Category Archives: Language

Interview with Karen Lange–Author of Homeschool Co-ops 101

homeschool coopsToday I have a special treat for you. A couple years ago, I reviewed this little booklet on Everything Home called The Only Homeschool Co-op Booklet You Need To Start Your Very Own Best Co-op Ever! by my friend and our guest contributor Karen Lange. Well, since that time, her little booklet was picked up by a traditional publisher and re-done BIG! The result: Homeschool Co-ops 101.

If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you know that co-ops can be a lifesaver. If you are struggling with homeschooling, thinking your kids need a teacher besides mama, some social interaction, or otherwise a change of pace, maybe you need to consider starting or joining a co-op. Well, this is the book to tell you all about it.

Today, I want to share a little chat with you that I had recently with Karen. Next week, I will have a full-fledged review of Homeschool Co-ops 101. So, please, let’s welcome Karen Lange.

Karen, I’m so glad you could talk with me today. I know the readers will enjoy hearing from you again. Please, tell us how long you homeschooedl your children?

Carol, thank you for inviting me to stop by! My husband and I homeschooled our two sons and daughter for grades K-12 for a total of 16 years.

What made you decide to start a homeschool co-op for your kids?

When we began homeschooling in 1987, we wanted to find a balance between real-life learning and traditional education. In addition, we had an audience that included extended family, many who were elementary and high school teachers. So we were motivated to provide a good, balanced experience for our kids.   

 Co-ops provided great opportunities to interact with families that shared our philosophy.  Our first co-op was with one other family and it was a great experience for the kids when they were younger (grades pre-K through second). Through co-ops, we experienced hands-on learning, socialization, and lots of fun. Our desire was not to duplicate the traditional school experience, but to provide opportunities for the kids to stretch, sometimes beyond their comfort zone, in preparation for the real world. 

What do you feel is the most rewarding experience that your family had as a result of your co-op?

You know, overall we had good co-op experiences – learning, socialization, and fun, but I think the thing that stands out the most was the great fellowship with like-minded families. Many of the co-op students and parents remain in contact with each other today.

Even though your kids are all adults now, you still keep involved with homeschooling. Can you tell us about that?

For me it’s been a “once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler”  kind of thing. 🙂 My daughter in law is homeschooling our grandson, I have friends who homeschool, and my sisters are homeschooling nieces and nephews, so the topic often comes up!  I also write articles for homeschool publications such as Homeschool Enrichment and Homeschool In 2005, I started teaching online writing classes for homeschooled teens, and offerings now include creative writing, essays, research papers, and flash fiction. I just like working with homeschoolers; they’re a great bunch!

Your book, Homeschool Co-ops 101, is a re-work of an earlier book. What prompted you to re-do it, and what is different in the new edition?

I had wanted to expand a booklet on co-ops I self-published in 2007, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. So I was thrilled when Helping Hands Press offered to work with me to publish it.  I’ve added updated material and additional activities, resources, and hands on K-12 unit studies on creative writing, science, and history.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would encourage parents to consider co-oping if they think it would be a good fit for their family. There are so many options – even a small co-op with one other family is a great way to supplement your children’s education.  But know too, that families can have a great homeschool experience without a co-op. It’s all a matter of what fits your family best.

Thanks, Karen, for joining us. I’ve taken a peek at the new book and it looks like a winner. I wish you all the best.

Carol, thank you for having me over today. I wish you and your readers all the best with your homeschool endeavors!

Karen had expected Homeschool Co-ops 101 to be released earlier this year. But delays with the publisher happened and it was released just last week in digital format. You can purchase your own copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101 at Amazon.

To connect with Karen, or check out her homeschool writing classes for your kids, visit the following sites.


Write Into Fall

Fall Writing 008 (640x480)Where does writing fit into your back to school plan? Not high on the list? Why not try an interesting project to ease the gang back into writing? Here is an idea that might help.

Instead of a “What I Did Last Summer” project, have students choose a favorite summer event/book/film and review it. This puts students in a journalist’s shoes and offers a fresh angle. For example, if the event was a picnic at Grandma’s house, it might be written from a restaurant critic’s perspective.

