Wednesday, June 11, 2014

HEAV 2014 Wrap Up

My Children's First Time Attending the HEAV Conference

 Attending this year’s HEAV conference was bittersweet. One year ago, on this particular weekend, my late husband fell and broke his hip.  I thought of my husband often this weekend as I prayed for guidance on what to purchase to educate our sons.  This year was also different because it was the first time my children attended.  Usually, they stayed home with dad.  I decided it was time to create a new memory, so I brought them along.  I attended the conference with a dear friend, whose son also happens to be one of my son’s best friends – and they share the same birthday. 

Winners in the Chess Tournament
When they found out there would be a chess tournament at HEAV, both asked to be signed up.  They have been studying chess under the tutelage of master chess coach Dr. Quito Swan for several years and have developed an intense passion for the game.  I believe Baba Quito's passion ignited a fire in the children.  It is so important for children to have passionate teachers.  It changes their lives! AP placed 2nd in the high school division and KingMan placed 4th in the high school division.  Way to represent!

LionHeart at HEAV

There was no way I could bring KingMan and leave LionHeart at home.  He protested being signed up for the children’s area. “I am not a baby,” he insisted.  But each time I picked him up he was having fun and enjoying himself.  Swimming at the hotel pool became the reward for cooperation.  Overall, having the children attend with me was not as big of a distraction as I thought it would be.  They enjoyed themselves and got a chance to see what hard work it is researching and choosing curriculum for the upcoming year.  When the children returned to the hotel each day, they were exhausted.

Curriculum Purchases

 My curriculum purchases this year wear tamed by the fact that I am helping to develop an African-Centered homeschool curriculum and tutoring service for K-12.  I was viewing everything through the eyes of a curriculum developer now.  But there were still some absolute gems I discovered.

Video Text Algebra


For KingMan, I was a Singapore Math devotee, from start to finish.  Nothing could shake my allegiance.  But when it was time to move on to Algebra, I got a little nervous.  I had read so many intimidating reviews about Singapore Math's Discovering Mathematics Series that I wasn’t sure I could teach it. Waiting for mom to figure out the answer was fun in early math, but not so much in higher math.  Right Start, created by Dr. Cotter, who has an engineering and Montessori background, is another math program I considered before Singapore.  She recommends Video Text Interactive Algebra after completion of Right Start. I am a big fan of thinking programs, so  I was curious.  A dear friend allowed me to borrow the program, and I was sold!  The lessons are presented in 10 minute video format, followed by an assignment in the workbook.  The student is encouraged to focus solely on watching the lessons because the notes from the video lesson are pre-printed in the notes text.  I really like that! What I also like about this program is that there is a complete solutions manual for each and every problem.  The student is encouraged to use to the solutions manual to check his own work.  This certainly encourages ownership.  I also really appreciate that the video lessons, such as the one here on YouTube, are presented by a diverse group of people.  This is important to me as a homeschooler of African-American boys.  Images are important and leave lasting impressions.

At the HEAV conference I made sure to attend the workshop talk given by Tom Clark, the creator of Video Text Algebra.  That is the beauty of attending conferences, you can speak directly to the people creating curriculum.  He was full of great information and funny too.  He cannot image how he blessed me in the span of one hour, and saved me $200.  He broke down math sequencing and explained how important it is to complete Algebra 1 and 2 before beginning Geometry.  He said the current math schedule for high schoolers is only that way for the purposes of the SAT.  He encouraged parents to stay away from curriculums that were written for public school and only repackaged for homeschoolers.

