Online Classes for Winter/Spring

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This last fall I began teaching online classes at Outschool. For the new yeat I will continue with classes there and in addition will be offering two asynchronous courses at Simplify. All of my classes are targeted at middle schoolers. I am teaching various book clubs at Outschool and a world cinema class and an in-depth study of Children of Blood and Bone.

I have discovered that I quite enjoy working with middle schoolers and enjoy the format of online classes. It is wonderful to lead a book discussion with tweens and to hear all their thoughts. And I get so much joy out of helping a group of kids work on a film for a film festival (Here is the finished film from my 90 Second Newbery class).

I also have experience with giftedness and twice-exceptional kids which really helps me as a teacher. I am flexible and understanding and able to support students where they are. I find that parents and kids appreciate my approach and feel successful in my classes which is very important to me.

So if you are looking for an online book club for your middle schooler check out my offernings at Outschool.

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And if you are looking for a film studies course or an in-depth study of a great book, visit me at Simplify.  I look forward to having your student in one of my classes.

Outschool Classes

Copy of It's about starting over andcreating something better.

This fall I will be teaching classes over at Outschool. I am running several year-long book clubs for various ages (including a mystery book club which I am so excited for), a Hitchcock film class, a 90-Second Newbery class, and a Common App essay class for those teens who will be applying to college this year.

I will be running these classes for students of all abilities (2E kids and teens are encouraged to sign up) and the teaching environment that I will be creating is one that is supportive and one in which all students have a chance to share their opinions and ideas. I strive for inclusion and positivity and look forward to sharing my knowledge with homeschoolers all around the world.

If you are interested in signing up please visit Outschool. If you have any questions let me know.

Accommodations for College Admission Exams: A Guide for Homeschoolers


This post was originally published at Simplify.

Homeschoolers are often judged more on their test scores than their public and private school peers because of the fact that their education is evaluated at home and often by parents. Having an outside test score or scores to back up the information on a homeschool transcript is essential. In addition, test scores are often used in awarding merit scholarships at many colleges and universities and AP scores can be used for awarding college credit. For many homeschoolers the SAT, ACT, and the APs are a very important part of the college application.

For homeschooled students with disabilities, whether they are physical disabilities or learning disabilities, this is also true. But the process to get accommodations approved can often seem overwhelming and confusing to a parent just starting out. This guide is to help you get through the process.

The first thing you need to decide which test you need accommodations on. If your student will be taking the ACT then you will be working with the ACT only. If your student will be taking the SAT, SAT Subject Test, the PSAT, or the APs you will need to go through The College Board for accommodations. Both of them do work with homeschoolers but the process is different for both. One thing to remember is to start early on accommodations as sometimes they are not approved in a timely manner.


Step 1: Register for the ACT first – you have to actually register your student prior to requesting accommodations. When registering indicate that your student will need accommodations. Select the type of accommodation or accommodations that are needed and complete the registration. ACT will send you an email about working with your school. As an independent homeschooler you will not need to worry about this.

Step 2: You will need to complete the Request for ACT-Approved Accommodations Supports form. It is also recommended that you, as a homeschool teacher, fill out a Teacher Survey Form to provide more information on your student and the accommodations your student receives in your classroom.

Step 3: Gather all supporting documentation that you have in regards to your student’s disability, the teacher survey form, a copy of your student’s ACT admission ticket, and the support form you filled out and email it all to

If you are unsure about what supporting documentation you need please see ACT Policy for Accommodations Documentation.

After ACT has received your request they should get back to you within a timely manner. Depending on what test date your student has signed up for the deadlines are as follows:




For anyone wanting their student to have accommodations on the SAT, PSAT, SAT Subject Tests, or the APs you will have to work with the College Board. In previous years the College Board was very hard to work with and more times than not accommodations were not approved not only for homeschooled students but for public and private school students as well. With accommodations so hard to come by there was a great deal of backlash and in response the College Board has made some changes to the process and made it simpler for qualified students to get their much-needed accommodations. Remember to start the process early in the year especially if you are trying to get accommodations for the AP exams.