This type of project requires opinions and emotions, rather than just the retelling of facts like in a traditional report. It provides opportunities to exercise critical thinking and observational skills.  Your children might be reluctant at first, but this is normal. Many children, no matter what their age, don’t want to write. They feel either like they cannot write or that it’s too much work. With practice, though, they can write! Adopt a teamwork mentality – a little encouragement goes a long way and can help them get over mental obstacles.

First, tell them they will write a column, and if they don’t already know, explain that columns are articles found in newspapers and magazines. Provide examples to illustrate if you like. Help them choose an enjoyable activity/book/film.

Once they choose a topic, determine how long and involved it should be and let age and ability dictate. A review can range from a brief synopsis with comments and information to an in depth analysis. Short projects are just as good as long ones if the goal is to jump start writing for the year.

These points can help to brainstorm and build the commentary:

  • View topic from all angles, from start to finish, and make relevant notes. Some students prefer just to write and skip brainstorming. If this is their style, let them go. Suggest additions and revisions later.
  • Discuss items to include. A restaurant review, for example, includes info and comments about décor, atmosphere, service, and food. A movie review includes info on plot and characters and special effects and cinematography, but usually does not give away the ending.

Encourage children to stretch beyond saying, “It was amazing!” Ask questions like these to help expand ideas:

  • Was it packed with fun? Why?
  • Were characters and plot believable?
  • Did special features make this event memorable?
  • Are there enough details and personal opinion to give readers a good picture of the book/film/event?

Next, have them compose or dictate (for younger ones) a draft. Review it together and write the final draft. If they wish, let them illustrate and share it with others.

When we were homeschooling, we’d ease into school with similar projects; it helped shift gears from summer to fall. It also helped us reflect on the fun, interesting things we did on our break.

Do you have any projects planned for September? 🙂


Karen Lange is former homeschool mom, having taught her three children in grades K-12. She is a freelance writer and online writing instructor for homeschooled teens. Her book, Homeschool Co-ops 101 will be published by Helping Hands Press in September of 2013. For more information about her writing courses, visit her website.

Blogging for Kids

blogging for kidsDid you see the newsletter article about David and his blog David’s Chicken Farm? If not, you really gotta subscribe (and here’s a link to it, now go read and come back).

418621_511760022174483_762081616_nDavid is amazing. He is six years old and has his own chicken flock. Not only that, he blogs about it! Of course, he got the idea from his amazing mama, Mindie. Mindie is the “Born Again” Farm Girl that keeps the Farm Chicks from the Chit Chat group rolling on the floor laughing.

When I heard about David’s blog, I couldn’t help thinking what a kid can learn from the experience! I mean he’s WRITING! How many of you have trouble getting your kids to write? (I see a lot of hands.) And he’s taking pictures–that’s art folks. And uploading and downloading–that’s computer science. And he’s six years old!!!

Raquel Z. Duarte


Well, David is not the only one. Let me tell you about Raquel. Raquel is a 17-year-old gal from Oregon who has been blogging at God-s Daughter since 2009. Her blog is a place to share her heart with the world. More recently, it’s been about finding finding Mr. Right; but she’s also written book, movie and music reviews, interviewed other teens, shared about her social experiences, and otherwise just encouraged her readers with the love of Jesus. She describes God-s Daughter as a place to encourage “this generation’s youth all for the glory of God.”

Raquel said that in addition to improving her writing skills, blogging has helped her to generate writing ideas. “Sometimes you hit a writer’s block and aren’t very inspired,” she said, “but writing on a blog helps you get all those emotions out and most of the time, whatever you write (that you think is just weird and random) really touches and blesses someone else.”

BCCFinally, I want to introduce you to Emma. Emma just started her blog called Horse Daydreamer as a place to show readers how to make things for model horses. She thinks that blogging will help her creative writing skills. And, because she confided that setting up a blog was more difficult than she anticipated, I believe it will teach her more than that. 🙂 Although money-making is not her main objective, at some point Emma would like to make enough  money from her blog to pay for her craft supplies.

As a homeschooling mom, and as a writer, I think that blogging could be a great learning tool for our kids. In my next post, I’d like to share all the things that a child can learn from the experience. In the meantime, visit these sites. Leave a comment to encourage them. And if you think you might like to enter the world of blogging with your kids, check out Blogging Your Passion’s Blogging 101 course. It is the first in a series of courses put together to teach you everything blogging. I highly recommend the 101 course for those just starting out, those not interested in money-making as much as a learning/sharing experience, and those that have no clue where to start.

Do your kids have a blog? Please leave a comment with the link so that we can all visit and encourage one another. And if they’d like to be featured in a future post, please let me know that as well.


This post is shared on the HomeAcre Hop and Katherine’s Favorite Things.



Writing Exercises Using Farm Themes

This will be our final post on writing for the month of November. I thought that since we are homesteaders, it would be appropriate to take some writing exercises from our homesteading lifestyles.

Here are a few exercises for you to use:

  • Have a younger child write a story about how a mother hen feels chasing after her chicks all day. If he is too young to write it out, have him dictate it into a recorder.
  • Or, have your child write a journal for a mother hen and how she feels sitting on her eggs.
  • Have your child write a business letter to the seed company requesting a print catalog.
  • Have your child write ad copy for a catalog describing his favorite fruits, flowers or produce.
  • Write and illustrate a short story about a pig. You might want to read some story books first to glean some ideas.
  • Choose three poultry diseases and write a paragraph on each
  • Have your child interview another farmer or employee at the feed store and write an article about that person.
  • Write a story or poem about a bee family. (Or a chicken or horse or pig family.)

I hope these posts on writing have inspired your family in writing. Again, if you have any stories to share, please email me and I will publish them on this blog.


This post is linked to the BackYard Farming Connection hop and the Home Acre Hop.



Creating Your Own Writing Prompts

Create your own writing prompts
How to create your own writing prompts

With “I Love to Write” day and NaNoWriMo going on in November, I thought it appropriate to have a few posts on writing to inspire you and your children.

This school year, we are meeting every Friday with another family for our own little homeschooling co-op. The other mother is an artist and is teaching drawing and I am teaching writing. In preparing for this class I came across a worksheet for writing prompts that inspired this technique.

To create your prompts, you and your children will make four lists. For the first list, have your children come up with 10 sentence subjects. The second list will be 10 verbs or verb phrases. The third and fourth lists will be phrases. Here are some examples to give you an idea.

List A:

  1. A green frog
  2. The largest donut I ever saw
  3. A brave knight
  4. My mother
  5. The mayor of Never Land
  6. A little boy and a little girl
  7. Sammy’s dog
  8. A large bag of M&M’s
  9. The bank teller with the yellow blouse
  10. A snazzy race car

List B:

  1. hopped
  2. drove
  3. skipped
  4. read a book
  6. voraciously eats
  7. washed
  8. rolled
  9. sleeps
  10. laughed

List C:

  1. in a car
  2. under the waterfall
  3. down the hill
  4. in a bed
  5. in the kitchen
  6. around the pond
  7. with a friend
  8. holding a bouquet of flowers
  9. with a coat on
  10. across the river

List D:

  1. until next month.
  2. at the animal shelter.
  3. with closed eyes.
  4. all at once.
  5. in the rain.
  6. on an empty stomach.
  7. wearing a polka-dotted hat.
  8. through the mud.
  9. singing Mary Had a Little Lamb.
  10. sucking on a lolli-pop.

Once you have all your lists made (or you can use mine), have the children choose four numbers from one to ten. Then create a sentence with the phrases from the lists with those numbers. For instance, if your child chooses 4, 3, 6, and 3, his sentence would read:

My mother skipped around the pond with closed eyes.

Then, the idea is to use that sentence to start a story.

If you do this, please come back and post some of your sentences in the comments. Or, if you have a particularly interesting story from this exercise, send it to me and I’ll publish it here.


This post is linked to Big Family Friday and Learn & Link.



Celebrate Writing

The following post is written by my friend and writing instructor Karen Lange.

Did you know that November 15 is I Love to Write Day? Author John Riddle started this little known celebration in 2002, and governors of numerous states including Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas officially recognize it. Mr. Riddle thought it would be a good way to celebrate the art of writing, and to hold the “world’s largest party for writers.”

John says, “My goal for I Love to Write Day is simple: people of all ages are encouraged to write something. A poem, a letter, an essay, start a novel, finish a novel…the possibilities are endless!” The I Love to Write Day site, shares more info.

Why not use this unique holiday to spend time celebrating with John and other writers? If November 15 is already booked, choose a day close by to write with your gang. It’s a great excuse to practice a skill that’s often bumped out of the homeschool day.

Writing is an important, yet often overlooked subject that students need to develop. Good communication is vital for the adult world, and developing writing skills can help children learn to express themselves. As they mature, writing offers an opportunity to build grammar and vocabulary skills too, and can help children become more articulate on paper and when speaking.  Interesting, fun projects are a good way to help stretch and develop those writing muscles. The more children write, the more they can improve. Their writing comfort level will rise, boosting creativity as well.

While all this is true, what’s to be done if writing isn’t your thing or your children don’t like to write? Or if you don’t have time to come up with projects? Problem solved! Here are a few ideas that can be adapted for most any age student. Go ahead; give one or two a try. You just might be surprised by the results.

Since I Love to Write Day is close to Thanksgiving, have children make “Thankful Books” that list what they are grateful for. These can be embellished or illustrated, too.

Write a Thanksgiving poem, or choose another theme, such as autumn. Try a sensory poem, where most anything goes and each line is devoted to one of the senses, like this:

Sunshine tastes like lemonade.

It smells like laundry dried on the clothesline.

Sunshine looks bright, sunny, and yellow.

It makes me feel warm and toasty,

And sounds like sprinklers coming on in the front yard.

Write a “What if?” story, using ideas like these:

  • What if the Pilgrims never had a day of Thanksgiving?
  • What if your family lived in another city?
  • What if it was okay to have ice cream as a main course for dinner?
  • What if kids could stay up all night and never sleep?

It often helps to get their imaginations going with silly suggestions – the crazier the better. They’ll soon come up with some funny ones of their own.

Write a “neighbor” story. Tell them to imagine that Thomas Edison is their next door neighbor and they get to watch him perform some of his experiments. Have them write about an experiment that fizzled.

Practice writing similes. Explain that a simile is a comparison using the words “like” or “as.” Share examples, such as: The shark’s skin is as rough as sandpaper. 

Write tongue twisters, riddles, jokes, crossword puzzles or a word search. Choose a theme, or let children think of their own.

Try a four-item story. Have your young scribes choose things for the following four categories, but don’t tell them why. Then have them use all of these things in the same story, no matter how crazy it sounds. They can use other details, such as their own plot and setting, but the story must include these four items:

  1. A famous historical figure
  2. A current electronic device such as an Ipod or digital camera
  3. A snack food
  4. A motorcycle

Celebrating I Love to Write Day is a great way to combine a bit of learning and fun. Enjoy your time together; it will be time well spent!


Karen Lange homeschooled her three children through grade 12. She is a writer and online writing instructor for teens and adults. Her passion for writing inspired her to create the Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op for Teens. Visit her website at or email her at


A Sneak Peak at …Bee Hive

Did you hear that we got our bees? Two colonies. I’m afraid that the one is queen-less; so will have to get in touch with my mentor to see what to do about that.

I wanted to have Lessons from the Bee Hive up by the 1st of June. Well, I can tell you that ain’t gonna happen. But it is almost done.

So, for those of you that have been waiting with bated breath, here’s a sneak preview:

Read the chapter “The Bee Tree” in the book In the Land of the Big Red Apple by Roger Lea McBride. It is part of the Little House series.

  • Discuss if the method Abe uses to find the bee tree is plausible. Ask an experienced beekeeper for his opinion. Try it for yourself.
  • Copy words that are specific to bees. Course, bee gum, and beeline are a few. Write out definitions of these words.
  • Discuss the code in the hills that determines who owns the honey in the tree—the land owner or the man who finds it. Compare that with the parable in the Bible of the treasure hid in a field (Matthew 13:44). Have your older child write an essay on the topic.
  • Find out why Abe looked for the queen and placed her in the bee gum first. Also, what might he look for in the honeycomb that he added with the queen?
  • When the bees first landed on the little box with molasses, why would they wriggle their bottoms happily?

Well, that’s it for now. I told you it was just a peak. But let me tell you–Lessons from the Bee Hive will have more lessons than any of the previous titles in the series. It will also include more vocabulary words, astonishing facts about honey bees, and quotes from parents that have used bees as part of the lessons for their schooling. What more could you ask for?

I’m lining up reviewers for Lessons from the Bee Hive now. So if you’re interested in reviewing this ebook in exchange for a free copy, sometime in the month of June or July, just leave a comment below and I will be in touch.

Ta-ta for now,

This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday. Homestead Barn Hop, and Morris Tribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival.