A terrific addition to your homeschool…

It’s almost back-to-school time for those of you who don’t homeschool year round! I can’t believe how quickly the summer has flown by. Our youngest graduated this past May, so I’m not partaking in my usual summer curriculum shopping, but I thought I’d share one of the items that got a LOT of use in my homeschool over the years for those of you who are. It’s not often that I ever found one item that could literally last me years, but Startwrite is one of the exceptions. I certainly got my money’s worth from it! I hope my sharing this review will help some of you who are still putting things together for the up-and-coming school year!

Startwrite is a handwriting “worksheet wizard” that has so many applications (of which I’ll discuss more in detail later in this post). I used it from the time my kids were little and still needed to trace letters, all the way up until middle school when they still needed some handwriting practice and/or copywork.

I am a big believer in handwriting – not just neat print, but also cursive. Learning cursive has cognitive benefits that are important for learning success and brain development.

Here’s an excerpt from a NY Times  article:

… learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing. As a result, the physical act of writing in cursive leads to increased comprehension and participation.

Another article in Psychology Today talks about the biological and psychology benefits from learning cursive:

Handwriting dynamically engages widespread areas of both cerebral hemispheres. Virginia Berninger, a researcher and professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says that brain scans during handwriting show activation of massive regions of the brain involved in thinking, language, and working memory.

Another article states:

…scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization,”[2] that is capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.

Studies have also shown that parts of the brain needed for reading are stimulated, and that writing by hand allows children to express more ideas and to produce words more quickly than they can when typing. Good handwriting activates more regions of the brain (associated with language, memory, and reasoning), and also has been shown to help improve learning difficulties like dyslexia, enhance auditory learning, and more! You can do a Google search for more info, if you are like me and love the science behind why cursive is so important to teach.

A lot of parents think it’s O.K. to forgo the time consuming process of teaching handwriting, especially cursive, as it’s just not “needed” in this age of typing and digital communication, but I strongly disagree. I think it’s a very important part of a homeschool, and made sure my children had plenty of opportunities to practice it.

So, now that I made my case as to WHY you should teach handwriting and cursive in your homeschool, I’ll share my love for the Startwrite program! Startwrite makes it really easy to get this important skill accomplished with the least amount of difficulty and cost.

For 39.95 (as of this writing), you can get Startwrite version 6 – the newest version of Startwrite’s software program. You can instantly download it from the website and have up and running in just a matter of minutes.

If you have an older version, you may be wondering if the upgrade is worth it. I think so! Version 6 has so many nice upgrades and is so much easier to use with many more options to truly customize your handwriting and copywork printables. You can click here to see the differences in a handy table.  If you already own an earlier version of the program, you can upgrade for a special price of $19.95.

Most handwriting workbooks run from about $10 to $14. Copywork books aren’t cheap either, and often you can’t find any that match exactly what you want to teach. If you have multiple children and want to have them learn and practice handwriting over several years, that can add up quickly! With Startwrite, you can make all of the handwriting sheets you will ever need for your entire family AND use it for other things like copywork for a multitude of subjects. That is a significant cost savings, plus you have the ability to totally customize what your children are writing / copying.

Before sharing how the program works and some of the great features, I’ll share some of the things I used Startwrite for in my homeschool.

  • Handwriting lessons and practice
  • Bible scripture copywork and memorization
  • Copywork for a variety of subjects like science, history, etc.
  • Spelling word practice
  • Character trait pages
  • Poetry memorization (copywork)
  • CHP Police Explorer code memorization worksheets
  • History & science notebooking – You can add in your own .jpg images to make some amazing notebooking pages!!

You can also use it to create some math pages with the clock and money fonts. See the screenshots for examples:

Various clock faces for telling time worksheets (some have a.m. and p.m. next to them to expand your options):

clock font

Coins – There are dimes, pennies, quarters, and dollars:

money fontquarters font

Counting items – There are math fonts that allow you to place numbers of items together for counting worksheets. You can get numbers in other fonts, too – not just how you see them depicted below.

math-02

Yet another option is to create phonics practice sheets. Startwrite comes with some free clip-art you can add to your worksheets in both color and black-and-white. You can also add in your own clipart and artwork by importing .jpgs, as you can in Microsoft Word and other word processing programs.

phonics clip art

You might be wondering if Startwrite is a good fit, if you’ve chosen a specific type of handwriting to teach your child. You’ll be happy to know the program comes with most of the well-known fonts that are featured in many homeschoolers’ favorite handwriting programs like:

fonts

There are also other fonts for those of you who are homeschooling “down under” like:

  • Victoria Manuscript and Cursive
  • Queensland Manuscript and Cursive
  • New South Wales Manuscript and Cursive

Last of all, there is a Palmer style manuscript and cursive. You also have access to your system fonts, just like any other word processing program.

Cursive fonts are a joy to work with in the program. They link up instantly and perfectly as you type with no additional steps you have to take like some other handwriting fonts  or programs for sale. I personally believe Startwrite is the EASIEST program to use for linking cursive. It also does (in my opinion) the nicest job. The fonts look terrific, smooth, and sharp when printed out, without any odd connecting letters as I’ve seen in some handwriting fonts trying to approximate D’Nealian cursive and other typefaces. I’m an artist /illustrator, so I’m picky about that sort of thing. Startwrite delivers. Please note that it does look sort of pixelated and junky (at least to my eyes) in the program preview, but once you print your worksheets out, they look beautiful.

Startwrite works like most word processors with lots of options for text, adding images, and much more. Open up the program and you’ll see this (I’ve loaded a lesson template):

startwrite review

Along the top borders you have everything you need to get going. You can choose if you want ruled lines and can change the colors of those lines. You can choose how you want those lines to appear (baseline? descender line? top line? etc.). It’s super-easy to add in pictures and to move things around on the page. You can add in borders, highlight areas you want your kids to pay extra attention to, and more.

You can choose your font and how you want that font displayed. Some of the options you have:

  • Stroke arrows
  • Beginning dot – where to start writing a letter
  • Letter outlines (to trace inside)
  • Decision dots
  • Connect-the-dots
  • Color letters

You can also choose the intensity and shading of the dots and letters.

The possibilities are pretty much endless. You are constrained to working within Startwrite’s software program, but the program is quite robust. It also comes with a variety of practice templates for handwriting already built in – a real time saver if you are just starting to teach handwriting. There are also some terrific videos on the website to get you up and running, if you are a visual learner.

Startwrite isn’t just for little kids! You can use it for your 6th grader with the sloppy handwriting, or for a teen who needs some additional handwriting or copywork practice, but is too old for 99% of the workbooks available for that purpose. Just type up some age-appropriate practice sheets and you’re older student will be on his/her way to improving handwriting skills, or working on grammar, punctuation, or other skills that may still need a bit of “brushing up”.

Startwrite is one of those resources I think every homeschool should have. I used my copy of the software for years for all sorts of purposes and ultimately saved a lot of money. I also loved how I could easily whip up some notebooking pages that had to do with exactly what we were studying with a minimum of effort!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Startwrite, click here!

You can also click on the link above to get a free, fully functioning demo of the program! The above link is an affiliate link, so your purchase helps support Guest Hollow!

You can also sign up to become a Startwrite affiliate and receive 60% commission on all the sales through your blog or website. I know you homeschool moms like making a little extra $$, so I’m sharing that nifty tidbit in this review, as well. 😉

In other news, I have decided to start working on a non-math high school physics course sometime this late fall, followed by a 3 level American history program. I’ll keep everyone posted via my blog here, and over on my Facebook page!

Happy homeschooling!

Our high school biology curriculum is updated!

We’ve completely overhauled our biology curriculum! It has a new name, a FREE online textbook that no longer requires a login to access and is hosted on OUR website, textbook updates (new videos, explanations, humor, etc.), and more!

Click here to see the new biology landing page.

Here’s the new virtual textbook cover I designed.

I used the spectacular photo my husband took of a butterfly on one of our family trips to this butterfly exhibit:

If you recently purchased a printable biology curriculum schedule and would like an updated copy, please contact me via the contact form at the bottom of this post and I’ll get one sent to you at no extra charge!

If you’ve already used our biology curriculum, please consider leaving a review at our store page via the review tab. We really need YOUR comments and reviews to help other families become part of the Guest Hollow family!

Click here to write a review!

We offer our biology curriculum for FREE as a ministry to homeschoolers. I know that budgeting for homeschool curriculum is sometimes a tough thing to do, and finding an affordable high-quality biology curriculum is almost impossible. We hope to help solve both of those problems and also to give you and your students an amazing introduction to our high school curriculums (or a welcome change)!  We’ve had a lot of students love biology so much that they want to stick with Guest Hollow science courses until they graduate!

It’s not very profitable, though, to offer something so spectacular for free. Please help spread the word about our website and share a bit of the Guest Hollow love on your homeschool boards, blogs, Facebook, and wherever else you can let someone know about the resources we offer. It will help our small home business stay in business! I have a lot of things I’d love to create, but it’s going to hinge on the level of support our website receives, whether or not I can do so. Do I sound like a PBS pledge drive, yet? LOL….It’s true though, without YOU, Guest Hollow would not be able to continue to function.

Check out our support page, to find out ways you can help our website thrive!

If you haven’t already, you can head over to my Facebook page and vote for the next curriculum you’d like to see developed! Circumstances are keeping me from working on anything big for a while, but hopefully sometime this fall I will start working on either a NO-math high school physics curriculum, or a 3 level American history course. I have lots of other plans I’m hoping to get to, as well, but you’ll have to subscribe to my blog and/or follow me on Facebook to be one of the first to know!

Happy homeschooling!

A giveaway!!

giveaway2It’s that time of year again, when everyone is planning for the new school year next fall (for those of you who don’t school year round, lol). This is the first year that I’m not participating in that process myself, but in honor of all those hours I spent pouring over curricula and thinking of our homeschool budget, here’s a giveaway to help make things a little easier on someone’s pocketbook!

I’ve always loved Compass Classroom’s products. I started using their Visual Latin program way back when they were just a new, baby company (lol), and have watched them grow over the years with lots of high quality offerings. I love that you can stream a lot of their products, and you can also purchase a monthly subscription that allows you to stream a multitude of homeschool curricula without committing to a huge upfront purchase price.  You can try a curriculum out and cancel if it’s not a fit for your family, or just pay for it a month at a time!

In this giveaway, you have your choice of any one of the streaming versions of the following:

All I ask for each entry is that you spread the word about Guest Hollow! Pin one of our graphics, post about us on your blog, share the news or like us on Facebook, tell someone in your homeschool playgroup, etc. Just spread the Guest Hollow love. 🙂 Now that I’m no longer homeschooling, I need my little Guest Hollow home business to pick up, or it will have to be a hobby instead of a business. Please help our site thrive by spreading the word, so I can do this full-time and bring you LOTS of new curricula and printables!  I have tons of new ideas that are just waiting to be created!!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

High School Chemistry is finished!

Chemistry Curriculum

Check it out by clicking here!

 

 

That’s my daughter!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you who don’t know, my daughter is living and working in Japan. On the side, she’s been working on building her acting resume. She is convicted that the film industry has a real need for a Christian influence. Here she is in a commercial for Toyota!!

You can only see her for a tiny bit at about 1:98 in the video above. Here’s a screenshot:

Capture

O.K. That’s my little proud mama dance, lol.

I remember when I was homeschooling her and wondering what she would become and what she would do when she was grown up. I never dreamed she would live in Japan. I also never envisioned her in commercials (and other film work). I knew she had a purpose though, and that I was helping prepare her for it. It’s amazing to me that so many of the things I did back when I was homeschooling her, have helped in small ways to get her where she is now. We spent a lot of time learning about other cultures, and I believe God was beginning to prepare her heart for reaching other people. I also believe He was allowing her to explore and develop her gifts, like her love for languages and the arts, in ways she never would have been able to in a regular school setting.

I’m also glad He led her to attend our local jr. college, as NONE of her current opportunities would have unfolded via the previous college track we had planned on and hoped for, in the beginning. Who would have known she would get involved with Japanese students and a Japanese company in the middle of a cow town?! lol.  I think it’s hilarious that she runs into good friends so often in Japan. She’s thousands of miles away in the middle of Tokyo eating lunch with friends she met in a dinky little nothing town here in the states at a dinky little nothing jr. college. Cue in the music to “It’s a Small World”, lol. You would be amazed at all the little perfect storms in her life that I don’t have time to get into right now.  That’s God’s hand right there.

I’m so happy that she is getting to share her love of Christ with the Japanese, and of all the amazing things she is getting to do, as God throws so many doors wide open!

When you are working hard to teach your kids and fighting about math or stressing over which science program you are going to use, stop and remember that this time you have with them is fleeting. Your kids are going to grow up and move out and make their mark in the world, even though that may seem SO far away. It’s not. You are equipping them right this very moment for all of the things they are going to do. Let God lead you in the things you teach them, even if those things aren’t in the “usual” 4 year history cycle or whatever homeschool slave that’s driving you.

Don’t be afraid to do things a little differently or to spend time exploring interests that don’t always add up perfectly in your high school credits list, or that may not be in the current homeschool “vogue”. You just never know where it might lead and what impact it may have on your kids’s lives and the lives of the people they will touch in the future.