Choose Conceptually Driven and Problem-Solving Based Math Programs

Mr. Clark emphasized the importance of choosing homeschool math programs that are conceptually driven and problem-solving based.  "Language is an essential part of mathematics," he said as he used etymology to help us understand the "why" of math.  For early math, he recommends Right Start and Math-U-See as conceptually driven, problem-solving based and designed for homeschoolers.  He did mention Singapore Math as an outstanding program that fit the criteria, but he described it as “heady” and required a strong math background.  Well, I felt kind of special because I am a word-girl who struggled with math.  I read somewhere that the top math performers in the country were using Singapore Math, and in my boldness or was it naivete, I chose Singapore 7 years ago.  As a result of  teaching the Singapore Method, I began a love affair with math.  We still use it in fact, and that says a lot for the program.  Back to Video Text, another gem Mr. Clark shared is that he fully expects students to CLEP out of college Algebra after finishing his program.  Bingo! That is just what we plan to do.

Create A High School Transcript In One Hour

I also attended the Create A College Transcript in an hour workshop.  Outstanding! Lee Binz, creator of  The Homeschool Scholar: Helping Parents Homeschool High School is a genius at taking complex information and making it simple.  Mama T, who will be homeschooling a senior next year, was so happy after the workshop that she asked for a photo. Click here for copies of the handouts that were used during Lee Binz's workshops, including the transcript form. I was so confused about weighting and how to calculate a credit hour, what constitutes high school work, blah, blah, blah.  She simplified the information in a fun and quite comical way.  Magically, in one hour, parents left armed with the tools to put together a winning transcript at home.  I felt so empowered!  She discouraged parents from giving lower grades to students in an effort to make them appear "normal."  If your child is passionate about a subject and simply loves it, along with doing the work, then award an A! Many homeschoolers teach to mastery and mastery certainly warrants an A.  When I visited her booth later to purchase her book, she gave me a hug for starting this process in the 9th grade.  She said many of her parents start the transcript process in the senior year making it a lot more difficult.  I now have the information I need to turn what my children enjoy doing into credits on their transcript.  I highly recommend visiting her website and purchasing her book! 

High School Biology

I am not a fan of oversized text books, jam-packed with a lot of useless text.  I have not been brain-washed into thinking that volume of work or text equals comprehensive coverage of a topic or a good education.  Our lightweight Singapore Math texts taught me that.  I am more in favor of a Charlotte Mason/Waldorf approach to text books--essentially, create your own.  I do believe I was divinely guided this weekend because right in the middle of our DC/MD/VA mom’s reunion at HEAV, I turned to discover I was standing in front of the science text I had been dreaming about.  Queen Publishing wrote, “I have long desired to have a curriculum that would weave together all the elements of a Charlotte Mason style science and nature study."  Me too! I just had not found the time to create it. Summer By the Sea from the Discovering Nature Series is the perfect biology text for our upcoming school year.  Each lesson begins with a story, followed by activities in researching, writing, sketching, experimenting or a hands-on activity.  What I like most about it is that it will not suck the life out of my son preventing him from participating in the science co-ops he will be enrolled in for the upcoming year.  Best of all – the price: $36.95!  Compared to other science texts, which range in price from $80-$150, this was a steal.  I am not in the business of making publishing houses richer, but I do love supporting homeschool moms, turned science curriculum writers. One caveat, well actually a big one.  I shared the text with Mama L, a fellow homeschool mom and college professor, who pointed out some questionable and offensive material in one of the story lines referring to the "barbary pirates of North Africa" and "lawless" Madagascar.  I was ready to bubble wrap that baby and send it back.  But, in her infinite wisdom, Mama L cautioned me to not be so hasty and instead suggested this storyline could provide for a lovely discourse in critical thinking about the true nature of piracy and who the "true" pirates really were!

Grammar for LionHeart

I have been using Rod & Staff Grammar for KingMan since 5th grade and he loves it.  In fact, grammar is one of his favorite subjects! It's old-school, very Christian and gets the job done.  For LionHeart, Rod & Staff would never work.  There goes re-using all those texts I purchased!  For LionHeart, in addition to Montessori-based grammar lessons, I will use a more culturally affirming program, such as Kamali Academy's African-Centered Grammar, accompanied by My Father's World Language Lessons for Today. I love simple approaches to grammar for the younger years.  I prefer texts with lots of white space, as opposed to looking like a coloring book.  Language Lessons for Today is simple enough that I can create extension lessons using cultural themes and images.  I purchased this curriculum as I was leaving the conference on the final day. I always find a gem that way.

