Get Techy with these 10 tools!

techtoolsDo you ever feel like a disk with out a drive when it comes to technology in your homeschool? Well, you shouldn’t worry about it. There are loads, and I mean. LOADS. of easy to use techy based apps and programs that will help your teaching and learn grow exponentially.

  1. Heads up– yeah the game. It’s super fun and easy to play… but did you know that it increases vocabulary? Sure – the idea is to use descriptive words to lead someone to say the “answer word.”
  2. Schoology – this is a free program that you can access on your PC. It is super helpful with putting together a course from a text, a pdf, an e-book, youtube videos, or even Khan academy. Great if you’ve got free resources you want to organize into something more cohesive. You can even add your tests and it will score them online! YAY!
  3. Kahoot – this allows you to create and share learning games for any subject!
  4. Padlet – great app that allows you to create a “scrapbook” of things that you need to remember or organize. Super tool for the homeschooling mom!
  5. Edpuzzle – you can use videos to teach your kids, but add a quiz or even your audio throughout the video. This means that as they are learning with the video you can track their progress with a quick check up quiz.
  6. Flippity.net – this is too cool for the homeschooler – you can easily take a google spreadsheet and turn it into flashcards, mad libs, spelling tracker – – lots of options!!
  7. Glogster – this lets you create multimedia posters. I can think of a lot of uses where the kids could use this as a reporting/project based learning.
  8. Mentor Mob this is somewhat like skillshare – where everyone shares “how to’s” with each other. You can learn alot of stuff on this site!!
  9. Explain Everything – interactive whiteboard
  10. Screen castify – this is perfect for using your own computer to teach something. Screencastify basically records what is happening on your own screen. Great for teaching a techy subject or a how to on a specific program.

…and just for a bonus you’ve got to try popplet! A super fun way to take notes, brainstorm, or study!

The Best in Summer Learning

The BestinSummer LearningUnfortunately our brains don’t stop once summer hits. Yet, who wants to work hard at learning – especially when there are so many fun things to do? Well, to be honest… I don’t. I’d rather sit by the pool and enjoy my summer… but I know… I know… we can’t let our brains (or our kid’s brains) atrophy. BUT – we gotta do it without stress.

Here are our favorite no -stress summer learning ideas!

  1. Need inspiration for learning – go to the king of inspiration – Pinterest!
  2. Find some great summer reading for middle schoolers and elementary age kiddos here!
  3. Choose an online summer school alternative!
  4. Bring a writing teacher along on your summer vacation!
  5. Get your kids hooked on a summer science program!
  6. Find great summer ideas for your homeschool highschooler.
  7. Have a garden? Use it as a learning tool – summer learning in the garden.
  8. How about a whole pinterest board on great books for summer reading?
  9. If “free” is your thing – check out free summer ideas for kids.
  10. Or – just break down and allow them to play computer games – but don’t tell them they’re learning games!

4 Truths about Homeschooling

You know years ago – homeschoolers were the weirdos. The fringe crazy religious that wanted to brainwash their kids – Well, at least that’s what those who hated the idea thought. Fast forward about 20 years, and we see that the homeschooling is more main stream normal… and might I add  – a little trendy? Of course, there are still the haters… but we all know about them… haters just gonna hate.  But – back to homeschooling – there are some little known, maybe even shocking “behind the scenes” facts about homeschooling you need to know.

  1. Homeschoolers are not geniuses (well there are probably some – but not around here!) Homeschoolers are just normal, average kids that study and learn at home. I think they are pretty awesome… because even though they aren’t geniuses, it takes a special kind of kid to learn independently.
  2. Homeschooling is hard. Yes, I know we are supposed to be encouraging one another here… but the post title does say “truths” about homeschooling. It is true that homeschooling can be tough, and some days I stay in the bathroom brushing my teeth, fixing my hair, cleaning the toilet, etc… just so I don’t have to face the five kids in the schoolroom. With that said, there is a DEEP conviction in me that DETERMINED to homeschool our children when I saw the wonderful effects it had on them. So, the bad days can be… well just stinking bad. But there’s a diligence that allows the homeschool mom to wake up the next day and realize… “it’s a new day… it can be great! Let’s give it another go!”
  3. Homeschooling can bring huge rewards. As mentioned previously… uh hum… it isn’t easy. However, homeschool parents see the progress and achievement that their children make on a daily basis. They see the light bulb turn on when they finally get division or can read a whole sentence. Those moments are priceless and are what give homeschool parents the motivation to teach on – day after day.
  4. Homeschoolers are flexible, fun loving, and fearless! Yep, what a combination! But each is true. Homeschoolers are flexible and learn at all differen times, in different ways, sitting up, laying down, online, from a text, at home, or even at the park. Homeschooling is totally out of the box!

