Our Homeschool Adventure Blog

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

Archive for the tag “homeschooling curriculum”

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!

 

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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!

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.

Getting Back to School

Welcome back to school everyone! We hope you all had a wonderful summer. Ours was very low-key, (as you can tell by the fact that I didn’t post even once on this blog!); It was SO nice. NDEW especially welcomed the downtime after a school year that had been really challenging at times and full of changes. He continued his recorder/music lessons, but other than that, just enjoyed spending time playing Mindcraft, reading lots of books, hanging out, seeing family, etc. We had tons of rain this summer so the outdoor activities were kind of limited unfortunately.

We started our school year two weeks ago and we have definitely decided to make some changes for this year based on what we learned during our first ½ year of homeschooling (January-June 2013).  For one, we are rearranging our school day schedule a little.  We found out last year that Hubby was often interrupted during their morning “classroom time” with work needs.  (Hubby works full-time from home while also homeschooling NDEW.  Isn’t he awesome?!?!)  It seemed that he was most needed to respond to work needs in the morning and he came to realize that he was also more efficient at handling work responsibilities in the mornings.  On the other hand, NDEW is not at his best in the morning, never has been, so we found that he was best able to concentrate on new material in the afternoon.  We moved the activities that NDEW would work on independently to the morning and put the learning of new material that he and Hubby would do together in the afternoon.  The kinds of activities that NDEW does in the morning tend to be review of previously covered material or activities that he easily engages with without much prompting like reading and computer work.

We also discovered last year that NDEW and Hubby like to really dig into their topics.  When we were trying to do several topics a day they always felt like they had just gotten started when it was time to switch to another topic.  Toward the end of last year, they tried out a rotation schedule of subjects where they only covered one subject a day but really got to explore it at depth.  It worked really well so we’re basing their “classroom time” on that schedule this year.  The two exceptions are math and grammar.  I firmly believe that these two subjects require intentional daily practice of skills, so NDEW and Hubby do a little math and a little grammar almost every day.

One of the things that I love most about homeschooling is our ability to tailor NDEW’s instruction not only to provide him support in the areas where he struggles and challenge in the areas where he needs it, but also to arrange a schedule that works best for all involved.  When we first started homeschooling I had in my mind that we really needed to transplant a typical, public school day schedule into our home.  Thank you so much to those who helped us see that that was not the case and who encouraged us to explore what worked best for our family and to think outside the box!

In addition to our regular at-home learning, NDEW is participating in a few outside activities this fall and is really excited about them. First, he is taking a karate class and a painting class through our local homeschool group. The first day of class was last week and he had a blast. The same group is also scheduling monthly activities/outings and NDEW is very excited about taking part in some of those too. We are so blessed to have a group like this to be a part of here! I’m not sure how many families participate in this group, but just to give you an idea of the popularity of homeschooling in our area, there are more than 280 homeschools registered in our county; our county has a population close to 52,000.

NDEW is still also taking music/recorder lessons and is really getting good at reading music and playing his recorder. I don’t dread it when he takes it out to practice any more. His teacher is interested in having him start learning the alto recorder soon so that should be fun too! (How many of you knew there was more than one type of recorder?) He is also interested in learning a new instrument so that might become a spring 2014 project. I won’t give away what he wants to learn, but let’s just say that it relates to his Wallace heritage. 😉

Last but not least, NDEW is trying out for the play being produced by the local children’s theater this winter. His tryouts are on September 22 so send some good vibes his way! We missed auditions for the summer production of Night at the Wax Museum, but NDEW served as an usher and greeter for the three performances (complete with ancient soldier costume) and really enjoyed himself. He’s been in a couple of other productions in the past (not with this theater group) and has had such a great time. He’s never met an audience he doesn’t like. LOL We’re very hopeful that this will be a part of our fall/winter activities too!
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Speaking of fall-just a few leaves have started to turn here in the NC High Country and we’re having some cooler temps in the morning. Are you starting to see signs of fall where you live? I, for one, am looking forward to the new season and we’re all super excited about this new school year. Thanks for continuing on with us on this journey!

A (half) Year in Review and Looking Forward

Today was the last day of 4th grade at the Wallace Academy of Learning. We celebrated with a math scavenger hunt review game and a silly, slightly gross science lab! What an interesting, enjoyable, six months we’ve had. I cannot believe we’ve finished our first half school year as a homeschooling family. Craziness.

As we’ve been wrapping up this week I took a look back to see what all we’ve covered. I was amazed at how much we’ve done in these 103 days of school!
Math:
•Fractions
•Decimals
•Percent
•Area
•Perimeter
•Measurement
•2 and 3-digit multiplication
•Division, including long division
•Some fun math “extras” through the G is for Googol book
•Lots of everyday, real-life math
Science:
•The Universe
•Planets
•Space exploration with lots on different types of rockets, vehicles, etc.
•Meteorology, especially extreme weather
•Geology, especially types and formation of rocks, structure of the earth and earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides
•Magnets
•Types of energy
•Electricity-especially using our “Electricity Playground” kit which was a huge hit and will be used well into the summer
•Reptiles, especially snakes
History:
•Jamestown Colony
•The French and Indian War
•The Great Awakening
•Biographies of the founding fathers
•The Constitution
•The Declaration of Independence
•The American Revolution
Geography
•Overall globe geography (hemispheres, lines of latitude and longitude, navigation, etc.)
•Categories of landforms
•The 50 states including capitals, natural resources, major landforms, etc.
•Lots of map practice

Add to these lots of reading, music class, PE class, many small “off topic” extra activities, lots of online games, and lots of TV documentaries, and we’ve covered a huge variety of topics.
Of course, we’ve also gained so much insight into how NDEW learns and how he interacts with the world that has been invaluable as well. In many ways, those are the biggest lessons learned in our family this spring!

Looking ahead…
We have decided to continue our homeschool adventure into 5th grade and are very much looking forward to having a full school year to work together. We have also decided to use a little more set curriculum. We will be using the Core Knowledge series. Many people know them by their What Your —– Grader Needs to Know books. We will be using their 5th grade materials and supplementing with materials from Kids Discover magazine, Intellego Unit Studies, Daily Grams Grammar Practice, and the Thames and Kosmos Physics Workshop. We chose these resources because we felt they gave us a backbone structure to work from and lots of great resources but also allowed us the flexibility in schedule and activities that we’ve loved this year.

Some of the topics on tap for us next year include:
World History:
•Inca, Aztec, and Maya Civilizations
•Feudal Japan
•Russian History
•The Renaissance
American History:
•Causes that led to the Civil War
•The Civil War
•Reconstruction
•Western Expansion
Science:
•Classification of living things
•Cells
•Human Anatomy
•Physics: Simple Machines
Math:
•Lots of Geometry

NDEW will continue taking a music class with our local homeschool group as well as start a weekly karate class with them. He will also be working with his counselor twice a month on facial recognition practice activities. We are looking toward lots of local “field trips” and planning a big trip to Washington, DC in the spring of 2014. I looks like it’s going to be an awesome 5th grade year! We plan to start 5th grade during the 3rd week of August. We figured that, even with holiday breaks thrown in, we’ll still end before Memorial Day next May.

Before we look too far forward into 5th grade though, we have 10 weeks of summer ahead of us. Woohoo!!! NDEW and hubby have some really fun stuff planned for this summer, in addition to hanging out and relaxing a lot. First, NDEW will continue his music class this summer and there is a homeschool group that will be having a weekly park day to get together and play. NDEW and hubby also plan to build their own light sabers, build some kind of outdoor tree house or play structure and plant a small garden. I’m sure there will be lots of library trips, bike rides, creek tubing, mountain exploring, movies, and computer games to go along with those projects as well.

We hope each of you have a wonderful, relaxing summer and we thank you for journeying along with us on our homeschool adventure!

Quote of the Year, from NDEW: “Not only am I the valedictorian of the Wallace Academy of Learning, but I was also voted best looking.”
(This kid certainly doesn’t have a lack of confidence! Oh my word….)

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

Time for an Update! (With lots of pictures!)

Wow! How quickly time flies! I didn’t realize that it had been three weeks since I posted an update. Things are still going really, really well. Every day we grow even more thankful that we made the decision to homeschool. We knew that it would impact NDEW’s education, but we didn’t realize the impact it would have on our entire family. Our family is so much calmer. I cannot tell you how much I don’t miss the race to get out the door in the morning. We also have so much more time together as a family. I know that sounds like a “duh” kind of statement, but it’s true. We can do things together in the evenings, and not worry about fitting homework in or if bedtime is a little later. Our daily conversations don’t revolve as much around schedules, due dates, keeping up with paperwork and assignments, what money is due when for which event at school… Now we actually talk about what Nathaniel’s learning, leading to some great discussions. We see him extending his learning, especially math, into everyday life situations. Most importantly to us, we see NDEW’s natural curiosity coming back and his ability to handle stress and anxiety increasing. I don’t think we’ve regretted this decision once in the past two months.
In the past few weeks since I posted, we traveled to Pinehurst, NC for NDEW to be evaluated by a pediatric neuropsychologist. We have been working with this doctor for a couple of months now but he has been wonderful in sending us assessments that NDEW could do at home via mail or online. The last bit of the evaluation had to be done face-to-face, so we spent two days in Pinehurst finishing that up. The evaluation went really well, but we won’t have Dr. Franklin’s report for another week or so. I’ll be sure to share what we learn and a little more about what made us decide to seek the evaluation (and homeschool) when we have the report in hand, so stay tuned for that. One especially fun part of this trip was the stop we made on the way home at the Natural Science Center in Greensboro, NC. Here’s a picture from our adventure!

Science Museum
As for what we are learning: We still haven’t settled on a set curriculum and, honestly, I don’t think we will, at least for the remainder of this year. We’re still learning lots though! NDEW is still studying Colonial America but has gotten more into what day-to-day life was like then. In science we have moved on from astronomy and are now studying meteorology. We’re focusing mostly on extreme weather right now but starting to explore other topics as well. We’re approaching math in a couple of different ways. First, we are using the book G is for Googol and NDEW and hubby are going through it a few pages/topics a week. It’s been a really fun way to explore some new math topics. For instance, they made and learned how to use an abacus a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a picture!

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We’re also studying fractions, decimals, percentages and how they all are related to one another. One thing NDEW did was an activity where he had to put clothespins with different decimals on them in order. Here’s a picture of that activity.

clothespin math
In geography we are studying US geography and, as I mentioned in my last post, receiving postcards from all over the country. This is such a fun project and NDEW is learning so much! I think we have around 75 postcards so far from over 30 states!

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In addition, NDEW has been doing tons of reading. We are soooo lucky to have the ASU library as a resource here in our community. We go weekly and NDEW has already read several good books he got there, not to mention all the great nonfiction resources to use!

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Add in homeschool association music class, ASU homeschool PE class, skiing lessons, and Wednesday night church activities and there is lots of fun learning going on around here! Not to mention that we don’t have to take snow days…..Poor kids in public school around here are going to be going to school until mid-June, are looking at some Saturday classes, and are looking at losing a couple of days from their spring break. Yikes! Yet another homeschooling benefit for our family!

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!

Update and Lots of Science

Since I hadn’t written in a couple of weeks I thought I’d share a little update, including lots of science!

So what are we studying….

History: We’re still camped out in the US colonial period although I think we’ll be moving on from that pretty soon.  NDEW is doing a PowerPoint presentation on the 13 colonies and I have a feeling that, once he finishes that up, we’ll be ready to move on.

Math: We’ve been talking about least common multiples, mixed numbers, improper fractions, ordering fractions, and adding fractions.

Geography: We’ve finished up US landforms and now we’re moving on to an overview of the 50 states.

Science:  We’ve always thought of NDEW as being a history kind of kid, which he definitely does like, but we’re discovering that he likes science more than we realized.  That does this science-major-and-former-science-teacher mom’s heart good! We’re continuing to study astronomy covering subjects like comets, black holes and Mars.  NDEW has also been studying space travel and space exploration.  There are so many excellent space resources available online!  This has been a really fun unit of study so far, and NDEW’s definitely still enjoying the Kerbal Space Program challenges too! (See last post.)

Writing: We’re still doing some creative writing and keyboarding practice and have started reviewing/studying parts of speech.  NDEW also now has an email pen pal (the daughter of a college friend who lives in Kentucky), so writing her is going to be part of NDEW’s writing every week too!

Extras:  We’ve had a couple of crazy weeks of weather…everything from spring-like temps in the mid-60s to flooding rains, to a good amount of snow and ice and sub-zero wind chills.  Road conditions have been a big topic of conversation around here, which has led to conversations about how the roads are treated.  NDEW and hubby did a fun science experiment about how salt affects the melting rate of ice and NDEW even got to use the microscope he received for Christmas! You can download the instructions we used here: Ice Experiment

In another experiment, just for the fun of it, we explored how dish soap works and made some beautiful, albeit temporary, art in the process.  You can find the instructions for the experiment as well as the science behind it here:  http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/experiment/milk-color-explosion  Here are some pictures from our experiment!  NDEW’s reaction was priceless.   Click on the picture to make it bigger if you’d like ti see it better.

experiment picture

NDEW also participated in a live, interactive virtual field trip about fish of the Pacific Ocean.  He really enjoyed it!  He took part in it through this website:  http://www.lifesize.com/en/social/sea-extravaganza  They do one once a month I think.

In “away from home” extras, NDEW started his homeschool music/recorder class and is really enjoying it!  The PE class at ASU starts this week and he’s definitely looking forward to that as well.  We also had a fun night of dinner and volleyball with friends at church last night, and are looking forward to going to a Super Bowl party tomorrow night.  Wintery weather definitely doesn’t keep people locked up at home here in the High Country!

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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