Online Education For Kids

…where homeschooling and learning is fun!

   Apr 24

Getting Ready for Summer Learning

Cozumel, Mexico - Going here in January! Hope it is as beautiful as this picture suggests. :DI know, this post just might not be the most popular post – especially with the kiddos. Yet, this year I am realizing that I need my children to keep on working through the summer. There are alot of areas that I feel they are slack in and could use the extra work. We’ve talked about it this week, and I must admit I felt as if their stares would burn a hole right through me.

Though my children do school just about every single day, there are still some gaps that I have noticed. So, our goal this summer is to fill in the gaps and get ready for the next “official” grade.

My first grader has a bit of dyslexia. She is struggling with reading, and is getting pretty frustrated. I plan on keeping her working on basic phonics skills and small readers throughout the summer. We will use the first grade language arts lessons from T4L to help her review what she has already learned. I also love Bob books, and will use those in conjunction with a Disney princess early reader. (simply because she adores Disney princesses!)

My third grader does well with her writing and grammar… however, at our house this is the pivotal year for multiplication tables. She understands multiplication, but just doesn’t have the “facts” down. We will be working through those during the summer- getting them to the rote memory stage. I love using kids learning software along with other math learning games.

My seventh grade twins are both doing fairly well. They are currently writing their first research paper (translate- I’m losing my hair). They also have begun learning some basic algebra. So, during the summer we are going to continue using Time4Learning as a supplement and reviewing the spelling lessons through Spelling City’s customizable lists.


   Feb 26

Homeschool Standardized Test Options

♥ TruthAs one of the fastest growing methods of education, options available for homeschoolers are growing accordingly. Over the years, the availability of different types of standardized tests has made testing our homeschool children much easier.

Getting Started with Standardized Testing

Standardized Test requirements by state is the first place you should look. It’s vital that you know and understand what your state requires from you as a homeschooler. Once you’ve determined if your state requires you to administer a standardized test to your children, you can move ahead with complying.

Which Standardized Test is Best

While there are many different tests available as options. There are a few that stand out simply because they are tried and true. A few of those are:

The Stanford 10 – We’ve used this test for many years. It’s a good option and one that can be given easily with a group of students. Typically this is a group administered test, however there are 3rd parties who allow for you to purchase this test from them and administer at home.

The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test – This is a great test that I’ve used many times. This test cannot be administered by a parent, it requires that a professional with necessary qualifications administer the test. This test is great for students who have learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The proctor can account for those differences in each situation.

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills – another “oldy but goody”… I took this test as a young child. Though updated several times since then, this test is definitely a good example. This test is also typically group administered, but is available through many different 3rd party test providers.

The OLSAT and CogAT tests test School Ability Index or what used to be known as Intelligence Quotia or IQ.

Where’s a Good Place to Take the Test

While some people have begun to take their standardized tests online, I do prefer tests of this type to be done in person. However, ease of use makes the online option very desirable for most homeschoolers. You can usually take standardized tests with your local homeschool co-op. There are also 3rd party testing centers where you can test.

Which Tests Should We Take

There are two types of standardized tests that are most commonly given to school aged children. These consist of achievement tests, and ability tests (IQ). Achievement tests test what the child has been able to achieve or learn over the course of the year.   If you test every year, you don’t need to test IQ (School Ability Index-SAI) each year. The SAI tests a child’s innate ability to learn. Most often when taken together the tests compare the child’s abilities to what they are actually achieving… letting us as parents know if they are really applying themselves.  The School Ability Index doesn’t change dramatically over a year. I would suggest that the SAI test be given once every 3 years. In our state of GA, testing is only required once every 3 years. So, when we do test – I usually do a combo test. This year we will be using the Stanford10/OLSAT for the last time. The Stanford will be retiring after this year.

Should we take different tests for different grade Levels?

Whether your child is using elementary homeschool curriculum or high school you can use the same “brand” of test. In fact, I would suggest sticking with that brand of test as you school your children. It’s not a huge concern, but each test is a little different and staying with one style of test will help you compare their achievement more acurately.


   Feb 15

Tips for Protecting Your Children Online

 

Using the internet to educate our children has so many benefits. There are hosts of wonderful resources out there that make our homeschooling endeavor so much easier. It even has the capacity to make boring subjects exciting! Yet, there is a dark side to this treasure trove of information. The dark side of the internet can affect you and your family before you even realize it. In fact, research shows that 1 in 4 families have had to deal with a destructive internet issue within their family unit.

Over the last several years,the growth rate of distasteful sites on line has increased exponentially. So much so that these sites are now intrusive. In other words, you can no longer be safe on the internet by “minding your own business.” Children and adults alike are just no longer safe to search the internet without some sort of protection.

At our house we use the internet daily for our online learning. This means constant use of the internet. With this constant use, we are exposed with a constant threat. From child predators, to identity theft, to pornography our children are not safe without some form of protection. For ultra conservative homeschoolers and even freethinking homeschoolers this is a necessity. Though it takes a bit of time to set up, there are great free online filters available. If you don’t have a filter installed on each computer in your homes, take time today to set one up. Many are free, they’ll help you keep your child’s innocence, and give you some peace of mind.

Here are a few suggestions

1)     You can download a free filter account from K-9 Web Filter or Safe Families. There are other types of filter software available that will give you more flexibility. These usually cost about $40-$80.

2) You will need to set up a new free private email (you can have this email delivered to your regular email account) just for this purpose. Tell no one the password to this email. The Web filter will send notifications and password resets to this email.

3) You’ll need to set up your account. The safest way to set up most filter accounts is to select “custom.” In this way, you can choose exactly which categories you want to keep blocked.

4) You can block specific sites that you may be concerned about. Simply find their internet address and enter it into the program.

5) You can also add specific web sites that you always want to allow. On our filter program, I had to specifically enter all of the Time4Learning websites that are used in order for us to do our daily school work.

www.time4learning.com

www.newhomeschooling.net

www.thelearningodyssey.com

www.spellingcity.com

6) Take time to review your filters. I like to revisit my settings and double check that nothing is getting through every couple of months. The K-9 filter I mentioned above now has an ipad filter that is available as well.

7) Don’t be afraid to require your kids to let you have access to their email, facebook, and other social media sites. This may seem intrusive, but it really is just making sure that they aren’t getting involved in dangerous situations… tough love is sometimes part of parenting.


   Jan 09

How to Begin Homeschooling Online

Did you know that statistics relate that 5% of all school aged children in America homeschool? With the numbers of homeschoolers growing rapidly, many of them are choosing the online option. While there are many incredibly different yet viable methods of homeschooling, the online option is definitely one that is attracting more and more attention. What makes homeschooling online such a viable option? For each family, that would be different but here are just a few reasons…

  • Ease of Use
  • Burden of Teaching isn’t on one person
  • Reaches varying learning styles
  • Keeps students engaged
  • 24/7 access to courses
  • Immediate feedback/grading
  • Records are usually kept
  • Organization/Lesson plans are pre-made

Before you begin homeschooling or before you choose a specific curriculum, check with your state’s requirements for homeschooling. Make sure that you have fulfilled or can fulfill those requirements with the curriculum that you choose. As online homeschooling has grown so have the resources that help you accomplish it. In just the past few years, this area of homeschooling has grown exponentially. There are a myriad of varying resources that you find in one google search. Yet, in your decision making process just take a minute to write down the characteristics of the curriculum that you think would fit your family. There are so many different “kinds” of online homeschool options, I really could write a book! But to make this post short and sweet (and hopefully helpful) I’ll limit it to a few bullet points.

  • Video streaming
  • Animated teaching, songs, games
  • Complete curriculum
  • A la carte curriculum (choose what you want or need)
  • Text and Online curriculum combination
  • Online testing (provides immediate feedback)
  • Virtual school (connected with the public school – accountability to them)
  • Interactive games

It’s pretty easy to implement an online homeschool curriculum. You typically will have to sign up or register and pay a fee. Once you’ve got “log in ” information, it’s simply a matter of learning. Some parents will still want to set up some type of schedule and accountability measures to make sure that a progression of learning is made. However, some of the online programs will have a complete set of lesson plans that are premade. This allows the parent to simply schedule the particular lesson on a certain day. While every homeschool family has different tastes, homeschooling online is very flexible. Many curricula have created apps that allow the student to continue working while traveling. This makes doctor’s appointments a breeze! Since we have highschool as well as fourth grade online curriculum we’ve got alot to keep track of. At our house we do maintain a semblence of a schedule which keeps us moving forward.  Here’s what I typically do when I begin a new year:

  • Check with my state – to make sure that we are still in compliance
  • Review what my children have already learned and then research and discover what they need to learn next and set goals
  • Research curriculum that will help me accomplish their goals
  • Purchase curriculum
  • Review scope and sequence
  • Align our calendar schedule to cover the scope and sequence for the year
  • Set assignments for the kids and set up any type of record keeping or grading that I plan on using (some online curriculum will do this for you)

   Dec 10

Tips for Working at Home WHILE Homeschooling

Ever since we started homeschooling about 10 years ago, I’ve worked at home. When we made the decision to homeschool, I was a principal at a local private school. I love working in schools, and I love making a difference in children’s lives. However, seeing my own children sacrifice things to attend school, made me realize that they are my number one priority and that I needed to make a difference in their lives first!

However, working at home and homeschooling is never a breeze. There is always some type of major incident, someone who needs help with math, a dog that thr   ows up in the floor, or a drink that has been spilled on a math paper… there is always something. Yet, that’s part of the “wonder” of raising children. I know that one day I will miss all the little catastrophes that each day brings in the life of a child. In the meantime, I’ve learned some survival skills that really do help to make working at home a little less crazy.

1) Review your responsibilities – eliminate the things that are not NECESSARY. Which means – prioritize your life!

2) Establish a schedule, and use planning resources. I often print out about 6 months of calendars and post them on the fridge. We write all over them. With six kids, there is always a scheduling issue, and this common calendar does help. I also use Google Calendars and thanks to my friend Kerry – I have set up text alert notifications as well as email notifications of each event on my calendar. This is definitely a huge help – it reminds me every day of the upcoming tasks that I need to complete.

3)Anticipate change, life happens! Of course, right after I tell you to establish a schedule – I tell you to break it. LOL!! Really, the schedule is there more “as a guideline.” If have a basis, and your children get used to it, it really is easier to go about your day. Especially if you are distracted by something regarding work – the kids are in the habit of following their schedule.

4)Use a homeschool curriculum that enables you to work while they are learning. An intensive curriculum that requires a lot of teaching might not be a good choice for someone who has to work everyday. There are tons of great resources out there that really help make it easy to work and homeschool, from online spelling program s, video courses, and high quality online curriculum. We tend to use an eclectic mix of them all!

5) Use downtime like breakfast and lunch to catch up on work tasks, and make phone calls while the kids are busy and engaged with something. I find it is useful to have a “talk” with them before I actually make the call. They understand why they have to be quiet for a few minutes.

6) Use your kiddos to help you work. I love to include my family in as much as I can. So, if the opportunity ever arises I try to get them involved in what I do.

7) Organize your homeschool and work area to facilitate efficiency. I have found that keeping my kiddos stuff in “workboxes” or those craft drawers. This help s them keep all of their school stuff in one place, and in order. I don’t have to look for missing school books everyday. Keeping it in one localized area helps alot! (See #10)

8) Use automated record keeping or keep school records on the computer. I know the online curriculum that we use has an automated record keeping system that really makes this easy!

9) Schedule fun things into the day. I have found that my kids love art and music. However, I have realized that it is one of those things we will always skip if we run out of time. Make it part of your weekly schedule and it will happen!

10) Have a dedicated area for homeschool. I find that this is one of the most important things for me. Homeschooling and working is stressful, but wonderful. If I can close the door and leave that area, it makes me feel as if I have “gone home” from work and can relax.

 

 


   Nov 05

Using Film Projects as Part of Homeschooling

Yes, I know this a rather random and maybe never considered subject. However, a recent article really made me sit up and take notice. Using film projects in your homeschool is a great learning tool. Video projects always captivate student’s attention… it involves their creativity and allows them to express themselves. Most student’s time during the day already contains a vast amount of electronic media… so why not harness that interest? Using film projects can also challenge  student’s in the area of language and expression… thus giving them the opportunity to realize how film can influence people. A film project isn’t limited to highschool students either – students using a third grade online curriculum could get involved as well!

Most mom teachers may be reluctant to incorporate this type of assignment into their homeschool simply because they aren’t familiar with filming. However, there are tons of great resources online that can help make this project a no brainer. However, to make the project a success the mom/teacher must create a rubric or lesson plan to give the project continuity and help the students with a goal. It’s great to give the students a standard for the quality of film and sound as well.

When introducing a film project it’s always great to start with a bit of instruction on basic filmmaking concepts. These should include the ideas of shot, take, montage, edit and export. Alfred Hitchcock once said that “the foundation of the art of making films” was the montage. Each of these means of expression gives the filmmaker the tools they need to create a successful film project.

Once you’ve taken the time to educate your students in the various aspects of film making its time to get started. Since, filming can be done on a multitude of devices there is a lot of flexibility with this project. First, request that your student use the best equipment that they have to shoot their film.

First your students should PLAN…

… then of course developing a STORY BOARD or SCRIPT is always important.

Then once your goal is formed and you know where your headed FILMING can begin…

however, your random shots even though following your story board must still be EDITED.

After editing, it’s time for the final review… and then you can submit your project. It’s always a good idea – even for homeschoolers to find a contest or some other to which you can submit your project. You can even upload to you tube and share on social media outlets! Be proud of your accomplishment and share it with the world!


   Oct 10

What is the Common Core about anyway?

The Common Core State Standards is definitely the education buzzword these days, and with good reason. Even homeschoolers, of which I am proud to be, are concerned about the long term affects it will have on our freedoms to educate. Though many people look at common core as a way to get everyone on the same page with learning… others ( mostly our government) look at it as another way to control what happens across our country. A perfect example of good intentions gone awry – or maybe it is simply a bad intention cloaked in a “good” cover.

As a classroom teacher, I realize that fundamentally the common core just can’t work. There is no way that someone in Washington can determine what Susie needs in my 1st grade classroom even if it is 1st grade online curriculum. The power to decide how a child is educated must remain with the parent and those that are local. Whose child is it? Definitely not the US government’s child. It is my child and I should always have the right to decide just how he/she is educated.

How did the Common Core get started?

The idea began in 2008 with the National Governor’s Association. Soon after NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officials began accepting grants to develop the CCSS. In 2009 and 2010 Race to the Top funding is set aside for schools that adopt the Common Core State Standards. (HMMM… this looks like a bribe to me???)

Is the Common Core already in effect?

Each state is different but initially there were 45 states that adopted the CCSS. However, once these standards went into implementation states began to see the major flaws and issues surround the standards. Many of these states have now backed up and decided not to adopt the standards.

The Federal Government’s Involvement?

Technically there are three sets of laws that prohibit our Federal Government from delineating state education requirements. Yet, our government went out of its way to promote the standards by: setting conditions on grants that make them contingent on implementation of the CCSS, offering waivers for the most difficult parts of the No Child Left Behind Act if states began implementing CCSS, and awarded millions of dollars to the state consortia to craft assessments for CCSS.

Does centralized education work?

The US has spent billions of dollars over the past decades to improve our educational system. However, with all the money involved, we still have only seen a marginal increase. Financially, a very poor investment. However, in Finland the educational system ranks nearly the highest on earth and their government has increasingly DEcentralized education. Taking Finland’s example would not only save us money – but make education better for everyone in the long run!

How will CCSS affect homeschoolers?

As the federal government gains increasing power of the educational decisions of our nation, I believe that this will carry over into homeschooling as well. There is supposed to be a nationwide educational database that will be formed as the states implement CCSS. This database would give information regarding every child that is educated. The other aspect that will affect homeschoolers is the alteration of the assessment instruments. Homeschoolers still take the same standardized assessments that their public school peers take to enter college. These tests are actually changing this year, so we will see soon enough.

So, what’s your opinion of the CCSS? Do you think it will impact your homeschooling efforts?


   Sep 04

Homeschool Scheduling Variations

I know one of my major concerns in homeschooling is that we break up the monotony. Sometimes, doing the same thing over and over or having the same schedule year after year – really makes for a BORING day. I appreciate change and I believe that my children do as well. Here are a few variations on daily scheduling that might be an encouragement to your homeschool.

First of all the best schedules for learning are based on your student’s needs. If you have a particular need – more time for math – or more time to do fine arts – make that your priority in creating your schedule.

1) Typical schedule – Many people use this type of schedule regularly. This is a good method, and you can get creative with this type of schedule. You can rearrange it – or create it with fun classes in between the heavy serious classes. This is great for the fourth grade online curriculum level. You can schedule your online classes then intersperse art, music, or PE between computer times to get the kiddos moving!

2) Block Scheduling is another creative way to adapt the schedule. This is when you take a particular subject or subjects and focus on them for a set amount of time. Then you move to another focus block. For example, you could teach History, Geography, Foreign Language, and Grammar/Writing for the first 9 weeks of school. This could also be accomplished with a daily schedule of four 90 minute sessions. The second nine weeks you could teach Math, Reading, Literature, and Science. Some people love this method – others feel that it leaves to much rest time from the subject and students begin to forget.

3) Block schedule variation – Another way to use the block schedule method could be adapted by having Language Arts  for 90-105 minutes each day, and then science/math alternate days with 90-105 minutes, and then scheduling your other courses like history, art, etc. at 50 minutes each.

4) Alternate block scheduling – Divide your courses into 8 blocks. Students do four the first day and the other four the second day. In the course of two days students will cover their “block.”

5) A four day week is a method that can really help busy families or families that have music, athletic, or art lessons each week. You would simply spend a bit more time schooling each of the four days that you are in school. Doing an extra lesson throughout the course of the week.


   Aug 07

5 Tips for HighSchool Career Exploration

Success Sign Stock ImageI know homeschooling is amazing… all these years learning together with our children. Yet, in the back of our minds we know that all good things must come to an end. We see these beautiful little people growing into awkward pre teens, and then blossoming into amazing adults. What in the world do we do now? Well, homeschooling highschool is just as exciting as homeschooling the little ones. Though it presents a totally different set of challenges, it is something that each of us can do!

One of the biggest challenges in homeschooling a highschool student is that of directing them and encouraging them to find a career or life work that plays to their strengths, interests, and passions. The best way to really really prepare them is to encourage them in middle school. Using seventh grade online curriculum to prepare for highschool career centered courses can give them the preparation they need. As adults we all know that getting stuck in a job that we hate can be the worst “life sucking” experience that we ever have. Starting early on with tips on career exploration is the best way to help your child avoid falling into that disappointing job experience.

1) The first thing that I like to encourage my children to do is to understand why it is so important for them to choose a career that plays to their passions. At first my teens looked at me like I was crazy. Then I explained. If they LOVE doing something, and they are able to get paid for doing that… that equals job satisfaction. Of course, there are the other factors that play into making that job something they love… like a good boss, job perks, and colleagues that are kind and easy to work with.

2) The second important aspect of finding the right career is getting to know yourself. I usually have my teens write down at least ten things that they love to do, five subjects or topics that they are passionate about, and what they feel they actually “do” best.

3) I love to encourage my kiddos to sit down and take a few of those “career exploration” tests and quizzes. Though some of those online tests and quizzes aren’t all that statistically sound… taking several of them helps round out the margin of error and allows them to see if there is one specific career that keeps surfacing. Most likes that career is really one they should consider.

4) Once they have a career area in mind, it is time to do a little research. We usually get online and find out everything there is to know about that specific career. It’s beneficial to find out what educational requirements, job skills, and even actual demands that are placed on the individuals holding that career.

5) Finally, if that specific career requires college or vocational training… now is the time to start preparing for it. During your student’s high school career make sure that they take the courses needed to prepare them for that training. It is also a great time to find a place where they could volunteer to get a realistic “feel” for the career they have in mind.


   Jul 16

10 Reasons Why Homeschooling is Exploding!

homeschoolAs a parent of six children, I truthfully cannot imagine our life without homeschooling. Yes, I know just from those few words I fit the “norm” of the weird – unsocialized- homeschool mom. For many that has been the big dividing line for homeschoolers – the opinion that others have of them. Which often these opinions aren’t based on any facts. Yet, in reality homeschooling is becoming more and more popular. People are turning to homeschooling by the hundreds, and the homeschool statistics are still rising. There are millions in America today that claim homeschooling as the method of educating their children, I believe that the following reasons have a direct correlation to this trend!

1) Desire for a safe school environment. (27% of homeschoolers cite this as their reason to homeschool)

2) Moral and religious reasons. The moral fabric of our nation is undoubtedly deteriorating and our children are the most susceptible.  The homeschool movement was greatly propelled by this reason to homeschool, and still to this day the statistics reveal that 78% of homeschool parents attend church regularly. (21%)

3)Dissatisfaction with academic instruction (19%)

4) People who move around alot, or who travel extensively –  this includes the military. I’ve been surprised to see just how many military families have chose homeschooling!

5) Health issues are often another motivating reason to homeschool.

6) Freedom to learn at one’s own pace- or to provide a non-traditional form of education. (5%)

7) Special education and the ability to educate without stigma. (5%)

8) Financial reasons

9) A desire to have more family time.

10) For all of the above reasons!