Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

Welcome to blog sponsor Explorental!

Have you ever considered a LEGO Mindstorms kit for your kids? Maybe you’ve seen them, but are unsure whether the investment is a good one for your family. For less than the cost of a popular game console system, you can have a tool for teaching endless concepts and a source of engineering challenge for your kids.

Reasons to Use LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

Working with the Mindstorms kit requires a lot of different skills from students even when you are just starting out. Take a look at some of the subject areas accessed by work with the Mindstorms.

  • Math- Although not always a student favorite, math is applied to the robot building when it comes to programming it. Geometry, particularly circle geometry is necessary to accurately get the robot to rotate the wheels the requested distance.
  • Robotics- Who doesn’t want to build a robot and take over the world? Or at least the LEGO world!
  • Mechanics- Part of the robot building has to do with putting the robot together with the technic pieces. How those fit together and work efficiently is a big part of the task.
  • Physics- Along with efficiency, you need a stable structure. We spend a lot of time learning about which designs are the most stable.
  • Fun- There is no shortage of fun when it comes to exploring with a LEGO Mindstorms kit.

Blog, She Wrote: Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

Using Technology in Your Homeschool

Our kids use a lot of technology in our home- whether it’s a Kindle eReader, tablet or computers for programming and playing. One thing we really try to keep in check is how much our children are producers vs consumers when using technology. In other words, are they watching a lot and engaging in passive participation or are they being makers and creators?

LEGO Mindstorms uses software that is drag and drop so you only need to know some basics about how to get the robot to follow your commands. It takes time to master, but it’s worth the end result. I don’t mind my kids toiling for a few hours at a computer if they are actively problem solving. 

Enjoy a look at Ethan (and our basement!), our 15yo 10th grader, explaining one task he and his fellow FIRST LEGO League team members completed for their FLL regional competition in December. Our teams spend 7 hours a week pouring into this particular piece of technology and it earned them Grand Champion at their qualifying tournament.

Teaching with Technology G+ Hangout

Last week the iHN hosted an informative G+ Hangout on Teaching with Technology. I was excited to be one of the participants. Click and view at your leisure to hear how others are using technology in their homes.

Using Explorental to Experience LEGO Mindstorms

LEGO Mindstorms is a wonderful resource for homeschools, but it may not be the right time financially to invest in your own. How do you get a chance to work with the kit without making that big financial investment?

Take advantage of Explorental’s wonderful inventory of technology gadgets and other kits. They offer a LEGO Mindstorms rental for $43.99 for two weeks.

Blog, She Wrote: Explorental

Homeschooling Middle & High School Math

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Math

Today’s iHomeschool Network Hopscotch topic is math instruction. At the middle and high school level we are all about problem solving- taking basic skills and applying them to a problem whether the problem is higher level math like trigonometry or a practical issue like building a project or creating a pattern.

Strategies for Teaching Middle & High School Math in Our Homeschool

  • LEGO NXT- programming and using the LEGO Mindstorms kit to perform tasks. Our family is a FIRST LEGO League family, but at home our NXT kits get a lot of use
  • Computer programming- With online programs such as Scratch and Alice, we can broaden our students’ experience with computer programming. Our 8yo actually program simple commands in C++ and is working his way through a book on Java.
  • Games- We are still a family of game players. Playing fun games that require spatial reasoning or simply hardcore calculations is a fun diversion. Equate is a math crossword game that goes way beyond Smath.
  • The Crafty Side of Math- A big part of our 8th grader’s homeschool is her sewing. She will work out math as she needs it in her sewing and works hard to see a problem get solved. Two links to explore sewing math: The Making of a Wizard & The Crafty Side of Math and Jules Verne- R13 is making a fabulous steampunk gown for her American Girl dolls. Keep in mind that R13 drafts her own patterns and designs her own apparel.
  • Test Prep- I can hardly believe we are at the point where Ethan is practicing his test taking skills for the PSAT. He has practiced in a mock testing situation twice and we’ve been going over things at home.
  • Applied Math- Need more ideas? Try some from the list I made for Uzinggo.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Math

What about Upper Level Math in Your Homeschool

Probably one of the main concerns of homeschooling parents is how to handle high school math when they don’t consider math their strong suit. We tackle this in a few ways.

  • First, the curriculum we use is written to the student. So, the first pass at the concept is from the text.
  • They try out the problems and check their own answers. If they get stuck, we’ve got a few options.
  • I help them sit and take another look at the problem- I’ve had math through Calculus, but I am not an expert. However, I am successful at helping our kids to look through a problem and see where to go next. I can often look at their work and see where they strayed in their process. This helps them to get back on track.
  • Reteach- if they really are struggling, I take some hints from my Math on the Level manual and teach the concept in a different way. I rarely have to do this, but when I do it helps a lot. Of course, once we enter high school math MOTL is not the go to resource. It works very well for middle school math.
  • Dad can save the day! Dan is an engineer and he is confident in his math abilities. He steps in when the kids are really stuck.
  • Kahn Academy & Uzinggo- We also pull from online tutorials to get back on track or to have something explained in a different way than their textbook offers.

Our Favorite Middle & High School Homeschool Math Curriculum

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Math

  • Math on the Level- A lovely living math approach which allows you to teach math concepts when your student is ready not when a publisher tells you to do so. This one goes from Pre-K through 8th grade pre-algebra. I have a detailed post on how we use Math on the Level in our homeschool. It’s a home base where even I can check on a concept before teaching them to my kids.
  • Life of Fred- Our primary math program for high school is Life of Fred. I get a lot of questions about this and you can read about our decision to use Fred and how it’s a fit for our family by clicking on that link. It’s one of my top 3 posts here at Blog, She Wrote.
  • Family Math: The Middle School Years- Love this book for fun, practical, hands-on activities for middle schoolers. There is plenty in this book to help students with algebraic concepts. I can’t believe this one is out of print, but I cannot find it on Amazon.
  • Yummy Math- This is one of my favorite sites for picking up instructional packets on applied math. You’ll see a math activity which applies to any number of everyday/headline type stuff. There is an endless supply of applied math activities devoted to middle school students.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle School & High School Math

Join other bloggers in the iHomeschool Network for a look at teaching math in your homeschool. You’ll see how moms of gifted and special needs children approach math at home.

HopscotchiHNJanuary2013

Methods for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts

This week the iHN is hosting a Hopscotch on “How I Teach”. Here at Blog, She Wrote I’m sharing methods for teaching middle and high school students in all the major subject areas. We’ll be discussing strategy and curriculum. Today our topic is language arts.

Strategies for Teaching Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts

My philosophy on teaching writing and language skills from a young age is one of a coaching role. My job is to meet my writers where they are, give them the tools they need and how to use them and to help them to meet their goals. What is the goal? To be an effective written communicator. That’s what it’s all about.

  • Play with Words- enjoy exercises and fun ways to engage with words to increase vocabulary. Click the link to see five great ideas I wrote for Bright Ideas Press.
  • Collage Words- More details on reflecting on a word and exploring its meanings.
  • Resources for Coaching Writing- a list of some of my favorite resources for coaching writers.
  • Conferences- I meet with my kids regularly to go over their written work and to see what can be improved. I take a look at the first draft and usually ask the student to go back and self edit, naming the thing they are notorious for forgetting- whether that be correct capitalization or wild commas. If the piece of writing is hard to decipher because of poor organization/grammar/spelling, I have them read it to me. When they read it aloud they realize that without grammar conventions/organization, the reader will not experience the piece the way the author intended. This goes a LONG way to encouraging kids to edit their work.
  • Writer’s Workshop- I’ve been hosting a workshop that includes my kids along with about five other homeschoolers in our home since September. I’ll be posting more detail on this soon, but having kids write for an audience is one of the best investments I’ve made in time this year. If you’d like a little more information now, click the link above on Resources for Coaching Writing.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts

Our Favorite Middle School & High School Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum

  • Cover Story- This is a middle school writing program written by Daniel Schwabauer, the creator of One Year Adventure Novel. My 6th and 8th graders are working on building the pieces to their own magazine issue based on a theme they chose. There are video lessons which are well done along with resources for the parents. The younger siblings of OYAN students approve!
  • WriteShop- WriteShop Junior & WriteShop I and II. I love WriteShop for its ability to break down the writing process into pre-writing, drafts/editing, and final, published copy. We use this between the informal early elementary years and the time we begin creative writing and expository writing programs. I also use units from WS 1&2 to help with organizations of essays at any time during the teen years.
  • One Year Adventure Novel - Write a novel in one school year. That is the aim of OYAN and it is adored by us all. The lessons are thorough and draw the students in. My two favorite things (besides the novel) are: 1) How the curriculum provides excellent talking points about literature with our teens. 2) The community Mr. Schwabauer has created for teens to interact with each other. My 10th grader loves the OYAN forums where he can be himself and be in community with other kids who love books and stories as much as he does. There are also regular webinars with extra instruction.
  • Other Worlds- The follow up to the One Year Adventure Novel. This one is focused on writing fantasy and science fiction. My 10th grader is working on his fantasy novel. I enjoy the lessons on the history of science fiction and fantasy and how they are different from adventure.
  • Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings- Spend time immersed in the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wonderful vocabulary studies, chapter discussions, essays, and unit studies based on this fantasy tale.
  • Excellence in Literature- Classic literature is taught in four week modules with honors options. I have all five volumes so we can skip around. They are meant to be use 8th-12th grade. This program has been a great model of student led reading and writing on the classics and has been very successful so far.

Slow and steady wins the race. We try to keep moving forward and see our kids make progress in their writing skills. We add in what’s necessary as they gain skills so they can be stretched to the next level. Our kids are immersed in reading and writing in many forms from a young age and we love to watch them gain confidence as they get older. Coming soon news from our Writer’s Workshop!

The iHomeschool Network is hosting a Hopscotch series this week on “How I Teach”. Join other iHN bloggers to see how they teach Language Arts. You’ll find information on working with special needs all the way to gifted kids and everything in between.

HopscotchiHNJanuary2013

Blog, She Wrote Top Ten Posts for 2013

Blog, She Wrote: Top Ten for 2013It’s been a great blogging year for Blog, She Wrote. In January we moved from Blogger to WordPress and streamlined our look and organization. I’m still working on some of that, but I’ve tried more than ever to create relevant content for you all.

Most Popular Blog, She Wrote Posts for 2013

Blog, She Wrote: Top Ten Toys for Open Ended Play

Top Ten Toys for Open Ended Play- This is my ultimate list of long lasting toys for creative play. We love the things on this list. Do you enjoy any of the same things?

Blog, She Wrote: Life of Fred {Homeschool Math}

Life of Fred {Homeschool Math}- This post is very popular! Enjoy a look at how we use Life of Fred math from elementary through high school and why.

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Organizing Your Homeschool Library- This is an older post that is still viewed often. I need to update this post to show our new home’s arrangement, but the basic organization is the same.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew}

Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool {Whether or Not You Sew!}- This was part of my five day series on Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool. Full of ideas, projects, how to mentor are all there. Have a look.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Things That Make a Great Homeschool Day

Ten Things That Make a Great Homeschool Day- I love this post. It shares the elements that make a joyful and productive day of homeschooling in our home. Among my favorites are reading, projecting, and collaborating. What makes a great day in your homeschool?

Blog, She Wrote: Adventure Box Themes

Adventure Box Themes- The first in a series of Adventure Box ideas in a ten day Hopscotch Series. This one features a video on exactly what Adventure Boxes are and how they can pour into your kids’ passions.

Blog, She Wrote: Working with a Bright, Occasionally Motivated High Schooler

Working with a Bright & Occasionally Very Motivated High Schooler: Tips & Tricks- The details on how we work with our high schooler to set goals and help him to see them through. I tried to share how we work with a student who isn’t always ideally motivated. I bet a lot of us have smart kids who like to sit back some.

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Fun Close to Home

Our {Close to Home} Summer Bucket List- Otherwise known as how to have fun close to home in the summer! We were grounded from traveling when my husband fell and had a severe sprain in his ankle which resulted in five large blood clots in his leg. We aimed to enjoy our time near to home and it was a fabulous summer.

Blog, She Wrote: Robin Cam

Robin Cam- Does anyone remember our robin cam from the spring? Dan set up a camera to capture the nesting season for a pair of robins who set up camp in a potted plant we were given as an encouragement when Dan was injured. Right on the table on our back porch we got an up close look. The videos are still viewable if you’d like to do a little spring dreaming. Just go from the bottom up to see the series.

Blog, She Wrote: Our Learning Environment

Our Learning Spaces: A Tour- The title says it all. This is the grand tour of our homeschool spaces. This post makes me smile.

Thank you for being a reader at Blog, She Wrote. If you’ve never taken the time to subscribe, please do so now and enjoy Blog, She Wrote in your inbox.

Happy 2014! I can’t wait to share more practical homeschooling advice and encouragement in the coming year.

Open Ended Play- Toy Sale Today!

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Open Ended Toys

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

For those of you excited about the Top Ten Toys for Open Ended Play post from the spring, I’m pleased to announce that the Teaching Cash Register is on sale for half off today at Amazon. The price today only is $27.49. What a fabulous deal!

How to Use a Teaching Cash Register for Open Ended Play

  • play games that are in built in to the cash register
  • learn how to run a till
  • big sized money and realistic coins lets you count money in pretend play
  • pretend all kinds of consumer situations
  • “scan” items and listen for the value
  • weigh the items you’ll buy
  • use the coin counter to identify coins

We’ve had this cash register for about 10 years and four kids and it still has prime real estate in our learning area. Such a great addition to your open ended play collection!