Stressed out schooling?

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STRESS. BURN OUT. I’ve been there… Have you? Homeschooling can be so rewarding – but it can also require alot. Commitment. Time. Energy. Finances. Each of these facets of homeschooling can cause stress and eventually burnout. Most often I find the fact that my kids “just don’t get it” the most frustrating.  Sometimes it seems like we aren’t even speaking the same language as our children. We teach them, instruct them, help them, and it appears to be echoing off of their cute little heads. What is the key to getting it to “sink in?”

…Speaking their language…  Each person is created with their own unique way they learn.  Some are concrete learners, some are abstract learners, some are sequential learners, and some are random learners. If we try to educate our children in a form that they can’t understand… they just won’t get it.

…finding their “learning style”…The key to learning is for us to determine what type of learners our children are, and to accommodate their learning styles. We need to build on how they learn to get them to learn. Most children respond differently to each type of schooling (traditional, individualized, online, textbook, Charlotte Mason, etc)

There are multitudes of great resources out there, definitely something for every learning style.  From organized textbook learning, to online learning, learning games, and even online writing courses there is  no need for our children to be stressed about learning.  Learning can be fun, and exciting… we just need to find the miracle key that allows all of that knowledge to “sink in.”

Summer Learning CAN equal FUN!

Summer… I look forward to it all year. I know, I am supposed to  be the mature one around here. Yet, I think I look forward to the more relaxed lifestyle that we lead during the summer than the kids do. It is just a much needed break that really renews and invigorates me. If it wasn’t for a bit of time off in the summer, homeschooling in the fall would be impossible.

Even though I like to take a break in the summer, I still try to keep the kids learning. Their little minds are so active and really are constantly learning in some way. Why not maximize on their cognitive interests? I try to organize several websites that I want the children to visit over the summer break to catch up on math or vocabulary. To make it as simple as possible, I add them to my favorites bar so all the kids have to do is click on each site I want them to visit.  These sites range in interest from vocabulary games to math and science fun. The kids usually have a great time playing and taking a break from the heat… while I sit back with a contented smile knowing that they really are learning through all that laughter!

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.

Homeschooling High School Free Downloads

Homeschooling high school involves creativity, organization, details, and of course… paper work. Don’t you love it? Well, to be honest, not really. Paper work is something that I just don’t have time for. Which is why these few amazing downloads can really “tame the paper tiger” and allow you to do what you really need to be doing.

I typically start organizing my high schooler’s schedule with a calendar. Sometimes, I will use an online spreedsheat which I make in Google Docs, and  other times I will use a paper calendar. Here is a free downloadable version of a 2013-2014 homeschool calendar.

I find it very helpful to start recording our homeschooling high school courses and course descriptions on some type of transcript as soon as they start highschool. Here is a great free high school transcript template.

Another frequently needed document that I often used to organize my homeschooling highschool endeavors is that of the report card. Though many homeschoolers really don’t use the highschool report card that frequently, there are times that a report card can be helpful. They are often required as proof of good grades for insurance purposes.

As you homeschool your highschooler it’s always wise to keep track of everything they do during these years. When you finish up their records make sure that you’ve recorded all of their accomplishments both great and small. Everything from volunteering to course work should be included and used as a way to create a “big picture” of who your student is. Whether your highschooler goes to college, becomes an apprentice, or some other grand thing… they will need a picture of what they accomplished during their high school years. It’s our job to make sure that picture is recorded accurately.

If you have some other great ideas for organizing your highschool homeschool, please share them!

Pain Free Math for Homeschool Highschoolers

curriculum directoryYes, I know you are wondering… homeschooling highschoolers(wow! lots of syllables in that!)? Sure, not many homeschoolers think that they can do it… but in reality it isn’t as difficult as it may seem. There are some tricks to helping your highschooler make the most of their college years. Though many enjoy science and history- math can be the real hold. Although, not every homeschool parent is cut out to teach their high school student high school math, there are websites and online tutorials that can really make the job a simple one.

For example, at Let’s Homeschool HighSchool they have a  homeschool highschool curriculum that contains all of the required subject areas for highschool. From this web page there are links to all kinds of great curriculum options. We use this curriculum directory religiously!

One of my all time favorite websites for helping me teach my children math and science is Khan Academy. This site covers almost all math topics for the high school level and some of the topics for Chemistry and Physics. Your student can simply search for a topic at their website, and a few videos will pop up. You then choose which one looks to fit your needs and a very concise reteaching of that concept is presented within the video. Most often it is enough to bring about true comprehension of the topic. Sometimes it is just the fact that someone else words the concept in a slightly different way. Whatever it is, it works.