Step 1: When you begin researching accommodations through the College Board you will see that they have moved to an online platform. Homeschool parents will not be using this platform to request accommodations. Instead you will need to email the College Board at and request a paper Student Eligibility Form. Make sure to include your physical address in the email as the form will be sent to you through the mail.

Step 2: You and your student will need to fill out the Student Eligibility Form. Instructions will be included with the form The first half of the form is easy to fill out as it is just student identifying information. Sections 13 through 16 deal with the accommodations requested, the student’s disability, and documentation. Make sure you, as the parent, fill this section out and read the instructions for each step prior to filling in your student’s information. Section 17 is for schools only. As a homeschooling parent you do not need to worry about this section.

Step 3: Gather all supporting documentation you have to justify the accommodations. You can get more information on what documentation to send by visiting the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities here.

Step 4: This is not a required step but I do highly recommend it. Download the Teacher Survey form from the College Board and fill it out. This form gives you, as the homeschool teacher, a chance to explain accommodations that you use in your homeschool for your student. You also have an opportunity to discuss if you give your student extended time and what the impact of having accommodations has on your student. If you have another teacher that works with your student and has insight into their accommodations they may also fill out a form. Remember: when it comes to getting accommodations, the more documentation and information you have on your student the better.




Step 5: Place all the forms and documents you have in the envelope that the College Board sent you and send it back in. You can send it via regular mail or if you are worried about the highly personal and sensitive information you may want to send it via trackable mail. After mailing the materials you can expect to hear back from the College Board within seven weeks. The decision will be mailed to your student and will be available online if a student has an account on My Organizer.

Step 6: If your accommodations have been denied, don’t give up yet. Usually, they are denied because more documentation is needed. Or, they may be partially approved. Either way your letter from the College Board will explain everything and give you your options to proceed. For more information on denied accommodations head over to the College Board.

Having a student who needs accommodations in order to perform at their optimal level can sometimes feel overwhelming. Hopefully, this guide helps you work through the steps needed in order to receive accommodations for whatever test or tests your homeschooled student needs to take. If you would like further help with this process or any other part of the college admission process please contact Simplify. We would love to work with you!

Beginning the college application process

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We are in the ending stage of the college application season, and I am so happy that we are nearing the end. I cannot explain how drawn out the application process is or all that goes into it. Applying to colleges is not just about the initial application. It is about researching schools, visiting campuses, writing essays, and communicating. It is a year-long process and one that the student needs to be in control of but one the parent should support along the way.

If you have a junior in high school right now, you should already be starting this journey. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Have your student begin researching schools. They should start by researching online. To get them started discuss possible majors, locations, and college size with them.
  2. Visit some schools that are close by to get a feel for different campuses. Touring a university or college helps high school students get a better idea for what they like or don’t like. I found it also gets teens excited about the process.
  3. Run the net price calculator at various colleges. This will help you get a better idea on the cost of sending your child to college and will help you eliminate some schools that are too expensive.
  4. Begin working on essays – It’s never too early to start thinking about essays. If your student will be using the common app (which they most likely will for some of the schools they apply to) the essays prompts are already available.
  5. Register your student to take the SAT or ACT. If they have already taken the test discuss with them if they think they could score higher on a retake. One thing I learned during this whole process is that test scores are still a huge factor in the decision making. If there is a chance your student could score higher have them retake the test.
  6. Start working on their transcripts and course descriptions if you haven’t yet. Ideally you have been keeping records for the last three years. If you haven’t give yourself plenty of time to get everything in order.
  7. Have your student begin contacting people that they would like to use for recommendations. It is better to get this set up now while you have time. Having strong recommenders is another vital component so don’t leave this until the last minute.
  8. And finally – try to let your student do as much of this as they can on their own. This is their first major decision of their adult life. They should be figuring out where they want to go/what they want to major in for themselves. They should also be the ones reaching out to colleges, professors, and recommenders. It is a learning process and will help prepare them for the next four years of their life.

Homeschooling – A Grandparent’s Point of View


Special guest author – Jill Kimbrough, my mother, and homeschool grandparent extraordinaire.

I have eight grandchildren five of which are homeschooled and three of which are in public school. They have all blossomed, each in their own environment, and are continuing to find their place for the future. However this article is for the parents and grandparents of homeschoolers. I hope this helps.