If you are interested in homeschooling and don’t know how to GET STARTED… try this free guide – it’s quite helpful!

Getting Ready for College?

I’m sure one of you is in the same situation I am…about to graduate one of my children while trying to help guide her in making decisions about college and her future. Shew. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

One of our major concerns – right behind the graduation and party – is to find a way for her to attend college without costing a fortune or piling up huge student loan debt. When our oldest graduated, she determined that she was going to work and attend college. She also wanted to make sure that she didn’t acquire a bunch of student loans. The same goals apply for our second daughter. We’ve found a few a simple practices help to enable new students to keep these goals.

  1. Do test prep. You don’t have to pay someone to help you with this. A little effort and you’ll be able to find a lot of free online resources that can give you the test prep you need.
  2. Take your ACT/SAT as many times as needed until you score the same score twice. You’ll know you’ve reached a plateau then. However, the more you take the test, the more relaxed you get. This enables you to test more accurately. Make sure that you’ve researched and found out the minimum score needed to qualify for the state scholarship. This is one of the easiest scholarships to get  – so take advantage of it.
  3. Depending on the level of scholarship you were able to reach with your ACT/SAT testing, you  might have to find a few scholarships to top it all off. Let’s Homeschool High School has a great quarterly post that reveals TONS of great scholarships perfect for the homeschooler.
  4. Work. I know it’s popular belief that college students need loads of time to study. Rubbish. I worked a full time job (para pro teacher) and went to school 16+ hours each semester. My daughter worked a full time job and went to school 15 hours a semester. Not only can it be done, but it also requires you to budget not just your money, but your time! I’ve also noticed that it causes the student to be much more appreciative about their courses, their grades, and even the free time that they do get. Try to pay for your classes as you go. For example, make sure that semester 1 is paid for before you move on to semester 2. I know just this year, my daughter’s college opened up a payment plan so that students didn’t have to apply for a loan.
  5. Bottom line – work hard. If you make a little extra effort and try – with your college classes, assignments, tests, and with a job – you’ll be on your way to getting a great education without a lifetime of debt.

Getting “Out of the Box”

Education in America is compartmentalized, regulated, standardized, and even (I feel) dehumanized. When I hear the words public education, I almost cringe. In the context of public or government education it conjures up images in my mind of our teachers putting children into labeled boxes. Predetermining for them what they are and how they will succeed. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some great teachers in the public school system… my own sister is one of them… but just because the teacher is good – doesn’t mean that the system is.

If American public education is packaging our children into tidy little boxes…then what is homeschooling doing? My thoughts are this… homeschooling is the banner cry for freedom within education circles. Children over the past few decades that have been homeschooled have gone on to prove this point. Homeschool statistics demonstrate that it works! Childhood learning – with all of its amazing intricacies – can be experienced to its fullest within the freedom of homeschooling. The opportunity to educate your child the way that you deem appropriate and according to your own personal beliefs and preferences is the epitome of freedom… this isn’t home school fiction… this is the real thing!

If your child just hasn’t fit into the box of government education… it just may be time to give homeschooling a try – and get “out of the box!!”

5 Tips on Getting Kids to Help One Another

Do you have a striped shirt? I know I do… if not literally then figuratively. You know, the striped shirts worn by those men with the whistles… the ones that make the funny hand signals at the football game? Yeah… referees! I know after all of the arguments, disagreements, and even the “not so football” tackles that I’ve interrupted I’ve earned my stripes. Kids – especially siblings – are prone to… well, let’s just call it like it is… FIGHT. I don’t know about you, but it makes me a bit sad. I try to teach my kids how to peacefully negotiate, to talk through their anger, and to simply count to ten or say nothing at all. Yet, still… the ref shirt comes on…daily!

Well, on a homeschooling level I wish there were less arguments so that each of them could help each other more. I know there are times that I’ve taught a concept, but it hasn’t really gotten across. At those times, I think that the other children could probably “speak kid” better than I and help to get the concept across. How can we stop the fighting and get them helping one another?

I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve pulled together a few ways to help teach the foundational aspects needed to dwell peaceably and actually move to the positive aspect of helping one another.

  1. Respect – No I’m not reciting a line from an old song… it’s important to teach siblings to respect one another. If there are times that a disagreement has caused them to flat out disrespect one another, incorporate some measure of discipline. One method I like is to make them spend and entire day apart. No speaking, eating together, playing together, or even doing school together. Often, by the next day they really miss one another and will be ready to be respectful. Respect is a foundational idea behind helping one another.
  2. Don’t ignore bad behavior. Sure, I know the common opinion of our day. Ignore it – it’ll go away. I’ve been a teacher for many years, and I must admit that the concept of ignoring the behavior so that it will go away  – just doesn’t work.  Children learn in every instance. If they commit bad behavior and don’t receive their just rewards, that teaches them that the behavior really isn’t so bad. Instead of eliminating it, we inadvertently encourage more of it.
  3. Teach children how to work through anger and disagreement. This isn’t just something they face as children. This is a life skill and something that must be taught and encouraged for successful living. Help them identify the emotions that they are feeling, and encourage them to talk through it with one another. Helping them to understand the root cause of their emotion (anger, jealousy, irritation) will help them to understand how to work through it.
  4. Teach them to appreciate one another. This is definitely difficult. However, regularly pointing out things that each of your children do for you or each other and praising that good behavior is a step in the right direction. Ask them questions about their siblings such as, “Has your sister been helpful today?” or “Didn’t you enjoy it when sister helped you find your spelling book?”
  5. Help your children develop friendships with one another. Again, another foundation principle for teaching children how to be helpful. No one wants to help someone that they are enemies with. Developing friendships among your children isn’t impossible, but it requires us to be intentional. Often we’ll go around the dinner table and take turns saying something kind or positive about one another. Sometimes, I’ll give them a special responsibility they have to share. In this, encourage planning, preparing, and carrying out the task together. Extra credit if it’s something fun. I also like to encourage my kiddos to think about the future. Friends come and go, but family lasts a lifetime.

It’s January… thumbs up or down?

Yep, here I go stating the obvious again. I am curious though, is January going well? or is it a serious thumbs down time?

As home school moms, we all know January can go either way. I usually try to end the previous year with some down time, hoping against hope that it will renew my outlook and refresh my attitude toward my children and homeschooling. It’s tough though, it’s the middle of the year and there are a lot of issues that could get me down. Most often I’m beating myself up about not accomplishing everything that I had wanted to accomplish thus far, and that always gets me down. Over the years, I’ve tried to manage these struggles because as sure as it will rain – these struggles do come. There are a few simple things that I do that tend to help me combat those “thumbs down” times.

  1. You home school, you are the teacher and principal… a lot depends on you. No one else is going to make sure that you are ok… so YOU make sure. Take time off. No you don’t HAVE to get that project done this week, and believe it or not you can even cancel those extra music and art lessons.
  2. Do something that heals your heart. It’s different for everyone. Sometimes reading a book will help me, sometimes I need to pray, and sometimes I need to go away for a day or two. Sometimes just going to the mall alone or with a best friend will work wonders. Whatever your happy spot is, take a day or two to relish in it and allow it to feed your soul. Mom, you cannot help your children or your spouse if you are empty.
  3. Take a day to rearrange your school room. Change always brightens my perspective. I always think better in a neat and organized environment. So, I take a day or two to empty out, clean, and refit our schooling area. This really works wonders on my psyche. I find myself with my interest piqued once again, and ready to dive in.
  4. Take a day to enjoy your children without “requirements” or “being the teacher.” I know we, as parents, never truly get the day off… but take some time to just enjoy them…their smile, their laughter, their silliness… It just might be catching!
  5. Review the things that require your attention and time. Take a fresh look at your schedule. Is there anything that you really don’t need in your life? Cross it off… is there negativity that just brings you down? Cross it off. Surround yourself with things that encourage and motivate you. (Of course, we all know that life hits… and it just happens. But, the regular unnecessary negativity that we CAN do without – do without!)

Great Ideas for Christmas Break

Displaying Copy of SMG-fair.pngDisplaying Copy of SMG-fair.pngImage result for spellingcityI personally don’t like to take huge breaks from homeschooling. My kids tend to forget everything they’ve learning in a matter of days. So, no school for weeks… well, let’s just say it isn’t pretty. On the other hand, I do feel sorry for them… a little. So, I love to incorporate learning in a way that they LOVE. I do this easily with a mix of several free online resources that offer a range of learning games.

1. Learning Games for Kids – this site is one of my favorite because it has such a wide variety of games on so many different subjects. We have enjoyed learning keyboarding skills and even studying our multiplication tables there.

2. Vocabulary Fun is a perfect site to brush up on all things that have to do with vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.

3. Spelling City is a perfect place to revisit some of those spelling words that really stumped the kids in the fall. You can enter your own lists and the kids can play a variety of games, take a practice test, and even the final test. Say goodbye to the spelling test paper tiger!

4. Another fun site that we love is Science4Us. This site is designed for K-2, however my third grader and my 5th grader are both enjoying it immensely. If you don’t want to sign up for the paid service they have a boatload of the FREE videos available for guests.

5. Finally, if you have older highschool aged students, the Let’s Homeschool High School has an amazing directory of homeschool curriculum. I like the homeschool curriculum guides which give links to a variety of free resources. You could check for some free electives courses to take during the Christmas break!https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwLA0V0VW9uGSUFfTTNqMjU4bjQ/view?usp=sharing

For Homeschoolers on the Verge of Calling it Quits

Image result for quittingPiles of books, completed tests waiting to be graded, notebooks full of to do lists, scraps of paper, and pencils… all the miscellaneous daily products of homeschooling. As a “neat” lover, these bits of disorganization and mess just really push me over the edge at times. This is not to mention the daily stress of making sure that work is completed, books are read, and multiplication tables practiced. Sometimes, it just puts me in a… bad mood. It’s overwhelming, and seriously intimidating.   I have to admit, there are many times that I want to act like our youngest and sit on the floor and cry in a heap of pity party. Or. Maybe. just maybe… quit.

Then, as I sit and look at the mess surrounding me, I see the note placed on my desk earlier by my next youngest daughter. A note that expresses her love for me and thankfulness that I love her and take such good care of her. She’s thankful that we spend all day every day together, and she loves me even when I’m frustrated and grumpy. Wow. It’s clear she doesn’t see things the way I do… she sees it from the eyes of a child. The important things aren’t necessarily the cleanliness of our school room, or that her tests from 3 weeks ago aren’t graded. She sees the important things counted in minutes and days… time spent together. That’s exactly what homeschool is, and investment of time.

Forget the minor details, choose the things that will last and provide joy and amazing memories in days to come. Choose laughter, and take the time to purposely invest in your children. The tests that need graded will wait… in fact, they can wait awhile!

Isn’t it amazing how one little note of love and gratitude from an 11 year old can change your whole perspective?

Cake Decorating Day Oct. 10

I love using sneaky methods to teach my kids valuable lessons. One of the “queens” of sneaky learning is cooking. Let’s think for a minute, how many different things is a child learning when they are cooking?

Measuring

Following directions

Reading

Motor skills

Kitchen safety

Waiting for expected outcomes… hopefully teaching patience

Amazing Chocolate Cake Recipe

Mix together the wet ingredients, then add in the dry ingredients. Put into 2 round 9″ or one 9×13 greased pan. Bake at 350* for 30-35 minutes/ cool for 10 before removing.

2 c white sugar

1 3/4 c flour

3/4 c cocoa powder

1 1/2 t baking soda

1 1/2 t baking powder

1 t salt

2 eggs

1 c milk

1/2 c vegetable oil

2 t vanilla

1 c boiling water

 

Icing (gotta have icing – it’s cake decorating day!)

3/4 c butter

1 1/2 cocoa powder

5 1/3 c powdered sugar

2/3 c milk

1 t vanilla

Cream butter til light and fluffy – Mix remaining ingredients together in mixer and spread on COOLED cake.

 

See original recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/17528/extreme-chocolate-cake/