- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

One of the advantages of this electronic age is the widespread access to information and tools that previously were available only to the well-funded few. This has been true in education; large institutional schools could purchase lab equipment, computers and learning software and have the latest athletic facilities.

Home-schoolers often were daunted by their inability to provide their children with a similar level of infrastructure and support.

In the same way, while professional teachers receive extensive education in lesson planning and curricula, most parents must figure it out for themselves. Now, a planning tool that professional educators have been using for more than two decades is available to parents — and at a very reasonable price.

“The Goal Mine,” a book and software package, provides educators with menus of specific learning goals and objectives for academic, social and physical development. From these, parents can create a learning “to do” list for each of their children, incorporating the unique needs of each.

These individual educational plans can be used as your learning framework for a year or any learning period. Chapters on tests and their usefulness (or lack thereof) help demystify many educational buzzwords, giving parents practical advice on how actual progress can be measured.

The workhorse of the “Goal Mine” package is the software — formerly sold only to school systems or licensed to individual teachers.

This CD-based program enables you to create a specific and unique learning plan for each child, personalized and using “his” or “her” appropriate to that child’s gender.

You are not limited to using the menu of more than 6,000 learning targets. You and your child can create new ones specific to your family learning goals. If you want to teach fractions by having the child multiply a recipe involving various fractional measurements, for example, you can insert that text into your list of objectives.

What’s nice about “The Goal Mine” is the flexibility. Originally created to help special-education teachers create the federally mandated individualized education program for each special or gifted student, the book includes a substantial listing of skill goals for everything from proper tongue and lip positioning for speech development to independence goals for occupational therapy.

It also includes all the basic academic learning steppingstones for standard kindergarten through 12th grade education and even emotional development skills or those for interacting appropriately with other people.

Home-schooling parents know each child must be educated uniquely. Even within a family, information is absorbed differently, and exploration is carried out according to the individual’s personality and strengths. This book and software package enables you to sit down as a family and construct a learning plan that works for each learner while providing you with specific markers that you can agree upon to determine when a goal has been accomplished.

The child’s learning plan and final report also can be used in reporting to your local home-school coordinator or satellite school consultant and can be used for transcript purposes for college admission applications.

The authors of “The Goal Mine,” Donald and Maureen Cahill, have been lauded by educational reviewers Tricia and Calvin Luker, who say: “We continue to be amazed at the number of teachers and educational professionals who have found this book to be an invaluable resource. We use our ‘Goal Mine’ every day and could not imagine being without it. We enthusiastically award the Exceptional Parent Magazine Symbol of Excellence to ‘The Goal Mine’ and strongly urge all parents to add it to their advocacy arsenal.”

The best news for home-schoolers is that the package costs just $29.95, and it is available directly through the publisher’s Web site (www.ieps.net). For questions, contact the authors directly ([email protected]).

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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