Our Homeschool Adventure Blog

Chronicling our adventures as a small homeschool family with mom and dad both as teachers

Archive for the category “Homeschool organization”

How Technology is Changing How We Homeschool

For a big birthday surprise, we recently purchased a Kindle Fire for our son who was turning 11. (For those who are interested in such things, it is a Kindle Fire HD 8.9” and the first tablet owned by anyone in our house!) We got it for him partly as a “WHOOHOO you survived!”-surprise; the last year of his life has been pretty challenging and he has worked through and overcome a ton. We also wanted to have this new tool for school.

I’m not sure why we didn’t do this sooner. Seriously.

Now before anyone starts picturing our kid sitting in front of a tablet screen all day with no interaction around his learning, that’s not what’s going on here. NDEW has three goal/task lists each week: Schoolwork with Dad, independent work on his Kindle, and independent work that’s not on the Kindle. And that doesn’t include his enrichment classes/activities away from home.
We are using content on NDEW’s Kindle as a way to review or preview material that he learns with Dad and works on in other ways and it is proving to be a fantastic way to engage him! So what content has NDEW enjoyed the most and gotten the most out of so far? Here are a few!

Stack the States: A great game to review US geography.

5th grade Learning Games: NDEW especially likes the math games

Rhythm Cat: NDEW takes music/recorder lessons and really enjoys it. He struggles with rhythm though. He gets the concept of note value but has trouble “feeling” how they fit together into a rhythm. The Rhythm Cat game works on just this skill and he LOVES it.

Blendoku: This is a game that works with color blending and NDEW really, really enjoys it. I can see him using the skills he is picking up on through it in his art lessons and paintings.

Duolingo: This is a language-learning app and NDEW is learning some basic Spanish through it right now. It’s so fun to hear him throw Spanish words into conversation every now and then.

Viewer for Khan Academy: This app makes viewing all of the awesome videos on Khan Academy super easy!

There are lots of other apps we have downloaded and NDEW is just starting to use like Dragon Box, some memory/brain games, and several science-related apps, so I’m sure I’ll be adding to this favorites list. This doesn’t even get into all the great (sometimes even free!) books he can get on his Kindle too!

We have also started using technology in some other ways now that NDEW has his Kindle. Here are a few of those:
Skype: We use Skype at work to communicate all the time, and hubby and I have been known to use Skype every now and then during the day as well. We set up NDEW his own Skype account on his Kindle (with only his Dad and I as contacts) and he will now use it to check in with me during the day from time to time. It’s fun to see a message pop up from him every now and then and to have that touch point with what he’s working on. It’s a great way for me to feel a little more involved in his day-to-day learning since I’m the parent that works away from home.

Video Diaries: We are now having NDEW do a short video diary at the end of the day to review what he’s worked on. He has a few questions that he is to answer about what he’s learned and he’s encouraged to be as creative as he wants to be with his daily report. When I get home and ask the inevitable “So, what did you do today?” question, he excitedly breaks out his video diary for the day and it’s a great conversation starter. It’s also a fantastic way to keep a running record of what he’s learning.

Asana: Asana is yet another work tool turned homeschooling tool! We use Asana as a task management tool at work and we’ve decided to try it out for school too. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Kindle-compatible app for Asana yet (that would be AWESOME!) but NDEW can access it through the internet on his Kindle or on our desktop. Basically, NDEW, hubby, and I are set up as a “team” in Asana. Hubby and I can go into Asana and assign tasks to NDEW, including giving him instructions, links he’ll need, setting due dates, etc. When NDEW finishes a task, he goes in and checks it off in Asana. Hubby and I then get an email that he’s completed the task. It’s a great way to keep us all on the same page, especially since NDEW works on lots of independent projects that stretch out over several days or weeks. Asana also gives us a place to keep track of what materials NDEW is covering through his work. Of course, we review all of these projects and tasks with NDEW in person, but this gives him a place to go for reminders on what he is supposed to be working on during his independent work time each day.

We are really enjoying the technology tools we are currently using to enhance our homeschooling! What apps, programs or tools do you use?

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NDEW excitedly checking out his new Kindle at his birthday party.

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Our Homeschool Space

When we decided to start homeschooling NDEW I went online and started looking at all the beautiful pictures of amazing homeschool rooms.  Then I looked around at our house and thought “Yea, right!”  As I mentioned in the “About Our Family” section, we live in a cute little house in the mountains of NC.  It’s the perfect house for us.  Not a lot of extra room to fill up with stuff (or to have to clean!).  It’s two bedrooms and two baths, with a living/dining/kitchen combo room and it’s right around 1100 square feet.  The rooms are good sized with some nice closets, but there definitely isn’t a lot of extra space.  This definitely meant that we did not have a whole room to dedicate to NDEW’s homeschooling.  Hubby works from home and doesn’t even have a separate room for his office, so we definitely don’t have an extra room for homeschooling.

As we thought further about our homeschool space needs we came to the following conclusions:

1.  For the sanity of all involved, having hubby’s primary work space and NDEW’s primary school space both at the dining room (the only) table, was not a good idea.  Plus, there isn’t much storage in that area and we actually like to eat dinner as a family at that same table at least every now and then.

2.  NDEW would need to do school, for the most part, in a place where there weren’t a lot of toys around visually as a distraction.

3.  We would need to have some easily accessible storage for school materials.

4.  NDEW would need some room to move around as he worked.

5.  We wanted NDEW’s school space to have some good natural light.  My kid definitely needs to see the sun as often as possible.

6.  We didn’t have a bunch of money to spend on new “stuff”.

From this, we developed our plan.  We decided that NDEW’s primary school space would be in his room, although he will certainly be working in other areas as well.  For example, we have one primary family computer (separate from the laptops that hubby and I use for work) and it’s located in the living room.  Also, any especially messy art, science, or cooking projects will not take place in NDEW’s room.  After all, we rent and might like to get a deposit back one day.

The second step of the process was a good clean out of NDEW’s room.  It really needed to be done anyway and this gave us a great excuse to purge the toys.  Four bags of stuff for Goodwill!   Where does all this stuff come from?!?!?  As I mentioned, we are blessed with great closets in this house.  NDEW doesn’t have tons of clothes so we had lots of extra room in his closet.  The majority of the toys that remained after the purge went into the closet.  Out of sight, out of mind…hopefully-at least during “school” times!

Then came the organizing of the school stuff.  We decided for the time being to use an old library desk that we already had as NDEW’s school desk.  We placed it by a big window that gives great natural light and put some shelves beside it to house educational games, puzzles, some Legos, and NDEW’s microscope that he got for Christmas from his Meemaw.

We are also lucky in that NDEW’s bed has built in storage-four small drawers at the end of the bed and two large drawers on the side.  Into these drawers went math materials, science materials, office supplies, paper and notebooks, and art supplies.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to buy any of this stuff as I already had some things from my days in the classroom.  I know we’ll add materials as we go on, but we definitely feel like we had enough to start off on a great foot.  NDEW also already had a large bookshelf in his room, so we organized the books a little better and have a great start to our homeschool library.

Last but on least, we put a few things up on the walls including some reminders and some pictures NDEW had made that he liked, and we were all done!

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Soon-to-be-purchased future additions include a larger, wall-hung dry erase board and a bird feeder right outside the window, but we all definitely felt that it was a great little space to get started on this journey together!

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