Free Big History Curriculum from History Channel

Lynda Altman

Lynda Altman, author and creator of Arkansas Homeschoolers

This is just a quick post to let you know about a great freebie from the History Channel. If you have homeschool kids in middle school and high school, grab the free, Big History curriculum while supplies last. This is completely free, they do not charge for shipping.

You will receive a USB drive with the curriculum and videos on it. This curriculum coincides with the History Channel’s new series, Big History.

When History Channel did this with Ammerica, the Story of Us, I requested the DVD set. My kids and I were thrilled with it. We had a blast with all the activities.

To get your copy of Big History, just fill out the online form.


Hope this was helpful

— Lynda

Posted on 31 October '13 by , under Free or Almost free resources, Freebies, Homeschool Curriculum. No Comments.

Curriculum Review: Artes Latinae

Homeschoolers who are using classical studies will want to include Latin as part of their curriculum. Finding a high quality Latin program can be difficult. This is especially true if you are teaching students who are in high school. Many of the programs available are not challenging enough for high school students. Another problem is teaching multiple children when there is a large age difference. The solution is a Latin program called Artes Latinae.


When I choose a homeschool curriculum, I pay attention to several key points. First, it has to be easily adaptable to teaching multiple ages. The program needs to be portable—up until very recently, I had to work around cancer treatments. But, I still want a program that I can access or take on the road with me. Language programs should include more than just reading and speaking the language. Finally, it needs to fit my teaching style and my kid’s learning style.


Artes Latinae meets my criteria. It is published by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. Back when I was first introduced to Artes Latinae, it included filmstrips, cassette tapes and workbooks (yes, I am that old.) The publishers have kept up with the times and there are two versions available. The traditional version uses workbooks, and CDs. A newer version, DVD-ROM. This version replaces the books and CDs with a DVD-ROM disc. Mary Pride gives Artes Latinae a First Place Award in her book Practical Homeschooling.



One of the best things about this program is that you can use it for almost any age, even if your child cannot read yet. Non-readers can use just the audio parts of the program. Fluent readers will be able to work the program at their own pace. Younger children will require help from an adult or older sibling. Asking kids under the age of nine to work independently for an extended amount of time is unreasonable, so expect to be there to assist younger children.


Where Artes Latinae really shines is in the middle and high school grades. Level 1 is the equivalent of a traditional high school Latin 1 class. Your teenagers can work independently or if you have more than one teen, they can work together on their Latin lessons.



Artes Latinae is portable. Whether you choose the traditional or DVD-ROM version, it is easy to take the materials with you. This means you can have kids working at the library, while waiting for appointments, or in the car. All you need is access to either a CD player, or with the DVD-ROM version—a laptop computer. I have not used the DVD-ROM version, so I am not sure if it will play in a car’s DVD player because it has text documents as well as audio on the disc.


Your kids can listen to the CD in the car or use the graded reader while on the road, at the library or wherever quiet activities are required.


No More Language in a Vacuum

Latin, like any other language, did not exist in a vacuum. Teaching a language without learning about the culture in which the language was used is useless. Artes Latinae teaches students about the culture in Ancient Rome. For high school students, this is a bonus. A single curriculum purchase will give you a foreign language credit and a history credit. The history credit can be anywhere from ½ credit to a full credit or more—depending on how involved you get in the culture of Ancient Rome.


The publishers offer books to further the study of Latin. Favorite childhood books such as the Cat in the Hat or How the Grinch Stole Christmas are available in Latin. For students who have completed Level 1 and are working on Level 2, advanced titles in Latin are available. Artes Latinae, Level 2, when combined with the advanced readers, is a great way to prepare for the AP Latin exam.


Classical Studies and More

Our homeschool follows Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and teaching methods. We have found that Artes Latinae fits into a Charlotte Mason homeschool. It obviously will work in a homeschool that is using classical studies. We used Artes Latinae as a unit study which incorporated Latin, Ancient Rome, and Roman and Greek mythology.