Another great tool for high school math learning without a headache is the new Time4Learning High School component. They have all of the needed maths for highschool level learning, and each is presented with a video and interactive learning. These are high quality and fun! These are useful for the main core curriculum of your homeschool math.

Finally, I love using ALEKS math as a high school course if the student is wanting to take it for dual credit. You see, you can register and take an ALEKS course such as College Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Trigonometry, PreCalculus, and Statistics and when you finish you can transfer the course to ACE (American Council on Education) which will hold the credit until which time you are ready to transfer it to the college you student will attend. You just need to be sure to transfer the course and get confirmation from ACE before starting a new course with ALEKS. ALEKS does not keep records!

Best Homeschooling Apps

Well, in honor of the fact that this blog is “Online Education for Kids”, I thought that I would post about all my favorite techie things to use in our homeschool. I love using my ipad to teach my kiddos, and one of the most important aspect of that are the apps! The apps make it all happen, and so without further ado… here are our absolute favorites…

My pretty much all time favorite is the SHOW ME app. It’s free and it works like a white board and allows me to teach anything. I can even snap a picture of a worksheet and have my little guys fill in the worksheet via this app. I can even record a teaching session! How awesome is that?

I love McGraw-Hill learning apps. We have several of the math ones including multiplication and fractions. They work well and they thoroughly help the student drill and practice.

For all of you who struggle with homeschooling spelling curriculum. Your answer lies in the Vocabulary and Spelling City app. It works great, is easy to manage through your regular account and the kids love learning their spelling words this way!

My kiddos are all taking music lessons and love music games. We love the GRAND PIANO app because it is fun yet it encourages the kids to use the proper keyboard fingering as they learn various songs. This is very fun and interactive!!

If you love learning about space and constellations. The SKY VIEW app is incredible. You simply take it outside and it shows you the planets and constellations that are in your sky right now. It highlights them through the camera view on your ipad! This app is sooo cool!

For those of you who are history buffs, the SMTHSONIAN app is for you. It has episodes of The Smithsonian shows that you can watch on your ipad. We love the science and animal videos!

Another of our all time favorites is the METEOR MATH. It encourages quick thinking of all mathematical operations. You can practice addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. It continuously gives your child a challenge and allows the game to get harder with their increasing speed.

For our youngest MATH CAKES is a favorite for learning addition. She loves playing with cupcakes any day!!

Learning short vowels is easy with the SHORT VOWELS app. We haven’t downloaded the long vowels one yet, but plan to very soon!

The iLearn series is also very good. We like the CONTINENTS app to teach our kiddos about the continents of the world. We are studying this in our geography so it works great for us.

Last year we learned about the states and capitols and used several apps to teach this. STACK THE STATES, US STATES, and US PUZZLES were great to help us learn our states and capitols.

Brain Pop Jr. is also a really great app. However, this one requires a fee. It shows a weekly video that is educational and fun.

The NATIONAL PARKS app is pretty cool, might not be too useful at the moment… 🙂

The ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA is a very nice app that allows you to browse A-Z as well as read top articles  and even search.

I am sure that there are alot more that are great and useful for homeschoolers… can you share your favorites with us?

Which Middle School Math is right for Us?

middle school mathYour child just finished up sixth grade and now you are faced with decisions of how to prepare them for what they need to take in high school and beyond. It can be a daunting task, and let me tell you… it’s just the beginning.  Before you know it, you’ll be making high school decisions, and then college decisions. It goes too fast… but I digress…

How do you decide what to teach your Middle School students? From simple machines to art curriculum… it’s hard to know what they should be taking! Well, as I always say… refer to their strengths. Determine which areas they do awesome in and which areas they just “cover.” Those “strong” areas are where you should be putting your attention. For some reason, many people think our children should be masters of everything. I don’t… challenge their strengths for those are the areas that they will more than likely develop and follow in their pursuit of a career.

With that in mind, determine if your student is strong in math or not. From there you can decide if you want to go basic math all the way through high school. If you child is gifted in language abilities, there isn’t anything wrong with just covering what they need in the math area. On the flip side, you should be challenging the stew out of them in their “strong” areas!

1) Slower math learners should stick with the basic seventh grade math, eighth grade math and then basic high school algebra.

2) Typical math students could do either seventh or eighth grade math in their seventh grade year, pre algebra in their eighth grade year, and then Algbebra I in high school.

3) Faster math learners should definitely be challenged, and we as parents should help them in this! They can easily take eighth or pre algebra in seventh grade, and algebra I in eighth grade, thus allowing them to take more advanced maths throughout high school.

If you have experienced this with your own children, please comment and share with us!

Homeschooling Your High Schooler

high school homeschoolI meet so many young people these days who are begging their parents to homeschool them. They are dissatisfied with the government schools for one reason or another. The sad thing is that many of these families just think they “CAN’T” homeschool. I have been able to tell many of them how truly easy it is to homeschool  – and not just homeschool but homeschool with excellence!

One of my most amazing discoveries has been the vast wealth of information available from American Ivy League schools for free! Yes, you heard me correctly. These courses come in the form of what many call “open courseware” and they are truly available for free. The university or college will place their video lectures for particular courses on the web, and anyone is able to view them and gain knowledge. They do not include any tests or quizzes nor do they offer college credit for these courses. However, students can use these courses as their high school lectures and receive a top quality education for free.

Another option to even further your investment (FREE goes a long way) is to encourage your children to complete open courseware courses on subjects that are available through CLEP. If you haven’t heard of CLEP it stands for College Level Examination Program. Students can take tests through the College Board (makers of ACT/SAT) and then receive up to a certain amount of college credit based on their test score. This is a great way to get your highschool homeschool courses for free and get a jump on college!

I have started this process with my two oldest children. We purchased the CLEP study guide, and have been using several of the free open courseware courses as our high school homeschool curriculum. When we finish these courses this spring we will be off to take the CLEP tests. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

I also love using this high school transcript form, high school diploma templates, and printable high school diploma for my own high school students. It’s made record keeping a breeze.

Of course, if you’ve already had experience in this area… please share and let us know how it went for you.

Using Games to Motivate…

home school gamesI know… schooling isn’t always the most exciting part of our kiddos’ day.  Well, I may think so, but I know that they have a different opinion. I have learned though, if I make school ALL hardcore learning then it WILL be the worst part of their day every day. I have had to make myself think ahead to include fun things into our daily routine. If I can include games and other types of fun learning exercises through out the day, MORE learning actually takes place. Over the years, my thinking has evolved. I have to admit I was the hard nosed “teacher” homeschooler.  However, today and six children later… I am more the “let’s make this as fun as we can” homeschooler.

Here are a few of my favorite choices to make learning as fun as possible.

1. For History I like to use the Time Traveler’s Series. It includes fun games and projects that we make every lesson. My kids love history because of this! Also, trivial pursuit is a great board game to play and try to integrate a little history.

2. For Science, we use the Apologia Series. We make scrap books of our science learning, and do all types of experiments. This year we studied Botany, and we did alot of our lessons outside with real live specimens from our backyard!

3. For English, I love to use online teaching writing games along with grammar games and worksheets. For spelling I enjoy using spelling games as well as vocabulary matching. Scrabble, boggle, and other such word games are great for reinforcing what you are teaching!

4. For math, we use manipulatives (beans, pencils, clown counters, base ten blocks, etc.) as well as games like multiplication bingo, match ups, and anything else that I can think of!

What are your favorite games to get your children interested and LEARNING?

Algebra in Junior High?

At our house, it is a crime if you don’t like math! No, not really… but I happen to love math. I tutor students from all over in high school math, and I see how difficult it can be to stay on top of it if a student gets a little behind.

I encourage all my homeschooling friends to get their kids grounded in Algebra during the Junior High years. For one, it allows them to get a good foundation before high school requirements begin. I have seen time and time again, if the student stuggles in Algebra I they seem to struggle throughout high school. Getting a solid foundation in Algebra is vital to their high school success.

You can easily accomplish a solid Algebra foundation in Junior High by getting a challenging curriculum for your student. You don’t need anything too advanced, but you do need to find one that presents all the major algebra concepts.

Here is a great FREE online Pre Algebra course

Cool Math presents comprehensive lessons on the major algebra concepts. You could use these in conjunction with a workbook.

Time4Learning has a great algebra curriculum that works very well for Junior High level students.

Sometimes our student can be a math visual learner, if that is the case you’ll need to present Algebra concepts with visual manipulatives. This link is a great article on how you can do that!

There is also Khan Academy which is the rising star of teaching math and science online. They have lessons that teach just about every mathematical concept presented in high school. Definitely something we can’t live without.