Saturday, November 30, 2013

Spelling

I haven't used a formal spelling curriculum with my two older kids because they're good spellers. I don't know if it's because they read a lot of books or spelling well comes natural to them. Our homeschool support group has Spelling Bees every year.  They can't participate in them anymore because they're high school now and too old for it, but they always enjoyed the Spelling Bees because they did well. Now with our youngest, we do practice spelling and do her spelling test online weekly.  Her spelling is also pretty good, but we use this spelling curriculum for comprehension also. Some of the games that she plays are matching definitions and sentence matching. These games help her with her reading comprehension. The handwriting worksheets help her to practice her handwriting while also practicing her spelling and vocabulary knowledge.
Our son has a tutor to help with his homeschool math.  Part of his math curriculum includes math vocabulary, which the tutor tests him on weekly. It's easy for him to focus on doing his math problems and yet forget to study his math vocabulary.  So we've been using SpellingCity to create our own math vocabulary list, which my son uses to practice before his math vocabulary test.  Once I've created the list, he uses it several times a week. Rather than studying the words on a piece of paper and just reading through it and testing himself, he plays math vocabulary games online. It's less monotonous and more fun.  
We like SpellingCity because they have a variety of games, they're fun and the webiste is very easy to navigate. While you can use the site for free, you can also purchase a premium membership for a very nominal fee and use it for up to five students.  My kids really do well with programs online.  What about your kids?  What works for your family? I'd love to hear your input. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Teaching Heat Energy

Wednesday is our science day.  We go to our local park with four other families. We have a total of ten kids. Sometimes we have more because we have visitors, and sometimes less because things come up, people get sick, or the weather doesn't cooperate.  Yesterday was a very rainy day. So we stayed home.  But we still had fun with some science projects.  It's easy to do science projects and experiments without being prepared when we have an online program.  Our topic yesterday was heat energy.  The lesson included video clips of heat transfer by conduction and radiation, followed by application questions.  We also saw examples of ways people can generate heat energy.  In addition, we talked about ways that heat energy can move from one place to another.  When we place a pot on the stove, heat moves from the hot burner to the cooler pot.
I created a list using the vocabulary that we covered in the science lesson: heat energy, conduction, conductor, contact, degree, insulator, radiate, radiation, temperature, thermometer, transfer, wave.  My daughter really enjoyed the vocabulary matching game.  She gets excited when she gets them right. She also likes to draw, so she drew a picture of mom cooking at the stove, showing the pot on the hot burner.  And then she wrote a short paragraph under the picture.  These are the types of things I like to include in her homeschool portfolio, her pictures and stories.  Every once in a while I like to take them out and look through them, watch the progress from year to year. My oldest is graduating this year and I'll be creating a scrapbook of all her school years. Her journals, essays, drawings and pictures will be the best part.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Homeschool Help

I enjoy visiting social web sites on the internet and looking for fun crafts or projects to do with my daughter.  Pinterest is one of my favorite sites for ideas for homeschooling. Actually, I like looking through it for all kinds of things. It's like creating my own magazines on different topics as I look at different magazines. I've found some great ideas for lapbooking.  We use lapbooks for every subject. Because my daughter has learning disabilities, creating lapbooks is additional practice for vocabulary words or math concepts.  Her homeschool curriculum is excellent at explaining the concepts. When she doesn't understand a concept and she answers incorrectly, the program explains it in a different way until she is able to understand it and answer correctly. The lapbooks or hands-on manipulatives that we use are just extra practice, which help to make the concepts or vocabulary words more concrete.

In addition to Pinterest, I like to visit blogs and social web sites, like Facebook. It's how I keep in touch with family and friends, especially the ones that live out of state.  I've joined several homeschool groups on Facebook which also keep me informed on curricula and other homeschool-related topics.  I don't know why, but it seems that at this time of year there are more families considering homeschooling.  A good number of these families want to pull their kids out of school during or after the holidays and are asking for homeschool help and curriculum.  It may seem unusual, but this is a good way to hear from homeschool families and their experiences with homeschooling and curriculum. The world of technology brings so much information to our fingertips. 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Elementary Language Arts

The basics of an elementary homeschool should be the 3 R's, which are Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.  In our homeschool, these are the main things that we focus on getting done each day.  Of course we can add other subjects like history or social studies, science, geography once or twice a week.  In addition to that, we can also include field trips and dig deeper into topics that our kids are interested in. Science projects can also kick-start a burnt out homeschool, as I've mentioned before. But the main things that we use in the real world are reading, writing and arithmetic. So these are essential.

Language Arts for kindergarten and First grade means learning letter sounds and building words, the basics to learning to read. Sight words are also included, along with building the student's vocabulary. Capitalization and spelling can be added. For second and third grades we would consider reading fluency and reading comprehension. At this point we can also introduce basic punctuation and simple sentence construction. Fourth grade we cover antonyms, homophones, synonyms, suffixes, idioms and critical listening and speech skills. In fifth grade we would introduce the greek and latin roots, which helps to expand their vocabulary.  We make this more fun with some root word games. We also introduce classics in our reading materials and learn to paraphrase text. At this point we also begin to work on their expressive writing skills.

As you can see, Language Arts can cover several different skills. I've found that some curriculum will focus on certain aspects of Language Arts, while it may be lacking in other areas. At times we've had to supplement.  We build upon skills learned each year.
I'd be interested to hear what you do for language arts. What books are you reading this year?

Friday, November 01, 2013

Homeschool Activities

We live in South Florida where we have a large homeschool community. We have many homeschool support groups. We're members of two of these groups.  The homeschool community has grown tremendously in the last 10 years. When we started, our support group had park dates and special events for holidays. We had a Spelling Bee and Science Fair.  Now our homeschool groups offer drama clubs, yearbook committees, several different Bees like math, geography, spelling, and we still have the holiday events. We also have an event called Historically Speaking where our kids get an opportunity to speak about a historical character. And then there's Around the World.  Our kids do a study on a country and then share with the rest of the families present all they learned. They can use traditional dress from their country of choice. They can also bring money and food from the country they're speaking on.  Our yearly Thanksgiving event has grown to a Thanksgiving Feast with our kids performing different talents. This is in addition to our yearly talent show.

New homeschool families don't have to worry about their children missing out on anything. In addition to weekly field trips, there are plenty of opportunities for healthy socialization, for pursuing individual interests, and for co-op classes. There are also opportunities for healthy academic competition and a chance to participate in the activities I mentioned like the fairs, talent shows and Bees, including Debate and Public Speaking clubs. I mustn't forget other clubs like drama, dance, book clubs and yearbook or newsletter clubs. And then there are the athletic and band clubs. My kids have a homecoming dance this month. They'll also be going to the homeschool prom this year, since my oldest daughter is graduating homeschool high school.

Speaking of homeschooling high school.  I'm so glad that I have many homeschoolers before me who have paved the way and can help me with things such as homeschool transcripts. When we began considering homeschooling, I spent countless hours at the library and borrowed every book they had on homeschooling to educate myself on the subject. Today helpful homeschool resources are within reach via the internet.  So if you're considering homeschooling, take the plunge. I can tell you it's the best choice we've ever made for our family. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Enjoying Science

The holidays are coming upon us. Some of us will be taking breaks. Our family tries to take a break from Thanksgiving to the new year.  However, as homeschoolers, we never completely stop learning. And since we also have teenagers now, they can't always take time off from all of their subjects. So we may still do a little work here and there through the holiday season, or even learn through our daily activities.

There have been times that we've taken very short or no break at all, and I can tell you that between preparing for the holidays, having family visiting or visiting family, it was a recipe for burnout. When burnout has happened, a good anecdote has been taking a field trip, participating in community service or an event that is set up to serve others, like Operation Christmas Child.

Something my children enjoy and helps with the hum-drum of daily work is science experiments. Science experiments are a great way to get kids together of differing ages and incorporate some hands on learning, whether we homeschool preschool or are homeschooling high school. We invite my kids' friends over and can easily have kids ranging in ages from 5 on up to 17. The older ones help with the younger ones, and enjoy it just as much as the younger kids. It's easy to find simple experiments on the internet or at the library.

It's not always easy to plan ahead for science experiments; therefore science can sometimes become a subject that is not studied in depth, is studied through textbooks alone, or even skipped altogether.  A homeschool science curriculum is not only essential, but can make learning more enjoyable.  An online science curriculum can still provide the visual of a science experiment with online simulations and scientific processing skills, especially if we don't have the supplies needed for experiments. This is one way to ensure they're investigating, exploring, experimenting and learning to love science on a regular basis. Our students can be engaged in science experiments without mom and/or dad having to prepare lessons or gather supplies. Of course, there are times we can still do hands-on experiments, but these virtual experiments are engaging and thorough, and can include vocabulary activities, note-taking, worksheets and testing.

As I mentioned earlier, as homeschoolers we learn through everyday activities. Science can be brought into the kitchen as we prepare a meal or make edible science experiments such as an edible Graham cracker earthquake or phases of the moon with Oreos.
How about you?  What kind of creative or edible science experiments have you done?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thinking About Homeschooling

As a veteran homeschooler of six children,  I love it when people tell me that they are considering homeschooling. Not because I think everyone should homeschool, but because I know the great joy that awaits them once they begin that journey. It’s often in October, once the first report cards come out that many parents realize that school isn’t working for them.  Besides August, October is the month for the largest amount of school turnover. In my opinion, October’s a great month to get started!  You see, homeschooling though it’s tough and it requires a lot of personal sacrifice and just plain hard work is a huge investment. Investing in your child’s future and their education is worth every headache and every inconvenience.
I believe that anyone that sets their mind to homeschooling can do it. Whether you are educated or not, love teaching or not… there are so many options, so many homeschool trends,  and so many different ways to homeschool, that it has become easy to be a success!
As a homeschool newbie, I thought that homeschooling had to look just like my classroom did when I taught in school…children in neat rows, with books open while reading and working silently. HA! That vision disintegrated within the first few months of homeschooling all my kiddos! Moving from the preconceived ideas that I had of education and opening my mind up to the various innovative methods that homeschoolers use really set our homeschool free. I began to ask other homeschoolers what they did. I looked at research and information online and found homeschool forums where I could ask other homeschoolers pertinent questions. It all began to make more sense. Homeschoolers are really truly free. Free to educate as they please and free to learn at their pace and in their own interest-led way!
If I were to give one piece of advice to someone new to homeschool it would be this…Don’t be afraid of being different and doing what fits your family and your children.  So, if you are entertaining thoughts of homeschooling your children look around, ask questions, and investigate. The more you know the more informed a decision you can make. Though not everyone might feel “cut out” to homeschool, homeschooling is the most flexible and most personalized way to learn. You just might be surprised at how much fun it is!



Bio – Jamie and her family live in the Deep South and love enjoying iced tea on the front porch swing. Married to her high school sweetheart for 20 years she enjoys homeschooling with her six children. As a previous school teacher/principal she understands the shortcomings of systematized schooling and loves to share about the joys of homeschooling. She is currently an educational consultant and a freelance writer for Let’s Homeschool High School, Time4Learning, Online Education for Kids, and MomSCHOOL.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Coming soon: Guest post by Jamie Gaddy

One of my favorite bloggers has agreed to write a guest post for us.  Jamie is a veteran homeschooler who has many gems to share with her readers.  I'll be adding her post in the next few days, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, please allow me to introduce Jamie Gaddy:

My high school sweetheart/husband of twenty years and I have six children. We started homeschooling in 2004, and just recently graduated our oldest daughter, who is now enrolled at Mercer University. Homeschooling is probably the most rewarding task I have taken on… but it is also the most challenging! I am a veteran school teacher of 14 years, I also have 3 college degrees… all that to say that homeschooling is still challenging even for the educated parent. Yet, every day holds its joys!

We have six children ages 17, 15, 12, 12, 8, and 6. Needless to say our house is always busy, always crazy, and we are always headed to the grocery store! I retired from teaching when we made the decision to homeschool all of our children. It was a good decision, and though I still tutor and teach college courses… we never looked back! I also enjoy freelance writing for Let's Homeschool High School, Time4Learning, Online Education for Kids, and MomSCHOOL. My husband works for a local charter school and is a Pastor at our church. He is a great supporter and encourager of our homeschool endeavors! We couldn't make it without him!

New To Homeschooling

I was visiting some friends last night and was introduced to a very nice lady who was there with her two daughters. She's in her first year of homeschooling her younger daughter, about 7 years old. Her 12-year-old daughter was sitting next to her mom and I was curious as to the reason why she was choosing to homeschool the younger, but not the older daughter.  As discreetly as I could, I asked her.  She explained that her daughter doesn't want to be homeschooled, that she's very ambitious and very smart. Daughter has already selected the colleges that she'd like to apply to, and both are afraid these colleges may not accept her if she's been homeschooled. Mom would then feel at fault for hindering her daughter's career goals. Her daughter also added that she has friends in school and doesn't want to leave that behind.  As we continued in conversation, I was impressed by how well her daughter was communicating with the group of adults. We were in a group of four homeschool moms.  So naturally, we spoke about homeschool statistics and how more and more colleges and universities are actively recruiting homeschooled students.

The more daughter talked, the more I thought to myself that she would benefit from homeschooling.  There was so much she wanted to achieve. She mentioned several extracurricular activities that she would love to get involved with, but doesn't have the time because of her schedule. We spoke about the many homeschool resources that are available to us. They recently moved here from Italy. The family speaks 3 languages.  Daughter spoke with ease about all the things she wants to accomplish. I hope she excels in school and continues to grow.

As for the younger daughter, they are extremely happy with their choice to homeschool.  They've joined a local support group and local co-op.  They're making many new friends and learning new things. They're happy with their co-op and the time they get to spend together.  Mom asked some questions about homeschool requirements.  A couple of the moms in our group are military homeschoolers. It was interesting to hear of the different requirements for the different states they have lived in.  It's always interesting to hear how different homeschooling can be in different states, especially if you live in a small town where there may not be many homeschool families.  We have a very large homeschooling community where we live. What is it like to homeschool in your town?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vocabulary

I'm doing as much reading as I can with our youngest daughter, even choosing books to read about math.  I've found vocabulary games very helpful for her. One of her favorites are Literature games because we use the words that are in the book we're reading for her to practice. So when she comes across them in her book, she already is familiar with the words. We've been reading Madeline.  She loves any books that are about girls.  She loves the Madeline movies, too.  I also add these words to spelling practice and have her make flashcards to carry on a big ring when we go out. She loves playing with cards in general, so I take advantage of that little fact to make some cards for her that she can really use in her learning.  On Wednesdays she writes sentences using her spelling and vocabulary words.  This is still a little bit of a struggle for her.  I try not to exasperate her. So if she's having too much trouble with some words, we'll carry them on to another week. Sometimes all the words, sometimes only a few.

