, or eating a snack. 
  •      Have others keep you focused.  Sometimes just knowing that someone is keeping an eye on you can motivate you to work.  Ask friends and family members to occasionally check up on you to see the progress you’ve made.  You will find yourself working harder to show them your progress.
  •           Pray.  Procrastination is a major challenge to overcome.  Family, friends, and schedules all can help, but only you can defeat procrastination.  Praying about it will encourage you and enable you to continue.  If you do nothing else, at least pray and try your best.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Journaling: A Unique Tool for Healthier Parent/Child Relationships

Most of us, especially when we’re working with children, see writing as a subject, task or skill. Sometimes we forget the purpose of writing: to effectively communicate with other people. It’s not just about assignments and grading.  Writing allows us to express ourselves in a different way than speaking. When we speak, words flow off our tongues that can never be recovered and often can’t be repaired, stuck out there for a lifetime and beyond. Writing allows us to think about how we order our words, choosing exactly what we want to express and even provides the ability to erase and revise without anyone ever knowing what we changed.

Recently, I recalled an article idea that I used for a stationery company who hired me to write their blog. They sold some beautiful journals so I developed the idea of using journals for couples to better communicate. Basically, a spouse might start the journal, writing about a topic, asking a question or both. The journal is then left on the other spouse’s pillow for a response. The idea behind the journaling is that sometimes we can ask questions or express ourselves more easily in writing than with the spoken word. As well, we are less likely to write ugly things than we are to say them so problems may be solved and memorable kindnesses expressed.

It came to me that this could also work with parents and their children. Some parents write journals to their children, but often those writings aren’t shared until much later when the children are older or the parents pass away. What about journaling to your child in the present, at a moment in time when it might be beneficial? How about sharing those ideas that come to mind at the end of a busy day when they’re fast asleep or in the early morning, when they have yet to wake? What if you put that journal on your child’s pillow or nightstand to read and delight in?

Take it a step further. What if you had your child respond to your words, or share a new idea, question or hope? Imagine what you might discover about yourself and your child in the process. Imagine that years from now, when your child is struggling with a loss, lack of faith or loneliness, he picks up that journal and remembers how much you both love each other.

When we’re in the midst of raising children, sometimes many of them at the same time, we get caught up in schedules, school work, character building, church and life, in general. But consider taking five minutes a day to journal a thought to your child and start a dialogue that could open doors you never considered. Share a childhood memory, a Bible verse, a word of praise, a prayer or a dream. You might be surprised with what you receive back!

My goal for my own children has always been to create life-long learners, not just excellent students. I want them to desire to learn about new things throughout their entire lives. Such a desire can bring great happiness as life seems more like an adventure or opportunity to grow than just time passed doing what is required, even in our Christian walk. In my most difficult periods, I have still had the joy of learning something new and exciting. Exploring new ideas and communicating about them through journaling can help your children change their attitude about writing. You might find that they continue journaling as an adult, which is an extremely healthy activity.

According to a study from the University of Texas, journaling helps reduce stress, promotes problem solving and encourages healthy resolutions to disagreements. It also utilizes the left side of your brain (the analytical side) which frees your right side to work on more creative and intuitive ideas. Professional writers often journal to remove “writer’s block” and therapists use journaling to encourage patients to communicate and clarify their thoughts and emotions.

If you have more than two children, consider journaling with a different child each month. It will be something that each child can look forward to…a special time just with you. Choose an age when your child can start journaling…make it a tradition or a privilege. Add doodles, drawings, a special sign between you and your child that makes it more intimate. With all the instructions online for book making, you could even create the journals as a project before you start writing, personalizing them with a photo.

For reluctant writers, don’t expect much, but don’t be surprised when you receive more than you expect. A sentence may become a paragraph. Also, don’t try to make it happen every day for reluctant writers, unless your child desires to do so. Two to three times a week is plenty for children who don’t enjoy writing. Whatever you do, don’t make this journaling a school assignment and don’t edit your child’s journal or require any sort of rewrite. Allow this journal to be a unique opportunity, not more class work. It’s important for children to view writing as valuable beyond school assignments.

If you try out this idea, please let us know it works for you. If you have other writing ideas that you have used to build your relationship with your children, we’d love to hear about those as well.

Thanks for reading and God bless your family!

In Christ,

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to Grow a Successful Writer Part 2

If you missed the first half of this blog post, you might want to read How to Grow a Successful Writer Part 1 before continuing. Moving forward, check out tips 6-10 along with updates.

Tip 6: Give Your Garden Time to Grow 
Offer your child a wide variety of opportunities to practice writing well, from journaling to book reviews to letter writing to poetry to lap booking to reports and any other type of writing that comes to mind! The more diverse your child’s writing assignments, the more successful he’ll be in the long run. 

Update Tip: If you find that your child tends to lose interest quickly, start with shorter writing assignments and then add a little as the successes accrue. Be cautious about creative writing assignments. While they sound fun in theory, many children struggle with writing creatively because of the lack of structure. Many children respond better to structured assignments that provide steps to completion rather than an open-ended writing plan.

Tip 7: Don’t Harvest too Early 
Before writing a paragraph, a child should understand how to write a well 
developed sentence. Sometimes parents become concerned that their children 
aren’t progressing fast enough and they decide that a book report should be 
written before a child can competently write a solid paragraph. Most children 
don’t run before they walk and writing development should be viewed the same 
way. Transitioning more slowly in the early years and spending significant time 

on the basics paves the way for greater accomplishments later. 

Update Tip: I often hear from parents about what other families are accomplishing with their children. Homeschooling provides the brilliant opportunity to teach each of our children that they need to learn. Your child has years to learn to write well, so take it easy and build on skills without rushing ahead. The final result will be worth it! 

Tip 8: Weed and Prune 
One of the most common complaints I hear from homeschooled children is that their parents don’t ever grade their writing. They appreciate that I actually return their work with marks for evaluation. If you assign it, then evaluate it. Don’t expect your child to 
complete a writing assignment if you’re not willing to spend time reading and correcting it. Writing evaluation can be truly challenging and it does take time that we often want to spend doing other things (almost any other thing ☺), but it’s important to validate our children’s efforts with evaluation. 

Update Tip: If you don't feel comfortable evaluating your child's written work, consider using the CBB evaluation services. With reasonable fees and turnaround times, you can afford the services and save yourself some time and anxiety.

Tip 9: You’ll Reap What You Sow 
It’s not uncommon for parents to confess to me that they have neglected teaching 
writing. I do understand that it’s easier to teach subjects that are more objective, 
but if writing is instilled as a life skill from an early age, it’s more likely that 
writing will be more easily taught throughout your child’s education. 

Update Tip: The great news is that it's never too late to start! So, if you've neglected writing in the past, today provides another opportunity. If you don't feel confident or simply don't enjoy teaching writing, check out the CBB courses available and register today...then you can relax and teach the subjects what you do enjoy!

Tip 10: Can’t Harvest the Crop Alone? Hire Some Help! 
Often it’s best to turn over skills to another person if you find it challenging to teach and/or evaluate. Learning how to write with other students can also be more motivational, depending on your child’s learning style. 
Writing definitely comes more easily to some students, and parents, than others, but all students greatly benefit from being able to write well. As you homeschool, how will 
your child's writing garden grow?

If you have motivational or creative ideas about teaching your children to write, be sure to post them and share with other moms!

God bless,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to Grow a Successful Writer Part 1

I originally wrote the following article and stored it on the Classes by Beth website. After having a couple of parents comment on it, I decided to revisit the article and add Update Tips with some current ideas. This blog represents the first half of the article. Thanks for reading!

Many parents contact me because they feel their child is a “reluctant writer” and they’re seeking ways to make writing less painful. Wonderful ideas abound to entice our children to write from journaling to story starters to lap booking. While there isn’t anything wrong with these ideas, and many of them can be very useful, I wondered how we might avoid creating reluctant writers, if possible. How do you grow a successful writer? The following gardening tips might help! 

Tip 1: Cultivate by Modeling 
I cringe every time a homeschool mom says, “I hated writing in school.” Often, her child is within earshot. You don’t have to have a passion for writing to model the importance of communication skills. Allowing your child to see you writing offers encouragement and a positive example. Simply keeping a journal and writing in front of your young child can make a difference. 

UPDATE TIP: Consider card making with your child. Work together to make 6-10 cards together. Many children enjoy the creativity and all of the fun supplies out there for making home made cards. Once you have some cards in stock, use the content as a writing assignment. These short assignments often give children confidence and don't seem as painful for reluctant writers as a formal writing assignments.

Tip 2: Fertilize with Great Books 
As you read to and with your child, point out how the author writes well. Use 
books to help your child understand the value of writing. Read often to your 
child and encourage him to read as there are significant ties between avid 

readers and successful writers.

UPDATE TIP: There are a number of options for acquiring libraries of classics and sharing them with your child. Consider using a Kindle, Nook or other e-readers to store a full library for easy access. Plus many classics are free for download. You can also use an e-reader, computer or tablet to read the story aloud for you and your child, so you can both enjoy listening together. Libraries often carry classics on CD and even e-book downloads. There's no need to spend a lot of money to fertilize the garden of your child's mind with great works of literature!

Tip 3: Plant in the Right Season 
Unless your child demonstrates a strong interest and some ability, it’s not advisable to push writing (not handwriting, but content writing) before the child develops significant reading skills, usually around the 3rd grade. Forcing children to write before they are developmentally ready may only cause frustration, for both of you, and make future writing endeavors less enjoyable. Prior to 3rd grade, consider copy work and very short, fun activities rather than sentence and paragraph formation. 

