Our Homeschool Adventure Blog

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

Archive for the tag “homeschooling plan”

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.

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….)

Time for an update!-Geography Project

Hello friends! It’s been a while since I wrote! We’ve had a busy several weeks, part of which counted as our “spring break”. We spent about 10 days out of town while hubby and I worked at a conference for my job and NDEW had tons of fun exploring Orlando. Legoland and Animal Kingdom were BIG hits!

For this post I thought I would update how our geography project is progressing and has expanded. As far as postcards go we now have 109 cards from 43 states! It has been SO fun to see them all come in and then post them on our map. NDEW really has learned a lot of geography and lots of interesting facts about each place as well. People have written some really cool trivia and questions on their cards! We are still missing postcards from Nebraska, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, and Delaware, but we’re hoping that we might still get ones from those states before it’s all said and done.

As we’ve been receiving postcards we had the crazy idea to request the free travel guidebooks from each state as well. As all of these full-color, glossy magazines started arriving in our mailbox we started wondering what we had been thinking! They all contain gorgeous pictures and lots of great information, but the chances of NDEW sitting down and reading 50 of these things cover-to-cover was slim to none. After all, they also contain a lot of information that’s not really interesting or useful to a 10 year old….like lists of places to stay, page after page of attraction listings, etc.

So after some brainstorming, hubby and I came up with a way to use the guidebooks that would not only tie into geography but also into math, history, and even occasionally science. Score! When we get a new state guidebook in the mail, I go through it and write questions on sticky notes that I then stick to the pages of the guidebook, creating a type of “scavenger hunt” for hubby and NDEW to work through together.

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The amount of questions for each guidebook varies widely, and I try to tie the questions into other subjects we’re studying, like fractions or types of rocks. Here some example questions for different subject matters:

Geography:
•What route would you take if you traveled from ____________ to ________________?
•What mountain ranges are highlighted from this state?
•What is unique about ______________River?
•What Native American tribes are found in this region?

Math:
•If you made 5 batches of ______________ recipe (recipe listed in guidebook), how much ___________ would you need total?
•How many miles would you travel if you went from ______________ to __________________ to __________________ and then back to ______________________.
•If you hiked 10 miles per day, how long would it take you to hike the ____________ trail?
•How many nights could you stay at ______________ hotel if you had $500?
•If you stayed at _______________ hotel for 5 nights, what would it cost?
•What fraction of the campgrounds listed on this page offer an on-site laundry?
•If you used the 30% off coupon listed on this page, how much would it cost you to get into _____________ museum?

History:
•What took place in ___________________?
•What famous person was born in ______________________?
•What was important about ___________________ (fort, battlefield, crossroads, etc.)?

Science:
•What is unique about the fossils found in ___________________ area?
•What types of rocks do you think are pictured here?
•What scientific discovery was made in ______________________?
•How do you think the rock formation found on this page was formed?

Other types of questions:
•What do you think the people in this picture are thinking right now?
•Go explore more about _________________ online.
•Go listen to and example of _________________ (type of music featured in article) online.
•Of all the points of interest listed on this page which two would you like to visit most and why?

We are still doing separate history, science, math and grammar lessons, but this has been a really fun way to learn a lot of geography and review some other things as well. Plus, you can’t beat free resources! Most states send along a detailed state map with the guidebook and several also send separate booklets and brochures on areas of special interest like national parks, flora and fauna, history, etc. A couple even sent along special kid-focused posters and booklets. All the money these state tourism boards are spending on these guidebooks is definitely worth it. I want to visit every single one after going through them!

On another note (because a few have asked me) I’ll share more in my next post about our journey to this point with NDEW and what we learned from his recent neuropsychology evaluation.

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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