When my kids were little, we used to spend hours listening to radio programs in Asian languages just for fun. I had no idea why I did that, lol. Only now, I do. 😉 My daughter is reading and writing and speaking Japanese on a daily basis! What may have seemed like a waste of time (we weren’t actually LEARNING as we were just listening), may have helped her brain be more receptive to learning an Asian language.

It’s little goofy things like that, that added up and made a difference. Maybe your son likes to build paper models. Hey, that’s not school!! Or is it? Maybe someday he’s going to be an engineer. Maybe your daughter spends hours building little bead bracelets. Maybe someday her super developed motor skills will be enacted as her hands hover over someone’s heart in the middle of surgery. You just never know.

I’m so thankful for those precious years I had to teach my children. It’s exciting to see their lives unfold and to see that God’s hand was always working towards their futures, even when they were very small and I couldn’t see it in the day-to-day struggles.

Hang in there. It’s worth it.

New Chemistry Curriculum Sneak Peek

It’s taken me a lot longer than usual to create the high school chemistry curriculum due to several unforeseen circumstances, but I’m almost finished now. 🙂 I have some printables to make, and then I’ll post everything in the online store! Here’s a sneak peek of the banner graphics:

Chemistry CurriculumThis curriculum doesn’t use a thick and boring chemistry textbook. Look at some of the “living” books your student will get to read instead:chem-books

I haven’t seen any high school chemistry curriculum like this before, and I feel it fills a real need for students who would be better served by a non-traditional chemistry course. Keep an eye out for updates, as I’ll be posting more about it soon!

Black Friday Sale!

Homeschool Black Friday Sale

I love deals, so I’m sharing the love for Black Friday here at Guest Hollow! Enter in the coupon code: BlackFriday! at checkout and you will get 35% off your cart! This applies to anything and everything. The code is valid ONLY on Friday, the 27th – one coupon code per person.

Happy shopping!!

In other news, my new high school chemistry program is coming along nicely and should be done by January. It’s based on “living books” with no textbook and no crazy traditional labs! Instead, students learn chemistry concepts through cooking real food (you know, the kind you want to EAT) in the kitchen! This curriculum is designed for students who don’t have (or don’t want to use, lol) the math skills for a traditional chemistry course, but still need to fulfill requirements, or want to explore chemistry in a more hands-on and real-life approach. As with all of my curricula, it’s chock-full of videos, activities, and great books that will help spark a LOVE for science. It’s also a great course for teens interested in the culinary arts. I’m really excited about this chemistry course, as there isn’t anything I’ve seen out there in the homeschool world like it. I’ll be sharing more in the next month!

Modern Educayshun

My daughter sent this to me today. I’m glad we are homeschoolers!
You may not want to watch this with the kiddos around, as there is some mature content.

Grapes…and New Printables

This is what was on my counter recently:grapesNow we have a ton of Ziploc bags full of frozen grapes in the freezer (for snacks) and bags of raisins I made with my dehydrator! The raisins taste so much better than the ones you can buy in the store. They also have little, tiny, crunchy seeds left in them. After a bit of research, I learned that grapes seeds are quite good for you!!

My husband was also a sweetheart and processed the last of the plums and two fridge drawers full of peaches for me. I think we literally grow enough fruit now that 1-2 people could eat it all year-long. I’d probably get tired of it all, though! 😉

In other news, I’ve put up some printables in my website store in the new “printables category”:

http://guesthollow.com/store/product-category/printables/

I plan on adding things over time, between working on curricula. For now there are some excerpts that were adapted from the Science of Seasons Learn-and-Play Activities book and some items that are bundled in the Knowledge of Nature Curriculum. I’ll be creating lots of new goodies, for a variety of ages, as time goes on.

Now I’m off to work on the up-and-coming high school chemistry curriculum! Stay tuned (does anyone still use that phrase? lol) for updates!

High School Chemistry Curriculum Coming Soon!

I’m getting ready to work on a new curriculum for high schoolers. It’s going to be a non-traditional chemistry curriculum done the “Guest Hollow” way with lots of fun kitchen/cooking recipes instead of a chemistry set, a variety of really interesting books instead of a textbook, and lots of practical information that kids can use in their “real” lives, instead of just in a laboratory.

One of the books I plan on including is:

Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking

Culinary-Reactions-The-Everyday-Chemistry-of-Cooking

I’ll post more about it in a few weeks!