New Story Coming Soon – Jumping the Hurdles – Jessi Learns Math

Horse by Eli-01_2 (1)

We are working on the final editing and artwork for our new release coming this summer!  Along with the story (Rounding the Bases – Chris Learns to Read) that is already in print, we are adding two new stories in this new e-book: Stories from Unlocking Learning Potential.  In Jumping the Hurdles – Jessi Learns Math, Jessica Marie Torres, a high school sophomore, recounts her life which centers on her love for horses and struggles with math through a homeschool assignment to write her story.

Annual Assessments for Homeschoolers

CFND Pencils LogoBy Maggie Dail, Learning Specialist


Many homeschooling parents begin to think about the annual assessments for their children at this time of the year. In around 20 states these tests are required by their homeschool laws. Washington State is one of those and allows for two types – standardized and non-test assessments.


  • Standardized tests – While some are administered in online formats, they have traditionally been administered by having the student fill in the bubbles on an answer sheet. They are then normed and standardized meaning that they tell you how your child compares to a representative 99 others. Further, they are to be administered according to set rules and times.
  • Non-test Assessments – In the Washington State homeschool law these are not defined per se, but they are to be administered by a certified teacher currently working in the field of education.  Since the assessments are not defined, qualified test administrators use a variety of measures – some more subjective and others more objective.


Whether your state requires annual assessments or not, you can gain valuable information from these experiences. Other than “the homeschool law requires assessments” these may prompt you to have your children tested:

  • Assess a starting point in your homeschooling (given before you begin or early on).   Using the same instrument of assessment before and after provides comparable scores.
  • Assess whether the curriculum, learning styles or methods you are using are helping your child learn.
  • Provide preparation for your child to take college entrance tests in the future.
  • Provide objectives or ideas for study for the next year, semester or month.
  • Provides a “third party” assessment of the academic process
  • Identifies areas that the child may need some additional help.


Unlocking Learning Potential provides non-test assessments for homeschoolers in any state via video conferencing:


Non-Test Assessment – NTA (qualifies for WA State homeschoolers)


  • PIAT-R (Peabody Individual Achievement Test-Revised) Given orally – General Information, Reading Recognition, Reading Comprehension, Math, and Spelling.
  • Optional – evaluation of a one-page writing sample – corrected with criteria that you receive along with an instructional lesson for one area of concern.
  • Neurodevelopmental Screening (auditory and visual processing; dominance).
  • A brief consultation with parents.
  • NTA Report.
  • Fulfills requirement for annual homeschool assessment in Washington State.
  • Standard Price – $60.00
  • Optional: Writing Sample Assessment – $25.00
  • Optional: Learning Style Analysis – $25.00
  • Especially good for younger students and those who have a difficulty in taking tests.
  • Time: About 1 ½ hour for the student and time with the parent to discuss results and answer questions.


In addition, diagnostic assessments are available using KeyMath.


KeyMath-R serves as a supplement to the Brain Training Assessment or Non-Test Assessment or as a stand-alone diagnostic math test for pre-high school skills. Success for high school math depends on a good foundation.  Cost: $60.00 Time: About 1 ½ to 2 hours.


If especially interested in assessing math, but want this to be the annual assessment, spelling and reading can be added.


Should you suspect a learning challenge, the annual assessment could be turned into a:


Brain Training Assessment – BTA


Includes all of the Non-Test Assessment, plus with parent completed forms, the Learning Specialist designs an Individualized Neurodevelopmental Plan (list of activities to stimulate the brain to encourage development) to complete at home with our support.  Cost: $150


Depending on the results of the NTA or the BTA and the goals of the parents, families may be offered access to one or more of our professional accounts with Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord or Reading Assistant, HearBuilder and Sensory Enrichment Therapy.  Also, parents may choose to add Brain Training as ongoing support provided via video conferencing.


Another option for determining abilities that need to be developed Unlocking Learning Potential provides Structure of Intellect online assessment, training modules, and support.


Structure of Intellect Assessment (SOI)


Dr. J.P. Guilford designed an assessment that decreased the attrition rate of dropouts out of pilots during WWII. Drs.  Mary and Robert Meeker further developed this model of assessing and training different learning abilities.


Assessment Cost: $150.00

Training Materials and Support: $100.00


For more information regarding our services:


We are currently scheduling through the end of June.

Personal Reflections – 2017 # 20 – What have our graduates done beyond high school?

Many of our graduates have gone to college or have gone into a trade. We will feature Jered today. While in high school we attended his Eagle Scout celebration. During high school he wrote a novel (Learn to Write the Novel Way) for class: Guns at Aparri. At one point, he stated that he had received an “atta boy” for his writing skills in a report for work.

After high school, he earned a degree in criminal justice and served in the U.S. Army Reserves.  Since then he has worked for the Department of Homeland Security.  Thank you, Jered for your service to our country.

Personal Reflections 2017 – # 19 – How did the online part of Family Academy Online and Unlocking Learning Potential begin?

Online Student

Prior to 2004, the Jiles family lived in Olympia, Washington. They drove to Lakewood, Washington to attend Academy Northwest classes at our learning center. Then the dad’s work took them to Georgia. There they met the Robinson family.  I worked with the Jiles family and Tim Robinson. Later the Jiles moved to Spokane and the Robinson family moved to Texas. I continued to work with them via long distance and these students graduated.  Also around that time, Ariel from New Jersey worked with me and graduated early from ANW.  She has gone on for graduate work. I never met Tim and Ariel in person. Our use of the internet and the phone was problematic, but we were able to get the job done. Further, my learning center students in Lakewood posted assignments and responded in a closed Yahoo group.

Much has happened since that time. For one thing, we access virtually (no pun intended) all of our students online. Thankfully, our access to the internet is exceptional by comparison.  Video conferencing provides a great video and audio experience with minimal problems most of the time.  We can access many of these services for free or at least a minimal charge.  Some do cost more. For that reason, our students can access one or more of the following as appropriate:, Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant,, Structure of Intellect assessments, and G-Suite for Education.  I would rate simultaneous correction of writing assignments on Google Drive as my newest favorite tool.

Personal Reflection 2017 – 16 -Another Graduation – Achievements Recognized

During Academy Northwest graduations, graduates give speeches and perform musically. This year, one of our students played the harp. Overall, ANW graduates do well academically and go on to college having earned scholarships. In our learning center we offered a customized program depending on the needs of the students. Many have gone on to earn undergraduate and some graduate degrees.  Some go into to trade school or join the work force.  Education is not one size fits all. We enjoy hearing the Grad bios as they stand on the top, center step learning about the graduates from other learning centers. Hearing of their hopes and dreams encourages to keep working with these students. I love to to see their families grow on Facebook even though we live far from most of them.

Personal Reflections – 2017 # 15 – What about learning World Languages?

Today, homeschoolers have many opportunities to learn a world language.  First, a number of excellent curricula exist and online help abounds. While that may not have been true when homeschooling began, it certainly is true now.  Many combine a great curriculum with conversational in person or online. Second, many homeschool co-ops and private extension schools such as provide site-based world language classes. After living in Spain for 17 years, teaching Spanish at Heritage Christian School for two years and then offering site-based classes to homeschoolers it only made sense to expand that to our online services. Http:// Photos represent early Spanish classes. Website shows how we offer Spanish classes today. Thirdly, a homeschool high school can study their world language at a community college.

A Book Review: Grammar Despair by Carolyn Henderson

A Book Review: Grammar Despair by Carolyn Henderson

Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” provides a great resource for all writers. Henderson uses a conversational style to address common challenges in writing, using common sense ways to remember correctly written structures. For practice, she gives a number of examples of incorrect and correct grammar. In some cases she provides a “dumb ditty” to help reader to remember how to use the words.

While I may be one of those “uptight English teachers” that the author refers to on occasion, I still recommend this book to my writing students. Henderson does tell her readers that there are occasions when a writer must follow a criteria or writing style. We high school English teachers must prepare our students to follow the guidelines that college English professors and publishers require. However, Henderson does give the writer choices in some situations. On occasion, she explains why she chose one way or another to illustrate that formal writing differs from informal writing.

Henderson divides her chapters into three main categories: 1) Words that sound the same but are spelled (and used) differently; 2) Writing mechanics and 3) Things we didn’t worry about 150 years ago.

In the first category, she gives the reader simple ways to remember when to use it’s or its; you’re and your; they’re, their or there; well or will; then or than; two, to or too; finally are or our. These are the kinds of things that some people cannot seem to remember so having a quick reference is great!

Then, in the second category, Henderson gives the reader simple guidelines regarding capitalization, sentences, paragraphs, word choices as well as a discussion of the passive vs. active voice.

Finally, in the third category, she covers issues such as gender and online writing including writing e-mails and blogs. She cautions the writer that texting is not appropriate in every situation. Appropriately, she suggests that undue repetition of words may interfere with an otherwise clear message.

If you want a guidebook for punctuation problems, watch for Volume II in the Everyday Grammar Series, Punctuation Problems –Let’s Solve Them due out in 2013. I look forward to seeing this book when it is available.

You may get to know Carolyn Henderson on her blog: She also works with her artist husband,

Does Your Child Struggle with Learning? You Can Homeschool Your Child!

Over the years I have talked with many families who face learning challenges. They frequently have their child in school because they feel they lack the expertise to meet their educational needs. While working with someone with experience in this area may be helpful at times, do not forget that you are the expert regarding your child. Who knows this child better? You do, of course!


  1. Do I need a label? Occasionally, having a label provides direction or funding, but it often limits expectations. For an accurate medical diagnosis, as in a genetic disorder, a label leads to a treatment. If on the other hand, the professional assigned the label because of a list of symptoms / behaviors rather than a blood or other lab test, beware of limiting expectations or using a medical treatment (as in drugs). However, even with a nonmedical diagnosis, there may be a metabolic / health component. How an individual’s digestive system works can affect learning. One problem faced by many who struggle is the “leaky gut syndrome.” Until you resolve an issue like this, the struggles will remain. Read To Label or Not to Label: Pros and Cons for Seeking Educational Diagnoses.
  2. 2.     After determining if we want to pursue a diagnosis / label, what is the next step? Besides knowing where your child is academically you need to make an inventory of tasks that challenge your child. Finding the underlying cause for these challenges is the key to resolving the issue. For example, if an individual has difficulty using phonics in the process of learning to read, he probably has low auditory processing. When this is true, a simple activity done for 3 minutes, 2 times a day, overtime will develop this skill. Free Auditory Processing Test Kit
  3. How do I choose the right curriculum? If you have ever gone to a homeschool convention, such as that of WHO, you know that an abundance of curriculum exists. Further, if you have searched online for homeschool curriculum, you know this to be true. Choosing the right curriculum for your family is a personal choice, but you should consider the following:
  • What does my child need to learn?
  • How does my child learn?
  • How do I teach?
  • Can I adapt the same curriculum for all my children?
  • Does this curriculum conform to our family’s beliefs and life style?

4.     How should I structure our day? This, too, is a personal family choice; however, many children who struggle with learning thrive on structure. In most cases achievement is highest when you balance structure and non-structure. (Able to Teach by Childs and McAlister – Text for Parent Training Course)

Parents are definitely Able to Teach their children and there are many resources available to guide you in a successful family journey.


Maggie Dail, M.A. has been working with homeschoolers since 1994 through Academy Northwest / Family Academy ( She instructs Family Academy’s online parent training course. She began working International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalists in 2003, becoming certified in 2007. (ICAN – Now in 2013 she is beginning to work with homeschooling families through Family Academy Online. Maggie and her husband, Ronnie operate Center for Neuro Development. (

Home Schooling in High School: Planning A Course

You have done your overall planning for the four years and you know which classes your student needs for this year. Now what? There are a number of alternatives for teaching the different subjects.

1.         Many purchase textbooks for each class and have the student work through the texts, answering the questions and taking the tests. This can be an easy way with at least some assurance that you are covering all the bases. For a student who works well independently, this could work. It would give that student a starting and finishing point. Skills developed using this method may include reading comprehension, some writing skills and some time management skills. On the other hand, for a student who struggles with reading and writing, or needs more interaction with others, it may not be the best way. Also, it may be boring for some students. While those unfamiliar with the subject matter, using a textbook can help, but remember that no textbook perfectly covers every aspect of the topic that you may consider important for your child to learn.

2.         Others choose to delegate one or more of the courses to specialists in those fields. This can be in the form of a local class (home school co-op, community college classes, enrollment in a private school that works with home schoolers) or online.

3.         Perhaps you grew to enjoy unit studies in the earlier grades or your student gets bored with the textbook / class choice. You can integrate different subjects into a unit study or just apply the unit study approach to individual classes. At the high school level, you can actually get much more input from your children and allow them to do much more of the planning.    Here are some possible steps:

  • Find a scope and sequence online for the subject or a grade level textbook (borrow or find at Goodwill or library sale). Using a scope and sequence or table of contents in a book provides an outline or list of concepts usually covered for that subject. You have the option of excluding or including different parts, but this provides a guide.
  • Brainstorm – make a Mind Map of all the ideas that come to mind. To make a mind map, begin by writing the large topic in the center of a blank sheet of paper. Branch out adding more to this web of ideas and groups of ideas.  Write anything that comes to mind. Later you can rewrite using only the ideas that you want to use.
  • Brainstorm or make additional entries for each of the ideas on your mind map.
  • Enter the activities and resources on the course plan in your planner where they can be checked off as completed.

4.         With a little more planning, you can combine subjects like History and English. As you brainstorm you would use the scope and sequences for both of these subjects. By doing this, you can include a number of types of assignments that develop a wide variety of skills including research, hands-on-projects as well as reading and writing. I am not suggesting you double count work done in an integrated class. This can allow for more in-depth coverage of an area.

If the unit study approach sounds interesting, but hard to implement, try it first with one class. As you become more experienced, you can expand to other courses. You may also benefit from working with a home school consultant in this area. As a homeschooling parent, you are in the driver’s seat of your child’s education, and you have many choices.

Home Schooling in High School: Making a Four-Year Plan

Before you begin home schooling your ninth grader, you and your child should sit down and plan out, in general, what you will cover over the next four years. If you have already begun high school, making this plan should be a priority. In the state of Washington, an independent home schooling family must complete courses that approximate the courses that the public school students in their school district must complete before graduation. If you are home schooling through a private extension program, you are responsible to fulfill the graduation requirements of that private school. Other states will have other guidelines, but they should be similar. Be sure and learn about those guidelines from your state wide home school organization. They often have that information on their web site.

Most states would have similar graduation requirements. This can also vary depending on what the student plans to do after graduation. First, find out your state’s the minimum requirements for graduation. Second, find out what students planning on attending community college should do. Finally, find out the requirements for students who plan to begin at a four-year college.

Another variable is how credits are counted. Traditionally, a one-credit class in high school meets for 50 minutes for 180 days. These credits count 150 clock hours as one credit which is the equivalent of 50 minutes times 180. Schools have diversified this standard, so be sure you know how they will be counted in your state or school district. For the purpose of this article we will assume one credit as 150 clock hours. College bound students should earn approximately six credits each of the four years of high school, or three each semester. Most classes are one credit, but some are one-half.

Generally, students are required to earn 3-4 credits (or years) of English and Math. History or related classes comprise 2.5 – 3 years, including State History (if not studied in Junior High or Middle School), American History, and World History (and / or geography, government, economics). Lab Science and math based science is essential for those going into a related area in college. Students need two-three years of science. Other requirements or electives include physical education, health, occupations, foreign languages, and fine arts.

Other important considerations include:

  • “What does the student plan on doing beyond high school?”
  • If going to college, “What does the college require for admittance?”
  • Whether going to college, or not, “What job skills can the student learn to gain job experience and a means to help pay for college expenses?

Home school families may get help on these steps with variations of these two:

  1. Find a consultant that will help you in your initial planning and any time you need help.
  2. Find a private school extension program to plan with you and provide a constant guidance and possibly accredited diplomas.

For general information, including your state laws, statewide home school organizations and resources visit: