Jury Duty, Civics, and American Government

Talk about going down the rabbit hole!  Today I had Jury Duty.  That great institution where we drive into the metropolis, to sit in a room with a couple hundred strangers and await our fate.  We hold our breaths as they call out a range of numbers, feeling both relieved it’s not ours, and commiserate those that get called.  As my #1 son is about to take American Government as dual credit, and I was researching reading material to add to his experience, I figured this was the best opportunity to really dive into Civics, American Government and our Judicial system.

20180710_172448000_iOSFirst, every citizen has the right and responsibility to serve as a juror in our courts.  It’s not the most convenient, to be taken away from our work and family to serve, but as voters, it is definitely our responsibility to provide our fellow citizens a trial by a jury of their peers.

So as a homeschool mom, what does it mean for my family?  In the state of Texas, the law requires we teach Civics in our homeschool.  In general, when asked, I usually recommend teaching our American History to start.  In most curricula, a study of our history will include a cursory mention of our founding documents and our government. In the younger ages, this is crucial to understanding certain vocabulary so that it is not so foreign as they progress through their education.

To assist us, there are a couple of resources for the younger ages, and available curricula. (For Full Disclosure, by clicking on links, I may receive compensation either through affiliate marketing, or purchases through my business site, HERDistribution.com.  These have been marked with #ad to be identifiable.)

  1. For downloadables, my favorite place is Currclick.com (#ad link searching “civics”).  KnowlegeBox and A Journey Through Learning, and a variety of others have placed their ebooks on Currclick for purchase and printing.  The list can be narrowed by age group, publisher, and sorted by price.
  2. For history, Notgrass has become my favorite publisher by far.  The quality and design of their texts is fantastic, and their literature bundle choices are excellent.
    • For middle grades, Uncle Sam and You (#ad) is written specifically to introduce students to American government and citizenship.  The material is divided into units, with lesson reviews, activities and reading suggestions.  I recommend for the 5th/6th grade with supervision and the student workbook.  I recommend independent study for the 7th/8th grade student.
    • *NEW* for elementary grades, Our Star Spangled Story (purchase from Notgrass) is now available for pre-order to be released in August.
  3. The Land of Fair Play from Christian Liberty Press is an excellent (economical) resource that teaches Civics.  The CLP website includes this text in their 8th grade set.  However, with supervision, this would be a fair text for middle grades, and could be completed in one semester.  Combined with field trips and activities, this text could be used for two semesters.

For high school, the civics and American government curricula should be in-depth.  With dual credit, it’s also an opportunity to provide a conservative discussion on the history and actions of our government and judicial system.

  1. Again, Notgrass would be my top choice for an extensive study on American Government.  The unit study design of Exploring American Government (#ad) is perfect for any at-home study, and can be used independently by the student.  The set is designed to be completed in one semester, followed by the Exploring Economics (#ad) in the next semester.
  2. Sonlight is also another favorite.  As some of you may know, my #1 son is an avid reader, so I have used the Sonlight list to supplement his education.  In 2017, we completed the Modern World History 300 series.  The 600 series represents with American Government/Civics study for Sonlight.  Over the years, the reading list has changed.  When they do this, I have to carefully consider which books we want to include with our studies, or if we’re going to use the new Instructor’s Guide.  At this level, the student should be completing the work independently, so you need to consider your student’s learning style to determine if you need the formal schedule, or if a basic numbering system may work.
  3. Another great system of books is from Uncle Eric Book from Bluestocking Press.  I’ve inserted a picture for reference, but you can start as instructed with the Uncle Eric Model. UncleEricseriesofbooks

These two books,Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and Whatever Happened to Justice? provide the overall model of how human civilization works, especially the world of money.

Once the model is understood, read Are You a Liberal? Conservative? or Confused? This book explains political philosophies relative to Uncle Eric’s Model – and makes a strong case for consistency to that model, no exception.                                  ~Bluestockingpress.com


This is the question I receive most often.  As I am in the finalize stage of planning, I am poring over book choices for my senior #1 Son.  As he will be taking American Government as dual credit at the local community college, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide some more conservative reading choices.  Another aspect I need to consider for this next semester, is that he has multiple classes, and will need a dedicated schedule to keep him on track.  Sonlight is still the best option for scheduling, but the current lists are not my favorite.

If you’re unsure where to start, message me.  I will be happy to help.  So while I decide for my student, I will include pictures and links for your perusal!  Enjoy!  (These are Amazon Ads, so just know if you click through and make purchases, they help to support my book habit!  And I thank you for that!)

The following list has 8 titles, if you cannot see them all, please message me!  As I work in a homeschool bookstore, we also have many of these titles.  Please message me if you would like to check inventory!  I am here to help!

And thanks for visiting!

Homeschooling for High School: PSAT

I recently published the following post on my business site.  PSAT testing should not be missed, whether you use it to practice for the SAT or hoping to be awarded National Merit Scholar.  You can click through, and read about how to prepare for and find information for taking the PSAT.

HURRY!  You need to register NOW if you want to catch this OCTOBER’s test date (this is critical for High School Juniors).

October is PSAT Test-taking time. Although considered the precursor to the SAT, the PSAT is extremely important, and not to be missed. As it is offered only ONCE A YEAR, this test can easily be missed. 2017 dates are October 11 (Primary) and October 14 (Saturday).

via HER Distribution | Archives | September 2017


You might know by now, this is not my favorite question…  but it is the most popular question when I am in the bookstore, as every child and family are different.  What works for one child, will not always work for another.

In my limited opinion, the above is true, except for test taking.  Every child should do better if they PRACTICE, and practice some more.

The SAT can be taken multiple times, and there are many resources for practicing.  So I just wanted to share with you what we accomplished within our homeschool (though the method is recommended for any child: public, private or home school).

  1. Test Prep Seminar or Workshop – Although many co-ops offer math or essay workshops, College Prep Genius (affiliated link) has been popular in our area.  My co-op, Christian Educators Resource Center, even offered the workshop until 2016 when the NEW 2016 SAT came out.
    • My oldest Logic Smart son attended this live workshop and received the workbook on paper.  As the new material was still being edited, he has access to the eTextbook (Kindle) and Seminar Videos through an on-line account.
    • During the seminar – they completed a series of PRACTICE questions.
  2. From Amazon, we purchased the NEW 2016 SAT Test Prep book published by the College Board.
    • Using KHAN Academy’s SAT app, my oldest was able to complete four (4) PRACTICE tests, scan them into the app, and receive immediate feedback.
  3. Princeton Review’s Test Center (Plano, TX) -Offers weekly and monthly classes, and test PRACTICE for SAT and ACT.
    • He was offered an opportunity to take the SAT PRACTICE test for free through Princeton Review in April 2016 and again in April 2017 (MORE PRACTICE).
  4. Official SAT Test – Students can take the SAT as many times as they like.
    • Although we consider it just PRACTICE, it provides us an opportunity to see if the methods are working.

What does all this PRACTICE mean?  My oldest Logic Smart son was able to improve his SAT score by 50-100 points, every time he completed it (officially and unofficially).

Because the SAT and PSAT have time limitations, and they are so important, many students have Test Anxiety.  Although not all of the Anxiety can be cured with practice, being familiar with the test, and what is expected, can help many students alleviate test anxiety to a workable level.  PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

test takingAttending workshops whenever they are available, taking PRACTICE tests at home, and taking the SAT at least once a year (starting in the 9th Grade), can go a long way to having improved scores.  If you haven’t started early, then I highly recommend taking classes through Princeton Review or Kaplan.  If these are not available, a variety of test prep books are available, and Jean Burke provides her workshops on-line at College Prep Genius.

For my youngest Body Smart daughter, test taking is NOT her thing.  So the plan, as described in the above article, is to start with the PSAT 8/9 in the spring of Eighth Grade , and PRACTICE the SAT as much as possible.  As she is undecided regarding college, I promise to do my best not to torture her.  But until she makes a decision, I wish her to be prepared for anything.


  • Shop Local! – As a bookstore manager myself, I highly recommend shopping your local homeschool resource store.  They work really hard to be there for their homeschool families year round!  They may be connected to a local co-op or support group that can provide SAT and PSAT preparatory classes and seminars
  • Shop the publishers directly!  These publishers put much energy into creating great homeschool resources,  so I recommend shopping their web-sites:
  • By clicking links into Amazon Marketplace or College Prep Genius, I do earn a small commission based on your purchase.  It doesn’t change the listed price, it just supports my glorious book addiction and my new blog addiction.

What do we do with math?

Math, math, and more math.  Every time I turn around, there’s a new article on math.  How to choose the curriculum, how to teach the math, and why it’s important.  Let’s face it, everyone needs to be able to do some form of math.  And yes, even simple counting is math.

Obviously if math were easy, there would be very little differentiation in math curricula.  However, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, and wholly unique.  Some of us can see math, some of us can hear math, and some just DO math.  So curriculum producers try to reach all of our unique learning styles with their method.  Go to any homeschool bookfair in the spring or early summer, and you can see ALL the variety of math curricula available.  It boggles the mind.

So how do we choose?

First, you need to know the students learning style.  Dr. Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids, Inc. identifies the “smarts”, aka multiple-intelligences, in which we all function.

All children – and adults, for that matter – need to know they are smart. It’s a power word and a powerful concept. And, it’s realistic because everyone is smart! – Dr. Kathy Koch, CelebrateKids.com

I heard Dr. Koch speak at the Texas Homeschool Coalition bookfair this past May.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you get a chance, go see hear and see her workshop.  My daughter struggles to identify herself as smart, especially as she compares herself (Body Smart) to her older brother (Logic Smart).  This year we hope to learn to be confident in our smarts!

I highly recommend reading through 8 Great Smarts by Kathy Koch, PhD before choosing new curriculum, it’s an eye-opener!  CelebrateKids.com


As a bookstore manager of a homeschool resource store, I get the questions, “What do you recommend?” and “What did you use with your kids?”  Because we are so uniquely created, and our family lifestyles are different, and even our family dynamics are different, these are actually tough questions.  What is the warning, “Results are not typical” or “Results may not be typical.”  I don’t mind telling you what I used with my kids, but just because it seems to have worked with my kids doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

What we use(d):

For my oldest Logic Smart child, math and science has always come easy.  A Beka Arithmetic was “easy” enough (on me) that I could give him a page-a-day.  With very little help from Mom, he worked the problems as given on the page.  He’s my independent learner, and he just DOES math.

  • Kinder – 1st Grade: A Beka Numbers K and Arithmetic 1; we skipped 2nd grade.  We used Math-U-See Alpha and Beta during the summer as a supplement for math facts.
  • 3rd Grade: Alpha Omega Switched-On Schoolhouse – as we were skipping A Beka Arithmetic 2, SOS Math 3 worked for us.
  • 4th-6th Grades: A Beka Arithmetic 4-6.  In 4th and 5th, my Logic Smart child participated in a “Rapid Math” co-op class.  This was an excellent class for establishing mental math.  In the 6th Grade, we added the A Beka Academy streaming videos for Math.  The teaching method was a SHOCK!  We were not quite prepared for the speed in which math facts were drilled.  Although the Speed Drills were not a problem, the oral drills within the video class were amazing.
  • 7th Grade: The Great Switch-a-Roo.  My sister, who has been successfully homeschooling for many years, and liked to teach math, opened an opportunity for us to take Fundamentals of Math at our local co-op.  We were so excited!  Within a couple of weeks, we discovered that Aaron could work the BJU Fundamentals of Math (2nd Edition) text much better, if he was not in class.  So for the Fall semester, we switched to the BJU Resource Lesson Plan at home.  He was making 95-105% on his quizzes and tests.  He was not being challenged.  So for the Spring semester, we switched to the BJU Pre-Algebra (2nd Edition) text.  Although the first seven (7) chapters were slightly redundant, we began anew.  It was much more challenging, and we completed all the chapters in the book by the end of August. (Again, results are not typical).
  • 8th Grade: My oldest Logic Smart child had no problems continuing with BJU Algebra 1 (3rd Edition) text.  Again, we used the BJU Resource Lesson Plan, and he worked independently.  Whenever questions arose on a particular concept, we used the Student Activities Book to reinforce that concept before we moved on to the next section.
  • 9th Grade: I decided for Geometry, we would use the BJU DVD’s for BJU Geometry (3rd Edition).  I wanted to make sure he heard, and saw the lesson material.  The 3rd Edition is a good, solid text.  The class DVD was a recording of the old BJU satellite classes, and poorly edited.  With the onset of the the new 4th Edition, this will no longer be an issue.
  • 10th Grade: With the new 3rd Edition text came NEW BJU Online video courses.  They are very well done, and gone are the old satellite recordings!  I could not be happier!   So for BJU Algebra 2 (3rd Edition), again I wanted to make sure he heard, and saw, the lesson material.  The new streaming videos were a perfect compliment to the text material.  The only thing I changed was using the printed quizzes and tests, and not the online tests and quizzes.  I found them to be more challenging for my Logic Smart child.
  • Junior Year: Based on a comparison of the BJU Algebra 2 (3rd Edition) text and a College Algebra text, there were only 2 concepts that were unfamiliar.  My oldest Logic Smart child was able to CLEP out of College Algebra.  He is currently taking Plane Trig through the local community college for Dual Credit.  I am so proud of him!  He amazes me!

Results are not typical…

My youngest Body Smart child did not see the same results.  She does not hear, or see, math in the same way as her older brother. And she is definitely doesn’t DO math.

  • K-6th Grades: I was concerned my youngest Body Smart child would not be able to get the lessons she needed, as I was getting busier in the bookstore.  For her 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade years, it was a real struggle to find her confidence.  We used the A Beka Academy streaming videos for Arithmetc 3-6.  She truly believed she was not smart, even though she was scoring 90+% on her tests.  I would not recommend only video for a strong Body Smart child.  I used it as a last resort when I could not find a co-op class.
  • 7th Grade: Having been tested her 6th grade year, my Body Smart child was smart enough to have started BJU Fundamentals of Math, a 7th grade curriculum.  We decided not to skip the last year, so she started the co-op class this year.  I believe in her ability, and I know the A Beka Arithmetic 6 prepared her for this class.  I am praying her confidence is restored this year as she matures into a teenager!

In closing, I do recognize that there are many curricula to choose from: Right Start Math, Life of Fred, Teaching Textbooks, Horizons Math, Saxon Math, MasterBooks, etc. The list is long.   There are so many to choose from.

Feel free to send me your questions about any Math program you have come across, and I will do my best to answer your questions.  Personally, I’m Picture Smart, so I might have to do some research and LOOK at the curriculum in question!


  • Shop Local! – As a bookstore manager myself, I highly recommend shopping your local homeschool resource store.  They work really hard to be there for their homeschool families year round!  They can help you find the best curriculum for each of your children.   If you have trouble finding one in your area, let me know!
  • Shop the publishers directly!  These publishers put much energy into creating great homeschool resources,  so I recommend shopping their web-sites:
  • For this particular post, just for fun, I’m including Amazon pictures and links, which may or may not be relatedBy clicking links into Amazon Marketplace, I do earn a small commission based on your purchase.  It doesn’t change the listed price, it just supports my glorious book addiction.

Came across the Kim Sutton series recently through our homeschool bookstore.  I find them interesting!  And who doesn’t love double dice or math manipulatives:

Thanks so much for visiting!

I call a “Do-Over”!

It’s August of 2017.  My oldest is a Junior in High School now, and my youngest is a Seventh grader!  Where has the time gone?  There are still so many things I want to do with them!

My kids have their own individual learning styles and personalities, and they are not in to doing the same things that I am!  (Strange, I know).  For example, the Summer Olympics in London did not go well for me.  I found this great downloadable Olympics LapBook.  I loved putting it together!  London history, history of the Olympics, tons of places to keep track of the Gold Medals.  My kids would not even look at it.  I was so sad.

As a bookstore manager for homeschool materials, I come across many, many, MANY books.  And I have to admit, I have used my kids as Guinea pigs to try out a variety of them.  It’s a great way to determine how much time and energy is needed, and how much interest there is in the material.  LapBooks may be fun for me, but my kids just don’t get into it.  (One of these days I will tell you about my World History timeline book.)

 My DO-OVER this time is all about studying classical music and the master composers.  10 years ago, when we first opened the bookstore, I started David Quine’s  Music and Moments (cornerstonecurriculum.com) with my nieces, nephews and children as a class for the teachers kids.  I recently came across the bin that still held the curriculum, CD’s and the kids folders.  Their personalities shining through!  Unfortunately, the bookstore became busier than expected and we never finished the curriculum.  At the same time, at the bookstore recently, I came across Amy Pak’s (Homeschool in the Woods) Composers LapBook.  Again, I cried, “I need a DO-OVER!”  My kids will never go for it of course, so maybe I will do it for myself.

So if you’re reading this, and you’re wondering what to do with your kids this year for Art, might I recommend studying the Masters.

  1. First, choose a curriculum as a guide:
    • Music and Moments with the Masters is an excellent curriculum to guide you through studying the masters in-depth.  It’s divided into four (4) years, but obviously you can make it your own.
    • Beautiful Feet’s The History of Classical Music for Intermediate Grades.  This is a one (1) year study using a variety of resources (ie. The Story of the Orchestra, Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers) and literature (ie. Dance Me a Story, The Farewell Symphony, A Coloring Book of Great Composers by Bellerophon) in 75 lessons.
  2. The fun part is the supplements!
    • I love the printables in Amy Pak’s Composers Hands-On History Activity-Paks.  So many activities to create a card game, symphony page, and timeline.  I’m in love with the visuals!
    • Dover Coloring Book series: “Great Composers” and “Musical Instruments”.
    • Color the Classics – Composers Series by Carmen Ziarkowski.  This series has a variety of pages to color for each Composer or Hymn Writer.  It is a 2 piece set that comes with a sample of the Composers music.  Inside the front cover, a School Year Plan is provided if you wish to use this series as the curriculum.
    • For a variety of downloadable material by composer, see currclick.com
  3. Need to step it up for various ages?
    • The Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson – RA: all ages; IR: 7th+.  A very thorough book on the lives of the composers with suggested readings and musical selections.
    • Getting a Handel on Messiah by David W. Barber – RA: all ages; IR: 7th+  David Barber has a few titles to recommend regarding music history, such as If It Ain’t Baroque….  They are conversationally written, and can add to any music curriculum.
    • McGraw-Hill’s The World of Composers series – RA: all ages; IR: 4th+.  Many of these can be found at the library.

Don’t forget to check out the CD pack from Cornerstone Curriculum, or search them out on iTunes and Amazon music.  If you can only choose one, I highly recommend “Peter and the Wolf”.  Beautiful Feet recommends “The Music Masters” 18 CD collection.

Shopping Recommendations:

  • Shop Local! – As a bookstore manager myself, I highly recommend shopping your local homeschool resource store.  They work really hard to be there for their homeschool families! If you have trouble finding one in your area, let me know!
  • Shop the publishers directly!  These publishers put much energy into creating great homeschool resources,  so I recommend shopping their web-sites:
  • For the out-of-print, and hard to find pieces, I’m including Amazon pictures and linksBy clicking links into Amazon Marketplace, I do earn a small commission based on your purchase.  It doesn’t change the listed price, it just supports my glorious book addiction.


Thanks for visiting! Leave me a comment or question!

Feeling Overwhelmed? How do we keep it straight?

If you’re a busy home school parent like me, it’s hard to keep the schedule straight.  Between co-op classes, working at the Bookstore, Favorite Son’s swim schedule, and Favorite Daughter’s dance schedule, I get a little insane.  If I can remember what day it is, I can work at getting us to where we need to be.

With extracurricular activities, it’s a bear to keep it all straight.  This year, with all the activities, I think I’m going to have a daily chore listed on the schedule…  Maybe we can keep the house clean, even though we’re never in it!  Funny thing about HOMEschooling… we’re never home!

Weekly Planner

Weekly Planner

I love this simple little Weekly Planner Sweet Sister created.  We have shared it with everyone for the past 9 years.  I use Good Notes on the iPad to edit the basic form each year, plotting out the dance schedule and co-op classes.  I print it in color, and post one copy in the kitchen (for Dear Husband), and I have one copy posted at the Bookstore.

The kids use it too!  Usually right as they ask, “What time do we need to leave?”

Life can be fun if we keep it organized!  (Well, organized mess in my case!)

About me… Homeschooling by Liz

“About me”…  Ha!  I’m staring at a blank screen!  This is the probably the place that I’m supposed to prove to you that I’m an expert in my field.


So let me start from the beginning.  The first thing you should know is that I was never supposed to be a homeschooler.  That’s right.  My sister was the homeschooler.  I was the woman with a career and on a path up the ladder.  And God said…

Trust in me, and I shall make your path straight.

So twelve years later, I am a home school mom of 2.  I’ve been selling books to homeschoolers for 10 years, and running the bookstore at the Christian Educators Resource Center for 8 years.  Exciting stuff!

And this is where I use my tag line.  What I know about curriculum comes from listening to other homeschool moms.  There are tens of thousands of books, whether it is curriculum, curriculum helps, teacher books, readers, reading systems, or even pamphlets.  The business of homeschooling is growing by leaps and bounds.  I cannot experience EVERY book or curriculum.  My children will tell you that I have tried many.  They know, they’ve been my guinea pigs.

So I have to rely on the opinions of other homeschool parents.  I have to ask and listen to what they say about their experience with the curriculum.  Hopefully, this blog will help to store some of that knowledge, as well as gather more.

Well, what do you use?

I hear this question often, as if I’m an expert, then what I use is perfect…  Far from it.  Every year, and sometimes 2 and 3 times a year, I evaluate how the curriculum is working, and if my child is learning.

Every child is different.  In their learning styles, attitudes, activity levels and abilities.

Every family is different.  Lifestyles, goals, activities, and needs.

I used to think my son was normal, and something was “wrong” with my daughter.  In the last couple of years, I have adjusted to understand that my daughter is brilliantly normal, and my son is not.  He is brilliant and creative, and learns things easily and quickly.  They are different from EACH OTHER.  One curriculum does not work in our school, I can’t imagine trying to manage ONE curriculum for a classroom of 30 DIFFERENT kids.

My kids are not perfect, and what we use is not perfect.  So if, in this blog, I tell you “I just love this curriculum”.  Read the fine print.  And don’t take my word for it.  Go out, touch it, feel it, read it, and evaluate it for yourself.

And join in on the discussion!


First Posts are always the hardest

This is my first post EVER on a blog. It has been the hardest to start. I was a little panicky!

When I decided to start a blog, I picked up a few books from the library, and downloaded some free how-to e-books. I was a little worried. If I couldn’t find the time to read up on how to start a blog, how could I find the time to write a blog?  So this may be a recurring obstacle, but I will do my best.

All the books will tell you the first thing about starting a blog is deciding on a name, which has much to do with what you’re writing about.  All of this could change, however, as your life changes… Where to begin? A name that says who I am, so that people can find me, but not so narrow that I would have to change it should the subject of the blog change. So, I chose TexasHach4, and right now, I’m all about homeschooling, or 85% about homeschooling, the rest may appear random!

Lastly, just to get started, you have to decide what your blog will be about. I have always wanted to start a blog to talk about homeschooling and curriculum, but I didn’t want to be a curriculum reviewer. (There are way too many of those out there!). I’m not an expert on curriculum, but in talking to mom’s on a day-to-day basis, I have learned much about curriculum. In attending Education Expo’s as a retailer, I’ve learned some things about trends. So I hope to share some of the things I have learned, share some of the questions and comments of other home school moms as we make contacts, and provide a forum in which to discuss what works and doesn’t work for other home school moms.

Another part of this blog, will be about my own kids, and they will also help to contribute to the blog. My son is experimenting with all kinds of programming and publishing. So he may contribute time to time to see how his programming works on a live site. Come back often to see those! It should be rather interesting and entertaining!

Also, I have a couple of friends that have been homeschooling for much longer than I have. They may appear with some guest articles to share their expertise in homeschooling or curriculum or just being a mom of homeschooled kids!

Should be fun! Email me if you think I haven’t published in a while! I like encouragement, and need to know someone is out there!

Thanks for visiting my blog!