Finishing Strong- Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years Week 28

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If you’ll be homeschooling middle school or high school students this year, you’re not alone.

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Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #28 @Education Possible

Recently, our most loved posts have been all about back to school – goal setting, planners, curriculum choices and more. Finishing Strong has everything you need to help you feel confident as you move into the new school year with your older students.

Here are a few of our popular posts.

Four Student Planners We Use by Classically Homeschooling

HELP! I’M BACK TO SCHOOL! by Hodgepodge

Student Goal Setting Worksheet – For Teens! by Middle Way Mom

The unschooled version of a ninth-grade-ish curriculum plan for 2014-15 by Unschool Rules

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How to Use Current Events in Your Homeschool

current events

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Do you discuss current events in your homeschool? Are you nervous about how to tackle news of the world with your children? Do you have the resources you need to begin? As our children have gotten older, their interest in the news and the world around them has increased. Here are a few tips on How to Use Current Events in Your Homeschool.

Why Use Current Events in Your Homeschool

It is true that the news from around the world and even in our own cities, towns, and neighborhoods can be pretty sobering. Much of it is not suitable for young minds. So, why approach current events in our homeschools?

  • Raises awareness of other cultures and issues that others face
  • Gives a safe environment to discuss sensitive topics- our kids see headlines in all sorts of places
  • Allows you, as a parent, to approach events from the perspective of your family’s worldview and values
  • Prepares older students for being good citizens- prepared to vote on policy

Approaching Current Events with Younger Students

Obviously, the younger the child, the more sensitive they can be to what you watch and listen to or even discuss at the dinner table. I suggest a careful approach to Current Events with younger children and as they grow, adding more information and details.

  • Find safe outlets for seeing news- I’ve listed resources below. Most are for middle and high school, but some are for younger students.
  • Tell about Current Events yourself- You can be the story teller when it comes to imparting news.
  • Share positive news & events- We are only young once. Preserving innocence is not a bad thing. Share the good news and celebrate people’s good choices.
  • Carefully share negative & scary news items- without detail. We would often approach news like this by telling our kids we wanted to pray for the situation. God is always bigger than the news.
  • Simply answer your kids’ questions- Many times Current Events are discussed at our house because one of our kids asks a question. Answer the question and don’t feel like you have to add every detail of every story.
  • As your children grow, so can your sharing of the news- Middle schoolers can handle more than primary kids. Knowing your student will help you to decide when it’s time for more authentic news resources.

Using Current Events with High School Students

When our kids are in high school, it’s time to have them engaging with Current Events regularly. By the time they head off to college or begin preparing for their first presidential election (our oldest will vote in the next one!), you want well informed, knowledgeable young men and women ready for what’s ahead. How do you go about it?

  • Make it part of their high school curriculum- Simply require it.
  • Discuss Current Events with your student- This goes a long way with our teens. Encourage dialogue about anything from simple ideas to complex and controversial topics.
  • Research something they have a question about- So many times the news puts us into action to figure out why policy was made or what brought the people involved to this point in history.
  • Have them keep tabs on the news- Using resources below and others we can all think of, have your teen bring something to the table to discuss with the family.

Ways We Use Current Events in Our Homeschool

  • Dinner Time Conversation- Much of the events of the world come up at dinner time. Many times our kids will ask if there is anything going on in the news that they should know about. The older they get, the more they want to know.
  • Embedded into Homeschool Projects- What better way to make a project meaningful than to include how something affects us today? Our 11th grader is writing a biology research paper. He chose the hot topic of the Ebola virus and he’s comparing it with the Bubonic Plague. It grew out of knowing how devastating the Plague was with the quickly growing epidemic of Ebola. He’s made his biology assignment much more meaningful by choosing a current event as a topic.
  • Geography Studies- It’s fun to understand the current affairs of any culture you study. As we pursue world geography, we look for the regions we are studying in the news. We are using NorthStar Geography by Bright Ideas Press. As we build our atlas and discover new places and cultures, we can keep our eyes out for world news in these areas.
  • Earth Science Studies- Have you noticed there’s a lot of geological events in the news right now? In just a few weeks, I’ve seen headlines involving an earthquake and two volcanoes and three different areas of the world. We’re studying earth science this year and I keep track of the current geological activity on my Earth Science Pinterest Board. We can revisit them later on as we get to them throughout the year.
  • Regular Discussion- based on anything from a headline seen at the store and any questions they ask.

Student Resources for Current Events

I’ve come across several websites which provide a way for students to connect with current events. Personally, I like these sites not because they entirely filter news, but they seems to filter news from the gossip. I might have to start reading the CNN student page rather than the main news page. Lately, CNN resembles the tabloids more than a legitimate news outlet.

The Learning Network: Teaching & Learning with the New York Times- A blog devoted to teaching materials based on the content of The New York Times. There are teacher and student resources along with a variety of ways for students to interact with the community there. Visit the section on How to Use This Blog to find out more.

CNN Student News- This little gem has news for middle and high schoolers grouped in one place with links to various hot topics. There are ways to for students to interact and send news to this site as well.

CNN Student News Show- A 10 minute, commercial free, news program for middle and high school students. The producers give the warning to watch it before you show it to your students so that you know everything is appropriate for your student audience. That is good advice!

This Day in History- from The History Channel’s website. Somewhat ironic, I suppose, to choose a website all about history to encourage kids to engage in current events. However, often events in history make us ask questions about events that are happening right now. The opposite is also true. Current events take us back in time to learn the context for the issue today. Using This Day in History can help spark questions about events in the daily news.

God’s World News- If you are looking for a conservative Christian worldview on the news, this is the online home of World Magazine. You can find websites for all the levels of the news from young children through adults.

Time for Kids- A news website for kids from Time Magazine. This is a great site for elementary and early middle school students to learn about current events. You can choose various categories of news just like the sites for older kids. You might enjoy other sections of the site which has a lot of information for kids.

Google Plus Hangout with Bright Ideas Press- Using Current Events in Your Homeschool

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 3pm EDT, Tyler Hogan, from Bright Ideas Press, and I will be live with Jimmie Lanley as our host. We’ll be discussing how to incorporate current events into your homeschool day. Feel free to listen live or come back to listen later.

There are a lot of creative ways to approach Current Events. The important thing is to talk about them with your kids especially as they enter high school and the teens years.

Do you have a favorite news outlet to use with your kids? Name it in the comments!

North Star Geography homeschool curriculum

Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool

This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

A well-stocked art closet is a great boon to any project based learning in your home. Whether you have a serious artist or a casual dabbler, the right tools can make all the difference in the quality of the finished product. Enjoy a look at our Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool.

The Importance of Quality Art Supplies

Most of us have a limited budget for all of our homeschool needs and it’s very tempting to save money whenever we can. Resist the urge to buy the cheap art supplies. While it’s ok to go middle of the road with younger children, it can be frustrating, even to young artists, to work with inferior materials.

  • Cheap crayons are more wax than color- go for Crayola or something better.
  • Cheap markers run out quickly and leave little color on the page.
  • Cheap paint brushes are great for spreading glue but on a painting they leave bristles behind on the page.
  • Cheap glue doesn’t adhere for long and the pages fall apart.
  • Cheap water colors don’t show up when you use them. That includes Crayola brand!
  • Cheap paper or paper which isn’t meant for the medium will rip or get too wet.
  • Cheap colored pencils break easily and lack pigment.

Now that we’ve established what NOT to purchase, let’s talk about the good stuff. Even young children benefit from some level of quality supply. It’s very frustrating to young artists to not see color when they make a line. Later in this post I’ll discuss ways to manage the supplies and how to train children to use them well.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based HomeschoolEssential Watercolor Supplies

As my children have grown, the “go to” watercolor supplies have changed. Once you enjoy the more sophisticated watercolors, you won’t want to go back! This is our list of must haves:

  • Watercolor pencils- We have used Prang and Prismacolor. There is not contest. Prismacolor is the BEST. The pigments are rich and the difference is huge. For younger kids, the Prang are great to get started with but they are less versatile in their use.
  • Watercolor Trays- Prang brand is THE best for this medium. Even very young children will enjoy a tray of these. The pigment is deep and it makes a mark every time. Of course, training preschoolers to use them correctly is entirely another issue!
  • Watercolor Tubes- After discovering these for the first time, my artist hasn’t gone back to the tray. The pigments cannot be beat and the result is amazing. You can find inexpensive tubes at any craft store. If you have a watercolor loving artist, you can try more expensive brands to see the difference. It’s worth exploring!
  • Watercolor Paper- We’ve been using watercolor paper for years. I buy it by the pack at Discount School Supply. It’s a nice weight and seems to work well. We use it for any watercolor painting.
  • Brushes- I recommend nice brushes for any painting. You can buy the packaged kind for younger kids, but avoid the super cheap ones. They are terrible at spreading paint! I reserve those for glue and other messy projects. Just make sure the brush is rated for watercolor. I also invested in open stock brushes from the art store and my artist adores them.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool

Supplies for Acrylic Painting

I’ve been using acrylic paint for craft projects for a long time. My kids use them for various craft projects, but this year was the first time I approached artist quality acrylics and swoon! These are amazing. What’s necessary for acrylic painting?

  • Craft Acrylics- These are super for small scale projects where you want thinner paint. Painting on wood is a great example. My 16yo has used them to customize minifigs and they are a useful all around paint.
  • Tube Acrylics- Smooth and thick, these are a dream to work with. There are several brands offered at most art stores. Any of them will work well. You can purchase small tubes, but they don’t go a long way. I suggest the larger ones so you can have fun with color mixing and not worry about running out.
  • Spray Acrylic- Our model rocket kid loves to use spray paint to customize his rockets.
  • Acrylic Palette- This is a must have tool for painting! Rebecca mixes paint like a pro with this tool and uses it any time she pulls out her paints. She even uses it with her tube watercolors.
  • Stretched Canvas- Makes a great substrate for acrylic paints and produces a lovely result which is easy to hang up and enjoy.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool

Drawing Supplies for Your Homeschool

Preschoolers on up love to draw. What supplies do you have on hand for this small pleasure? This is our list of must haves:

  • Sketch Pencils- Various grades of graphite pencils which are used in sketching, portraits, and illustrating. We bought the kit to have all the grades along with the kneadable eraser and the sharpener.
  • Charcoal Pencils- Usually have pencils and a charcoal stick for drawing
  • Colored Pencils- We love the Prismacolor brand pencil. You can’t beat it for smooth drawing and great color. Consider having Crayola around for easy access, any time drawing and save the Prismacolor for art projects. When our kids are old enough, they use the better quality pencils for all their work.
  • Kneadable Eraser- Great for removing lines made from sketch & charcoal pencils. You can also use them to blend lines.
  • Polymer Eraser- Erasers that don’t leave residue behind or tear paper
  • Drawing Paper- We like the white sulphite drawing paper from Discount School Supply. The 50 lb weight paper can handle wet and dry media and has a really nice texture.
  • Blender Pencils- For blending and softening hard lines in colored pencil work. Very enjoyable!
  • Chalk Pastels- These are a favorite for everyone in our house. On the messy side but so forgiving!
  • Oil Pastels- You have to be careful with these, but they are fun to layer and try. I have kids who prefer these over any thing else.
  • Pen & Ink- This is a new medium for us and one that Rebecca adores! She is taking the Craftsy class on Mixed Media: Pen, Ink, & Watercolor. India ink is waterproof so you can use watercolor paints with it.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool

Essential Types of Paper to Have on Hand

There are all kinds of paper to use in art and I like to have several sizes on the shelves for my kids to choose from. Some of these papers we’ve had in the house since your kids were tiny. Others are new additions as our children have aged. Which are your favorites?

  • Watercolor Paper- A must for using watercolor paints. We’ll often paint on the paper and use the paper for other art projects. The lovely texture conveyed on watercolor paper can be used in surprising ways! And yes, even if no project is assigned I’ll give the kids some paper to play with- I pull out plain wet media paper too, but some get to be on the real thing. (see link above)
  • Drawing Paper- 50 lb weight for mixed media. That means you can use wet materials or plain drawing materials on this paper. It’s robust and universal. (see link above)
  • Tissue Paper- I buy it in both pre-cut squares and sheets for a variety of uses. When my children were really young, they would make tissue paper collages in their high chairs by sticking paper from their pile onto face up Contact paper. Always a treat!
  • Sulphite Construction Paper- High quality construction paper which doesn’t crack and fade. Good stuff!
  • Long (12×18) Paper- In white or basic colors for projects requiring larger paper but not poster board.
  • Butcher Roll Paper- Long rolls of paper make creation endless! We have used this roll for everything from murals to wrapping paper. When my kids were little, I would set them up on the floor in the kitchen with a long piece and lot of coloring supplies. On our itty bitty kitchen floor, they would be happy while I made dinner. I get the 50lb weight so they can do wet and dry media. This paper makes great easel paper for preschoolers too. It will last for many years. Our first one lasted 12 years!
  • Sketch Pads- I especially like smaller ones with really hard covers so we can sketch on the go. These make wonderful nature journals and art journals where your artist can try methods and materials and create often.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool

Must Have General Tools for Art

Some of this list can be found in our other lists, but they are important and I have more to add!

  • Scissors- Pointed Fiskars are reliable and as little hands grow, adult paper scissors are very useful.
  • Painter’s Tape- Rebecca likes to use tape for creating negative space in a painting and for making frames (once the tape is removed) and other painting techniques.
  • Adhesives- Of all kinds. Check out Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool for our list of favorites adhesives!
  • Acrylic Palette- In case you missed it on the acrylic list because it cannot be beat for color mixing and access to paint. (see link above)
  • Canvas Board & Stretched Canvas- Take a break from paper and try canvas substrates. Your kids will fall in love! I buy them in bulk from art stores and Discount School Supply.
  • Erasers- Both kneadable and polymer (see link above)
  • Brushes- Open stock brushes in several shapes and styles go a long way in the world of paint. They are usually rated for more than one medium and they are better quality brushes. The right brush can make the result stunning.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool

Art Supplies for Young Children

I know some of you aren’t ready to dive into sophisticated art supplies because your children are young. Here are a few ideas for young artists.

  • Biocolor Paints- From Discount School Supply. They can be used many different ways and they come with really cool additives to make the paint puffy, glittery, and shimmery. The shimmer is my personal favorite!
  • Tempera Paints- I have primary colors only along with black and white so we can do some color mixing.
  • Craft Cups- Actually, I use these even with my older kids. They contain glue and paint very well and I don’t have to worry about cleaning them up! They work for doing group activities.
  • Craft Supply List- My preschooler what to have on hand list with lots of ideas on craft time with the younger crowd. (enjoy an early post from 2008)

Access to Project Based Homeschool Supplies

How often do you “let” your students get into the supplies? This is a great question and one that I think we all must consider. Are you a mom who wants things just right and so you often say no when a child asks for some time with the materials? Or do you throw caution to the wind and say, “Yes!”? Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering the use of school supplies:

  • Have a Stash of Supplies That Are YES Supplies- They can be used any time a child asks for them. These should be things you don’t have to supervise closely and are safe for kids and their surroundings.
  • Establish a Place Where They Can Use Supplies without Worry- This is especially true for the mom who has trouble with yes. If you establish a spot early on, then everyone can be more relaxed.
  • Train Good Supply Behavior from Early on- This may seem difficult or over the top, but it pays off in the end. I have some pretty independent kids who have never been wild with the art supplies. Take the time to work on the art culture in your home and see it take shape.
  • Make Sure to Bring out the Special Supplies- If you keep the good stuff separate, then make sure you actually use the nice stuff on occasion. Make sure any time you are supervising art and crafting, that everyone is in the best time of day and ready to be adventurous. No one likes stressed out mama at art time!
  • Project Space- Each of us has project space in our home where we can leave supplies out and get back to work any time. Making time and space for the projects is equally important to providing materials.
  • Art Storage Spaces- I have a cabinet upstairs which holds the quality art supplies and bookshelves in our basement which hold our crafty materials. Both are easily accessible to the kids and generally with in reach.
  • Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment- What else is important to your school?

We keep many art supplies in our home. Just remember that our inventory was built up over many years. I started accumulating supplies when our 16yo was just 18 months old. He was always ready to enjoy some crafting fun. We’ve been adding on ever since. If budget is a big issue, then purchase just a few high quality materials and they will be put to use.

Above all, you cannot underestimate the power of allowing your kids to have the time, space, and materials to pursue their work. Much of our kids’ best work comes from allowing them to have the time to explore.

Tell us your favorite art supply!


Check out my three chapters in The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. How do you transition from direct instruction to mentoring your teen? Find out by purchasing your own copy!

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas