Book Apps for Homeschooling

Submitted by Stephanie Elms, Annandale VA

If you are anything like me, books are central to your homeschooling. Library books, ebooks, audio books, non-fiction, fiction, you name it, we love it. There are several apps related to books that I have found extremely useful.


By far, Goodreads is my most useful and all purpose book app. According to the website, Goodreads “is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love.” Part social media, part book review extravaganza, part organizational tool, there is something for everyone on Goodreads.

In a nutshell, Goodreads allows you to unleash your inner librarian  You can easily catalog books you own, books you have read and books you want to read and Goodreads gives you multiple tools for finding new books to add to your “to read” pile. You (or your child) can also rate books and write book reviews as well as see what books your friends are reading and read their reviews. You can follow your favorite author’s blogs and connect with other enthusiasts.

I use Goodreads in several different ways. First, I use it to catalog and organize books I own. You can manually search their database for the books you own or, even better for those of us truly geeky types, you can use the Goodreads app on your phone or tablet to scan the bar codes on your books for super easy cataloging. Once logged, you can add books to multiple user-defined “shelves” for easy recall.

My favorite use for Goodreads is tracking books that I want to read. I read a lot of Kid Lit blogs and am always coming across books that I want to check out. Before Goodreads, I had not found a truly workable method for keeping track of them. Now, when I see a book that I want to check out later, I add it to Goodreads and mark it as “To Read”. If I do not already own the book, I also add it to my “Library” shelf.  Now anytime I am looking for a new book to read with the boys or if I am headed to the library (or at the library!), I can quickly scan through the books and be reminded of a book I was interested in.

Many of my friends are on Goodreads as well. I enjoy seeing what they are reading and reading their reviews. I have found many a good book through a friend. Kids can use and enjoy Goodreads as well to track their own reading progress, post reviews and explore the world of books. Scanning the books using the app can also be a fun incentive.

For those who might prefer a less “commercial” product (Goodreads was recently bought by Amazon), similar functionality can be found on LibraryThing. I like a lot about LibraryThing, but found that the social sharing aspects were not as robust and there is no associated app (though you can purchase a bar code scanner to use on your computer). The Goodreads app is available for both iOS (for Apple devices) and Android.

Other Book/Reading Apps

Nook, Kindle, iBooks

Nook, Kindle and iBooks are “e-reader” apps which allow you to read ebooks and pdfs on your tablet or phone (without having to actually own a Nook or a Kindle). Personally, I usually choose to read ebooks on an actual e-reader (in my case a Nook) because I prefer the “e-ink” (more like a traditional book) to reading on a tablet screen (backlit, more like a computer screen). However, using the Kindle app has allowed me to take advantage of good deals on ebooks through Amazon without needing to purchase a second ereader.

I like iBooks for reading independently produced ebooks and pdfs and use this for many homeschool curriculum ebooks such as those from Brave Writer and Math on the Level. With more and more curriculum providers offering their books as downloadable files, I appreciate being able to access these resources on my tablet which unties me from my computer and gives me more freedom.

Nook App: iOS and Android
Kindle App: iOS and Android

Instapaper, Readability and Pocket

Instapaper, Readability and Pocket are similar apps that can be used to clip articles from the web to read later.  Personally I find that I prefer to read articles on my tablet as opposed to my computer and these apps clip the articles and format them in a very reading-friendly way, including only the text and photos of the article (leaving out any ads or other distracting aspects of the particular website). By using these apps, I can save articles for when I have time to read them without having to leave tons of tabs open in my browser or loose track of them in my bookmarks. I have also used them to save articles for my kids to read.

Instapaper App: iOS ($3.99) and Android ($2.99)
Readability App: iOS and Android
Pocket App: iOS and Android


Audible is a subscription service for purchasing and downloading audiobooks at a discount. As an audiobook loving family, we have bought many audiobooks  and use the app to easily download and listen to books where ever we want.

The Audible app is available for both iOS and Android.


Overdrive is the service used by many libraries for managing their audiobook and ebook resources. The Overdrive app is very useful for taking advantage of those services.

The Overdrive app is available for both iOS and Android.


Bookmark is my favorite audiobook apps. It allows you to listen to both audiobooks and podcasts and gives you very easy controls for navigating. I wrote a review of Bookmark on my blog a few years ago and Bookmark is still easily my most utilized audiobook app.

Bookmark is only available for iOS.

I hope this gets you started on your way to finding some of the fantastic apps that are out there. I will be back over the next few months to review some more of my favorites. In the meantime, feel free to share some of your favorite apps in the comment section!


Read the previous post in this series: Resources for Finding Apps for Homeschooling 

Stephanie Elms is constantly trying to find that elusive state of balance in her life while enjoying her two energetic yet vastly different boys. You can read about their ongoing exploits on her blog, Throwing Marshmallows. Stephanie also volunteers as a member of the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors and is the VaHomeschoolers website administrator.

Why Homeschooling Hasn’t Driven Me Crazy: The Importance of Friends in the Homeschooling Life

Submitted by Janell E. Robisch


Homeschooling can be demanding for any parent. Maybe if we were only homeschooling and not doing anything else, it wouldn’t feel so overwhelming at times, but most of us aren’t just homeschooling. We are parenting, working, volunteering, nurturing a marriage, raising kids on our own, running a business, and on and on.

I have found that the times in my mothering life where the friend meter was the lowest were the hardest and most lonely. When I first became a mother, we had just moved to a new state, and it took me a while to make friends. It was the decision to attend a La Leche League meeting when my son was 10 months old that made all of the difference. There, I was invited to a playgroup and made friends that have lasted these 12 years. Shortly after, I became part of a tradition so many of us lovingly know as Moms’ Night. (And if you don’t know it, you must become acquainted, really!)

Later, when I moved to the Shenandoah Valley from Northern Virginia, it was homeschool park days and later a co-op that got me networked with other like-minded women and their children. It wasn’t long before I was attending Moms’ Nights with them too. Time out without the kids (when I felt that they were ready to stay with dad for a while) is like recharging my batteries. Even if I miss a little sleep that night, I always feel more refreshed and ready to face the world the next day.

These friends are also important in just the day-to-day activities that I do with my kids. When we are justifying or just explaining our homeschool life to others, we often tell them about how well our kids are socialized (we all know about the ever-present socialization fear!). We take our kids to classes, on play dates, to co-ops, and on field trips. What we don’t usually bring up is that we’re socializing ourselves as well! I look forward to my children’s opportunities as opportunities for me to chat with other moms or perhaps get some advice on a problem, which may or may not be family-related. It’s not to say that I ignore my children, but the best homeschool outings are ones that balance kid time with mom time or allow the kids to learn or interact with their friends in a safe environment while I interact with my own friends.

Whether at a Moms’ Night or just hanging around watching the children play, I cherish the times I can get to know other mothers and share experiences with them. For whatever reason, knowing that someone else is out there going through similar struggles makes going through my own struggles a little less burdensome. I have many friends, and we each share a little something, even if it’s just an open mind or a sense of humor. Also, meeting and hearing from friends with different viewpoints have sometimes changed (or cemented) my own views, usually for the better.

I can’t speak for the dads out there, but as a mom, I have found that my girlfriends have played an especially important role in protecting my sanity, and I hope I have helped them a little as well!


Court Rejects Romeike Asylum Appeal while Explicitly Recognizing U.S. Homeschooling Freedoms


by Amy Wilson, Government Affairs Director

On Tuesday, May 14, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit rendered its opinion in the case of the Romieke family, German homeschoolers seeking asylum in the United States on the grounds that Germany’s compulsory school attendance law persecutes homeschoolers.  The court upheld the prior decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals, which found that the Romiekes’ situation does not qualify them for political asylum under established U.S. law.

This decision is of course bad news for the Romieke family, whose attorneys (affiliated with the Home School Legal Defense Association, HSLDA) have said they plan to appeal it, but it is not bad news for homeschooling freedom in the United States.  In fact, the judges clearly acknowledged and upheld past case law establishing the Constitutional right of U.S. citizens to direct the upbringing and education of their children.  This decision clearly states that Americans have the right to homeschool.

The court explained its reasoning in rejecting the Romeikes’ asylum claim, while upholding the right of Americans to homeschool, as follows:

“That the United States Constitution protects the rights of ‘parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control,’ … does not mean that a contrary law in another country establishes persecution on religious or any other protected ground.  And even if, as the Romeikes claim, several human-rights treaties joined by Germany give parents the right to make decisions about their children’s educations … that by itself does not require the granting of an American asylum application. …

The question is not whether Germany’s policy violates the American Constitution, whether it violates the parameters of an international treaty or whether Germany’s law is a good idea. It is whether the Romeikes have established the prerequisites of an asylum claim—a well-founded fear of persecution on account of a protected ground. … The Romeikes have not met this burden. The German law does not on its face single out any protected group, and the Romeikes have not provided sufficient evidence to show that the law’s application turns on prohibited classifications or animus based on any prohibited ground.” [emphasis added]

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) encourages homeschoolers who are concerned about this case and what it means for homeschooling in the United States to review the court’s decision for themselves.


Mom’s Weekend Out: My First VaHomeschoolers Conference

Submitted by Janell E. Robisch



Recently, I had the good fortune of attending my first ever statewide homeschooling conference. I’ve been homeschooling for years and always wanted to go to the annual conference of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, but with life as a mom, something always came up to prevent me from going.

This year, I volunteered to help out at the conference at the first available opportunity. When I feel committed, I am much less likely to back out and let the day-to-days of life take over, and sure enough, it worked!

When the day came, I felt a little like I was back in college, with roommates and some time to myself, as I enjoyed good food, good friends, and lots of late-night chatting. My husband stayed at home with our three kids, and I shared a hotel room with a couple of my area homeschooling friends, Adesa and June. We arrived Friday afternoon and headed over to the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center to drop off Adesa, who was the volunteer coordinator for the conference.


June and I took advantage of Friday afternoon to enjoy a couple of the local sites. Our first visit was to the Crossroads Art Center in Richmond, which was a short drive away from the conference center. The gallery, located in a strip mall, was a delightful find. It had a surprisingly large collection of paintings and photographs, with each artist or group allocated a mini-gallery in a cubicle-like space. We enjoyed musing and wandering the collection, but of course, we still thought and talked about our kids (as if it’s possible for a mom not to). I was inside only for a few minutes before I had picked up an art print card of a cute kitten for my cat-loving son.

Next, we drove deeper into Richmond, and June visited the Virginia Holocaust Museum while I took a much-needed break to hang out, read, and touch base with the family via cell phone. The area downtown is chock full of attractions, especially for the history buff, including the Museum of the Confederacy and the Virginia Historical Society. I definitely want to make time to take the kids to the Science Museum of Virginia and maybe the Children’s Museum of Richmond either through a co-op field trip or during next year’s conference.


I did not attend the Friday sessions because I have been homeschooling for years and have not really gotten into the sports debate, but I was happy to see that those sessions on beginning homeschooling and the Sports Access Bill were available. I was happy to take time later on Friday afternoon to visit the vendors and the Used Resource Sale (URS). I picked up a couple of books on CD for our long drives to field trips (we go on so many field trips, we may as well say we are fieldschoolers or maybe tripschoolers!). I also bought a book for me and some choice items from the URS. We do a lot of strewing in our house, and I wanted to get things that I knew would match my kids’ current passions, so a book on cats, an animal coloring book, an art journal, and a few other things were perfect finds! I also picked up loads of informational brochures, which are sitting behind me right now in a tote bag waiting to be sifted through.

Even before I went to the sessions, I found that the conference had been worth the 3-hour trip from Luray, but I’d go just for the sessions as well. As a seasoned homeschooler, I did make the mistake of going to a couple of sessions that I could have presented instead of attended (although I’m almost afraid to write that because someone is going to respond, “Great idea, Janell. We’ll sign you up for next year!”). My husband and I have been working and homeschooling together for years, and I’ve also started a homeschool co-op in my area; those sessions ended up being geared more toward beginners. While I was happy to learn how others were handling these situations, I guess I was looking for more meat on the nitty-gritty problems and details that arise when you are deep in the muck! However, I felt that the sessions were well done, and I was glad to share what I could in the hope that it might help a fellow homeschooler or two get through the growing pains of learning to make it work.

The remaining three of the five sessions that I attended were quite useful to me, and I don’t feel like I could have gotten the same information in such a short period of time anywhere else.

First was Sherene Silverberg’s session on “Homeschooling Your Gifted Child.” Boy, I really wished I had attended this session about 9 years ago when my 3 1/2 year old was reading fluently! There was still a wealth of information in her session as well as common sense and some really valuable advice. Sometimes you know that your child (whether gifted, special needs, or both) is different, but you continue to look for solutions in all of the “regular” places. Having Sherene point out some places to go for children like mine was immensely helpful, and I’m looking forward to exploring those resources.

Next was Jeanne Faulconer’s session on “Unschooling Unzipped.” What a terrific session! I would probably consider myself an eclectic homeschooler, but I’ve definitely always had elements of unschooling in the mix; sometimes, it’s been full-on unschooling (unschooling and its flexibility can be the perfect solution when both parents work full time). It was great to hear about the ways that Jeanne and others have used unschooling to nurture their kids’ interests and give them the kind of education that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional school or with traditional curricula. She also acknowledged that unschooling is a spectrum, just like so many other endeavors. I think my favorite quote of the session was the definition of unschooling attributed to Patrick Farenga: “allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world as their parents can comfortably bear.”

In common with Sherene, Jeanne also introduced the concept of finding mentors for children to teach them beyond the levels that are possible for parents. As my oldest child nears the teen years, this is definitely something that I want to consider in a more conscious way. I realize that he already has mentors in our community, who have sort of become his mentors by accident, but having attended these sessions, I will be keeping my ears perked for other opportunities to help him and my daughters grow through official and unofficial mentorship opportunities.

The last session that I want to mention is “Real World Math: Making Sense of Algebra and Middle School Math” by Karim Kai Ani. Ani is a charismatic speaker and teacher, and I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one in the room wishing that he’d been my math teacher in school (although I’m sure that he is younger than I am!). I also liked the way that Ani targeted the tweens and teens in the room before the adults and that he was not afraid to concede when they got one up on him. His approach to middle school and high school math problems was not only concrete, with real-world applications, but also fun. As my son moves from middle school level math to algebra, I will be taking advantage of this approach (and Ani’s web site, Mathalicious, I’m sure) to first introduce the concepts as real-world applications instead of just abstract formulas and variables in a way that I hope my kids will find fun and engaging. All learning should be this awesome!

And those were only the sessions I was able to attend! I’m sure that I missed many more great ones. I hope that at some point VaHomeschoolers will be able to record and sell the session audios, but for now, I am happy to have gotten a copy of Stephanie Elms’s handout for her session “There’s an App for That?” and to have a great homeschooling community here in the Shenandoah Valley and in Virginia in general. We’re a lucky bunch of homeschoolers.

See you at next year’s conference! I’ll be back.

Volunteer Spotlight on the Phaup Teens

Let us introduce you to the fabulous Phaup teens. These cousins:Tyler, Ryan, Adrienne, Susie, Elizabeth and Abigail Phaup, and family friend Cheyenne Greene (whom we count because the Phaups do!), are the offspring of former board member Karen Phaup and her husband Bruce, and Bobbi Jo and Jay Phaup(one of our founders). Our conferences would never come off so smoothly without this great group of young people, and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank them.


This adolescent powerhouse has toiled for years now lugging most of the books for the Used Resource Sale, book fair and the heavy boxes of fillers for the tote bags (that includes picking them up from UPS and FedEx, putting them in and out of storage, and loading and unloading the family vehicles). They’ve also helped out at registration, the VaHomeschoolers information table and with lunch distribution. In 2012, the cousins also did all the decorating for both the teen party and the post-conference party.


VaHomeschoolers president Parrish Mort is used to seeing the group at every conference. “The Phaup clan is always at the Cultural Arts Center from beginning to end. They unload vehicles, stuff all the tote bags, act as greeters, and work at the Used Resource Sale. One of my favorite memories is seeing them all sitting around a big table with other teens at the teen party laughing and playing Uno or some other card game.


Phaup kids make hard work feel like fun. As the manager of the conference book fair in 2012, board member Kendra Niehaus observed their charms first hand. “Tyler and Ryan (along with Kaila Nathaniel) helped with book fair set-up last year.  I began the day totally wound up, but those boys managed to put me at ease and make me laugh, while still being efficient and adding a creative flair to the design that I wasn’t expecting.  The following day, Abby was lovely and well-spoken as she rang up sales. She handled customers with a maturity I’ve rarely seen in a young teen. The only thing that disappointed me about the conference this year was that I didn’t get the chance to work with the Phaup teens again!”


The Phaup boys also helped to look up key items for the URS last year to help us better price special items, then made unique price tags for them,” remembers Vice President Leslie Nathaniel. “Last year, the Phaup girls kept an expert eye on the line at the ice cream social– they gauged scoop sizes to match the number of people we had without anyone telling them. They were speedy, friendly, and super-efficient so that everyone had a wonderful time. Yes, the Phaup crew is awesome. We are all so lucky to have them!


We would never have been able to pull off that party [the 2012 post-conference party]without the hard work of the Phaup crew,” says board member Ann Clay. “Bless those Phaup kids with their adolescent energy! They got the whole place decorated, the food arranged nicely, and the atmosphere set. Two of the cousins took coffee, cream and sugar around to each party guest, looking and acting like real wait staff. Later in the evening, Ryan and Tyler did a fantastic job giving away the door prizes. They were a riot!


The thing that really struck me was that I offered them free pizza and a dip in the hotel pool as a reward for helping us out, but their mom Karen said they didn’t need motivation. And she was right. They were happy, enthusiastic and helpful the entire evening, all the way through cleanup. They helped me load up my car too, before I staggered up to bed.”


One of our most treasured volunteers, Barb Benfante, regularly runs the VaHomeschoolers table at each conference. “Adrienne is an invaluable helper at the VaHomeschoolers table. She has a great attitude and she works hard at any job she is given. She is always smiling and looks happy to be there even when there is a lull and not much to do!”


Jeanne Faulconer says, “Tyler has always been that take charge guy. I have often thought he reminds me of my oldest because he has that “LET’S do it” leadership style that I recognize is kind of that ideal that they hone in Scouts. He jumps in and invites others, which makes the work so much easier, and people have no idea that Tyler is ‘leading’ them to do something. How often have I wished in my life for bosses like that! I have noticed this in Tyler many, many conferences back.”


Even behind the scenes, these kids are ready to help. Ryan took it on himself to learn Microsoft Excel so that he could assist the volunteer coordinator with her spreadsheet problems. He made it much more functional and beautiful. She tried his patience mightily, but he held it together.


Newest board member Pamela Schmidt says, “Ryan is one of my favorite homeschool conference memories. Last year he was so open and well-spoken, and I was grateful to meet another teen boy like (my son) Parker. He helped me work on my moonwalk in the parking lot (much to the utter embarrassment of my children). He’s awesome!”


We wholeheartedly agree. The Phaup cousins spread cheer and fun everywhere they go. They help the first time we ask, and they never need reminding. We at VaHomeschoolers are very proud to have this family and their great example of what homeschooled young people can be. Thanks, kids!


We need more people like the Phaup cousins! Do you have a simple skill, something you really enjoy doing? You’d be surprised at how much you can help us out, even by volunteering only an hour here and there. We especially value our teen volunteers, and we can help you with your college and career goals by giving you a great letter of recommendation. Read about our current volunteers needs at or email for more information. 

Resources for Finding Apps for Homeschooling

Resources for Finding Apps for Homeschooling – Submitted by Stephanie Elms of Annandale

I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of a geek at times, especially when it comes to “new shiny things” related to technology. So I jumped at the idea of creating an Apps for Homeschooling session for the VaHomeschoolers Conference this past March. Based on the positive feedback from attendees, I want to continue to share what I learned with homeschoolers. So over the next several months I will be blogging about some of the more creative and useful apps and digital books available.

Apps to Enhance Your Homeschooling

Given the number of apps out there, it can be a bit daunting to sift through the less than stellar apps to find the gems. I have included some of the more interesting apps that I found in the handout:

Apps to Enhance Your Homeschooling (pdf).

You’ll find organizational apps (for tracking and organizing your homeschooling), educational apps (broken out by subject matter) and digital books. For those who are unfamiliar, digital books are different than ebooks. While ebooks are electronic versions of print books, digital books are highly visual books which take full advantage of the digital aspects, often including animations, stunning graphics, videos, and weblinks to enhance the experience.

There is a little bit of something for everyone with a variety of apps for a variety of ages, so check them out. To learn more about these apps, you can google them or look them up in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play.

Resources for Finding Apps and Digital Books

Websites abound with promising titles such as “Apps for Smarter Kids.” Unfortunately, more often than not, they fail to live up to their name and the apps listed seem fairly run of the mill, more like glorified worksheets.

One exception is Apps for Homeschooling. In depth reviews as well as a good selection of apps for older kids (many app websites seem to focus on apps for young children and it can be hard to find apps for older kids) make Apps for Homeschooling an incredibly rich resource. You can search based on age, device, subject and price.

GeekMom and GeekDad cover all things geek-y and tech-y as it relates to moms, dads, kids and families. In addition to app reviews, you will find articles on projects, tips and other technology oriented information.

There are also several good places for finding good digital books for kids:

I hope this gets you started on your way to finding some of the fantastic apps that are out there. I will be back over the next few months to review some of my favorites. In the meantime, feel free to share some of your favorite apps in the comment section!


Stephanie Elms is constantly trying to find that elusive state of balance in her life while enjoying her two energetic yet vastly different boys. You can read about their ongoing exploits on her blog, Throwing Marshmallows. Stephanie also volunteers as a member of the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors and is the VaHomeschoolers website administrator.

If You Show a Child a Homemade Hovercraft

If You Show a Child a Homemade Hovercraft – Submitted by Kelly Muzzin of Manassas


Finished Hovercraft


If you show a child a homemade hovercraft, she’s going to want to make one herself.

She’s going to need the balloon pump, which she didn’t put away the last time she used it. She’ll ask you to help look for it.


After 30 minutes of digging through cupboards you forgot you had, you’ll finally remember that it was last seen in the big craft basket. The child will play with her hovercraft in the bathroom sink while you forget why you got the basket out and instead sort all the craft stuff.


In the craft basket, you’ll find a metal straw, an empty tape dispenser, three reams of random paper, two dozen projects in various stages of completion, but no balloon pump. But that’s ok, because after the hovercraft performs spectacularly poorly in its maiden voyage in the sink, the child will remember that the pump is probably with the pool toys.


You’ll tell her to check the shelf in the garage, and she will proclaim you a genius. You’ll bask in the glow of appreciation, but not for long, because the pump is not on the shelf. The child, however, will see the bicycle pump and bring that in as an acceptable substitute. 


The bicycle pump will be used to inflate many balloons, which are now being used to create animals instead of to power hovercrafts. At this point, the other child will come in and find the metal straw. He will use it and the air-filled balloons to propel random tiny objects around the room. The first child will approve heartily and suggest using broken glass next.


You will disagree and distract the child by sending her downstairs to get more balloons. She will come back with a large container of corn kernels. These will be used to see what happens when you put corn in a full balloon and then let go. The dogs will approve heartily.


As you note the unlikely path this morning’s creativity has followed, you will get the very original idea to turn it all into a “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” story. You will decide to make a hyperlink to a YouTube video so that your readers can see the hovercraft.

The second child will wonder what you’re doing, and join you to watch the video of the homemade hovercraft. So he’s going to want to make one for himself.


A Day in Our Homeschooling Life

Post submission by VaHomeschooler’s Regional Coordinator in Boston, Virginia, Jennifer Wheelock.


It’s Monday, so we’re in a rush to get our work done. We have to finish early so we can get to the high
school when it lets out to pick up our companion for French class. Eventually we find her; she’s the
one with the cartoon blue hair. Although she is a former homeschooler, she now seems adjusted to her
high school environment. The busy high school is a little intimidating to my homeschooled daughter.
She’s had plenty of social interactions, but it is hard for her to imagine rubbing shoulders with that
many people every single day.

When we get home we get out the French books and make mugs of tea. The girls decide to whip up
some no-bake chocolate cookies for a treat. It’s an admixture of French class and a Bravewriter style
poetry tea. All those years of stopping for a cup of tea and some together time seem to have left a
strong imprint. Soon the girls will be memorizing French poetry, but first we have some grammar and
vocabulary to master. Stories about Marc and Julie and the dog Chouchou aren’t very exciting, but we
hope to get to more complicated stuff soon. If we get too impatient we might try a little of Le Petit
Prince for a change of pace. I am looking forward to French poetry!

This is our new adventure for this term. After years of studying Latin and Greek, my daughter really
wanted to study some live languages. We’ve had some trouble incorporating the lessons into our busy
schedule, so we decided to create a little weekly class to make sure it happened. It really matters to us
that we anchor things into our schedule. So far so good! We look forward to our weekly French
lessons and are making good progress. Soon we’ll be able to do the whole class in French, we hope.
And they’re planning a trip to France for homework. . . . you know, just in case we figure out a way to go. . . . .

Family Camp at Holliday Lake State Park

Family Camp at Holliday Lake State Park

Holliday Lake 4-H Education Center  in Appomattox, VA

“What a great week of fun for such a low price! And the setting is just lovely. We took a side trip to Appomatox Courthouse for the history.” ~ Ann Clay

Family camp offers the chance for family members to bond with each other while at the same time experiencing their own level of independence in a safe environment. Participants (youth and adults) may take three classes a day, one of which is specifically designated as a family activity. Classes offered include swimming, theater arts, nature, canoeing, forestry, archery, and more. Afternoons and evenings are filled with special activities such as hikes, canoe trips, and campfires. 

This year it will be held May 27-31, 2013!
If you have any more questions or need more information please visit their website  or contact  Heather Benninghove, Program Director for Holliday Lake 4-H Educational Center @ (434) 248-5444 or 

Upcoming Programs - Click for more info!
Benefit Trail Ride
Traditional Flintlock Rifle Workshop
Christmas Camp
Primitive Bow Workshop
Natural Resource Weekend

A Special Volunteer Spotlight on Liz Ebel-Nuwayser, Conference Chair 2012-2013


While you enjoy your time at the conference this weekend, be on the lookout for Liz Ebel-Nuwayser, our outgoing Conference Chair, and take a moment to thank her for pulling off such a great event! Liz, who resides in Alexandria, is just completing two consecutive years as head of the conference and is looking forward to volunteering in new ways for VaHomeschoolers.

I think people don’t realize that the VaHomeschoolers Conference actually takes a year to produce,” writes Jeanne Faulconer, “from the first signing of contracts to taking down the signs when the conference is all over. There is a brief ‘After the Conference’ moment, but then the planning and work are well under way for the next year’s VaHomeschoolers conference. This kind of long term commitment is what we have to thank Liz for. She has shared her talent and organizational skills for these year-in-the-making projects — it’s sort of like she’s carried for months and then birthed these big conferences for the rest of us. I’m so grateful for her amazing commitment to VaHomeschoolers.

Liz has been volunteering for VaHomeschoolers for many, many years. President Parrish Mort remembers, “I have had the pleasure of working with Liz for over seven years. She has been a volunteer in so many capacities–as Site Manager for the conference multiple years, as one of VaHomeschoolers’ newsletter graphic designers, as Conference Exhibit and Advertising Manager for the two years prior to her chairing the conference. With each position she has demonstrated a commitment to not only the organization but to professionalism. She is a person you can empower and know she will do a fantastic job.”

One of the neat things about Liz is she doesn’t seem to allow herself to get bored or ‘burned out’ by the jobs she takes on for VaHomeschoolers,” observes board member Theresa Munt. “Her commitment to the organization has remained strong over the years. She steps up to handle critical jobs that need to be done, and when she gets things in a certain ‘department’ under control, she passes the baton to another volunteer, so that she can take on a new role supporting the organization.”

Liz is always ready to answer questions and reassure volunteers that they are on the right track,’’ says VaHomeschoolers Secretary Kendra Niehaus. “She has such an excellent grasp of both the VaHomeschoolers message and what’s needed to run a huge event like the conference that she instills confidence in both the board and the speakers & vendors. She is a powerhouse of boundless energy!”

Vice President Leslie Nathaniel adds, “Liz is always ready to pitch in and help, and she does it all with a smile and an encouraging word. She is always a great source of new ideas and energy and we are so lucky to have her efforts!”

I like the way Liz has made me feel totally competent and up to learning new skills,” writes board member Ann Clay. ”In 2011 she asked me to handle Facebook posts for the 2012 conference, but I was bit uneasy about my abilities. Here I am today Social Media Director for the organization—all because Liz had faith in me and set me on my way to learning to do something valuable.”

Lois Curling, former board member, agrees. “In the two years that Liz has been Conference Chair, she has been a wise, balanced, decisive leader, while being extraordinarily diplomatic and open to suggestions.  She makes volunteers feel like a team, encouraging communication and feedback”.

I see Liz as such a calming force,” says Karen Phaup. “As conference chair, she handles multiple tasks with ease. She has a special talent for staying cool and collected during times that would cause others to panic. Her personality has been a perfect fit for the Conference Chair position.” Jeanne Faulconer adds, “Organizing a conference is a big undertaking. Liz has used her professional-level skills on a volunteer basis to create a gift for homeschoolers around the state. That gift has been a well-run conference, where Liz has created an atmosphere for homeschoolers to learn more about their trade, meet and socialize, have a good time, and get the tools they need to homeschool. Pulling this off takes a special blend of detail work and diplomacy — the push of deadlines along with the necessary soothing of other volunteers, who are sometimes brand new to doing big jobs to produce the conference. 

Liz seems to keep a living timeline in her head while somehow managing not to freak out the people she is working with who aren’t so prone to timelines – and somehow managing to coordinate it all.”

We need more people like Liz! Do you have a simple skill, something you really enjoy doing? You’d be surprised at how much you can help us out, even by volunteering only an hour here and there, or by being a part of our 2014 Conference Team. During the conference, there will be a special volunteer table next to the VaHomeschoolers table in the lobby where you can meet our Volunteer Coordinator Ann Clay and get some ideas of where in the organization you can help and feel a part of this incredible ‘machine.’

Please visit our website Volunteer page and fill out the online application form, or email for more information.