When my daughter asked me to write an article on homeschooling from a grandparent’s point of view, I guess I was somewhat prepared for her request. I’ve been on the periphery of homeschooling for 12 years by observing her. Had she asked me this a few years ago my take on it would no doubt be different. This year, this week in fact, my opinion is this: I’m jubilant. I’m jubilant because I can see what has taken place, I can see the journey they’ve made, I can see the outcome. I’ve come from being wary to being envious of my children and grandchildren; envious of my children for being brave at a time when everyone thought they were crazy and envious of my grandchildren because they have a superior education with a full grasp on classical studies, languages, technology and the arts. That’s not to say I always felt this way. It hasn’t been the catastrophic outcome that I imagined in my head when my daughter informed me that she was going to homeschool her children.  I probably did say something like ‘You’re going to do what?’

Like most people my age I came from a public school setting, as did my children, so when my daughter informed me of her decision to homeschool I was curious and scared at the same time. The only thing I knew about homeschooling was from an article I had read a long time ago in Time magazine of a homeschool family living in California who had successfully seen their children enter high ranking universities, one being Yale University. Who knew that years later we would also be living in California and homeschooling would be a part of my lexicon?

Homeschooling began for three of my grandchildren at preschool. Since I lived close by I could clearly see the struggles and successes they were having. It was an adjustment for everyone, as starting any school sometimes is. At the time that this was going on with my daughter in California, my son and his wife in Indiana were thinking about doing the same thing. They finally made a decision to pull their children from public school and bring them home to teach them in a less stressful atmosphere. Their oldest was anxious in school and the youngest got lost in the shuffle of a crowded class room. It worked for both families. As I look back, I think I did some kibitzing, but I also learned a lot: homeschooling doesn’t take all day when you’re only schooling a few children but covers a lot of learning. It fosters respect and relationships with others, it allows time to discover a passion and, with a diligent teacher/parent, it opens doors that one didn’t know existed!

So here are some offered suggestions on how to be a relaxed and supportive homeschool grandparent; a list I wish someone would have made for me during some handwringing and sleepless nights:

1) Do yourself and your child a favor and trust that they know what they’re doing. We are smack dab in the computer age where it is so easy to gather information and facts about any subject and, additionally, to find classes for highschoolers outside the home, and later, to research colleges that are homeschool friendly. My granddaughter has already begun this process and, along with her mom, has visited a few universities.

2) Don’t start comparing your homeschooled grandchildren to other children, perhaps to your peers’ grandchildren. Remember that children grow and mature and learn at different rates.

3) Ask your daughter/son if there is any subject you can help with-you’re not a grandparent for nothing.

4) Offer to teach a class in knitting or wood crafting or any talent you might have, even if it’s teaching your grandson or granddaughter how to write in cursive or how to cook. Any skill passed on from grandparent to grandchild is a skill worth having.

I took my grandkids to my painting studio in Laguna Beach to teach them about art in general but also to just have coffee and talk. I got to know them a bit better and they got to hear funny stories about when I was in school. I also was asked by my grandson if I would write a Scooby-Doo story. I did and that was several years ago and so began a bond that is still ongoing. Who knew that Scooby-Doo could bring a grandma and grandson together? Time spent with our grandchildren is time well spent, as they say. The bounty to that is your child and your grandchild will love you for taking the time and you’ll love that you discovered something about them you didn’t know.

5) If your grandchild has any kind of learning disability, however small, trust that it will show up and be caught by the homeschool parent. These parents are working with their children every day and will notice issues just as easily as any school would. And a homeschool parent can address many of these learning issues or other disabilities in a home environment because there are so few students. One-on-one attention goes a long way.

6) Finally, and probably what I have heard the most from family members and friends of the parents who homeschool, stop worrying about socialization of the homeschooled child! There are so many homeschool groups and classes out there where they can gather with their peers and yes, socialize! When my oldest granddaughter was a teen I had the opportunity to take her to park day many times where she gathered with her friends. As a group they would go to the coffee shop nearby or just hang out in the park and talk, sharing ideas and planning other get-togethers. And, as I have learned over the years, there is a plethora of online communities for these kids too.

This is an opportunity for you grandparents out there to buckle your seatbelt and start this adventure! Enjoy the ride whatever stage your grandchildren are at. I’m doing that now: I just got back from a trip to Europe with my daughter and her children to visit my son and his family. I may not have envisioned this adventure when my grandchildren came into the world, but it is an adventure I would have never wanted to miss

Homeschooling the Twice-Exceptional Student – There Will Be Gaps and That’s OK


This young man is incredibly creative. He makes movies, writes stories, animates, composes, records original songs, and works on other creative endeavors all day long. He is never idle, never bored. My son works from the moment he wakes up, which is usually before 7:00, and stays busy until around 10:00 at night when he finally tires out and heads to bed. Sleep usually comes an hour later when his mind finally calms down.


Most days I am in awe of all he does. It really is amazing. But it is also incredibly frustrating, and at times, overwhelming and tiring to watch. Traditional school work falls to the way side often, and when he can settle long enough to work on academics, it usually doesn’t go the way I imagine. Math is an exercise in frustration, reading hurts his head, and handwriting practice is painful. Science can be fun, history is mostly boring, but analyzing literature is a favorite. He usually has the energy to concentrate on academics for no more than 2 to 3 hours a day, a few days a week.

This is what I am working with, and I can never forget it as I homeschool him. My son is not going to school in any sort of traditional matter, and I have to remind myself of that often. He is a twice-exceptional student, and things are different for twice-exceptional kids. Their paths look different from other students. Their days look different.

Parents who are homeschooling 2E children and teens need to remind themselves of this often otherwise they may end up feeling like they are failing their children. There will be areas where their student may be behind (for my son it is math) and other areas where they have no interest at all. There will be gaps along the way and as homeschool parents we have to learn to let these gaps go because there will be other areas where they are working so enthusiastically, so passionately, that they do not have time for it all.

I have to remind myself that what my son is doing is significant (even with the gaps) and that he will find his own way. His path may be different and atypical but it is also unique and meaningful. He is creative and productive and confident and happy. And in the end isn’t that all that matters?

————————————————————————–Are you homeschooling a twice-exceptional or gifted homeschooler? Are you looking for support? If so please join our new Facebook group for 2E homeschooling parents here and follow our Facebook page here. Thank you!

An Eclectic, Academic Approach to a High School Course of Study


What does an eclectic, academic course of study look like for homeschoolers in the high school years? It can take a variety of different forms depending on the teen and their strengths and weaknesses. It can also develop differently based on their interests and the resources available to them. Regardless of these differences, a rich eclectic, academic study will be one in which the student learns at a meaningful level through a variety of resources and opportunities.

At the beginning of my son’s high school years he became very interested in astronomy, and his natural curiosity about the subject matter gave me the idea of incorporating it into his school year as a science credit. Building upon and nurturing a high school student’s interests in an educational capacity is very important at this phase, as intuitive curiosity leads a student to want to pursue an area of knowledge at a deeper level. As a concrete example, here is what I did with my son for his study of astronomy.

Astronomy first caught the attention of my son when he discovered Black Holes Explained, a short series from the Great Courses. Because of his interest I decided to order a longer title from the Great Courses titled An Introduction to Astronomy which included 96 half-hour lectures. The guidebook to this series included several reading recommendations which we purchased and he eagerly worked through. It also came with questions which he answered as he watched the lectures. In addition to this I picked up a standard astronomy college textbook and he worked through parts of it.

After going through all of these my son’s passion for the subject of astronomy had not diminished and he applied to attend an Astronomy Camp at the University of Arizona. Upon being accepted he and other camp mates spent seven sleepless nights on top of an isolated mountain in the desert of Arizona learning about astronomy hands-on. He also had the opportunity to partake in a radio broadcast talking to the crew of the International Space Station, where he posed the question of how fast could the crew evacuate in an emergency. Through these hands-on experiences his love of astronomy grew.


My son returned from camp with a truly enriched understanding of the subject and a desire to delve even deeper into his studies, so I turned to other online options and found a Coursera class on Astrobiology from the University of Edinburgh, and then he and his sister joined our local astronomy club where he attended monthly lectures by experts in the field from local universities including Cal Tech, UC Irvine, and Chapman. He also rented a telescope from the club and used it to study the stars, planets, and the moon on clear nights. Along with his sister he attended a few “star parties” or large-scale stargazing events attended by experts and enthusiasts with a wide array of telescopes.

One thing that’s important at this level is that your teenager has an output of work which at the high school level should include essays, labs, and essential assignments and projects which engage them fully and challenge them to broaden their horizons. When you homeschool not everything has to be done traditionally but there should be enough work done to earn a credit. This course of study began in the spring of what would have been his eighth grade year, went on through the summer, and ended in the winter of what was his freshman year and for it he earned one full science credit and a half lab credit.

Although this study was rich and eclectic the cost was actually quite manageable which is important to point out as I know cost is a factor for many of us. We got the Great Courses used on Ebay for a very affordable price, and all of his books were used copies that we found on Amazon. The Coursera class was free and my son was lucky enough to receive a scholarship for the astronomy camp which is what made it possible for him to participate. Participation in the local astronomy club was very affordable, and they lent us a telescope for six months free of charge. My point here is that even if you are on a tight budget like I am there are resources out there for you to create a meaningful academic experience for your child.

This is just one example whereby a student-led course can lead to a gratifying pursuit in the high school years. Not every class is going to be like this; not every credit earned will be earned like this. Still, it is a wonderful thing that we have the opportunity, as homeschool parents, to craft at least a few high school courses in this way, and it is wonderful that our teens have the opportunity to learn through an engaging and memorable process.

An Eclectic Approach to Becoming a Writer


It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.

– Ernest Hemingway

A question that I often come across on homeschool forums is what can you do to help a struggling writer. I had a struggling writer for many years, and now that he is 16 and thinking about college he is debating majoring in writing. Let me repeat that because it is a remarkable statement:

My struggling writer is now thinking about majoring in writing at college.

How did he get from the point of tears over writing to the point of loving writing? How long did the journey take? What materials were used? All of these questions I hope to answer now for the benefit of any of you who are trying to figure out what to do with your own struggling writer, and I hope to also give you hope and inspiration for your own homeschooling journey.

To do this I have to start at the beginning of our journey. My son Truffaut and his twin sister Autry were homeschooled from the start. There were many reasons why I chose to homeschool. One of the reasons that drew me to homeschooling was that the twins were born prematurely and I worried about their ability to move at the predetermined pace of a traditional school. As I look back over the years I am very happy I made this choice.

Tru was a very curious and intelligent little boy. He loved to listen to audiobooks, he loved building Legos and drawing, and he loved learning. He especially loved learning everything he could about history, science, and math. He also loved our studies in art and music. However, there was one area in which he struggled and that was in reading and writing.

While his sister picked up reading at quite a young age, Tru struggled with it. While his sister was a very young author writing her own stories at 6, Tru struggled with it. While his sister was filling out her handwriting book in a few weeks, Tru struggled with it. At first I wasn’t sure what to do about what I was seeing. I wondered why something could come so easily to one twin and yet be such a struggle for the other. I worried as all new homeschooling parents do, and I desperately tried to find a program that would work for him.

And then I decided one day that this was not worth it. He was not enjoying the process and neither was I. I put away all the writing curriculum I had while also putting away any preconceptions and hang ups I possessed. I decided that the early years were more important than any curriculum or standards, and as I look back I am very content with the way our beginning years looked. They were relaxed, care-free, and yet full of so many learning opportunities that I was not worried by the lack of written output that went along with those years. Truffaut was learning in a way that was meaningful and inspiring to him and that was all that mattered.

Then suddenly I found myself facing the transition years, those years right before high school when, as a homeschool parent, I felt a pressure that I hadn’t felt in a long time. How was I going to get my soon-to-be teenage son writing in a way that would reflect the student he was? What could I do to set him in the right direction?

At this point, I felt the time was right for a program that would hold both our hands as we transitioned to a formal writing curriculum. After spending too much time on the internet looking at samples I decided to go with IEW for the first step on his journey to becoming a confident writer. I chose IEW because it seemed like a perfect match for someone who struggled with writing as it gave step-by-step instructions on partaking in the writing process. It was a perfect match for my son in the beginning, and we ended up using it for about 6 months. We didn’t stick with it for very long because it became tedious and boring, and I wanted my son to grow as a writer which I didn’t see happening with IEW. It was, however, the right choice for a first step, and through it I did achieve my goal of helping Truffaut to understand how to write.

Next we moved to Writing with Skill, a program by Susan Wise Bauer. It is part of her classical writing series that starts with Writing with Ease. The program is recommended for fifth grade and up and is very rigorous. Tru and I used the first ten weeks of it at this point, and we hated every minute of it. It is a difficult program that takes time to figure out for both the student and the parent. Every time I dragged the books out we would both moan, but we did it. And I saw a great progress unfold in Tru’s ability to write academically, and he also felt more confident about the process.

We stopped after 10 weeks to work on creative writing as he needed a break from the academic side. This is where Tru’s writing really took off. I knew that he needed support in this area. I couldn’t just send him off and say write something because he still lacked confidence and had trouble getting his ideas and thoughts down on paper. Because of this I decided to make writing a family affair with all three of my children and myself working together.

The kids and I worked on writing in several different ways. We started with online writing prompts that were very enjoyable to respond to.

We would all read the prompt and then write for fifteen minutes. After that we would share what we had written. The sharing of our writing was the best part and we usually all got a good laugh from it. (You can read more about this idea here and see the writing prompts we used here.) Soon we were writing our own prompts for others to use.

My daughter was the one who came up with this idea, and it was great. It was another form of creative writing and the prompt became almost as important as the response.

The next step the kids took was to write stories together using Google Drive. I am happy to say that this step did not involve me at all. The kids came up with this writing game all on their own. How it works is that one person writes a few lines in Google drive, then the others will add to it. If someone doesn’t like what the other writes, there will be a debate and then revisions take place. Also, if someone misspells something or if their grammar is wrong the others will correct. It is this editing that helped Tru immensely, and it is the sharing of ideas that motivated him.

The last component that contributed to enriching his creative writing was RPG Maker. RPG Maker is a program that allows one to make their own role playing games. It is perfect for someone who loves video games, programming, and storytelling. When Truffaut first started working with RPG Maker I wasn’t expecting much, but I was wrong. He took off with it and began making very complicated games that included accomplished storylines. As of right now, he has made over 30 RPG games and all of them include a storyline. Right now he is working on a comedy game called Law and Disorder about a young obscure lawyer who makes a name for herself in the courtroom. RPG Maker is one of the main catalysts that pushed him on the path to becoming a strong writer.

After quite a lot of time working on creative writing we transitioned back to academic writing. At this point Truffaut was 14. We dragged out Writing With Skill again and worked through the whole book. Again it was tedious and frustrating, but we stuck through it even when we didn’t want to. When he finished the book we celebrated. It was a major accomplishment, and I could see he was more confident in his academic writing than ever before.

I followed Writing With Skill up with The Lively Art of Writing, which is a very helpful and affordable book on writing. In addition Tru took an online class at Bravewriter to cement everything he had learned up to that point. After this he began taking more and more online classes, and he has gone on to become a very proficient writer who knows how to put an essay together, write a strong thesis, analyze various materials, cite sources, and write a conclusion. If you were to read some of his essays today you would never think that he once struggled to even get a single sentence down on paper.

As for his creative writing Truffaut just completed a short horror story called The Radio Man that “explores the fragility of the human psyche in relation to traumatic memories of the past.” He is currently working on the editing process on this story (an area we have just started to tackle) and then he hopes to write more short stories which format he really enjoys at the moment.

He has also begun thinking about majoring in writing in college. It is one of a few different majors he is pondering at the moment. When he came to me to discuss this I was slightly shocked. I pondered how far he has come over these past few years, how much frustration he had overcome, and how many times he and I both felt that we couldn’t do this. I am writing to tell all those who have struggling writers you can do this. It takes time and you have to find the right programs (including ones that are fun to do) but it will happen. Naturally, with practice and determination, your struggling writer will one day discover their own abilities, their own voice.


This article was originally published at SEA: An Eclectic Approach to Becoming a Writer