As we're focusing on comprehension, right now she's having difficulty with understanding analogy.  I've tried different ways.  I think it's just going to take a little more practice and repetition.  Even while we're out running errands, I'll practice analogy vocabulary with her. I think she'll get it in time.  She just needs more practice. 

This is one of the beauties of homeschooling.  She can work at her own pace. We are able to challenge her without exasperating her.  The online learning games and vocabulary games really help to make it fun for her. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Homeschool Down Syndrome

I can't believe we're already in October!  In honor of Down syndrome awareness month and because I have a daughter with Down syndrome, I want to share a little of our experience.

Each individual with Down syndrome is unique. Individuals with Down syndrome vary in their abilities and their related medical issues.  You may have seen actors with Down syndrome, like Chris Burke, Sarah Gordy, and Lauren Potter.  Thanks to early intervention programs and therapies like speech, physical and occpational therapies, individuals with Down syndrome can do almost anything a 'typical' person can do.  Many individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities or challenges are going to college.  We shouldn't place limits on our children with special needs.  They need to be challneged just like any child, which is one of the reasons we chose to homeschool Down syndrome...or to homeschool our daughter with Down syndrome. 

Children with Down syndrome can be and should be included in extra-curricular activities such as dance, soccer, karate, cheerleading and acting. Our daughter has enjoyed participating in a homeschool ballet class for the last 3 years and in a physical education class.  She's also learned to read, is learning to write well and is learning math. We just need to repeat concepts more often than I did with our other children.  She loves the computer and can easily navigate the learning web sites we use.  Not because I taught her, but because she taught herself.  Because she's a visual learner and she needs a lot of repetition, the online curriculum for all her subjects, including our homeschool spelling curriculum is the best choice we've made for her education. In addition to her curriculum, we spend a lot of time reading good literature for homeschoolers.  We often read together.  When she reads alone, sometimes I'll ask her to tell me what she read so she can get her thoughts together.  Once she's expressed herself out loud, it's easier for her to write a short paragraph.  Reading is her favorite pastime, besides dancing and singing. She can get lost in a book for hours.

Again, all individuals with Down syndrome are unique. So while my daughter loves to read, her struggle is with math. I've met children with Down syndrome whose strength is math. So each child with Down syndrome is different, just like each typical child is different.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Practice Makes Permanent

One of the mistakes we make as homeschool moms trying to find the right curriculum for our child is to switch math curriculum each year. This one has too many pictures, this one doesn't have enough pictures, this one has a bit too much review, this one not enough review, not enough problem solving, need manipulatives. When we switch math curriculum so often, we short-change our child because at some point they will miss learning a particular concept or not get enough review on a particular concept.  Practice makes permanent.

My daughter is learning her multiplication now in her homeschool math. Because she's a visual learner, it helps that her math curriculum is online.  The interactive activities and pictures help her to see how there is a shorter way to count groups of items.  Of course we can and do use math flashcards and math games, but I want her to understand the concept, not just teach her memorization. Sure, at some point we may just practice memorizing the times table, but I also want her to get a visual of how multiplication works. It will help her when she moves on to more complicated math.

It's also important to show them how to apply what they're learning in the real world. For example, when we're at the grocery store and they want to buy a bag of candy, ask them, if this is $1 and we have $5, how much change will we get back? If we're buying 9 apples and I've already placed 5 apples in a bag, how many more apples do I need to put in the bag?

What tips can you share that you've used with your child?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Choosing Literature

Like most homeschoolers, I love to read...WE love to read.  There isn't a room in our house that doesn't have a book shelf.  For elementary, we choose books that are interesting and hold my child's attention. Oftentimes I'll be reading to my youngest daughter, and before I know it, my older ones have joined us to listen to the story too.  When we have read aloud time, I choose to end on cliffhangers to peak their interest.  We can't wait to get back to the book the next day or later in the day.  Have you ever tried literature for homeschoolers?  That's right!  Books and stories about homeschoolers that include study guides and ideas for further study.  Joining a book club can add to the excitement of reading a book and discussing it with other kids. My daughter Skypes with her cousin and they read portions of a book together or talk about a book they've been reading for their Language Arts.

We use our local libraries a lot.  We visit a different one each month.  As you can tell, we live in a big city. Each time we go, each child gets a stack of books.  The younger ones get more books because we can quickly read through them. I like to keep a basket in the living room for all the books so they don't get misplaced or fall into our black hole at home. I learned this trick after too many times of scrambling to find books before the due date!  We also like to borrow audio books to listen to in the car.  Our local library has an app that we can use to borrow audio books, too.  Ask your librarian.  Most libraries have them.

In homeschooling high school literature, we choose a type of literature to focus on for each year. For example, this year our son is doing British Literature. So we have a selection of good books such as Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and Animal Farm, among others with their own study guides for each book.  If you know these books, you know that they vary in level of reading and complexity.  I like to challenge him while also throwing in a book or two that is not as hard to read, but I know he'll find interesting and a quick read.  If I haven't read the book, I'll make it a point to read the book either before him or along with him so we can discuss it together. There's nothing like teaching a subject or a book that we have a passion for.  And you know I've also added Lord of The Rings! We've seen the movie, but the book is always better.

This week we signed up for Pizza Hut's Book It program.  Pizza Hut rewards children for their reading accomplishments with their own personal pizza. We've had our children participate in this all through their elementary years.  Fortunately we haven't actually needed this to motivate them to read, but it's a nice little reward....for mom, too, because I get a night off from cooking once in a while.



Friday, September 13, 2013

Homeschool Burnout Solution

Is it ever too early to teach science?  We can teach science as early as age 2 or 3. Science can be so fascinating for children of all ages.  We only need to make it engaging and creative.  While we practice the basic subjects of Language Arts, Math and Writing every day, we only do science once a week for elementary grades.  Occasionally we'll go to the park and include a science lesson a second time during the week.  I like to aim to do a science experiment with the kids at least once a week. Some of our most memorable have been magnet lessons, volcano experiments, and a naked egg experiment where we dissolved the shell of the egg by soaking the egg in vinegar.  The result was a yolk that could bounce like a ball.  These are the most memorable lessons!!

Homeschooling is a way of life for our family, so we can create a science experiment as we prepare a meal or bake in the kitchen. Did you know that if you don't have buttermilk for a recipe, you can use milk to create buttermilk.  You just curdle the milk by adding and acidic ingredient to regular milk.  There are many experiments we can do using just liquids, teaching kids how liquids have different densities. 

We have a bookshelf dedicated just for science.  While we try to do a science project or experiment once a week, there are some weeks that we may just read a book or watch a science show or movie, or even do science online. That's right. We do science activities for kindergarten online!   The instructional videos are supported with audio cues for non-readers.  As I've mentioned before, my kids also enjoy online games.  So, of course, I'll incorporate a science vocabulary matching game.  

Science is a subject that has endless possibilities. If you feel like you or the kids are experiencing homeschool burnout, there's nothing like an exciting science experiment to give you a jump start.  Don't forget to take pictures!!

Friday, September 06, 2013

How Do We Learn Best

When we take on the role of homeschooling, we're taking on a big responsibility, but it's a labor of love.  More and more families are choosing to homeschool.  I'm noticing this more each year at our homeschool conferences and at our local homeschool support group meetings. Homeschool statistics indicate that in 2003 2.2% of school-age children were homeschooled. In 2007 it was up to to 2.9%. Although there have been no recent studies to indicate the number of homeschool families living in the United States, it has been estimated that the growth rate of homeschooling families is between 7 to 15 percent each year.

Along with this boom of homeschoolers, we are also seeing a growth in the selection of homeschool materials and curriculum. To find the best curriculum for your family, you should first determine which method of homeschooling best fits your family. Some examples are structured learning, which is a more traditional school at home style of learning with schedules, testing and grading; Unschooling or Child-led learning, using materials that engaging the child in their particular strengths and interests; and Eclectic, which is choosing different materials to best suit your child's needs.

The next thing you may want to do is find the style of learning that best suits your child and you as the teacher.  The main ones are visual, auditory and tactile or kinesthetic. While we all may have a little of each style, there is usually one that each individual uses more to perceive and process information.  For example, if I want my young daughter to learn a concept or memorize some math facts, the best way for her to do this is through educational songs and videos or math games. Workbooks alone will bore her. I need and want to make learning fun for her. I want her to retain what she is learning.
My older students/children have strengthened their weaker auditory style of learning over the years as they've matured.  This is a good thing, since it's usually the style used in college courses.  I'm reminded of an interesting article I read recently on Rethinking the Way College Students are Taught.  We don't want to make learning harder, we want to make it easier.  We want to be successful, but we want our children to be successful, too.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Talking Flashcards

When trying to learn vocabulary, whether it's for a language, math, or tests, like SATs, a great way to practice is by using flashcards. Today's technology has taken us to a whole new level.  We can now create interactive flashcards right on the internet. Most kids like using the internet, some prefer it. And most can figure out how to use software and websites very easily. It's almost second-nature. Well, SpellingCity is an easy-to-navigate site that we use to create our own flashcards. These online talking flashcards help the kids practice spelling, learn definitions, the use of the word in a sentence, part of speech, antonyms and synonyms.  As an added bonus, you can even print the flashcards.

My son is using the math flashcards for Geometry this year. Last year he used them for Algebra and Latin. My older daughter uses the SAT vocabulary lists. My youngest daughter uses it for science. SpellingCity has vocabulary lists for books. If I can't find one for the book she's about to read, then I create a list for her. This helps her with reading comprehension as she reads the book because she's already familiar with the words that would otherwise be new to her. Because she's been practicing these words with the flashcards, she knows the definitions.



There are vocabulary games or parts of speech games online that my kids often use and enjoy, but the advantage to the SpellingCity flashcards is that we can create our own vocabulary lists. This is particularly helpful when studying for unit tests, a particular lesson or preparing to read a selected book.  

What do you use to study vocabulary?  What works best with your children?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Materials and Mixtures

Teaching kids about materials can be so much fun. We can really get creative with this topic.  And any time we make a subject fun, kids remember what they learned. It's all about retaining.  I still remember one of my grade school teachers passing a box around the classroom with an item inside. We couldn't look or feel inside the box. We could only shake it to guess what was inside. He also passed around a bag with another item inside. This one we could put our hand inside to feel the item, but we couldn't look inside the bag. I remember being afraid to put my hand inside for fear of it being a bug or something of that nature.

We have a game called Ned's Head. It's a little weird, but it does the trick in teaching the kids how to guess what an item is by just feeling for it in Ned's plush head. It definitely is strange sticking one's hand in Ned's ear or nose to get to the item and then guess what it is.  I think my son enjoys it more than the girls do. It helps them understand that it's not just the sense of sight that can help in learning about materials, but we can use our other senses of touching, smelling and listening. In the box I mentioned that my teacher used in our classroom, just by listening as we shook the box, most of us guessed that it was a washer in the small box. It didn't sound as heavy as a quarter, but it sounded more like a small washer.

As we study materials and mixtures in science, we learn to identify what items are made of, like wood, plastic, cloth, metal.  We have found this to be a bit tricky at times.  We'd find an item that looked to be wood, but in closer inspection found it to be plastic.  This happened with our daughter's doll house. It was plastic that had been painted over to have the appearance of wood.

Studying mixtures online at Science4Us allows the student to sort mixtures by materials and properties, compare mass and identify types of materials, and deconstruct mixtures using a variety of materials. An online science program can add a new scope to learning science as it engages a child in fun interactive activities.  And because we don't do science every day of the week, I've found a fun way to cover a little bit of science on the off days with online science games.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How To Use Word Search in Homeschool

I love word games. I also like puzzles.  My mom used to do crossword puzzles, but now she enjoys playing Sudoku.  She carries around a book of Sudoku, and she'll play it on her free time or while she's waiting in line at a checkout.  As a little girl, I did the same, but with Word Search. While my mom likes numbers, I like words. Word games help me exercise my aging brain, but they also helps me with homeschooling our kids.

I often create Word Search or word find puzzles for my kids.  I find it's a great way to practice spelling and vocabulary. These are word games that we can create using our own word list or lists already created for our use.  The kids can play them on the computer, but we've also printed them.  I like to bring something educational to do when we're waiting at the doctor's office or at our speech therapy appointments.

I've also used Word Searches when studying foreign languages. A couple of years ago I taught Spanish in a co-op.  I had to find a way to give the kids a little homework to keep the Spanish words fresh in their minds before I saw them again the following week.  The word searches were a fun way for the kids to practice their Spanish vocabulary at home.  I'd usually give them at least two to take home. Another good use for Word Searches is math vocabulary.

As we prepare to get back to school, I'm getting our resources together.  I'm trying to find ways to bring some creativity into our homeschool.  If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Choosing a Language Arts Curriculum

Choosing a Language Arts program can be overwhelming. There are so many things to consider that encompass Language Arts; things such as phonics, grammar, reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing.  You can choose to use different curricula for each subject within Language Arts. You can choose to supplement a curriculum that doesn't cover everything with another workbook or curriculum; for example a spelling curriculum. You can also choose one curriculum that covers all the subjects listed above.

Once we've taught a child how to decode words or sound them out, the next step is to help them to improve their word recognition, which leads to better fluency. This is followed with reading comprehension. I want to nurture my child's love for reading.  So it's important to me that my child enjoys the program or curriculum I choose.  My child is a visual learner; so I need to take that into consideration. Another way I nurture that love for reading is to read with my child and to let my child see me make time to read for fun and relaxation.  There are times I read to my child and end on a cliffhanger to be continued the next day. When they were learning to read, we would buddy read for at least 5 minutes each day. I would stop occasionally to point out things in the pictures or in the story. I would ask them questions. Sometimes I ask what they think is going to happen next. 

There are ways we can supplement a curriculum, whether it covers the subjects or not that can be fun.  Playing games is one fun way to supplement and reinforce what they're learning from whatever curriculum we choose. We have board games such as 4-Way Spelling, Bananagrams or Silly Sentences, to name a few.  Two of my kids love board games as much as I do.  My youngest daughter also enjoys playing vocabulary and spelling games online.  Making lapbooks, flipcharts or flip books are creative ways to supplement.

With my older children I changed our Language Arts curriculum several times throughout the years.  Sometimes we learn by trial and error.  As it often turns out, our oldest child was our practice child.  She's still managed to do well, though. However, I'm happy to say we've found a curriculum that we haven't felt the desire nor the need to change. Our Language Arts program covers all the topics I mentioned.  It engages my daughter and holds her attention.  So although one can say we supplement because we play games and read a lot, it's not out of necessity, but because we enjoy reading and  playing games.  The fact that it reinforces spelling, grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension is just an added benefit. What kind of Language Arts curriculum have you tried or are considering?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Homeschool Plan and Goals

Our daughter S just had her evaluation.  She did better than I expected. She has improved overall in math and in reading, which includes vocabulary, spelling and reading comprehension. After last year's evaluation I decided to focus most on math this past school year. So I'm happy to see that it made a difference. Math is the most difficult subject for her. This year we will continue to work  on her math, but we also need to focus on writing this year.

I'd like to follow some guidelines on a writing standards overview.  Up to now, she's been doing copy work, focusing on spelling, capital letters and basic punctuation. She's also been journaling, but only to put her ideas on paper without being concerned with mommy grading or correcting her journal. This year I want to help her organize her thoughts and put them down on paper. We'll work on basic sentence structure, verbs and nouns, break up run-on sentences with proper punctuation, and maybe even work on some simple short poems.  We'll incorporate what we find from the writing standards overview into our homeschooling lapbooking writing.  I've already planned on lapbooking with our homeschool science curriculum.

For my older kids, Time4Learning has just added homeschool high school to their program, and we are so excited. I'm especially excited to see they are offering Economics/Personal Finance and Geography. Although we covered geography in elementary and middle school, I think we need to cover it again in high school. And of course, Economics and Personal Finance is essential. I'd like to also teach them to budget. They've both started working part-time, so now is a perfect time to help them learn to invest in others by tithing, invest in their own future by saving and how to spend their money wisely.

So what are your goals for the new year?  I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Homeschool High School Interactive Multimedia Curriculum

Homeschool Highschool Curriculum
Here's some news. Time4Learning, a long time supplier of an interactive multimedia online curriculum for homeschoolers, has expanded. Until now, they've been very popular for PreK- to 8th grade but have not had a high school offering.

This week, they announced a complete online interactive high school curriculum available for this school year.  They say that it'll be up and running by mid August.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Science at the Museum

It's been some time since we visited our local science museum.  For a couple of years we volunteered at the Museum of Science working in the garden with a few other homeschooling families.  We'd get together once a month to help keep the garden clean.  The kids really enjoyed this because they were with a group of friends, we were taking learning outside of our home, and they were serving the museum by cleaning and maintaining their garden. I think this is when our son developed a love for gardening.  It was rewarding and gratifying to see the change in the garden over time. Our first day there was shortly after a hurricane, so the garden was a huge mess.  The kids and some of the parents worked on gathering and discarding the debris caused by the hurricane, weeding, cleaning foliage, planting new plants and maintaining old plants and trees.

So now I'm toying with the idea of getting a group together again to go back to the museum. It would be fun for our daughter S as a supplement to her science curriculum.  We could cover some things that are in her curriculum overview for this year like ecosystems and living things and how they interact with one another.  In addition to working in the garden, the staff at the museum also provided a room for us and a short lesson covering either plants we were working with, a topic we were covering in our own science curriculum, or different exhibits that were being featured at that time in the museum.  I'm thinking we can use some of this teaching time in the classroom to do some lapbooking together. The more I think about it, the more excited I get about it. 

Speaking of excited, there were some changes in my older son's homeschool class options this year and I wasn't sure what we were going to do for science and math. As you know from my previous posts, math is the one subject I don't teach, especially at the high school level. I've been weighing all our options and wasn't sure what we were going to do. So here's where the exciting part comes in. We just found out that Time4Learning has added an online high school curriculum. We've always been so happy with this program. This couldn't have come at a better time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Learning Disabilities

There are so many resources for teaching our kids at home now.  Because we've been homeschooling so many years and we've tried so many different curricula, we receive several curriculum catalogs from different companies.  There is one in particular that is thicker than our Yellow Pages Directory.  I can see why it's difficult to decide what curriculum to choose or to resist temptation to switch curriculum when what we've been using is working just fine. I'm not going to say perfectly, because there is no such thing as a perfect curriculum.  I often cringe when I hear or read someone's criticism of a particular curriculum to another homeschool parent simply because what may have been a bad choice for one child, may work nicely for another. 

It was most difficult to find just the right curriculum for our daughter S, who has learning disabilities or learning challenges. While I've heard parents say that a particular curriculum has too much repetition, it is precisely what I need for my daughter but had not found until we started with Time4Learning. Not that it's repetitive, but that it allows us to choose to repeat a lesson as often as necessary.  A child with Down syndrome needs lots of repetition.  Before finding Time4Learning, I was wasting paper and money making extra copies of worksheets for her to repeat lessons until she fully grasped a concept.  The lessons online have made it so much easier. It's also a plus that she's easily picked up some computer skills and feels so comfortable using the computer. When she's done with her Time4Learning, on her own she will switch to her literature games online or her spelling lists by grade that we've created for her. 

Though it can be tempting having so many choices, it's encouraging that we have so many resources and options available to us. We all have different learning and teaching styles.  The catalogs are good to read through, also, because they offer free detailed product reviews. If you cannot sample a curriculum before purchasing it, I suggest you read several reviews from different sources. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

4-H

We're still visiting with my family in Orlando. Living with my two sisters and their families under one roof.  We're actually having a wonderful time together. Altogether we have 9 kids in the house. We have 14 kids between the 3 of us sisters, but the kids that are not with us are adults and stayed home with their own families, or are working or in school. 

So we are now at the mid-point of our vacation.  Tomorrow is the 4th of July.  Because there are so many tourists here in Orlando at this time of the year and traffic is CRAZY, we've planned to stay at the house. We've purchased our own safe fireworks and Sparklers for the kids.  We've planned our meals for tomorrow.  Now we're just praying for good weather.  It's been raining every day this week for a few hours each day. Florida weather is very unusual.  Some of our older kids will be coming by to hang out with us, which will be nice. There's a game called Monopoly Deal that we all love to play together.  So we're looking forward to that.  

Time is going by too fast.  We all have a lot in common and yet are different in other ways, but we get along great.  Taking turns cooking and cleaning has not been an issue. We like the same kinds of food. Our kids like to eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  So that makes planning meals and snacks easy.  I brought a bag full of mangoes and avocados from my tree and my neighbor's tree.  Mango is my favorite fruit. My son grew this mango tree from a seed of a mango that we had. He enjoys gardening and planting fruit trees.  He started very young when we joined a homeschool 4-H club. It was a wonderful experience for all of us in more ways than one.  My daughter learned about horses, and went on to take lessons in English Riding and then volunteered at a ranch with children with special needs.  My son learned science about plants and took that further as he grew trees and plants in our garden.  We all made new friends who are still in our lives today.  Our 4-H group was very diverse as we had African American homeschoolers, Latin American homeschoolers, and one homeschool family who were American, but had just moved back to the States after 6 years of living in Africa as missionaries.  That's one of the things I like about living in Florida.  It's a melting pot. 

Now, because we're on vacation, we only have one computer to share between 3 families.  My daughter and my niece are waiting for me to get off the computer because they want to play some keyboarding games.  The boys are all in the game room playing on the XBox and playing pool.  And a few of the adults and the older kids are going to play Monopoly Deal.  So I'm off to play and have some fun.  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

School on Vacation

That trip I talked about to Orlando in my last post?  It's just something I slightly thought about doing, but it's going to happen after all.  My youngest sister T is here from Costa Rica with her family.  A relative passed away and they came for the funeral. So her family has decided to visit our other sister D in Orlando, and they asked my family to join them. We're leaving today!  My other sister D and her daughter K were here a few days ago and left with our daughter S.  Even though our daughters had not seen each other in years, they were so happy to see each other and play together.  They're close in age and just love being together. Our daughter is overjoyed to get to visit with her cousin.

We're packing and getting ready now to drive up to Orlando for a few days.  My niece just called me.  She wants to know if it's okay if they go on our daughter S's Time4Learning account so they can do some school.  This made me smile.  "Yes, of course, honey. You can do some school together."  Now what mom would say no to that!  I'm sure once S gets on the computer, she'll also want to play some keyboarding games with her cousin.  She loves playing games on the computer, so why not make them learning games, right?

My sister has had some concerns about kids using the internet.  We both have older kids, so we know the dangers involved. Like us, she keeps the computer out in the family room. We've talked about internet safety for kids and have applied some of the safeguards suggested in articles we've read.  I don't know what we would do without the internet.  It's an integral part of learning and working in our home.  My kids in high school, college and elementary all use the computer.  I don't know how homeschoolers did it without computers.  That brings me back to when I first started homeschooling and I purchased a whole set of encyclopedias.  My husband was so happy the day I donated them to the library.  There are several books in addition to the encyclopedias that I donated, because the information they provided were easily accessible on the internet. However, having said that, there are plenty of books I would never get rid of, fiction and non-fiction. There's nothing like curling up on a couch with a good page-turner.  A real book! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Schools Out!!!

School's out!!!  That's what I keep seeing on my social sites and hearing from our nieces and nephews who attend public school. Well, not here in our home. We just got back from our homeschool convention a few weeks ago. We had a wonderfully relaxing long weekend. But you know what? I'm still feeling like we need to take some more time off.  My sister just called me this morning to tell me she's finally in Orlando. She just moved from Montana to Orlando, Florida. I think she's going to need some help unpacking some boxes. ;)  And maybe we can reward ourselves after unpacking with a trip to one of the parks.

I think it's mostly my son and I that are feeling most burnt-out. He's still working on finishing his Algebra 2 and Anatomy.  Also, he will soon be getting some SAT writing help with an online tutor.  My daughters, on the other hand, seem to be fine. My oldest is dual enrolled in only one college class for the summer (Psychology), and finishing up Anatomy with me at home.  My youngest is doing her online summer school, which she enjoys.  I'm still working with her on her reading comprehension and playing spelling games.  It's not unusual that we school through the summer.  So the kids are used to it.  

We do have a holiday coming up. 4th of July!!  So I think we should start planning a short trip to Orlando.  It's really only a 3-hour drive for us.  I'd also love to see my sister and her family. Montana was too far away for us to visit much as a family...and a bit too cold for this Floridian. :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Homeschool Statistics

We attended our State homeschool convention a couple of weeks ago.  It was held at a very large hotel, which was filled with homeschooling families.  I have friends who couldn't get a room a couple of months before the convention because there were none available. The last night of the convention the students had a graduation dance.  The following morning the Graduation ceremony was held. There were more than 300 graduates. And I'm sure that only a small number of our state homeschool graduates attended and make up this number.   I am amazed  at how much the homeschool community has grown in the last 12 years since we started homeschooling.

As the homeschool community is growing, myths about homeschool are being disproven.  Homeschool statistics indicate that students  educated at home score in the 65th to the 89th percentile, while students who are traditionally educated score in the 50th percentile.  More and more colleges and universities are recruiting students who are home-educated because of their well-known dedication and high achievement level.  There are many homeschool-friendly colleges.  As for the question of socialization, homeschoolers who have the opportunity to interact with siblings, parents and have options to attend groups with students of all ages are far better communicators and more well-rounded.  In the real world we are not confined to an office or a room with 30 other people who are our own age.

So if you're considering homeschooling your children, or if you have been homeschooling and still have family members who are skeptical, don't worry.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say.  I have family members who used to test my kids when we visited them, drilling them with academic questions.  I remember one summer how my son impressed one of these relatives by solving the Rubic Cube, and he was only 10 years old at the time.

If you're thinking of homeschooling, my advice is educate yourself on your State laws on home education.  Find all the information you can from other homeschoolers on their experiences, the curriculum that is available for you to choose from, and support groups that you can join in your area.  We all have different ways of learning, so read up on homeschool learning styles to find out what your child's style of learning may be.

Homeschooling frees us from the educational and social chains that bind us from exploring, learning and growing individually.  Let me leave you with a great video I found of homeschoolers in Bulgaria.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Summer Lessons

If you've read my previous posts, you may have figured out that my favorite subjects to teach are Language Arts, grammar and reading.  But have you guessed that my least favorite is math?  Years ago I made the mistake of saying out loud, with small ears listening, that I don't like math.  I think that affected my children because they say the same thing.  And in retrospect, it's not that I don't like math, but that I've lost my practice in math.  I actually remember having a good math teacher in high school who made math interesting.
With my older kids, I switched math curricula too many times.  We started with Miquon Math, changed to Abeka, changed to Saxon, changed to MathUSee, and then changed back to Saxon in high school with my son because that's what his co-op class is using. My highest recommendation for math is to stick to one math curricula, especially around 6th grade and beyond. 
The hardest thing for me has always been fractions. Yet a few weeks ago, as I watched my youngest daughter doing her math fraction lessons on her Time4Learning, it was like I was learning it all over again and it was clicking in my brain so easily.  Please don't laugh at me.  I know fractions should be simple for most adults. Maybe it's just me!  Also, I'm pretty visual, so seeing the pictures was helpful for me.  Oh, wait, we're talking about curriculum for kids.  Yes, it was very helpful for my daughter, too.  One of the things I love about her math lessons is if she answers a question wrong, the program is prompted to explain the concepts to her in different ways until she understands it.  
As I've mentioned before, we usually do light school work through the summer, especially in elementary.  Most importantly for math.  I cannot imagine not doing any math for two or three months.  But I also cannot imagine not reading or writing for two or three months.  Math is a subject that should be practiced every day, even if only for 20 to 30 minutes. 
What are you doing this summer?  Do you do some school through the summer? I think most of us are, even if we think we're taking time off.  Every day can have a learning experience in it.  For example, Spring is a time when most of us do some planting and working on our gardens, Summer can be a good time to do a short plant lesson with the kids.  Even if all you do is plant the seeds in the ground and watch them grow, isn't that a learning experience?  Our neighbor has an avocado tree, and she's always giving us avocados. One year we took the seed, placed toothpicks all around it, and placed it on a cup filled with water. Weeks later it had roots!  We planted it in a pot, and my son used it for his 4-H project a few months later.
There are so many things we can include in our Summer that can add to our learning experiences.  Don't forget to take pictures!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Countdown To End The School Year

We've begun the countdown to the end of the school year....somewhat.  Today is Samantha's ballet gala.  She's so excited.  Her older brother will be doing the Daddy-Daughter dance with her because Daddy could not get time off from work to make it.  I know, we're all disappointed about that, including Dad.  They did it together last year, and it was a tear-jerker.  Every time I watch the video, I cry.  But big brother is glad to step in and be her partner.  This will mark the end of ballet until the Fall.

We're also attending our state homeschool convention on Memorial Day weekend.  We've been waiting for this for months.  We get to stay at a beautiful hotel.  And because it's in Orlando, we'll get to visit Magic Kingdom for one day.  I've signed up our older kids for the teen camp.  They're excited about making new friends and purchasing some new books at the convention.  Every time we attend, we each buy new books for our home library.  We all love to read.  The books we find at the convention are books our local libraries and book stores don't carry, like books that are written by homeschool authors.  I'm also looking forward to attending workshops and listening to some speakers, especially on the topic of high school homeschooling.  Anyway, this will mark the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.  Even though we do some homeschool through summer....but more on that on another post.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fun with Language Arts and Drawing

I've discovered something new for my daughter this week.  Well, it's not really new. I used it with my older kids, who are high school level now. I kept it all these years. As I was looking through our many book shelves for books and materials we no longer use, I found our Draw Write Now books.  I remembered how much my older kids loved them.  I've recently noticed our youngest daughter has been drawing a lot, but most of her people and animals look like stick figures. So when I saw these, I thought they'd be perfect for her now. I showed her how the pages show her, step by step, how to draw. We started with a picture of a hen and her two chicks. She did so well. I had her draw it several times this week, since she learns best through repetition.  These Draw Write Now books also come with their own sketch pads that have lined paper on one side, and on the other side is the box to sketch your drawing.
Since we did the same drawing several times, I decided to have her write a story about the hen and the chicks. To help her, we borrowed some books from the library about farm animals, including hens and chicks, and did some animal lessons.  Each time she drew it, the story would progress. I helped her make up the story, helping her along the way with some dictation. She also played some of the language arts games she plays online, choosing the 'farm' category.
This Draw Write Now book is titled On The Farm.  It may take us a few months to get through this one book, but she will have learned to draw a few critters, some people, and I'll have quite a few cute stories to save for our memory book.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Homeschool High School

When I started homeschooling my oldest 12 years ago, I was so excited at the new journey which we would be embarking on. I saw it as an adventure. We joined a homeschool support group and quickly made lots of new friends. Along with these new friendships came a deeper commitment to homeschooling as we developed a greater vision for our homeschool, our kids and our family.  We never considered another alternative to educating our children, even through the challenges, and even with our child with special needs.
As my oldest got closer to starting high school, my doubts about my own abilities to homeschool high school began to emerge.  We still did not consider public school or private school.  Home is the most natural place for our children to learn.  I began to read, listen to speakers and to research online all that I could on homeschooling high school. I educated myself on the requirements, the classes available, resources and curriculum.  Now as my oldest is close to her last year of high school, we're beginning to look at homeschool-friendly colleges.  Oh, how I miss those easy elementary years!  But we're embarking on a whole new journey as our oldest gets closer to adulthood.  A whole new adventure for her and for us awaits us.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Algebra Vocabulary

Math is one of the most difficult subjects for me.  I enjoy teaching reading, writing, grammar, history, geography....anything but math.  So with each of my children I have been able to put them in a class or with a tutor when they've gotten to Algebra, which is beyond my level of teaching.  This last year their tutor explained to them how much easier Algebra would be for them if they learn the math vocabulary.  And to make sure they were learning it, in addition to the math problems they have in a test, they would also be tested on vocabulary.  This is something I could get involved with! Finally I can help them with math again!  :) I helped them make lapbooks with the vocabulary words. We took a file folder and some plain white printing paper.  We folded the white sheet of paper in half and glued one side in the file folder.  We wrote the vocabulary word on the outside of the paper, and on the inside we wrote the definition. This way they could test each other or even themselves on the vocabulary words. We found that if they made the file folder on their own, writing the words and the definitions was helpful in remembering some of the vocabulary words.  My son also liked playing the definition match game online.  At home he'd play the games online and in the car we'd use the lapbook we created.  I think it helped them.  We certainly had more fun making the lapbook and playing the games online than doing math problems.  I know, some of you think math is fun, and I'm sure it can be.  But you can give me sentences to diagram over math problems any day. ;)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Antonyms and Synonyms

This week my daughter learned about synonyms and antonyms on her Time4Learning program.  Because she has learning difficulties, she learns best by repetition.  I love that we can repeat lessons as often as we want to or need to with Time4Learning, but I also wanted to do something else with her to reinforce and help her grasp the concept fully.

I remember making up some games using Easter eggs when my teens were younger.  So I pulled out the bag of Easter eggs that I re-use every year from our Easter egg hunts and baskets.  I took out 15 eggs and wrote a word on each half of the egg, like rich and poor.  I used different-colored eggs because antonyms are opposite.  I did the same for synonym words like rich and wealthy, but used same-colored eggs because synonyms are words that are similar in meaning.  One of her friends came over one day and they had fun playing with these.  They entertained themselves for more than an hour. :)

We also used some antonym games and synonym games online.  These challenged her a little more.  And that's not a bad thing. She actually has been learning new words using these online games.  My teenage daughter used this site a lot right before her SATs using the college prep word antonyms.  It has words like abrogate and ratify and usurp and dispassionate.  I think these games have helped her increase her vocabulary, also, and helped her improve her SAT writing

I even found some of these games challenging myself.  It's one of the things I love about homeschooling.  I'm learning right along with my kids in some ways.  I've also learned to become a little creative as I try to make up games for them to have fun with as they learn.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Finishing the School Year.....or not

This was our last week at Classical Conversations with our youngest, but our oldest has another three weeks.  Though we'll be done with our homeschool group in Classical Conversations, we will continue some classes through the summer.  Our youngest will be doing her Time4Learning, which she loves.  She doesn't think of it as school, which is great because she's learning and having fun doing it. We will also continue working on her reading comprehension and copy work.  Our high school son will continue with math.  He's also thinking about doing public speaking and debate competitions next year.  If he decides to do that, then he will need to prepare some speeches for next year and start memorizing them.  As for our oldest daughter, who will be a senior next year, she will be taking some dual enrollment classes at our local college this summer semester.  She also wants to take an SAT writing course.  She recently started a babysitting job watching two kids.  I think she's so good with kids and seems to have a natural flair for teaching.  She likes putting games together or finding a creative craft to do with them.  Last week she was making some preschool flashcards to help one of the kids because she's learning to read.  We've talked about the possibility of her going into the field of teaching, but she doesn't seem interested in it at all.  She wants to be a sign language interpreter.  We'll just have to wait and see what happens.  She may be a sign language interpreter AND a homeschool mommy some day. :)



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Painting A Picture

Teaching a visual-spatial learner keeps me on my toes in making learning fun and creative.  We're working on reading comprehension now.  Teaching a child to read is the first step. The next steps to making a good reader are teaching the child to understand what they've read and to predict what may happen next in the story.   As I read to my daughter, we often stop, close our eyes, and picture what we just read. I will help her paint a mental picture of the scenario we just read.  I have her do worksheets to help her practice her handwriting and to help her put her thoughts or 'pictures' into words.  After reading a paragraph for which she has to answer questions on a worksheet, I ask her the questions orally first.  If necessary, I will also give her visual clues.  Visualizing the story has had a dramatic improvement in her reading comprehension.

It can be a pivotal point for a child when they can paint a picture of what they are studying, whether it's a mental picture or a picture on paper, and whether it's for reading comprehension, mathematics, or science.  The pivotal point for my daughter came when she started using an interactive animated online learning program.  Time4Learning provided her with pictures she needed to understand or make that connection.  She could now remember what she had seen on the computer screen.  She was now not only hearing it, but seeing it pictured as well. It was different than reading it herself in a textbook or just hearing me teach it to her.  She was getting that third element that she so needed. She was now visualizing it. She could now retain and bring back to memory the pictures she had seen. Learning started to become interesting and fun for her. We can take advantage of the visual elements that a computer can provide in teaching any subject or concept.  The computer is an essential tool for my visual-spatial learner.  Online interactive games, lapbooking, drawing pictures, manipulatives, educational songs, picture cards or flashcards are also creative tools we can use.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kindergarten Games

Usually kids are so excited to start school.  Each of our children were excited to start school....even though we homeschool.  They were eager to learn the sounds of letters, put the letters together to make small words, to begin forming lines, circles, and then letters. It was so exciting for me, too, to watch my kids as they learned new things. I guess that's one of many reasons I wanted to homeschool.  I got to be there when each of my kids learned to hold their own bottle, learned to take their first step, learned to read their first word.  I didn't want to give that over to someone else. I wanted to be there for each milestone.  I wanted to watch them learn.  Little did I know that I'd be learning with them too. :)

I find the first years of homeschooling the most fun.  Maybe because it's so easy to learn through play, whether the games are hands on, at the park, at home, or on the computer.  I recently read of a study done with 122 preschoolers enrolled in a Head Start program.  They were divided into two groups. One group was given 15 to 20 minutes per day to work on educational games on the computer. The second group worked on standard Head Start curriculum.  The group that had worked on the computer measured higher for Kindergarten readiness. Apparently, the use of computers not only increased their cognitive development, but also their visual and gross motor skills.

I use Kindergarten games online.  My daughter loves interactive games.  We use games for alphabetical order, phonics, vocabulary, keyboarding games, math.  I have found that with a subject like math, using some of these learning games helps to reinforce a concept we've covered in her math lesson.  I've had my daughter play a literature game after reading a book together to help with reading comprehension.  The computer has been a huge benefit for our family.  After reading the results of that study, I am even more encouraged by the use of the computer for schooling our children, but especially our daughter with Down syndrome.  

Friday, March 08, 2013

Homeschooling

Although homeschool statistics inform us on the number of homeschoolers and the increase from year to year, the best indicator for me is the number of families attending our state homeschool convention each year.  I was amazed at the huge number of families that filled the resort hotel at our last convention.  A few reasons families homeschool may be discouragement with the public schools, the cost of private schools, safety concerns, personal or faith convictions, special needs.  Your reasons may even change over time.  We homeschool for many reasons...but that's another blog post.

While parents have options of educating children at either a public school or private school, if you choose to homeschool, you also have options.  You can choose to attend a co-op or an educational program for homeschoolers, which is usually once a week.  Another option for homeschoolers is an umbrella school. Or you can simply choose your own homeschooling method for your family to do on your own at home.  

Just to name a few homeschool methods, we have the eclectic, literature-based, classical, textbook-based, notebooking, unschooling, classical, unit study, computer-based or online, and lastly there's the Charlotte Mason.  These are just a few.  I'm sure I missed some.  You can also choose to combine some of these, as we do.  The important thing is that you find what works best for your family.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Homeschool Highschool Graduation Celebrations


Lets Celebrate our Homeschool Graduations Together
Lets Celebrate our Homeschool Graduations Together

If you are a homeschooler graduating this spring, you should think about ways to celebrate. 

You can both celebrate  as a family and publically as part of a larger homeschool community.

LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com has  a list of statewide graduations for 2013 for  homeschool seniors.

Consider your options. Maybe you and a few other homeschooling families want to do a small group. Or you might want to be a small group within a larger community. It's nice to know your options!

And thanks to homeschoolonline.org for making me aware of this option for group celebrations of homeschool highschool graduations.



Friday, March 01, 2013

Around the World - Geography

Much like reading opens up a whole new world for us, in the same way geography opens up different cultures for us.  Learning can be so much fun, which is why I love homeschooling.  Geography is often included in studying history.  However, geography, taught on its own, can be so interesting.  It's also necessary with so much going on politically around the world right now.

Through our homeschool support group we have participated in an event called Around the World where students choose a country to speak about.  Students will speak as a family or a team of families or friends.  One year we chose to speak about Spain.  We have family in Spain, so we were able to get some costumes of Flamenco Spanish dancers for our girls to wear. Our son dressed as a Spanish bullfighter, otherwise known as a Matador. That was easy to put together on our own. We did a study on the climate, population, foods, cities, and culture of Spaniards.  Each of the kids picked a topic to speak on and did their own short presentation.  We had a table set up with a poster, money from Spain, Spanish foods and candies.  Not only was it fun putting it all together, but it was interesting to learn of all the different countries presented by all the families.

There are so many ways to make learning geography easy. If your student likes drawing, why not have him map different sections of the world.  Have a globe and a children's atlas easily accessible for everyone.  Hang up a world map where it's visible, and as you read or 'visit' different cities or countries, mark it with a tack. Maybe even mark the different cities or countries where you have family, friends or pen pal.  Play games searching for different cities or countries.  Use geography lists to play fun games on the internet and to create a Bingo game.  Keep a world puzzle out on a table to work on together.  LearningGamesforKids has some simple and fun geography games.  A fun game to play together is Where in The World.  I like to keep books on our living room table.  I'll switch them up every week.  So why not include some books with pictures of far-away places. Geography can be so much fun!  If you have any ideas or things you have used, please share with us.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Homeschool Math Curriculum

The one subject I've known would be a challenge to teach my kids is math.  It's been so many years since I used math for anything more than just making change in shopping or figuring out percentages. I knew I could handle teaching it in elementary school, but beyond that, I worried about what I would do.  

Over the years we tried several different math curricula, trying to find the program best suited for my children.  I have a son that is very analytical and can easily figure out a math textbook as he reads it. My daughters are more visual and hands on. They need to see how it works.  While my son can read the directions and do it, my daughters need motivation.  Which is why I'm so glad to have found an online math curriculum that works great for my younger daughter. It's engaging and effective.  Unfortunately for my older daughter, it only goes as far as 8th grade, and she's in 11th grade. 

It's such a relief that my daughter is enjoying math.  To reinforce a math concept she has just covered in her lessons, I will sometimes use some math printable worksheets.  These are so helpful for my daughter because she needs a lot of repetition. In addition to the worksheets, I find online math games for her.  I found a few good money games for her, since that's what we've been working on the last few months.  In addition, we also play some shopping games together and she helps me out at the grocery store.  This helps her to really grasp the concept of using money and making small change.  Well, we haven't gotten to the part of making change, but that will be next.