Links for Homeschooling Moms and Children

God Bless America: Homeschool lessons: The story behind the Pledge of Allegance and Patriotic Songs
Poetry from Beauty in the Weeds: Examples of poetry
Writing and Marketing: Markets for SAHMs

Kid   Crafts

All articles in this section(c)Copyright July 7, 2002 Margaret
(Marty) Byers Smith, Ph.D., Retired Social Psychologist




Faux Stain-glass windows.
Bird Watching



For a great spring project to keep little or even teenage hands busy during art hour, make stained glass windows with just paper, magic markers, and oil! Depending on your child's attention span, this can be a letter size window to hang in a real window or butcher paper cut to fit your window, letting the sun shine through and beautifying your home.

For your littlest kids, take white typing, mimeograph or printer letter size paper, draw a church or secular window with religious motifs or Easter eggs or baby ducks and the like depending on your art abilities as well as your taste and beliefs. Your teenager will probably want to choose their own. Outline the window and the panes with heavy black lines from a wide magic marker. Then have the children color in the spots with magic marker.

If you have access to Dover books, they have wonderful non-copyrighted drawings of Art Deco and also church windows you can trace over, but there are also lots of Easter coloring books available this time of year. I even saw a couple suitable drawings in a grocery ad.

Then thinly wipe over the dried drawing with any type of vegetable oil. Let it dry. Hang it in the window with transparent tape and let the sun shine in. This is how our pioneers made windows when they didn't have glass.

This is a good project for homeschooling, church classes, day care, or Spring vacation. Most kids are really proud of their stained glass window and may ask to make more!

By the way, you can use club soda to clean off Magic Marker than gets on the clothes.

BIO: I am a retired social psychologist but I have run a nursery school, taught early childhood courses at the college level, led a Girls Club and a Girl Scout Troop. I had children at home to raise for 43 years. The younger daughter is now in graduate school in Stanford University. I have been published in academia, women's magazines, and on the web as well as self-published newletters and cookbooks. _____________________________


There's a Lot to Learn from those Beautiful Wild Birds

Everyone loves birds, to see their bright reds, yellows and blues. Even the soft brown and gray birds are a pleasure. Everyone loves their cheerful songs. In fact, nearly outdoor scene of a movie is filled with birds twittering even if you don't see them. So why do we often think of bird watching as something done by old maids or stodgy gentlemen walking through bushes with canes? It isn't that way any more if it ever was! It's fun but it is more. It is an excellent tool to teach your child scientific observation or just attention to detail for everyday life. It can be started with a paperback book and the Internet, if you want to use these tools and is a great science project for a homeschooler.

Identifying a bird is something I taught my daughter at a preschool age because I wanted to teach her scientific observation. We would spot a bird in the back yard from the kitchen window. She would get comfortable while I got out the bird book. Then we would dig through the pages.

One time we saw a yellow bird. That's easy, canary. Except there are no wild canaries. So we had to look and found pages and pages of yellow birds. We marked the ones it might be before it flew away.

Then we talked over what we could remember of the color of the beak, wings, feet, size. It was surprising how little we remembered. Attention to small details is invaluable in everyday life but a skill that takes time to master.

We used the Peterson Field Guides by Roger Troy Peterson, which I still find to be the best for my own personal use. It has birds grouped by water and shore birds, birds of prey, and what they call roadside birds.

It has a great index which allowed us to eliminate canaries right away. It has most of yellow birds grouped together so we could go to one spot in the book to look. It has a great description for each bird, pointing out the differences in each aspect of the bird, including the whereabouts of its usual sightings.

In it, my daughter would mark each bird as she first sighted and identified it. We carried it with us on vacations and did, indeed, identify birds by the side of the road as we drove. One trip to ocean, we added twenty varieties to our list of identified birds. My daughter had a great feeling of achievement with this and eventually wrote up a report for school using the Field Guide.

One of the most exciting times of the year for bird identification is during the Audubon Back Yard Count. Here you or your youngster log on to and find the dates of the bird count. Or you could check the Audubon magazine at the library.

We did the one in February this year. There were four days we could choose to sight so we did it on a Saturday. Then the report had to be turned in by March first. It took us days and days to identify that pesky yellow bird.

When we logged on with our zip code here in Arkansas, they gave us the names of the usual birds found in our area. We clicked on the ones we thought we had seen and compared the computer picture to the one we had marked in our book. All they had in yellow birds was Gold Finch, and we knew the bird was not that, so we keyed in Tennessee Warbler.

We had a friendly, warm letter from one of the individuals at Audubon, telling us that it was rare to see such a Warbler in Arkansas and asking would we double check. We double checked and triple checked and checked again. I think we learned a little patience, too, and had a good laugh at ourselves when we finally identified the bird as an Arkansas Gold Finch! Thank you, Audubon!

This was such a rewarding experience. It was so exacting to dig through the Peterson's Field Guide. It tested and taught us so many skills at paying attention to deal. It was so exciting for the Audubon people to write us personally. It was just a thrill to finally come up with the identification of that bird. I suspect my daughter will be a birder for life! I know I will be!




Reading and Writing Lessons in English and a Foreign Language
Teaching a Reluctant Teenage Male to Enjoy Reading
Overcoming shyness in publilc speaking
How to write a successful high school or college essay
Keeping Records for College Scholarships
College Scholarships for Homeschoolers


Preparing the Homeschooler to Read, Write, and Speak a Foreign Language Young

All articles in this section(c)Copyright July 7, 2002 Margaret (Marty) Byers Smith, Ph.D., Retired Social Psychologist

When I had a preschool child to homeschool, I wrote the Troll book club as a teacher and set up a Troll book club for just my daughter and me. We had to order a minimum of 10 books each month to get the bonuses for teachers and for kids. They have very easy to read books, so easy the picture gives it away. I remember the day my four year old read "birthday cake." I was astounded until I realized she got it from the picture, but it really buildtup her self esteem and made her want to read more. Since so much of the reading was based on phonics, it made it really easy.

Another really good thing is they offer books in Spanish. It is never to young to introduce your child to a second language. Even if you don't speak Spanish, I bet you can figure out Frederico El Sapo (with a picture of a frog) dice croa, croa means "says Croak, crock." Then the next ones about the cow says moo and the cat says meow are a snap to translate.

Also I would let her stand by the computer and dictate a little story. A kid can almost always read anything they write.

She now speaks Chinese and Japanese and reads so fast it takes your breath away. She was reading James Michenor's long complex books in fifth grade!


Teaching Reading to a Reluctant Male Teenager

When I taught reading in a very tiny school that was the next thing to homeschooling, I used every trick in the book and then some, because I was teaching teenage boys who just did not have a good grasp on reading. Well, they didn't really want to read, to tell the truth!

I found a series of classic tales boys love, like Robin Hood, etc., written at "low level/high interest," as they say. This was really successful and helped give them a love of learning.

The Robin Hood and other stories about boys who were bad but also good really inspired my boys because they were sometimes bad but wanted (secretly, of course) to be good. Not being able to read like other kids made them feel bad. That's emotional and can be used to your favor while helping your son!

For poetry, I used Emily Dickinson and anyone that wrote on snakes and stuff like that. I then had the boys write poems. They almost always can read anything they write. Of course, they said they didn't want to write poems. But they did.

When this was too difficult and keyboarding was too frustrating for them, I would have them stand by the computer and dictate while I typed poems or stories. They usually could read it back. The most memorable poem I remember was a very long one about a wheelchair race. The whole class was riveted listening to it! I suspect getting published on the web would make most boys feel good, whether they admitted it or not.

I also let them read the Driver's Manual (oh, it is soooo hard to read but soooo motivating), plus surf, motorcycle, and any type of magazine they liked. We would then discuss it.

Of course, I used phonics, too, for both reading and spelling part of the time. Sometimes I used the all sensory method. I had them write out a word while saying it (three senses--tactile and verbal and auditory). I moved on to writing in sand, Jell-O, or pudding (they could eat the last two if they washed their hands before starting) --goodness knows how many senses this used including emotional because you do feel a little silly and/or playful doing this. Things learned emotionally are remembered!

I also used behavior mod with points and, in those days, stickers and posters, for prizes. Every kid got 15 points just for starting the day. It took 25 points to substitute chocolate milk for plain milk at lunch. I used every trick I could think of!

By the way, if you can get a solid third grade footing for your son, he will blossom after that. Third grade level is where they can finally read how to do things, read science books, etc., Do NOT give up! Lots of luck!


Overcoming Shyness in Public Speaking

If you have to homeschool speech or get your student ready for competitions, shyness may be a factor. Just remember the key is control and lack of unknowns.

So go ahead of time, you and your student check out the room of the contest. Tell them: If you are going to use a microphone, have someone fix it and try it out. Stand or sit at the podium or table. Get an agenda of what else will be going on. Tell your student to take an outline of what you will be talking about. Take a pencil and mark off each point that you cover--then if you get interrupted or forget one, you can see there is no mark or dot, and go back to it.

Remind your pupil to: walk in the room with head high, good posture, and an air of command whether you have it at not. Look at the crowd. Smile in general. At least four or five people will think you smiled at them. The one or two that smile back, do some small talk with them if you are seated at a table. Or if you are a speaker at a podium at a distance, address of your remarks to them or anyone else that smiles.

If your child just can't look into eyes, look into eyebrows and the audience will never know the difference. Just know everything you can ahead of time and have as much control as you can have.

Philip Zimbardo, a social psychologist at Stanford, is the expert in this field and a book by him probably will be at your library. He even has workbooks for you to use to overcome shyness. I personally think it is genetic but I have overcome it in a lot of areas, and you can help your child, too, especially if you help them gain control of the main parts of the speech giving.

When I was homeschooling preschool, my daughter and I most of the above. She couldn't read that well at the time, so she memorized her speech. She stood on the fireplace hearth to practice being on a stage. I had her give the speech to everyone who came by. She not only came in first for our local area, but for the whole region. That was her start at oratory and really helped with getting scholarships later. __________________________________

How To Write a Successful High School or College Essay

I received my bachelors magna cum laude at San Diego State in psychology with a minor in creative writing and my did advanced work at United States International University at San Diego in Social Psychology. I have taught reading, learning disabilities, freshmen composition, psychology, sociology, personality and also taught adults creative writing. I had two daughters twenty years apart and homeschooled the latter as I mentioned in my earlier query. Here is the essay on How to Write a Five Part School Essay using the Rule of Three.

You want to know how to get a good grade when writing a paper for History or English or anything else? Well, surprisingly enough the best method to use is also the most easiest. How cool is that? This method, the writing formula that is most likely to get you a good grade, is The Five Paragraph Essay that uses The Rule of Three. You can vary this, of course, but the formula is a sure winner so I am going to use it right here in this letter to show you how! Here goes: To start off, the most simple, yet highly compelling, way to write an academic essay, is to have the first paragraph be the Introduction. Then you have the next three paragraphs act as the Body of the paper. Finally, you have a fifth paragraph that is the Summary and/or Conclusion. Those last three sentences written here about the three parts of the essay could be combined into one sentence which you would call the Thesis for this paper and they finish up the Introduction Paragraph.

The Body of your paper probably will have many facts or points or arguments. But to make sure the paper is simple enough that your reader notices each of these items, the body of the paper should be organized into at least three paragraphs. A longer paper may use five paragraphs or even have sections with three to five paragraphs. But to be powerful, each paragraph, such as this one, should have at least three points to sound like full paragraph.

Oddly enough, the paragraphs in the Body, as opposed to the Introduction, should start with a Topic Sentence instead of ending with a Thesis Sentence. The topic sentence in each paragraph should be broad enough to cover three points. In a history paper, for example, you might be listing three names or explaining three dates which you have suggested would be covered right there in that first sentence--the topic sentence. It is easy to see that these three points might be covered in three sentences but sometimes it would take more than three and other times could be stated in just one.

The paragraphs in the Body, following the Rule of Three, need to sound like they go together or that they naturally follow one another or that they build up to the conclusion.

It is easy to conclude the reasons whys the Five Paragraph Paper usually get a good grade. Mostly, the five paragraphs are easy to read, easy to follow, and most clearly show that you have used reasoning and organization. Besides that, the rule of Three works because most generally one reason is not very convincing in a paper, or even a paragraph. Also, over three or five points in a paragraph or even a section of a longer paper can be very confusing unless these, too, are broken down into an understandable three. Thus, most papers that get the coveted "A," or a "Well Written" remark will all follow the same writing formula--Five Paragraphs or Parts using The Rule of Three. ______________________________________

How To Keep Records For Scholarships

Dear Homeschooler of a Brainiac:

Tell your brainiac son to keep track of every thing he wins for when he applies for scholarships. We homeschooled so we didn't have nearly the opportunities of others yet my daughter went to college with 5 scholarships and won up with enough to pay for all her college, books, supplies, a trip to China, a computer, and some money in the bank.

He should do Explorer Scouts and BoysTown (or whatever it is where the boys go to the state capital and get to run things one day--you can get the VFW or other vet organization to nominate him and pay for it). These two are actually on some forms. Clarissa had done Cadet Scouts and got the Silver Award and went to Girls Town and hated every minute of it. But she knew it was necessary for scholarships so she did it.

He can also do geography or spelling bee if either are his talents. Clarissa also came in second national in a Historic Preservation essay contest, the American Legion Constitution Oratory, etc.

Since I am her Mom, we had to prove she earned the all A's I gave her for high school work, so she took AP's in 5 topics--she got college books and studied them as part of our classwork intensely for 6 weeks on top of the intense work we had done the previous years of her home schooling.

She did Art History because she loves art so much she already knew a lot of it that she had learned on her own and we got an Art History book for college freshmen for her to study. She also took Government (we got a cheat sheet at the college book store to memorize plus the stuff she had learned 3 years for the Am. Legion), American History (we studied a college history book), European History (from the same book), Psychology (learned from Mom, of course). Most of these, they gave her honors credit for 2 semesters.

And, yes, on her aps, we wrote down non-scholastic things like the game show you son was on, would be.

The AP classes at some high schools can be brutal so check it out before you do a big load like we did.

Hope some of this helps.


College Scholarships for Homeschoolers

It's been a while since we went through applying for college scholarships for a homeschooler but when we did, my daughter wound up with two full scholarships to the same university plus the National Merit Scholarship. I've only done this once (when I went to college straight from public high school years and years ago, it was so much easier), so I'll have to explain how to do this successfully from from a personal level.

We first read books on how to apply to college and also for scholarships. We had to look at lots and lots of books to try to find out just what colleges and scholarship agencies were looking for. Next we gathered up information on her achievements. We spent a lot of time thinking about prizes she had won, competitions she had entered, just all the things she had done, so that we could remember everything, even back to grade school, to see if it counted. I did most of the digging through old newpaper accounts, school papers, and certificates because she was going to college part-time, homeschooling, and still competing in competitions. It was a very stressful several months getting all the information together.

Actually the main thing you need, besides good grades and accomplishments, is TIME and lots of it. We got applications for several schools and scholarships and wrote essays for each. We slanted the essays to just the qualities and acomplishments they asked for; we figured the schools and scholarship people knew what we should write about. Also we got together the letters we had written to get her a sponsor to Girls State, etc. Then we picked out the best parts of the essays and letters, and put together what we thought was a killer essay. She wrote it. I did a lot of careful work on it, too, for spelling, punctuation, grammar, mechanics, order, paragraph sense--all the things that make up good writing, and richer kids could pay someone to help them with.

We found, to get in college and to get scholarships, you had to have things in several categories. The ones I remember are grades, personal achievement, leadership, community service, hobbies that showed both a scholarly bent and an ability to get along with other people, athletics, and recommendations etc. to show that you were well rounded. There may have been more, other colleges may want something else, and these attributes may change over time, too.

Well, the truth was that we had home schooled and our leadership, athletic, and many of her achievementswere not the conventional, expected ones of most colleges. Her grades were 4.0 but since Mother had assigned those, I had to prove several ways that we had a very rigorous program and that she deserved the grades--she took both the SAT and ACT to prove the grades. Also she took 5 AP's and got Honors in all five. (I'm not saying you have to do these or that you are out if you haven't done them--just that you need something equivalent.)

She'd done gung fu martial arts for years so we put that down for althletics. No belts or sashes but that's not the goal of white crane gung fu. We emphasized the number of years and other things than belts. She is an Role Playing Gamer and a Games Master for fun, but how did this fit into college wants and needs? Well, the GM runs the games so that is leadership but some people hate the most known RPG, D&D, so we worded that carefully. Actually, when we got to thinking about it, we didn't do D&D--she wrote her own scenarios and told them herself so we wound up calling it a story-telling club without stretching the truth any.

Her community service was a newsletter we had written, printed, and distributed over the years--but it was about D&D type role playing. We looked over the newsletter and, to our surprise, found , over the years we had published quite a bit of poetry and stories written by gamers, made announcements about upcoming conventions, etc. and it really was community service!

Her personal achievements were winning art shows, winning competitions and oratories, going to Girls State (oh, how she hated Girls State but well-rounded girls go and so she did, too), earning the Silver in Girl Scouts, winning a week's trip to DC for a history writing thing (which included scholarly Role Playing in Washington DC), etc.

Recommendations were tough for us as home schoolers. We had her gung fu teacher, a college prof neighbor, etc., but we needed someone who knew what to say.

So--she took the last SAT through the next-district-over high school and filled out the forms so that if she got a National Merit Scholarship, it would be announced through that high school. Oh, we got a lovely recommendation and all kinds of help.

So even if your individual situation is not the usual, the conventional, the expected, there are colleges who want you. You just have to tell them the story in the categories they expect. At least, that is what worked for us.


Articles written by
Margaret (Marty) Byers Smith, Ph.D.,
Retired Social Psychologist
Margaret received her bachelors magna cum laude at San Diego State in
psychology with a minor in creative writing and did advanced
work at United States International University at San Diego in
Social Psychology. She taught at Imperial Valley College,
Imperial, California; Missouri Southern State College, Joplin,
Missouri; High Point College, High Point, North Carolina; and
Northwest Arkansas Community College, Rogers, Arkansas (following
the husband's career). She taught reading, learning
disabilities, freshmen composition, psychology, sociology,
personality and also taught adults creative writing plus
childhood education classes, first full time, then part-time.
She has been published over the years on the topics of sleep,
depression, pain, homeschooling, history, crafts, household
hints, creativity, nostalgia, college, applications, teaching
reading and other subjects, learning disabilities, women, girls,
moving, TV, memory, intelligence, parenting, homeschooling,
scholarships, yard sales, education, walking, shyness, headaches,
backaches, prenatal, cats, country living, and personal experiences.