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!!”

Making Homeschool Astronomy Easy!

I just love studying space… you know… the final frontier! The place where no man has gone before… It’s so beautiful, quiet, and peaceful looking. I find the stars and planets and galaxies so amazing! Like how, in the world can you explain a black hole? So, it follows then that one of my favorite subjects to teach is astronomy. The cool thing is that now that we have so many awesome resources at our fingertips, we can pull to gether a homeschool course in this subject for FREE!

Here is just a sampling of the treasures that I found in the internet universe. (no pun intended 😉

I like to start with a study of the earth, and Google earth is awesome for that!  A good understanding of our earth and its relationship to the other planets is a great jumping off point. Viewing the amazing galaxies and star clusters and other space phenomena is what makes astronomy so interesting.  Over at worldwide telescope you’ll find everything you need to view these amazing things!
This isn’t the end of the cool stuff, because at Galaxsee you can form your own Galaxy, and if you prefer studying from a text book here’s a free astronomy hypertext, NASA’s free offering is an Astronomy 101 class that you can browse, and to put icing on the cake here are some really great astronomical images and animations that will keep you wow-ed! You can study the spelling of your planets with free spelling flashcards or teacher resources, and I have also just recently discovered a super duper app for the ipad called skyview! This you have to try! You take your ipad outside and look up at the sky and it overlays a map of the constellations and planets. You can highlight the different items you view and it will give you information about them. That’s even better than a planetarium!
Well, I hope you have a blast with these super fun resources… don’t forget to comment and let me know what you found interesting!

A Quick Way to Make Your Homeschool Day Run Smoothly

I don’t know about you, but my children tend to get distracted easily. We will be trying to understand parts of speech or put words in ABC order and each little noise or action will cause them to stop and have to comment.  This can be so very frustrating. I started trying to think of ways to keep them on task at the beginning of the year, and the only method that really seemed to work was to have a checklist for each child with the homeschool classes listed that they needed to complete each day. This worked to some extent, but it still didn’t keep them very focused.

At the beginning of November I came across a few timers that I thought that I would try out for myself. Once I began using them, I realized what a great benefit they would have for my children! My favorite timer app “30/30” is awesome for the kids. I can input their various classes set the timer for how long I want them to spend on each class and off they go. The first few days was amazing! They were so “on task” it was unbelievable. Though the newness has worn off some, it is still pretty awesome. When that timer is running they are usually right on, and school gets done more quickly and efficiently.

Since, most of us use a PC for homeschooling I thought that I would go ahead and include some similar PC based apps. These don’t allow the name of the class to be entered. They do however, offer some pretty great graphics that might keep kids coming back.

The first is this great Balloon Timer...

homeschool class timer

The other is this really great – embed-able timer. You can put this into your website and have it at your fingertips.

Count Down Timer


Homeschooling when Mom’s Sick…

Yes, sometimes it’s mom that just has to call a sick day! I don’t know if your children are like this, but mine are crazy if they don’t have something constructive to do. They are very active children so unless they are zombies in front of the television, they are being quite active. This also means that they are not quiet, and usually when I’m sick I want quiet. So…. this leads me to share with you a recent discovery I made.

I found that if I organize an alternate schedule of things to do on the days that I am sick … the alternate schedule is exciting enough that it keeps their interest and keeps them quiet! (Ahhhhh…..) To do this, I found two ways successful.  I have taken an old large mailing envelope and included in it all the things that I would like for them to do on days when momma is sick and doesn’t need to be disturbed. I include educational videos that we just normally don’t have time to watch, logic puzzles, detailed color pages, tangram puzzles, art assignments, and put them all into the folder with instructions on how to complete each step and how to record what they have done.

Secondly, I also design an online folder as well. In this are all the things that I would like them to accomplish on the computer. I often include whatever classes that I feel they are a bit behind in, and other activities that I know would help them academically. I often include links to writing tutors, online learning games, and general learning games for kids. Each site is educationally sound and I can trust that my children aren’t just “zoning out” for a day while I am under the weather and I can rest easy. ( which is always nice!)

Making Time for Art at Home

I know… you are already saying…”Oh, please, not art!” I understand, most homeschooling families look at art as something that can be done IF there is enough time left in the day. Even then, art is usually a crafty type of project. Art and a true art education is a good thing, and shouldn’t cause parents to quake in their boots. 🙂 There are a few simple things to keep in mind when preparing an art curriculum, and if you include them and take it easy… you should have a great time! Here are a few pointers:

1) Make sure that you teach art appreciation. This should begin early. When your child is small encourage them to appreciate things of beauty. You can point out beautiful sunsets, gardens, flowers, photos, and even works of art. As the child grows you can more formally encourage this appreciation by visiting art museums and exhibitions.  Even asking questions such as, “What do you like about this painting?” can lead to deeper appreciation.

2) Don’t forget about art history. Teaching art history doesn’t have to be boring. When we study art we usually put this together with the art appreciation. If there is an exhibit at the art museum on impressionism go see the art and then discuss the artists that did those works. Putting it together makes it more fun and more meaningful.

3) Of course, you can’t forget about actually doing art! This is the most fun of all… as you study famous works of art, the artists that painted them, you can then try to mimic their style yourself! I love to teach art this way… it really is alot of fun. Yet, I would suggest that when you first begin, use an introductory teacher resource course such as Mona Brookes “Drawing with Children.” This is a great way to get kids thinking “art” without being the least bit painful. I also enjoy the online art curriculum put out by Time4Learning. The only temptation here is that we may just let the kids go through the information without actually getting our hands dirty! Getting dirty is the best part of getting an art education!

Last but not least… remember that art is an outward expression of your inward self. Get involved with your children and try this… you may find a budding inner artist there. There is no BAD art… be open and accepting…

Turning a negative into a positive

Nope… I’m not talking about some algebraic principle or homeschool fiction here… I’m talking about how to deal with negativity.  Everyone is different, and personalities range from bubbly to solemn… but negativity is different. It’s a step beyond your basic personality where the person makes a choice to think, act, and speak in a negative way.

At our house, most of us have pretty balanced personalities…oh we have our bad days though for sure! However, my husband and my 2nd daughter tend to be more introspective, and often tend towards negativity. Sometimes, I just want to avoid my daughter when she gets in a mood… but that just isn’t the way to go about making things better.

Typically, there is a reason that she is in that mood. That doesn’t guarantee that the reason is a good one, but it is a reason nonetheless. To deal with a negative attitude, it’s best to genuinely try to help them with whatever is bothering them. Listen to what they have to say, and try to positively give them solutions or encouragement.

It just isn’t easy to deal with a negative person… just sayin’! The easiest thing is to return negativity with negativity… but that doesn’t help anyone. I try to encourage my other children to HUSH… when someone else is being negative. The best way to counteract a bad attitude is to respond with a good attitude, and it works like a wet blanket on a fire…every time.

Consequently, I can see in my own home that my attitude sets the tenor for everything that happens here. If I have a problem or a negative attitude… everyone seems to catch it. When that happens our whole day usually stinks! I find that I am the one who needs to model the correct behavior so that my children can learn appropriately. No, that is never easy… and I can’t say that I manage it every time. Yet, as the parent and the teacher in this home it falls to me to teach them that negativity just isn’t healthy. Truly, it is like a cancer, and if we let it go it simply festers and gets worse.

Negativity can affect your child’s life and even their future. Who wants to hire an unhappy and negative employee? Encouraging a positive attitude in ourselves and our children will contribute to a healthy and happy environment that is conducive to learning. Isn’t that what homeschooling is all about?

Free Resources for Language Arts

Well, we’ve been back to school now for a few weeks. Things are beginning to fall into a routine. The children are doing great with their new schedule, and their new books. We did a major change this year, and started using a whole different curriculum for math and Language arts. So far, we like it! Yet, the kids are getting finished a whole lot quicker than they ever have before. I am not sure about why, maybe it’s just the first few weeks and review. In any case, I’ve been finding some free resources on the web to supplement and augment what they are doing in their texts. Here are a few great links that we’ve found really useful!

Free Worksheets

Root word games

Phonics Games

Vocabulary Games

and just because I love math…

Cool Math Games

So, how have your first weeks of school gone?

Fun Facts about the Fourth of July…

It is the fourth of July again… one of my favorite holidays! Homeschoolers can take advantage of great memories and use this special day to teach your children about patriotism, freedom, responsibility, and the God that made America great. Here are some great fun facts to share with your kids this fourth of July…

1) Also known as Independence Day…

2) Became an official holiday in 1870, but was celebrated all the way back to the early days of our nation.

3) The Declaration of Independence was a resolution that told Britain how America felt about its rights and freedoms. The Continental Congress voted in favor of independence on July 2 and then on July 4 they adopted the formal resolution that was drafted by Thomas Jefferson. This resolution was eventually sent to Britain and the King, and was essentially a declaration of war.

4)Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4th 50 years after they signed the Declaration.

5) Nearly 200 million hot dogs are eaten on July 4th every year!

6) There are nearly 300 million pounds of fireworks sold to individuals each year.

7) This equates to nearly 1 billion dollars… sad to say that about 1/3 of this is imported from China!

8) 80% of ALL fireworks sales takes place in June and July in America!

9)This one gets me… The US spends nearly 5 milion dollars each year on flags imported from China!

Summer RE-construction…

How did your hoemschool year go? I think our really went well. We had changed up a lot of things this past year… so I was a little nervous about how it would fly. Yet, I think I am still going to change things up even more next year.

I use the months of June and July to research and learn about other currciulum that looks interesting to me. Then in the month of August I put together my master plan… and then order. I love how every year even with six different children with varyin needs and interests… the master plan seems to weave together amazingly. I usually have my doubts about how it will also work together, but most of the time it seems to mesh amazingly well.

The key to getting things to work well is to know your children. Understand their strenths and their weaknesses and then try to find curriculum that will match these. Each year I vow to deconstruct or tear apart what I did last year if it didn’t work. If you are willing to change everything to make sure your children are learning… that will make the difference!

If things didn’t work too great for you last year, keep looking. There are so many awesome ways to teach from unit studies, homeschool portfolios, distance learning, and even great books! There is something out there… even if you have to make it your self… that will work for your family and enable you to RE construct your homeschool with purpose and a design that will benefit your children for years to come.