Collect Your Thoughts

Every year I find a treasure at the Rainbow Resource vending area.  They are the absolute best for purchasing homeschool curriculum and supplies.  They offer free shipping for all orders over $50, and their website provides detailed curriculum descriptions and reviews written by actual homeschoolers, not publishers.  Anyway, KingMan did a lot of writing for his high school level Metro Journey class last semester.  I worked closely with him on how to gather sources and give proper attribution. But I wanted him to have a resource book of his own.  Collect Your Thoughts does a great job of laying out the whole picture in an easy reading format.  It’s a small book that can be read and re-read in about 20 minutes.  I think it’s a must having for middle and high school students in order to help them better understand how to research and write without plagarizing.  Collect Your Thoughts deserves a place on the bookshelf right next to William Strunk's Elements of Style.

Used Curriculum Sale Treasures

If you have never been, you have no idea what you are missing.  Think Walmart Black sale, only there is no pushing, shoving, yelling, screaming or violence.  Everything is neat and orderly, and the people are ever so nice.  Anyway, beware because the used curriculum sale can suck you in and leaving will be like trying to get out of quicksand.  You may look up and discover that you have missed the entire conference searching for treasures.  I was blessed by a woman with whom I struck up a conversation at the Rainbow Resources exhibit.  She was asking about Singapore Math, and of course, I could talk about it forever.  She gave me one of those “early entry tickets.”  I went in and found the curriculum I was about to purchase at full retail price.  Cha-Ching! That was a savings of $20 bucks.  I snagged the Chinese Natural Cures book in the photo above for only $2. When visiting the used curriculum sale wear comfy shoes, bring snacks and a big suitcase for your treasures.  You'll need it to peruse through 10,000 items! On Saturdays the prices are even cheaper and from 4:30-6:00 p.m., the “gleaning”  is held.  This means that anything that was for sale and will not be picked up by the seller is F-R-E-E.  Now, you can get a little carried away with this if you don’t control yourself.  I originally loaded up two boxes of stuff and then reality set in.  Where are you going to put it all? So I sat down and gleaned from my gleaning.  If it didn’t fit into my rolling crate, it had to go back.  As I was leaving, I thought what a blessing this is to families who are on a tight budget.  Next year I plan to donate to gleaning.

Sister Friends

I always leave HEAV feeling refreshed and prepared for the coming year, especially after spending time with sister friends.


We Do This For the Love of Our Beautiful Sons!

 Next stop, Liberated Mind Expo!



  1. How funny to see your blog in my Inbox. I briefly met you in the hotel lobby when I greeted your friend who I meet last year at a summer program our children attended together. I do love Videotext. I had a chance to review it for The Oldschoolhouse Magazine last year and have been using it every since. Visit me at I will be following you here.
    Wishing you the best in the coming school year.

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  2. Monica I love this post. You all look so BEAUTIFUL and the children look so happy. Wish I was there! R

  3. Monica,

    Thanks for sharing. This post is really a gem- there's much to glean. Love the math discussion because we're in the midst of that right now. Happy schooling!

  4. Always love, love your curriculum and homeschool conference posts. So glad you shared resources from Lee Binz. I met her a few years ago...such a sweet lady, and calm spirit. But I haven't visited her sight in a long time.! So glad you motivated me visit again. I have gotten so much needed information. I really want to attend this conference. I don't care for the one in my area. Also, great pix. Have fun at Liberated Minds Expo!

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  6. Monica,
    I thought I recognized you at DVD Art exhibit. (I was the sistah with Sisterlocks trying not to stare..but I couldn't remember where I knew you from) I wanted to say "Hello" but got pulled away by some friends. And again when we were scrambling in the last 15 minutes of the Used Curriculum sale. Nice to almost met you.