Organizing the Books

Over the years as we’ve added to our book collection, we’ve also acquired new bookcases for the storage of said books.  These bookcases have just been squeezed in wherever I could find space, the result being that we ended up with bookcases everywhere.  Well, not exactly everywhere. Books shouldn’t go in the bathroom because the humidity would damage the books – but everywhere else.  There are bookcases in the family room, and the music room, and the dining room and even a bookcase full of cookbooks in the pantry. There are bookcases in every bedroom, in the entryway, in the den, in the oversized hallway, and in the laundry room.  People step into my house and remark, “Wow! Someone likes books!”

Well, recently we decided to turn the den into a guest bedroom so that when our oldest child and his new bride come to visit (yes, homeschoolers grow up, go to college, get jobs, and get married), they won’t have to sleep on the couch.  Our enormous executive desk went off to college with our daughter, but if we’re going to put a bed in that room, the bookcases had to move.  I wandered about the house, staring at things, pondering how I could possibly make this work.

I thought and planned. I measured bookcases and I measured walls.  Since moving bookcases means that those bookcases must first be emptied, I had to find a temporary place for all those books.  I made stacks.  Books everywhere: on the tables, under the tables, on the floor beneath the windows… .  I couldn’t just empty one bookcase, relocate it, then fill it back up, because my goal was a better organization of our entire library.  I didn’t just move the books out of the den; I rearranged every book in the house.


First I gathered the books for younger kids and arranged them all together in the upstairs hallway. These are favorites everyone loves, and we enjoy reading them again and again.  They’re now centrally located for easy access.  Our third-grade curriculum is out on loan, so by June I’ll have to find space for another 100 books here. I think there’s space for 20, so that’s a bit of a problem.  My plan is to move the baby & toddler books to our new guest room, leaving space for the others.

BooksEntryNext I moved the theology and Bible study books into the entryway. These used to be in our bedroom, which was highly inconvenient when someone would want to browse through them and borrow a couple.  That leaves two tall and four short bookcases in our bedroom for books we’re unlikely to loan out, such as old college textbooks, high school yearbooks, books we inherited from grandparents, etc.

Next, I moved the china hutch out of the dining room into the music room to make space so that the den’s bookcases could move into the dining room (that also resulted in moving the piano that was supposed to go to college with my daughter but is somehow still here).  This works so much better! The grammar and writing and spelling and learning-to-read books are all together.  The foreign language books are all together.  The art curricula are no longer scattered about the house based on which year it was purchased.  Likewise with the science books.  History is a little harder; the curricula guides are all together (except for one publisher, which is grouped together on its own shelf), while the historical literature is elsewhere. Since the bookcases aren’t as deep as the china hutch that used to be in that spot, as a bonus we have more space around the table.  I am very happy with the result!

BooksDining  BooksDining2

The opposite wall of the dining room has shelves for secondary-level literature and history:  U.S. history with American historical literature, church history with classical literature, civics with American lit, 20th century history and lit, as well as British lit.

Books that guests might like to read while they’re visiting are now in the guest room.  That just leaves the Great Books, one set of encyclopedias, and a few other books in the family room.

No longer will I have to hunt for books each summer in preparation for a new school year, and no longer will I need to rearrange shelves to make “this year’s” books accessible.  And if we really do move after hubby retires, I think I want our house to have an entire room set aside as a library.  It’s really nice having the books organized!


Kindergarten is Not Mandatory

Once again the schools have signs out telling parents that they must register their 5-year-olds for kindergarten next fall.  This is false!  Attendance is optional for five-year-olds in Washington state.  RCW 28A.225.010 clearly sets the compulsory attendance ages as 8-17.  That means five-, six-, and seven-year-olds do not have to attend school!

Parents occasionally mention to me that they’re considering homeschooling.  By all means, before children turn 8  is great time to consider it.  You don’t have to do any paperwork for the school district.  There are no testing requirements for children who are not yet old enough to be affected by the compulsory schooling laws.

If you have a child who will be old enough that kindergarten is an option next year, but are considering waiting a year or two, know that it is okay to continue enjoying time at home with your child.  There is a reason that schools don’t begin at age four.  Five is a fun age!

While you’re deciding, here is some reading material that might help.   If these books are not on the shelf of your public library, you can request them through inter-library loan:

You could make use of the public library and teach your five-year-old at home for free.  Or you could invest some money in things that the child might not realize are educational.  I’d be inclined to get these things whether or not I was homeschooling:

Read also:


College and Career Planning

CollegeCareer 008This year my high school junior’s schedule includes a course titled College and Career Planning.  Initially it was supposed to be a one-semester course, but based on the amount of time and effort required, it appears that it will take a full year.

To begin the year, the college-bound student should spend a significant amount of time studying for the Pre-SAT/NMSQT.  After taking this test in mid-October, the student should switch to studying for the SAT/ACT.  Ideally, the student already knows that colleges require test scores as part of the application process.

In addition to studying for college entrance exams, students also work on developing goals for their life after high school.  This involves reading about learning styles, aptitudes, and career interests.  The goal is for the student to discover/reinforce a direction for future studies (or, I suppose, some students might reinforce not wanting to attend college), and know what will be needed to attain their goal.

Resources we are using include:

My high school junior is creating a notebook documenting his work.  We are beginning the process earlier with my younger son. He will begin his notebook this year (8th grade) and create a High School and Beyond Plan similar to what his friends in public school are making (ours is better, and geared to our family rather than the generic average student).

These pages get inserted into a 3-ring binder.  At the back of the binder, I am inserting one binder pocket (with the interest inventory), and two poly-envelopes (one for filing test scores, and one for letters from colleges).

Good luck with your planning!

College and Career Planning (HSBP)



College-Bound Student Athletes

Does it matter what classes kids take during high school? Most definitely!  The National Collegiate Athletic Association has strict standards that examine the specific courses taken in high school.  The NCAA focuses on core courses, and recommends that students’ high school schedule includes:

  • 4 English credits (1 per year)
  • 4 math credits (1 per year)
  • 4 science credits (1 per year)
  • 4 social science credits (1 per year) can include some foreign language

That is just a recommendation, though, and exact requirements vary slightly for Division I, Division II, and Division III schools.  These classes are called core courses:
NCAA Course Requirements

If you’re saying to yourself, “That looks like anyone who graduates from high school will automatically have all the classes they need,” you’d be surprised.  First, not every class offered in a subject area counts as a core course. Students at public and private schools can find their school on the NCAA Eligibility Center’s website and scroll down to view the list of approved classes from which to choose.  If you homeschool, you will have to complete a Core Course Worksheet for every class and have the course evaluated to confirm that it qualifies. None of us want to graduate our athletes and then discover that the NCAA finds our curriculum lacking, so it is important to check early and make sure your curriculum will be accepted.

Second, it matters when the classes are taken. Of those 16 core courses, ten of them must be completed before the student’s final semester; seven of those ten must be in English, math, and science.  I honestly can’t figure out how a student could complete 3-1/2 years of high school without earning the 10/7 credits needed for NCAA eligibility, but apparently there are good athletes recruited by colleges who end up ineligible due to their poor choice of high school classes.

GPA – For purposes of NCAA eligibility, students must earn a minimum 2.3 GPA in their core courses. Note that for purposes of college admission, a 2.3 GPA is not nearly good enough to get into many universities.  Schools are looking for good students with high GPAs.

SAT/ACT Scores – Athletes who want to participate in sports at the college level need to have their SAT/ACT scores sent to the NCAA Eligibility Center.  There are minimum acceptable college admissions test scores, but the standard is pretty low so a good student shouldn’t have anything to worry about.  Bad students do need to score well to counteract a bad gpa.

Registration with NCAA – Yes, that’s right. Students must register with the NCAA.  The NCAA evaluates courses and transcripts, checks gpa and SAT scores, and takes care of all the minutia.  Colleges just have to look up students on the NCAA website to see whether or not the student is eligible.  Students not declared eligible by the NCAA are not allowed to practice or play or receive athletic scholarships, so this is a crucial step.  However, registration is only required for DI & DII schools. NCAA registration is not required for students to play at DIII colleges.  Now that I’ve looked at all the paperwork involved, I’m highly tempted to tell my boys that they’re limited to DIII schools 🙂

When to register? According to NCAA materials, students can register during their sophomore year of high school.  It’s okay to wait until the junior year, but avoid the rush of waiting until your senior year to register.  You want your name out there so that college coaches have more opportunities to want to recruit you.

Running Start & Dual Credit – Students may take dual credit courses and college classes while in high school, but once a student is registered full-time in college courses, a 5-year clock begins on athletic eligibility. Therefore, students wanting to participate in college athletics will probably not want to be full-time Running Start students.  Taking ten credits at a local college plus two high school courses (or one college course plus four high school courses) should be acceptable.

What About High School Classes in Junior High? – Yes, according to the NCAA’s FAQ page, those can count as long as the credits are listed on the high school transcript and are approved core courses from the high school.

Jumping Through the Hoops – there are certain things that all student athletes must do to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, and a few extra things that homeschoolers must do.  All student athletes must:

Homeschoolers must also provide:

For more information, the NCAA provides a handy checklist for homeschoolers, as well as a homeschool FAQ sheet. Another helpful resource is the NCAA’s Home School Students page.

I am about to begin filling out our Core Course Worksheets.  The evaluation criteria I’ve been able to find says that courses:

  • must be college-prep
  • must have comparable content to approved courses

It would be nice if the NCAA’s website included a list of approved/disapproved curriculum popular with homeschoolers, or if publishers included information for parents to copy & paste onto the NCAA’s worksheet!

Washington State History

WASTHistAfter purchasing what sounded like a decent curriculum, I was greatly disappointed to discover that it was for elementary, not high-school level Washington state history.  I ended up creating my own.  At the bottom of this post is a link to the PDF of the booklet I ultimately created.

Note:  my sons will concurrently receive a research-writing credit.  There is a significant amount of writing required for this class.  This is because my older children have not felt as well prepared for college-level writing as would be ideal.  I am attempting to address that with the younger children.  Since they need both writing and WA state history, I’m combining the two.

Chapters include:

  • Historical Overview
  • Expansion of the United States
  • State Symbols
  • Counties
  • Native American Tribes of Washington
  • State Geography
  • Stories & History
  • Government
  • State Parks
  • Historical Sites

This study requires:

  • Internet access
  • It Happened in Washington, by James A. Crutchfield

This course requires research of the Lewis & Clark trail using your choice of resources. Suggestions include, but are not limited to:

  • Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail, by Julie Fanselow
  • The Perilous West, by Larry E. Morris
  • Meeting Natives with Lewis and Clark, by Barbara Fifer
  • The Lewis and Clark Expedition, by Richard Newberger

Additional resources for a report on hydroelectric dams on Washington’s rivers will be needed. Suggestions include, but are not limited to:

  • Water Power in the “Wilderness” – The History of Bonneville Lock and Dam, by William F. Willingham, PhD
  • Grand Coulee: Harnessing a Dream, by Paul C. Pitzer
  • Power Lines: Giant Hydroelectric Power in the Pacific Northwest, an Era and a Career, by Russell McCormmack
  • Washington State Hydroelectric Dams
  • Department of Ecology website ( Select Water then Dams
  • Inventory of Dams of the State of Washington

Additional resources for a report on Washington’s history will be needed. Suggestions include, but are not limited to:

  • Pioneering the Washington Territory, by Welcon W. Rau
  • Lorinda Bewley and the Whitman Massacre, by Myra Sager Helm
  • Northwest Heritage, by William E. Scofield
  • Sagebrush Homesteads, by Laura Tice Lage
  • Images of America: Fort Lewis, by Alan H. Archamhault

I recommend printing the cover sheet on cardstock and having it laminated. Also laminate a back cover.  Sandwich the pages between the two covers, then take the book to a printer and have a plasti-coil binding put on your book.

Washington State History WorkText (no appendix)_

High School and Beyond Plan

While homeschoolers don’t have to fulfill the state’s High School and Beyond requirement, the more I’ve looked at it, it appears to be a good process to guide students through if they haven’t expressed a solid career goal.  The process is designed to begin in 8th grade and be revised/updated every year until graduation.

According to the state Board of Education, high-quality HSBPs include the following elements:


How these components are put together depends on the school.  Many schools and districts include detailed information on their websites.  In general, a portfolio will include:

Career Assessment – students take skills assessments, interest inventories, and make use of your choice of other tools to try to determine a good match between interests and abilities that will lead to a fulfilling career.

Four-Year Plan – beginning in eighth grade, students and their parents work together to develop a plan for their high school studies so that kids graduate on time and take all of the classes needed so that they will be able to pursue their post-high school goals.  While eighth graders obviously need some idea what classes to take in ninth grade, in my house I prayerfully determine my children’s coursework.  They don’t choose.  Of course, my selections are based partly on my children’s interests (for instance, last year we added a study of American Indians for one of our children, and this year I have a child spending enough time working out on the home gym that he will get a weight training credit), but when beginning high school, there’s nothing my kids need to plan. I believe that it is my job to give my kids the tools they need to go do whatever it is God wants them to do — including fulfill college admissions requirements so that they have that option if God calls them that direction.  In our family, all children are required to earn at least an associates degree so that they will never have to deal with employers who won’t recognize a homeschool diploma.  The HSBP portfolio should include the student’s four year plan, regardless of who creates the plan.

Personal Statement – This essay spells out the student’s college, career, and life goals.  It should clearly show how the student’s coursework relates to those goals, and also explain how the student intends to pursue those goals in the future.

Best Works – This component is only required by some schools.  It gives students an opportunity to showcase their best work in a variety of subjects.  It can include reports and essays, artwork, poetry, tests, and even URLs to recordings of musical performances.

Resume’ – Since students need to either begin college or get a job once they graduate, creating a resume’ can be a good exercise for students.  Either they will use the resume’ to obtain employment, or they will realize that they are in need to additional education/training if they want to eat and live indoors.

Volunteer Hours – students will include volunteer information on their college applications, so keeping a running log of those hours and experiences while they go through their high school years will create a useful document when it is time to begin the application process

Awards & Recognition – students can easily forget about awards they have received, but they look good on college applications.  By keeping a log throughout the high school years, it will be easier to transfer this information to college applications when the time comes.

Planning a High School Curriculum

Homeschoolers are in the unique position of getting to set their own graduation requirements.  All the law requires is that we teach the required subjects.  My interpretation is just that the material must be taught, not that we have to cover all zillion subjects every single day of every year (but then, I am not a lawyer, so don’t construe my personal opinion as legal advice).

When approaching high school, it is time to consider your child’s unique skills and abilities, and think about where your child is headed after graduation.  What type of career is your child interested in?  Although a 14 year old won’t necessarily know exactly what his future will hold, the two of you will probably have hints.  Policeman?  Lawyer?  Beautician?  Engineer?  Teacher?  Barber?  Nurse? Professional athlete?  Missionary?  Accountant?  Farmer?  There are thousands of occupations.  Your child is certainly not suited for all of them.  The goal as parents is to help our children find their niche, and prepare them so that they can pursue their life’s calling.

Toward the end of eighth grade, we need to craft an educational plan designed to give our children the knowledge and skills they will need to graduate from high school prepared for the next step — whether that is going straight to work in the family business, enrolling in a training program, or beginning college.

In our family, children are expected to attend college and earn at least an associates degree.  That means we create a four-year plan for their high school studies.  This plan must include all the classes needed for college admissions, emphasizing subjects pertinent to the child’s interests.

A basic framework for building a college-prep high school curriculum is:


You have freedom to choose which literature course your child studies, but not whether your child should study literature.  You can choose whether to study a third year of literature, or if public speaking or debate would be a better option.  It depends on the college your child wants to attend. Some colleges include public speaking as an entrance requirement.  Note that speech/public speaking is a good course for Running Start students to take at a community college for dual credit during their junior or senior year of high school, if desired.

All students are expected to take two years of algebra and a year of geometry.  Additional math is possible, depending on the student.

At least two years of science must be a lab-based course.  My recommendation for my students is at least one advanced science course their senior year so that they are better prepared for college-level science courses.

Check the website of the colleges your child wishes to attend to see if specific social science courses are required/recommended.  Also investigate the degree requirements for your child’s prospective college major.  These things can influence which subjects your child studies at the high school level.  U.S. and world history are standard recommendations.  Since a western civilizations course has been required of all my college students, I am emphasizing medieval/renaissance history in my younger children’s world history courses to give them a better background and help them feel more prepared when they meet that material in college.  A student who will be required to take college-level psychology can benefit from seeing the material first at the high-school level.  Many states require students to study civics/government.

Many different subjects qualify as fine arts.  Some colleges want to see performing arts, which has a different definition.  My children are required to take music lessons through at least their freshman year.  After that, whether they continue depends on their interest level. My youngest child will probably not continue music after that because he is very involved in sports and just does not have the time to practice as much as is needed at this level of play.

Foreign language can be difficult for homeschoolers, but there are options.  Some people like Rosetta Stone.  I am not one of them.  We like Visual Link Spanish, and I’d love to find a comparable course in French.  I also like Visual Latin.  Note that some colleges require homeschoolers to take a placement test to prove the validity of the homeschooled transcript – if that is true at a college your child wants to attend, make sure that foreign language is studied the junior and senior year (not the freshman and sophomore year, and then forgotten).  Foreign language is an excellent candidate for students to take through Running Start.  Often one year of college-level foreign language will fulfill the cultures/diversity college graduation requirement, so students should plan to learn enough of a language to do well at the college level.  American Sign Language is considered a world language.

Occupational education is required by law for homeschoolers, but it is not a college entrance requirement.  Some high schools now require Career and Technical Education instead of occupational ed.  In choosing a class here, think about knowledge and skills that will be helpful for your child.  Everyone should learn to type.  Basic computer skills are good to have.  Anyone who might ever want to run a business should consider an accounting course.  Home economics is considered an occupational education course, but some people don’t think it belongs on a college-bound transcript (I disagree, but will take this into account and might dress up our course titles/descriptions to sound more acceptable if it will make a difference for my kids’ college admissions). My personal belief is that things like woodworking, welding, sewing, and natural hoof care can showcase some of a child’s unique interests, but nothing entered here is likely to make or break the decision on whether a student is admitted to a specific college (but then, I’m not an admissions officer, so I could be wrong).  The point is that you have a lot of flexibility in this area to choose something that will work for your family and your student.

Health is required by law for homeschoolers, but it is not a college entrance requirement.

Here is an example of how a college-prep education can be customized based on a child’s interests — what we did for our older children (three of them have graduated and started college, and one is half-way through high school; the younger child is not shown in this example).  There are a few electives that do not appear, since they did not fit into one of the categories.

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