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!

The Simplicity of Teaching Reading

homeschool readingYes, as a homeschool parent teaching reading can often feel like a huge mountain to climb. In reality, it isn’t all that difficult. Teaching reading does include some specific instructional steps. However, the act of learning how to read is quite simple – theoretically!  Over the years, we have all seen that the wide and varied methods of teaching reading don’t always work. However, over the years… one tried and true method has stood out from the rest. It’s one that has worked time and again and across a wide variety of students. Homeschool requirements vary by family, but this method typically works well for almost every child and still helps the learner even through adult life. This method is based on instruction in the same way we do our other subjects using a mastery approach or building on a foundation. If these educational theory works for all other subjects – why wouldn’t it work for reading as well?

The educational theorists and researchers have done extensive studies on the best way to approach reading. These studies have finally agreed that the method of teaching phonemic awareness or otherwise known as teaching phonics… is the winner! I know, I know, many of you are saying… big deal… I’ve known that for years. Well, you are right. This isn’t a “new” thing. In fact, it is a very old thing. This is how reading has been taught for centuries, I guess our highly intelligent educational gurus are just now catching up. I love this great yet simplistic Reading Skills Pyramid that Time4Learning has developed. I keep a copy of it in my homeschool binder.

Here are a few simple reading fluency guidelines to make sure that you include in your reading instruction…

1)Students should be able to recognize individual sounds in words – you can accomplish this through games such as clapping for each sound.

2)Students should be able to distinguish first and last sounds of various words. Again, you can play a game where you say a few words and ask the child to tell you what the first and last sounds are.

3)Once students know their letter sounds and can recognize the letters, they can begin “coding” and “decoding.” This is simply sounding out words and then breaking apart the word’s sounds to be able to write the word.

4)Two very fun ways to practice and gain word familiarity are to recognize syllables in words  and to make rhyming words. There are a ton of fun games that can be played to practice these skills. We enjoy clapping/stomping to find syllables in words, and then we have a blast making rhyming words from a simple word that they know and recognize!

Super Heroes of Elementary Homeschool Curriculum

I know,  everyone has there favorites. I do too. I’m really not trying to play favorites, but there are just a few homeschool curriculum that really stand out! I’ve homeschooled for many years with six children and there are some curriculum that are good, but just don’t work for big families. There are others that might be easy for big families, but I just don’t feel like they work for us. So, without further adieu here are our “super heroes” of Elementary Homeschool Curriculum.

Bible –  We enjoy Five J’s Free Bible Curriculum and Harvest Ministries also has a free Bible curriculum that’s great!

Math – Our favorite of all time is Saxon Math – though it isn’t free… it’s still a superhero. We also have used ABEKA for elementary math and it works great for us too! As a supplement to our curriculum we also use Time4Learning for math and Language Arts.

Language Arts – We have up until this year used ABEKA for language arts, but recentlys switched to Saxon for this as well. We have been enjoying it! Again we use T4L to supplement, and our spelling curriculum is ABEKA put into Spelling and Vocabulary City.

Science is definitely Apologia. We use this curriculum provider from Kindergarten through high school. It is written specifically for homeschoolers.

History is a mixed bag. We use Time Travelers History for the little guys, and a mixture of free online college courses for our high school history!

Foreign language is Latin by Memoria Press with the DVDs for elementary school, and Rosetta Stone for our high school students.

We just started a new writing focused unit using the two books…Rip the Page and Don’t Forget to Write!

This year has been a great year so far, I feel the kids are learning a lot!

What are some of your favorites?

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…

Home School Record Keeping… Making it work!

Some people just have that gift to organize, schedule, and record…while others were just born without that gene. If you’re a homeschooling family, whether or not you have the “gene” doesn’t matter… record keeping is a must. So, for those who just aren’t organized and who hate to keep records… there are some simple ways to keep you “official” without driving you crazy. Here are a few tips…

1) Pick a record keeping method that suits you… some like technology – others hate it – here are some ideas

  • Use a daily planner to record what you do in your homeschool that day.
  • Use a journal and just let your words freely describe what homeschool was for your family that day.
  • Use an online media such as blogging to record what you’ve done
  • Use a record keeping system such as a teacher planner/grade book
  • Use an online form or software to record grades and assignments

2) Hang on to important pieces of work that your children do.

  • Use a rubbermaid container to store things until you feel up to organizing it…
  • Use a pendeflex file folder. Has tons of pockets and is usually big enough for one child per year,
  • you can put the words in ABC order – so that you can find everything easily later.
  • Use the notebooking or portfolio method and then keep their notebooks on a bookshelf
  • Make a photo library of what your kids do… and then post it on a blog!

3) As my children get older and into high school, I have them keep a single notebook for each subject. Then we keep everything that we did for that subject in that notebook, I keep them until I know they are safely through college.

4) It is also very important to begin establishing a transcript for your older child. You can do this simply by finding a copy of one and making a Word document like it, by purchasing on online version, or using software to develop a transcript.

Making Great Field Trips

Great field trips can be a boon to any homeschool education. We know it is a proven fact that students retain more when they experience the understanding and can make lasting memories of the event. The facts surrounding the event are assimilated and applied in the student’s mind. In fact, you can use a field trip to help you teach almost anything from learning to read, to mathematical principles. Memorizing facts for testing just doesn’t cut it, but field tripping for learning can make an extreme difference. Here are a few tips to remember when planning an unforgetable field trip.

1) Keep your group small

2) Do pre trip activities by viewing documentaries, reading a book, having a discussion.

3) Plan to use a guide

4) Go during off season times to beat the crowds and make it more affordable

5) Choose hands on venues where students can get all of their senses involved.

Making Independent Learners

In this day and age when children are accustomed to being spoon fed entertainment, knowledge, and even life… it’s hard to make independent learners. Yet, it is possible to establish a few routines in your homeschool day to turn a dependent crowd to independence. Since we are going back to school, and starting a fresh new year, let’s talk about it.

Yes, I know- I am the mom. But that means different things to different people. To some, being the mom means that you are catering to every miniscule need that your children have, answering every homeschool question they run across, and even teaching them each subject in school. Personally, I find that I am not Wonder Woman and just can’t keep up with those demands. Instead, I am attempting to get all of my children into a state of independent learning.  I say attempting, because it is a work in progress. My two oldest are just about there, while my two youngest are still pretty needy.  From homeschool language arts to mathematics and every subject in between – you can adapt it to be conducive to indepedent learning. I am teaching them- along with all of the other things they are learning- how to gain knowledge without my help. This involves a few simple guidelines.

  • I am trying to choose only curriculum that promotes self learning. By this, I don’t mean that I leave my children alone to take care of their own education, but instead I am instilling in them skills that ENABLE them to learn without aid.
  • We have a simple rule, If you have a question about something in your school material  – look it up. Find the answer in the book, in another book, or online. Knowledge is at your fingertips – simply look for it!
  • Facilitate abundant reading! Have great books available to your children at all times. Foster a love for reading by showing them the example of a good reader in yourself!

Teaching them to be independent learners will not just help them here and now… it will ENABLE their future!

What Type of Schooler are You?

Some people like to homeschool just like they were an official school.  Some people are very relaxed in how they school. Yet, still others are a wonderful mix of all types of schoolers. These people are often referred to as eclectic homeschoolers… and I am proud to say I am one of them.

I started out homeschooling like I had a miniature school in my house. Yet, as the family grew, I saw how stressful it was to do that with little ones running around. We then gradually moved from that to experimenting with other types and methods of homeschooling. From there we began to put several of those styles together to make our own method of homeschooling. This is where we have happily landed… the eclectic homeschooler.

This type of homeschooling includes a collection of the very best methods of homeschooling (for your particular family! 🙂 ) all rolled into one great package. The eclectic method of schooling allows families the freedom to make their very own homeschool curriculum tailored to each of their specific needs… a perfect fit.

If you’re struggling with the homeschooling method you chose this year, why not try a few different methods and put together a group that meets your families needs!

Thinking about change?

Wow, it really boggles my mind that it is already spring time again. It seems like we were just starting our school year and the leaves were falling. I guess it is true, that time flies when you are having fun. Yet, some of you may be thinking the opposite. Time hasn’t flown, it has slowly ticked by. Maybe you have been struggling with the curriculum that you chose this year. Not a problem! There is a huge wealth of great homeschool curriculum out there. If the curriculum you chose to use this year made you miserable… DUMP IT! or better yet – wait till July/August and sell it on ebay!

But, before you face another difficult year, find a curriculum that you LOVE! I am telling you this will REALLY make all the difference in the world. If you aren’t sure where to even begin your search let me help you. Here are a few places that I go to find my curriculum. Some of these places may just give information, and some of them actually sell the curriculum itself.  My recommendation is to plan early. If you can figure out what curriculum that you want to use for next year, go ahead and try to buy it now. You can look on Amazon and ebay now to find a great deal on your homeschool curriculum. Just don’t wait until August – homeschool rush season. You will be paying full price no matter where you look!

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

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A Love/Hate Relationship

Language arts and math are the core of the core subjects, and the two subjects that present the greatest challenges to most students. In that respect, language arts most often presents a love/hate relationship to most people. They either love it and the English language’s impossible grammar, or they hate it. Yet, I wonder – is there a way to make all learners enjoy language arts?

With the broad range of inifinte learning style possibilities, there is not too great a chance that we will ever find a cure all for the hatred of language arts, but in the meantime I think we can improve the general opinion. 

Language arts tends to be a “dry” subject.  The general study of spelling words, grammar, syntax, and parts of speech just dosen’t lend much excitement.  However, coupled with a great reading curriculum,  excitement can be drawn into the “drier” side of language arts.  Yet, there are still other ways to bring excitement into the “hated” side of language arts. 

When I teach Language Arts,  I definitely steer towards a more interesting approach to teaching this subject, don’t stick with a plain “text only” approach.  Mix it up – make it exciting – you will see a BIG difference in how children respond. We like to use as many language arts games as possible such as compound word games.  Make spelling interesting by using games to teach the words. I have mentioned Spelling City in previous posts, but it really does make a difference. Children’s outlook on spelling has changed across the country in public schools and home schools because this program uses games to practice and quiz the student. Don’t limit your creativity – if you can think of something to make it exciting – try it!  Children respond to someone who seems to enjoy what they are teaching – and they assimilate that excitement.  They see you excited about your subject matter, and they get excited… it’s contagious.