Our Homeschool Adventure Blog

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

Archive for the tag “homeschool links to resources”

What about Saturday?

I hope you’ll forgive me for stepping away from homeschooling for just a minute before I jump into that update, but today has me thinking about faith. (Not too long of a side trip, I promise!)

Yesterday was Good Friday and tomorrow is Easter. This time of year we hear a lot about these two days. But I’ve been thinking; what about Saturday? We rarely hear anything about the Saturday between. Different denominations and faith traditions refer to this Saturday in a variety of ways-Holy Saturday, Silent Saturday, Easter Eve. But about the only thing that can be said about this day is that we really don’t know for sure what Jesus was doing on this day. Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly. The only thing we do know is that the followers of Jesus were afraid, worried, sad. Can you imagine what they were thinking, especially the 12 disciples? They had walked away from their lives to follow Christ for the previous three years. They had spent every moment with him, watching him, learning from him. And now he was gone. He was dead. The horrors of Good Friday were over but Easter wasn’t there yet, and they probably had some doubts that it would come. I bet that confusion, questions, and a sense of not knowing what to do next were all common among Christ’s followers on that day.

How many times do we feel that way? We’ve been following Christ. Watching him, learning from his life. Reading his word. We think we know what’s going on, how we’re supposed to be living our lives as his follower. And then Saturday comes. Christ seems very far away, and, suddenly, nothing seems clear anymore.

Maybe you’re feeling that way right now. I certainly know that I’ve been there before. Many times. Maybe you’re trying to decide what to do in a relationship. Maybe a job has just ended unexpectedly. Maybe you sense that God is calling you to do something different, but you just can’t figure out what. Maybe you’re saddened and confused over something that didn’t go the way you thought it would. I just want you to know that Jesus is still at work. Even when it doesn’t look the way we think it should, or when he seems far, he is still working in our lives. I’ve heard the saying about Good Friday “Friday’s here, but Sunday’s coming!” That’s certainly true; when things seem the most desperate, the darkest, there is still hope. But you know what, even during the “Saturdays” of our lives-when we might feel stuck, unsure, in between seasons in life-Sunday’s coming too! No matter which day we might find ourselves living through, Christ is still at work and, as Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, he has a plan for us, and it’s a great one!

Okay, now on to a school update! NDEW is definitely still enjoying his usual weekly work in math, history, literature, science, writing, and religion.  Now that the science fair is over (picture below!) NDEW and hubby have started working in depth with the Raspberry Pi he got from his Aunt Tye and Uncle Tim for Christmas.  NDEW already has big plans for this and seems to be learning quite a lot about computers in the process.  He’s also getting ready for his music recital coming up in May and planning to play Let It Go from Frozen as a solo on the recorder.  He went out and found the music himself, crazy kid. 🙂  He’s also getting really excited about the upcoming Aladdin auditions with Beanstalk Community Theatre.  He continues to study the brain and nervous system in science and even had the cool opportunity to see an actual brain cell under a microscope at the recent Science Festival at ASU.  I think he even impressed the college students there with what he knew about the brain and nerve structure.  (Always good to know that what he’s learning is sticking!)  We continue to enjoy using the big wide world as our favorite classroom and hope you enjoy some memories below from the past month or so. They include the science fair, participating in some community events, fun games, lots of reading, a trip to the NC Zoo, an ASU baseball game, and an impromptu amphibian lesson…Some of which even occurred outside of school hours! (Shocking, I know!)

Science Fair Zoo 1 Zoo 2 Reading NDEW and KD Lady Bug Amphibian Baseball Games

PS: Before you go, I invite you to head over to Managing Your Blessings and read my latest blog post over there, “The Dreaded “S” Word! Thanks and enjoy!

 

Science, Literature, Snow, Blogging….whew!

Happy Valentine’s day everyone!  I can’t believe February is half over!  I just wanted to share a quick update.  (Who am I kidding, I don’t usually write quick posts!)

Valentine

(I recently took a personality quiz that said I was a reliable realist that was faithful, consistent, well-balanced and sensible but that had little time for extravagances and flightiness.   It also said that I tend to show my closeness to people who are important to me by deeds, and that my partner “should rather not expect romantic declarations of love.”  So, in light of that, I thought this Valentine was appropriate!)

Okay, back to school stuff:  NDEW’s been working really hard with his school work.  (Although he was super excited that I had scheduled a “day off” for today!  I guess every kid likes a break from school every now and then!)  In addition to math and grammar/writing (the two subjects that we take a more structured approach to), he’s been doing lots of cool science and literature work.  We take an almost unschooling approach to these topics and NDEW really guides a lot of what we do by his interests.  For literature he’s reading myths and legends from lots of different time periods and cultures and is really enjoying these rich stories.  I’m not surprised that he likes these stories though with as much as he loves Star Wars (movies, books, games, TV shows, etc. etc. etc. etc.), the Warrior book series, and the Redwall book series.  They definitely all have some similar themes.

In science NDEW is still learning lots about weather and meteorology. I had no idea that this would become such a science focus for this year!  He just keeps finding more and more that he’s interested in learning about it.  He’s currently going through the lessons included in the National Weather Service’s JetStream Online School for Weather and is getting a lot out of the content.  It’s fun to watch him apply it to what he experiences in real life.  I honestly think that part of why he likes learning about weather so much is that it gives him a sense of control.  Even though he knows he can’t control the weather, if he understands more about it, severe weather isn’t quite so scary.

We’re also learning more about electronics by working through the experiments that came with the Snap Circuits Kit he received for Christmas.  It is really, really fun (even for me and hubby!) and he’s learning lots of great principles through it.  On the life sciences front, NDEW has been learning about cells and their structure and then is starting to learn some human anatomy, starting with the brain and nervous system.  He said that he wants to learn about this body system first because he wants to know more about how his brain functions and how it relates to his prosopagnosia.  NDEW has really struggled with anxiety at points and we have definitely found that gaining knowledge is a way that he deals with his anxiety.  That’s why just learning about his prosopagnosia was such a big deal.  Being diagnosed didn’t cure him or really change anything at all in terms of his experience, but just knowing and understanding what was going on made a huge difference in the anxiety that he was experiencing.  I do think that some of his interests start with trying to cope with something that worries him, but then they blossom into a genuine interest as he learns about these subjects at deeper and deeper levels. Isn’t that just like God to take something that we fear or worry about and turn it into something positive!

In addition to these science and literature topics, NDEW’s still learning music and painting and you know there’s some history and social studies being thrown in there with hubby’s love for it!  NDEW’s also continuing his theology/Bible lessons and it’s leading to some awesome conversations around some really deep topics.  Love seeing him maturing and growing in his faith.  So all in all, lots of great learning going on!  Each day looks a little different but each day truly is awesome.  We’re committed to continuing to find and take advantage of the incredible learning opportunities that everyday life presents us.  If you were to walk into our house on any given day, you would definitely see something different than what you might see the day before or the day after.  We never know what awesome things each day might bring us!

Take yesterday for example:  We woke up to almost nine inches of snow-by far the most snow NDEW has ever seen.  He was so excited.  Luckily, it wasn’t terribly cold so we could get out and enjoy it a little.  There was lots of sledding, visiting with neighbors, learning about snow structure and how it forms (There’s that weather thing again!), even saving a little mole we found on our walk around the neighborhood!  Yes, we have set lessons and curriculum we work through, but the world is definitely our biggest and favorite classroom!

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In addition to all this great learnin’ going on, we’ve also seen some wonderful strides in NDEW in “growing up” type stuff and we’re super proud of him.  NDEW has always matured in spurts rather than in any continuous, smooth fashion.  Just when we think he’ll never “get it” it’s like someone flips a switch and he grows up overnight.  We’re so proud of him for taking the steps and facing the fears he has faced lately!

One last exciting update (I know, I know…this has been super long!  Thanks for hanging in there with me!); I shared in my last post that I was going to start writing for a wonderful homeschooling site called So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler?  Well, since then, this site has merged with another site, Managing Your Blessings.  Both sites were founded and managed by an incredible woman, Carlie Kercheval, and she had the vision to combine the sites for a variety of reasons.  I’m so excited to now be a part of the Managing Your Blessings writing team.  What an amazing group of ladies, from a variety of backgrounds, coming together to share their hearts and their faith!  My first post with MYB is up and I’d love for you to take a look at it.  You can find it here: Managing Your Blessings:  Yes, He is our only child.

That’s all from our world.  I’d love to hear what everyone else is up to.  Have you seen any big strides in your child’s development lately or come across a great resource?  I’d love to celebrate those with you and hear all about them!

How Technology is Changing How We Homeschool: Revisted

Back at the end of October I wrote about how we were starting to use some technology tools in our homeschool plan.  I thought I would revisit this topic and give you an update.

First, before I get into that though, I wanted to share some exciting news with you.  Starting in February, I will be a contributing writer over at the site So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler.  I’m so excited to be joining this great group as we travel our homeschool journey together and to have the opportunity to write about homeschooling an only child.  I’ll be sure to let you know when my first post is up over there, but head on over now to check out all the awesome stuff that’s already there!

Now, back to an update on our use of technology in NDEW’s homeschool experience.

First, we still LOVE his Kindle.  Like love it so much that he uses it at least a little every day.  It was so worth the money we spent on it.  Some of our favorite school apps right now are:

  • (Still) 5th grade learning games
  • (Still) Stack the States
  • (Still) Rhythm Cat
  • Jog Nog
  • Grammar Up
  • Arithmemouse
  • All the (free!) classic myths and legends books from around the world (I know it’s not an app, but we still use these a lot!)
  • Notebooks

I have to say a little more about Notebooks:  With this app you create virtual notebooks and can then write information in them.  You can make as many notebooks as you like, for as many subjects as you like.  You can write in each notebook as well as attach things like pictures and drawings.  Here’s the really cool part to me.  You can export the content of each notebook as a pdf (including attached drawings and pictures) and then save it or print it out.  NDEW has five notebooks currently.  They are Khan Science, Khan History, Myths and Legends, Electronics, and Weather.  After he works in one of these subjects he does a brief entry in his notebook describing what he did and what he learned-like a learning journal.  Then, at the end of the year, we’re going to keep the pdf of each as a part of our records for the year.  It’s a great little tool!

Back in October I also mentioned that we were beginning to use Asana as a record keeping and planning tool.  This is working out so well.  Every Sunday night I go into Asana and enter NDEW’s tasks for the upcoming week.  The tasks are organized by “project”.  For us, a project might be a subject or a source of material that NDEW uses.  Some of our projects include (not a full list):

  • Khan Academy Math, Science and History
  • Literature
  • Other Reading
  • Kindle Extras (like the apps I mentioned above)
  • Non-Kindle Extras (like music and karate practice, doing the Wii Fit, even, sometimes cleaning his bathroom!)
  • Other Science
  • Grammar
  • E-Learning for Kids (more about this in a minute)

I set all the due dates in Asana to the Friday of the week and then, each morning NDEW and hubby go online to Asana and select which of the tasks NDEW will do for the day.  At the end of the day, they go in and check of the completed tasks and I get an email showing me what he checked off for the day.  Getting this email helps so much with the “What did you do for school today?” question when I get home.  Even homeschool kids like to give the “some stuff” or “not much” type answers!  Now, I get home and I can say, “So I see you read __________ myth today.  Tell me what happened in the story?”  or “I saw you finished that project today.  Awesome job!  Show it to me!”  As I said before, I use Asana at work but I am SO glad we started using it for homeschooling too!  It’s made planning a lot easier for me!

Lastly, I wanted to share about an online e-learning source we’ve started using.  The website is E-Learning For Kids.  Their content is divided by subject matter and grade level and it’s very well done.  NDEW really enjoys it and it provides great review of concepts for him.  He works on it three times a week.  Best of all it’s FREE!  Yes, that’s right, free.  I seriously kept looking all over the site for some kind of hidden cost, and I haven’t found one yet.  They do ask for donations, but it’s definitely not required.  If you have a kid in preschool-middle school and are at all interested in some online learning content, go over and check it out.

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I would love to hear of any online or technology resources you use in your homeschooling plan, in a classroom, or with your kids.  What are your favorite resources?  Please share!

Honk if you love bikes!

NDEW Bike 1

One of the things I hope to do with this blog is to share some of the activities we are doing that cost little or no money. Homeschool curriculums can be expensive (although definitely worth it if you find just the right curriculum that matches your child) but you can also find lots of things to do and lots of materials to use that are inexpensive or free. One other activity like this that I’ve mentioned before is our use of the free state tourism guidebook magazines and the maps that often come with them as a part of our geography and math lessons. Another great resource is the website Teachers Pay Teachers (www.teacherspayteachers.com). While there are lots of resources that cost money on the site, there are lots of free ones too and their search feature works well.

Our latest free/inexpensive special school activity was a bike day. Last week, NDEW got a new bike so we decided to build a day’s lessons around this new bike, which NDEW was very excited about. Now, the new bike was definitely not free. Well, actually, I guess it kind of was! My parents sent me money for my birthday recently and I used it to buy us new bikes. You definitely wouldn’t have to get new bikes to do these lessons, however.

The day after we got the bikes, NDEW and hubby had to do a little adjusting on his so they used this opportunity of working on the bike to explore some questions. Here are a few examples:
•Talk about the different sizes of gears that the chain goes over. Why not the same size?
•Talk about what powers the front wheel.
•Have NDEW measure the circumference, radius, and diameter of his wheel. Have him calculate the circumference using the formula first (C= pi x diameter) and then actually measure it to see how close the formula is.
•Have NDEW figure out how many times his wheel would have to turn to ride a mile.
•Talk about metric and standard measurement using your tool set.
•Talk about how his brakes work (friction) and maybe even compare them to how the breaks on my bike work.
•Talk about why we use oil on certain parts of bikes.

Before they started working on the bikes, while hubby was getting his actual work-work done, we had NDEW read through some websites and watch some videos about bikes, bike history, and bike safety. Here are the links we used:
Websites:
http://physicsofbicycling.homestead.com/
http://www.exploratorium.edu/cycling/
http://www.popularmechanics.com/outdoors/sports/physics/cycling-science-7-fascinating-facts-about-bikes#slide-1
http://airandspace.si.edu/wrightbrothers/who/1893/index.cfm (Website about the Wright brothers….the five slides starting on this link talk about their bike building activities and how that translated to aircraft)

Some videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shPgLBlBABc (Couple minute video from Science Friday)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dStGTWZlZHY (Silly Bike Safety video-a little young for NDEW but just a couple of minutes long)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=162fCN9-qnY (A better, longer bike safety video)
http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/04/15/2011/physics-of-the-riderless-bike.html (Another video from Science Friday about the physics of a rider-less bike)
http://www.open.edu/openlearn/science-maths-technology/engineering-and-technology/the-science-behind-the-bike (A series of videos about how science and technology have changed cycling)

Maybe this will inspire you to have a bike day of your own, our build a day of lessons around one of your child’s favorite activities. Have a great day!

I feel that I am entitled to my share of lightheartedness and there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s self simply, like a boy. ~ Leo Tolstoy, In response to criticism for learning to ride a bicycle at age 67

NDEW Bike 2

Geography, Valentine’s Day, and a Quick Story

US GEOGRAPHY

We have started a US geography/50 States unit, and I wanted to share a couple of ideas/resources with you.  First of all, as an introduction this past week I found this video.

NDEW absolutely loves it!  He walks around singing the parts of it that he’s learned, and watches it frequently.  Before too long, he’ll know all the state capitals if he keeps watching it!  We discovered that this song is part of an album called Brain Beats that has some great other songs on it too.  It’s available on iTunes and we’ve downloaded several songs from it.  Such fun music and, for a kid like NDEW who’s most definitely an auditory learner, a great way for him to learn some new information across several subjects!

As a part of this unit we have also asked people to send NDEW postcards from where they live.  We have friends who live all over the country and we put the appeal out on Facebook asking people to send the postcards.  We already have several state represented.  The fun thing is that NDEW doesn’t know this is happening, so it’s going to be a total surprise when all these postcards start showing up in the mail!  We’re going to have him chart where the cards come from on a US map and then include them in a couple of other project he’s working on.  If anyone reading this wants to participate, just let me know!

VALENTINES DAY

This week includes Valentine’s Day, so we decided to put our normal plan aside for the day and do something a little different.  We’ll still be hitting our normal subjects for the day (math, science, history, geography, writing), but all the activities will have a Valentine’s Theme.

Math:

  • Charting activity with several boxes of conversation heart candies.
  • Answering math review questions as a way to “earn” a few little Valentines surprises.

History

  • Reading the history of Valentine’s Day and the symbols we associate with it.

Geography

  • Color on a world map the countries that celebrate Valentine’s Day

Writing

  • Writing a Valentine’s Day poem

Science:

  • Do a “dancing hearts” science experiment:  Instructions found here: http://inspirationlaboratories.com/valentine-candy-science-dancing-hearts/
  • Science Valentines:  Inspired by a couple of examples I found online, I decided to make up some Famous Scientists Valentines for NDEW.  Hubby and I had way too much fun thinking these up!  NDEW’s assignment will be to figure out why the wording on each valentine fits with the scientist, hopefully learning a little about their work in the process!  If you want to see the valentines, you can download them here:  Science valentines  Before any of my science friends make a comment about the difference between monkeys and chimps on the Jane Goodall card, I know, I know…I couldn’t make chimp work on the card and I’ll make sure NDEW knows there is a difference!  🙂 Scientist Sample Valentine

ONE QUICK STORY

As I’ve mentioned before, hubby is the primary educator for NDEW.  NDEW started a homeschoolers PE class at Appalachian State University this week and he’s really enjoying it.  On Thursday evening, I asked hubby about class.  After sharing about what NDEW’s group was doing during class, he said “So it was just me and the moms watching.”  He said he’s the only guy there among the parents.  He said that the first question the moms asked him was “So, do you and your wife switch off teaching your son?”  When hubby said that he did all the teaching, they had lots and lots of questions for him about that worked.  LOL  He said “I’m not sure they quite knew what to do with me.  They kept saying, ‘So you really do all the teaching?’”  Glad my hubby is very secure in who he is!

Pinterest, Some New Finds, and a New Project

Pinterest:

Oh Pinterest.  You can be so addictive.  I am actually glad Pinterest wasn’t around when I was teaching in the classroom.  I always struggled with knowing when a lesson plan was “good enough” and Pinterest would have given me “just one more thing” to look at and consider adding.  For some reason I have the opposite reaction to using Pinterest to help me develop NDEW and hubby’s homeschool plan.  I really enjoy exploring the resources I find.  I’m not sure what the difference is.  Maybe it’s because when I taught I was always trying to tie every lesson back to an established state curriculum whereas I feel like I have a lot more freedom in developing a homeschool plan.  Maybe it’s because when I was in the classroom I knew that an administrator could walk in at any time to observe my lesson so I felt that my plan needed to be air-tight whereas I feel I have more breathing room planning for homeschooling.  Who knows?  I’m just glad that it wasn’t there several years ago, but it is now!  I invite you to visit our homeschool Pinterest page.  You can find it at http://pinterest.com/walhomeschool/  (also listed in the links list to the right).  Most of the boards are self-explanatory.  A couple that might not be are “Other Neat Stuff”, which includes all those things that don’t really fit on another board or that cross subject matters, and “Interesting Information” which includes overarching homeschool information and information related to those areas with which NDEW struggles.  I’m thinking about starting a board called “Things We’ve Actually Done” as a fun means of keeping track of what resources we’ve actually ended up using.

 A Couple of New Finds:

I wanted to share a couple of things we’ve found this week.

 The first comes from a blog I follow.  It’s a little poem to remember the difference between a comet, a meteoroid, a meteorite, and meteor and a great visual/drawing to go along with it.  I think we’ll be doing something similar in the next couple of weeks.  You can find the blog with more info here:  http://godmadeknown.wordpress.com/author/godmadeknown/

 The second thing is a computer game called “Kerbal Space Program”.  I’m not sure I really understand it (this is definitely an NDEW and hubby thing!) but you basically try to build a space program by designing rockets and space vehicles and trying to get your astronauts, the Kerbals, into space, along with satellites and space probes.  I thought it was just a cute little game until hubby and NDEW started throwing around words like low-earth orbit, eccentricity, prograde burn, and transfer orbit.  Huh?  Apparently this game is actually really involved and follows all the laws of astrophysics.  NDEW (and hubby!) seem to be learning a lot about space flight and all that’s actually involved.  Sounds cool to me, and it fits nicely with our current astronomy unit for sure!  You can find Kerbal Space Program at https://kerbalspaceprogram.com/ and it costs $23.

 A New Project:

In the continued effort to help NDEW become more self-directed with certain parts of his homeschool day, I’ve decided to put together some activity kits for him to choose from.  The plan is to have all the materials NDEW would need for the project in the kit so he can take it and run with it.  I haven’t made one yet, so we’ll see how it goes!  When I get a few made I’ll post more about it with some pictures.

January 14: What are we learning this week? (With links to some of our resources!)

This week hubby and NDEW are studying:

 Math: Hundreds board-NDEW and hubby are going to fill in a hundreds board over the course of the week to review factors and learn about prime numbers, squares, and divisibility rules.

Spelling/Vocab: Definition, part of speech, spelling and use of the word in a sentence:  This week’s words are arid, arrogant, barren, blunder, and boisterous.

Science: We are starting our first lapbook, so we’ll see how that goes!  This lapbook will cover things like galaxies, astronomy vocabulary, famous astronomers, black holes, comets and asteroids.  We’re not going to attack our first one from scratch so we’re using a template that I found at www.homeschoolshare.com

History: Learning about the Jamestown Colony and more details about the 13 colonies. NDEW will be playing a Jamestown settlement game online (found here:  http://www.historyglobe.com/jamestown/ ) and completing a project that shares information about each of the 13 colonies such as leaders from each colony, the economy in each, why the colony was founded and what the predominate religion was in each colony.

Geography: We discovered www.seterra.net and it looks awesome!  NDEW will be doing some activities on that and making a US landforms informational mini-booklet.

Reading:  Who knows!  NDEW and hubby are going to go to the ASU library this week and get their library card (a great benefit for those of us who aren’t affiliated with the university but who live in the community!) I’m sure they’ll find some great books to explore!  NDEW was very excited when we searched their online catalog and they had over 2700 books just on astronomy.  He’s never been to an academic library before…I think we may have to drag him out of there!  The ASU library also has a great children’s section because of their strong education department.  I have a feeling that hubby and NDEW are going to become regulars there!

Writing: More journal writing and keyboarding practice, as well as an activity on literary devices (like idioms, personification, etc.)  In this activity NDEW will put a card that defines each device and gives an example into his writing journal.  He’ll then write two examples of his own for each device.  I found the cards at http://msjensenclass-teacherresources.wikispaces.com/Classroom+Posters They are designed to print as full pages-like to put up in a classroom-but I printed them four-per-page and they were great cards!  There some other great resources on that page that I think we’ll be using in the future!

 

Other Projects:

1.  Create the Jamestown colony/settlement in Minecraft.-So NDEW absolutely loves Minecraft and we definitely see him using his creativity and problem solving skills when he plays it during his free time.  It’s almost like virtual Legos.  So we thought it would be fun to bring Minecraft into his homeschooling every now and then.  We’re studying colonial America so NDEW will be creating the Jamestown settlement in Minecraft.  He has information including some maps/drawings to go by.  Depending on how detailed he gets with this and how much time he spends on it this week, this may turn into a multi-week project.  I think the eventual plan is for him to record a tour of his created settlement and then to post it to YouTube to share with others.

2.  Finish the planets PowerPoint started last week.

3.  Start on a PowerPoint for the 13 Colonies.

4.  A few other quick math and art activities.

  

Away from Home:  Trip to the ASU library, homeschool music/recorder class, trip to the ASU Dark Sky Observatory (on Saturday evening), lots of errands to run with dad (Get ready to use those real-world money skills NDEW!)

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