Tip 4: Cross-pollinate for Greater Growth 
Children tend to have better attitudes toward writing when they view it as a skill to be utilized overall rather than a individual subject. Writing well makes other subjects easier just as weight training helps athletes perform better and avoid injury. Integrating writing skills with other subjects, such as history and science, allows your child to practice writing and you to evaluate your child’s writing without an assigned “writing” assignment. The focus is on the content rather than on the subject matter. 

UPDATE TIP: Often you can spark interest for writing in your child by switching up the method. For example, if you have a tablet that your child doesn't normally use, allow use for special writing assignments. One of my students recently received an I Phone and although writing is not his favorite thing, he expressed that using his I Phone to write was much more enjoyable. 

Tip 5: Each Tool has a Purpose 
Grammar and spelling may be taught using workbooks, but you want to watch your vocabulary when talking to your child about writing. Don’t interchange grammar and spelling with writing when talking to your child. Grammar and spelling should be viewed as tools to help your child write better. 

UPDATE TIP: Even if you use workbooks for grammar and/or spelling, also consider using whole books to emphasize the relevancy of grammar rules and spelling in real world writing. Point out how published authors follow the same rules as students.

We'll cover tips 6-10. with updates, in the next blog post. Or if you just can't wait, visit the CBB website and finish reading the article there. While you're visiting check out the other articles stored there! 

Be sure to leave a comment and share your ideas about how you cultivate your own young writer.

God bless,

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Two Favorite Writing Resources

Parents often approach me about writing curriculum for their children and sadly, I am of little assistance in that area. I have even checked into various writing programs hoping to acquire one that I can fall back on in such situations, but alas, I am at a loss. I am not saying that there aren’t any valuable writing programs out there, but I am saying that as a professional writer, I can’t imagine teaching the process from a textbook or workbook! However, I do have two favorite writing resources that I like to share with parents and students, hoping they’ll forgive me for my lack of direction concerning writing curricula.

1. The Little, Brown Handbook by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron

When I first started writing in college, I acquired The Little, Brown Handbook as a grammar and writing resource guide. Funny enough, I still have a copy of that very edition and the book was actually brown back then. Now, the book is in its 12th edition and still reigns as one of the best writing resources available.

What I like:  I am a bibliophile. Although I really enjoy my Kindle, I will never give up real books without a fight. With The Little, Brown Handbook, I am able to easily locate almost any writing, grammar or punctuation rule in moments. It contains a detailed index, which I appreciate. When I am using it on my Kindle, it’s even easier to search. The book is actually small so it travels easily and is very accessible in a pinch, especially when I’m writing without a computer (yes, I like to write on paper sometimes as do a number of my students from what they tell me). For students, The Little, Brown Handbook also contains practice exercises and plenty of examples.

What I don’t like:  The cost makes it challenging for some homeschool families to purchase, especially new. Even used copies can be expensive. I always recommend buying this book used and there’s no reason to worry about getting the most current edition. Any of the last few editions can meet the needs of a high school writer. Of course, as long as your family takes care of the book, the investment is well worth the value of the hidden gems.

2. Purdue University Writing Lab

With most students having ready access to the internet, the value of this writing resource cannot be measured! I remember when I first discovered this website. I looked for any weaknesses in the punctuation, grammar, writing skills etc. sections and I was left wanting. Could this really be an all-encompassing writing resource at my very fingertips? Apparently so!

What I like:  There are so many “likes” that I made a short list of my favorites. You’ll have to explore the writing lab to discover what you like.

                a. It’s free!  What homeschool  parent doesn’t  appreciate that price? With so many websites charging user fees these days, thank you to Purdue University for this gift.  

                b. It’s comprehensive.  There may be gaps, but I haven’t found them. I often refer to this site with my students who struggle with specific skills. It has never let me down. Recently, I even utilized a Commas Powerpoint Presentation to teach lessons in my Essay Styles classes.

                c. It’s accessible.  A smart phone, tablet or computer along with internet access makes this resource easily acquired. You don’t have to even sign up for a free account!

                d. It’s searchable.  The search engine works well for me and doesn’t require specialty key words in most cases.

                e. It’s understandable.  Even my more average high school student (if there are even “average” homeschoolers) generally comprehend the explanations, definitions and examples on the Purdue site. In most cases, I find the material to be very readable and broken down into sections that allow students to absorb a small amount of information at a time.

What I don’t like:   There’s not much that doesn’t appeal to me about the Purdue Writing Lab. If I had any complaint, it would be that some of the examples are a bit worldly or not relevant to my students. But hey, the site originated for college students.

I sure hope you find my favorite resources as useful as I do. As a writer, I have never memorized the rules. I recognize some of them and often, I can just look at written work and know whether it’s correct or not. But I do need to be able to tell my students why something is correct or not. 

Now you know my secrets! If you have a favorite writing resource or writing curriculum, be sure to leave a comment and share with all of us!

One final note, this month we're participating in the January 2014 Let’s Homeschool High School Blog Hop. Join us in supporting other high school homeschool bloggers! 

God Bless,