The program is adaptable to many learning styles, especially when you add in some of the readers for younger children. Hearing a favorite book read to them in Latin instead of English gives them a new perspective of the story.


Purchase Options

Artes Latinae is somewhat expensive. The cost adds up quickly when you start adding in the extra readers or if you want to purchase books on mythology. I would recommend using the Home School Buyers Co-op for purchasing the Traditional Version as it is available through September 16, at a 40 percent discount.


The Traditional Version for Level 1 and Level 2 include: books one and two, audio CD, teacher’s manual, graded reader, teacher’s manual for the graded reader, reference notebook (consumable), test booklet (consumable), and guide to tests. The retail price for the traditional version is $159.


The DVD-ROM version for Levels One and Two replaces the student textbooks and audio CD and combines them into a DVD-ROM. A free sample for the DVD-ROM version is available. The retail price for the DVD-ROM is $279.


In addition to the actual Artes Latinae curriculum, the Home School Buyers Co-op offers a mythology bundle, a Christmas bundle, and an “I am reading Latin” bundle, to compliment the Artes Latinae program. These bundles are offered at a 40 percent discount and can be purchased with or without the Latin program.

Posted on 4 September '13 by , under Homeschool Curriculum, Reviews. No Comments.

Kindle book review: ‘Across the Plains in the Donner Party’

I love teaching using quality books. True stories bring history to life for our kids. One book in particular I found very interesting. Across the Plains in the Donner Party, edited by Karen Zeinert, is one of the few books I found that is suitable for middle school aged kids and up. The Donner Party resorted to desperate measures in order to survive a winter in the high Sierra Mountains, in an area now known as Donner Pass and Donner Lake.

The Donner Party
The Donner Party headed out on the Oregon Trail toward California. Along the way, they came across information about a short cut called Hastings Cut-off. At the time, the party had no way of knowing that taking this uncharted and unproven route would lead to their demise.

The Kindle Version of Across the Plains in the Donner Party
I borrowed the Kindle version of the book from my local library. At the Bentonville library, I can borrow up to five Kindle books at a time. Each book has a 14-day rental period. The book is properly formatted for the Kindle and I did not notice any glaring typos or grammatical errors.

This book, unlike many others on the subject, does not base the story around cannibalism. Although it is noted in the book that this occurred, it is a very minor part of the story and it is downplayed. This is what makes it suitable for children in middle school and up–the lack of gory details.

The book, is a compilation of letters, writings and diaries from Virginia Reed-Murphy, James Reed, and Patrick Breen. All three were members of the Donner Party. The majority of the book is from a magazine article Virginia Reed-Murphy wrote about 40 years after she was stranded at Donner Lake. Virginia was 12-years old when the Donner Party was stranded for the winter in the Sierra Mountains. Her accounts are somewhat child-like in description, but she remembers the ordeal as any child would. Virginia is the step-daughter to James Reed.

James Reed was a founding member of the Donner Party. He and the Donners put together the wagon train that headed west. His diary, written after he was banished from the Donner Party, is an account of everything that happened to him. It is the account of a man who did not believe he would survive his ordeal. This account was left so that those who found his body would know where he came from, what he went through, and who to contact.

Patrick Breen joined the Donner Party later on down the trail. His diary starts when the group is stranded at what is now Donner Lake. Like James Reed, this diary is written by a man who is convinced he is going to die.

This book gives a look into the mindset of a child, who managed to survive impossible circumstances. Virginia Reed-Murphy made a deal with God while stranded at Donner Lake. She said if he got her through this and she survived, she would convert to Catholicism. She kept her promise.

Let me know if you find this review helpful


Posted on 30 November '12 by , under Reviews. No Comments.

Homeschooling with cancer: Don’t sweat it

Hair after chemo

Me with my hair growing back

Homeschooling with cancer is tough. This year I have a high school senior that must get ready for college. Unfortunately for him, most of my attention over the past year has been on my health. I’ve been through a mastectomy, chemo, tissue expander and now revision surgery to remove the expander and swap it out with a breast implant. The other side got a lift and an implant so now I have “symmetry.”


I haven’t posted in a long while and for that I apologize. Once again surgery knocked me on my ass–I think that age is catching up with me. It is three weeks out and I am still in pain and still don’t have my energy back.


Homeschooling my two kids is difficult but I would never put them back into a traditional school, especially now that I am dealing with cancer. I don’t need the added stress of nosy school officials and teachers sticking their noses into places they don’t belong. My health is my business and what I share about it is on my terms. I don’t need or want the school’s psychology department getting to my kids to help them cope.


Unfortunately for my high school senior, I have spent more time with my cancer than I have getting him ready for college. This has to change so, I am biting the bullet and getting him ready. We need to get him his drivers license ASAP and we need to get him ready for the COMPASS exam which he can take anytime.


The decision not to take the SAT or ACT was not entered into lightly. The community college has the best rates per credit hour and we do not qualify for government aid. There is no reason for him or I to go into thousands of dollars in debt to send him to college. We can manage the costs of the community college. Once he gets his associated degree we will see what options he has.


My other son is in the 7th grade. We are moving along slowly, but again it has a lot to do with my energy levels and overall well being. I am thankful for our homeschool co-op, it helps to have a day off and I know he is learning a lot.


Today is park day so I am off to the park with my youngest son and the Nerf guns. Breast cancer has taught me not to sweat the small stuff and even the not-so-small stuff. In the big picture my kids will learn what they need to know, the older one will get to college and I will kick cancer’s ass, although I may lose an occasional battle due to treatment side effects. Every day that I wake up is a good day, if things get better then I have an awesome day.

Posted on 19 October '12 by , under Cancer and homeschool. No Comments.

Review: Knowledge Box Central Presidential Election Process Lapbook

The Library of Congress - (Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President. Seated portrait, holding glasses and newspaper, Aug. 9, 1863) (LOC)I’ve changed the way we are doing homeschool radically this year. This is due in part, to my battle with breast cancer. Knowledge Box Central is a company that has reasonably priced, high quality lapbooks for sale. My 12th grader turns 18 in September and will be able to vote in the Presidential election this November. Our family turned to the Presidential Election Process Lapbook  for learning about this important event.


What I liked

The lapbook is inexpensive. At just $5.00 for the e-book version, you can’t go wrong. I like the pdf format–if you make a mistake, just print out another page. The lapbook comes complete with enough information for lessons on the election process. The instructions are easy to follow, even if you are challenged in the crafting department. We used the grades 6 through 12 version.


What needs improvement

I would like to see better references included in the information. As a professional researcher and writer, Wikipedia is not considered a reliable or first-hand source. A better reference for the election process is the actual U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights which is found at the National Archives website. We used this as our source instead of the Wikipedia references included with the lapbook.


What my kids think

I used the Presidential Election Process lapbook with my 7th and 12th grade boys. They were engaged and had a great time researching the answers to the questions for the lapbook. My kids had a blast putting the lapbook together. It is not easy to please both boys with the same curriculum, and the Presidential Election Process lapbook was a definite hit. I plan to use other lapbooks from Knowledge Box Central.


Would I recommend it

I was extremely satisfied with the price, value, and content of the lapbook. The e-book format gives you flexibility to use it with multiple children without having to make another purchase. You can incorporate the lapbook into any style of homeschooling, including Charlotte Mason a traditional school approach and unschooling.


We added copywork and dictation to the lapbook to create an entire cross-curricular discipline on the election process and the U.S. Government. I highly recommend this lapbook, especially since this is a year when we elect a new president.


If you use this or any other Knowledge Box lapbooks, drop me a line and let me know. Thanks.



Posted on 7 August '12 by , under Government Lesson Plans, Homeschooling through high school, Reviews. No Comments.

Homeschoolers can play on public school teams says AAA

Lions vs Sabres IFL 28.11.2008 03Home_School_Eligibility

Finally, homeschoolers will be allowed to play on public school teams. The Arkansas Activities Association voted to allow homeschooled kids to play on public school athletic teams starting with the 2013-2014 school year. There are conditions that must be met, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

The AAA made this decision without legislation from the State of Arkansas. Some of the stipulations include that athletes must submit paperwork by July 1, 2013 to be eligible to play for a team in the 2013-2014 school year. Approval is at the sole discretion of the local Superintendent of Schools. Homeschooled athletes must apply at what would be their local school. They may not apply to a school that they would not normally attend. Homeschool athletes are subject to proof that they are performing at or above the grade-level for their age. Proof will be standardized testing, ACT or SAT-10 scores.

The vote allows homeschoolers to try out for a team. This rule does not guarantee that a homeschooled student will make the team. I am glad to see that the AAA is finally making strides to give homeschooled students a chance to play competitive sports.


I’m smiling after hearing this news, how about you?


Posted on 2 August '12 by , under Homeschool Politics, News. No Comments.

Review of One Year Adventure Novel

Lynda Altman

Lynda Altman, writer


I had my doubts about the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum until I tried it. We are using this program for my high school senior and my 7th grader. The program will guide your child through the process of writing an adventure novel over the course of a school year.

An Overview of One Year Adventure Novel

This is a curriculum for middle and high school students. I think it is too involved for an upper elementary school student–even a very gifted one.


The first part of the year is spent having your child learn to get the ideas out of his head and onto paper. He will learn to organize ideas and thoughts and improve the creative writing process.


This is not a grammar and spelling program. It does not focus on sentence structure and writing mechanics. If you are looking for that sort of program go with something else.


The second part of the curriculum walks your child through the process of organizing and writing a novel. This may seem like a daunting task for a novice writer, but if you follow the steps laid out n the CDs, it is not difficult.


The One Year Adventure Novel is an all inclusive curriculum. Lessons are on the CDs. The map and workbook have everything laid out for you. Your job as a parent and educator is to make sure the lessons are completed on time and you need to be a good listener. Another thing I like about the program is that you can purchase more than one workbook if you have multiple students or if you have younger children that will use the program later on.



The curriculum does everything for you. There is no preparation for lessons on the parent’s part. A parent or other adult will need to be a good editor/director. This means that you listen to the ideas and help your child get them out onto paper in a clear and concise manner. It will also mean that you need to learn to lighten up with grammar, spelling and sentence structure until your child is ready to produce a finished product. The goal of the program is to get him to write a novel. The all-in-one design is especially helpful to me while I am homeschooling and fighting breast cancer.


The curriculum is well organized and it is perfect for students who work well independently. I found it was helpful for me as a writer to watch the lessons. I am always looking to improve my writing.



There is a lot of work involved with the curriculum. If your kid does not like to write, this may not be what you are looking for. You will need to assess why your child does not like writing. If it is because they have a hard time getting good ideas on to paper, this program will help. If you kid just hates to write and would rather compose music or do anything else, then you may want to skip this one.


The first part of the year goes slowly. If you are looking to get right into writing a book, you have to wait. The first half of the year is important to the creative process. Take your time with the program and do all the lessons.


Hope you found this helpful. Leave a comment and let me know.



Posted on 26 July '12 by , under Cancer and homeschool, Homeschooling through high school, Reviews. No Comments.

Free for all homeschoolers: Mythbusters Live on Discovery Education

Mythbusters Live: March 15 at 2:00 pm Eastern Time (1:00 pm Central Time) on the Discovery Network Website.

MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage will share their experiences as well as those of co-hosts Kari Byron, Tori Belleci and Grant Imahara, as they make experimentation come alive through this dynamic presentation about science behind the exhibit. The interactive exhibit, created by Discovery Communications and Exhibits Development Group (EDG), in partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, helps inspire learning beyond the walls of the classroom.

Scientists, engineers, and mathematicians drive innovation that will fuel our future. This live event will spark the natural curiosity of budding scientists by showing students just how fun science can be and how it’s helped Adam and Jamie follow their passion to ultimately find success.

Here is the link to register and ask questions.


Hope you enjoy this.


Posted on 12 March '12 by , under Events, Free or Almost free resources. No Comments.

Review of The Well Planned Day Daily Planner

Every homeschooler needs a planner. Without one, it would be impossible to keep up with everything that needs to be done in a day. I need a planner or calender in order to organize my life. In my world, if something is not on the calender, it does not exist. It has taken me a long time and lots of trial and error to finally find a planner that is almost perfect for me. The Well Planned Day daily planner has everything I want in a planner with a price that is reasonable, that is why I decided to purchase one as my planner for the upcoming year.

Prior to using the Well Planned Day, I had a calender for all events and a separate schedule for homeschool lessons. This can become an issue when a field trip or 4H activity conflicts with the homeschooling. I would have to go back to my lesson planner and change it to match my calender. This is way too much work for me.

The Well Planned Day offers me an all-in-one planner. It has a place to write in everything for the month and it has a weekly view. I really like the budgeting features and shopping lists.  A teacher’s planner is included and you can add student schedules for up to 4 children. Having everything in one place works best for me.

Other features of this planner include inspirational articles on homeschooling from the Home School Family Magazine, report cards and progress reports, and the ability to keep track of grades. This is very important for college bound high school and middle school students. You can easily create a transcript if you use this planner to keep track of the grades and credits.

Thrifty homeschoolers will like the price. The Well Planned Day planner in a spiral binding, is $24.95 as of July 2011. A pdf version where you print out the pages you need is available for less. Other options include planners for high school and middle school students and a binder designed to hold more than one planner. The binder will zip closed to keep everything neat.

Christian homeschoolers in Arkansas will enjoy the weekly view which includes a catechism, proof text for memorization and a quote that relates. The Well Planned Day uses the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Overall, I am impressed with The Well Planned Day daily planner. Although there are some features that I will not use, the overall planner is of great value to me and well worth the price. If you decide to purchase one, let me know what you think.




Posted on 18 July '11 by , under Homeschooling 101, Reviews. No Comments.

New Amendments to Arkansas Bill SB774

I have been following SB774 also known as the “Tim Tebow” bill. This bill, if passed, will allow Arkansas homeschoolers to participate in public school sports and activities. Right now, homeschoolers cannot participate in public school sports or any activity governed by the Arkansas Athletic Association.

Amendment number 1 was withdrawn on March 16, 2011. Amendment number 2 was adopted, read and reported as correctly engrossed and sent back to the Education Committee.

I have an issue with amendment number 2. It changed the wording on page 2, line 36 to the following:

“Demonstrate educational progress by scoring at grade-level or above on a norm-referenced standardized test in mathematics, English, science and social studies, each semester that the student participates in an interscholastic activity;”


The above wording could mean that homeschoolers who want to participate in sports on a public school team will be subject to standardized testing every semester that they want to participate in sports. Additionally, the bill requires testing in subjects other than math and English, something that public school kids are not subjected to.

I think that this is putting way too much regulation on homeschoolers. Currently homeschoolers in grades 3 through 9 take standardized tests in math and English. The state of Arkansas pays for this testing. If homeschoolers are supposed to test every semester if their kids want to participate in interscholastic activities then the state should pay for the additional testing and public school students should have to be subjected to the same requirements.

Let me know what you think

Posted on 20 March '11 by , under Arkansas homeschool requirements, Homeschool Politics, Homeschooling through high school, Politics, Testing. 4 Comments.

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