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.