Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Day 3 of iHN’s Winter Hopscotch is all about science. Today I’m sharing our strategies and resources for homeschooling middle & high school science. Science is my favorite. If you’ve been a reader for awhile, then you may know that my background is science. My BS is in biological sciences and I have a MS degree in Curriculum & Instruction Secondary Education. I am certified to teach biology to 7th-12th graders. I taught science for five years prior to starting a family. My husband is a chemical engineer with a graduate degree also in chemical engineering. This means several important things relevant to today’s post:

  • We are science people. We do science everyday.
  • We talk about science at every turn.
  • People with masters degrees focused on writing science curriculum & science instruction for secondary aged kids don’t buy science curriculum. It’s a rule. They might revoke my degree.
  • When our kids ask a science question, we drop what we’re doing and help them investigate an answer. It’s how we have fun.
  • We are great at doing science all the time. We aren’t great at following a science curriculum.

I think it’s important to be real with you all on this point because it affects how we approach science in our middle and high school homeschool. I’d like to encourage you to try something similar…be inquistive! Help your students to explore the scientific world.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Strategies for Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

One of the best ways to do science is to go and investigate. Learn with your students the process for conducting scientific investigations and then go out and explore the world! Below are some of the ways we do this in our homeschool:

  • Unit Studies- Through middle school we do a lot of science through our unit studies. Either we are studying a book and doing the science that goes with it or the unit study is based around the science. For example, we enjoyed a unit on catapults after watching Punkin’ Chunkin’ one Thanksgiving.
  • Units can be built around a child’s interest- many of you know our daughter is very talented with a sewing machine. There’s a lot of physical science to be taught about sewing machines, so I wrote a unit study on just that.
  • Science as Investigation- I actually speak on this topic quite a bit. The thing to remember is not to get bogged down in the process. You don’t have to have fancy equipment to do science. So many people want to make sure all their ducks are in a row and it paralyzes them when it comes to doing experiments. Don’t be afraid to look things up with your kids and try things out. We once did a huge experiment on popcorn- which variety popped the biggest. We talked with the kids about how to do a fair test and we walked them through setting up the experiment. Then we popped a lot of corn and measured the volume by calculating the amount of space the popped volume took up in a cylinder!
  • Project Based Homeschooling- We are prime candidates for homeschooling science with student driven projects. It’s comes naturally to mentor our kids into finding their own way on something they are interested in. This year our 8th grader is studying biology through the life of snakes- she has one she caught and has been taking care of since June.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Our Favorite Resources for Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

In lieu of recommending curriculum for science, I’m going to give you a list of our favorite resources. These are things we pull from or have the kids reference and enjoy during their studies.

  • Janice VanCleave Books- These books are an excellent source for science experiments and longer term science investigations. Easy to understand and follow and Ms. VanCleave does a great job of explaining the results.
  • Beyond Five in a Row- Excellent literature unit studies which have robust science studies in them including more than a few books about famous scientists.
  • Usborne Science Encyclopedia- Great science reference with links to follow on the internet.
  • Field Guides- A thorough guide for mammals, flowers, trees, reptiles, amphibians and other major animal and plants groups are a valuable tool for nature studies and biology.
  • The Handbook of Nature Study- A lovely text sharing a lot of science for the natural world. A popular book for homeschoolers, if you’ve never read it I encourage you to do so. Mrs. Comstock has a dry sense of humor that is not obvious from the appearance of the book.
  • Glassware- We buy ours from Home Science Tools (and locally at our backyard university’s supply rooms). I used to use our kitchenware, but I much prefer the designated scienceware.
  • cK-12 Open Source Textbook- It’s what we use for high school biology & chemistry. They have a text, workbooks, and some subjects have lab workbooks too.
  • Top 10 Tools for the Home Scientist- You might be interested in our favorite picks from this list I wrote for Uzinggo.
  • Life of Fred: Physics & Biology- R13 is going through Physics now followed by Biology both of which are pre-Algebra books.
  • Science Biographies- We study the lives of scientists which gives you a whole picture of a time, place, and event. This is a very Charlotte Mason approach and it yields big results. MoonShot and Skunkworks are among the books our 6th grader has read in his quest to learn more about flight and rocketry.

Giveaway for Polymer Science Unit from Elmer’s Glue

Since I’m all into doing investigations, I’m happy to offer you a bonus opportunity today. Elmer’s is giving away one box set pictured below. You’ll get a signed copy of Too Much Glue along with a unit on adhesives to go with the book and some glues for the activity. Leave a comment and tell me your favorite topic in science to enter!

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Science

Join other bloggers from the iHN for their tips on teaching science. See you tomorrow for a look at history.

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

Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool {Part 2- The Kindle Fire}

Blog, She Wrote: 10 Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool Part 2- Kindle Fire

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Last week I shared the Ten Reason to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool Part 1. That was all about the Kindle eReader such as the Paperwhite. Part 2 is focused on the Kindle Fire tablet.

5 Compelling Reasons to Use a Kindle Fire in Your Homeschool

Video

  • The Fire has an HD video capability which gives a great picture for things like You Tube
  • and Netflix.
  • I’m excited for the possibility of also viewing what’s on our satellite dish on the Kindle Fire. With Dish Anywhere we can do this- so our recorded school related shows we could see on the go if we needed to fill time.
  • Record video and take pictures if you have the Kindle Fire HDX models.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle Fire in Your Homeschool

Audio

  • You can download all your favorite stories and mp3 files onto the Fire
  • Listen to Audible books.
  • Did you know that Whispersync is available for the Fire? If you own the Kindle book and the Aubible file, you can play the audio and follow the highlighted text as you go with the Kindle. This has a lot of possibilities for students with reading disabilities.
  • Even better if you decide to listen only, the next time you open your Fire you can choose to start where the audio left off or where you stopped reading. Pretty clever.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle Fire in Your Homeschool

Cost

  • If you’d like to play in the world of tablets, the Kindle Fire is a very cost effective way to do so.
  • There are different models of the Fire from a basic 8G wifi with no camera or mic all the way up to a 3G plus camera and mic and the works. There is a Kindle Fire to fit your needs and your budget.

eReader

  • The Kindle Fire is primarily a Kindle after all, so the reading screen is lovely.
  • Best yet, it reads PDF files nicely as well. In fact, it’s the best Kindle for viewing PDF ebooks if you have any of those.
  • In addition, the Fire lets you easily view books which are graphic heavy.
  • Our cK-12 textbooks look great on the Kindle Fire and make it easy for my high schooler to read and interact with the text (like following embedded video links) all while at a table to do written work at the same time. Win.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle Fire in Your Homeschool

Games/Apps/Web Browsing

  • The Silk web browser is very functional- fast and easy to use.
  • We can access homeschooling blogs and tutorials and use them right at our work surface which is a lot less cumbersome than even a laptop.
  • There are some popular games/apps for the Kindle Fire, but don’t expect the same selection as iTunes or Google Play.
  • Follow news articles or links from email and other sources.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle Fire in Your Homeschool

All in all, I love my new Kindle Fire. It’s been a great addition to our homeschool for all these reasons and more. I’ve only had it for about a month, but it’s already proven to be useful on many occasions. In fact, I’d love to have more of them for our students. From reading books in the public domain to using online texts and doing research, tablets are very handy homeschool tools.

Win a Kindle Fire for Your Homeschool

Fortuigence is giving away a Kindle Fire HD and you still have time to enter. The giveaway ends Friday, December 20, 2013. Sign up for the newsletter and be entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire for you homeschool.

kindle-fortuigence1

10 (or so) Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

10 Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s that time of year when parents everywhere are looking for gift ideas for Christmas. Inventors can be hard to buy for especially when they are young and still have big ideas! Enjoy a look at some of the best tinkering materials we’ve found for our young scientists and inventors.

Electronic Gifts for Your Inventor

Snap Circuits- These are snap together electric circuits with many maps to build and tons of add ons. These circuits are easy to use and easy to please since the connections are rock solid. We have an oscilloscope interface for our computer along with the alternative energy kit. Don’t miss out on Snap Circuits Green.

Old Electronics- What engineer doesn’t like to take things apart to see how they work? We have a pile of old machines we remove the power cord from so that our inquisitive 8yo can enjoy how things go together and what their components look like.

Arduino- (for middle and high school) these are microcontroller kits which you can add sensors to and enjoy. J8 cannot wait to get his…shhh…

Raspberry Pi- (for middle and high school) card sized Linnux computer you can program and use.

Blog, She Wrote: 10 Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

Books for Your Inventor

Cool Stuff and How It Works- (and the 2.0 version) This book is full of fun gadgets and tells how the technology works. From LED lights to LCD screens, this book has all the good stuff.

The New Way Things Work- a huge encyclopedia of items and drawings sure to keep your tinkerer involved.

The Unofficial LEGO Mindstorms Inventor’s Guide- full of robots to build and programs to run them.

NXT Power Programming: Robotics in C- Great guide on programming in C with your Mindstorms Kit. J8 adores this book and is sad he can’t program in C during FLL.

Advanced NXT: The DaVinci Inventions Book- another great book using Mindstorms.

C++ Programming in Easy Steps- Inventors like to be fiddlers at the computer too. J8 has read this one cover to cover and writes his own code.

Beginning C++ through Game Programming- another book our inventor loves.

Building Essentials for Your Inventor

Keva Planks- love these plank blocks that allow you to build complex structures. The more the better!

Erector Sets- The best part about these sets are the tools kids get to use!

LEGO Contraptions Books- Technic pieces you can use with regular bricks to build machines from the book.

Physics for Your Inventor

Solar Kit- large pieces which are similar to LEGO technic pieces which you can build lots of solar vehicles. This holds great interest at our house because we have a large array of solar panels on our roof and we do a lot with real time monitoring of our energy usage.

Deluxe Physics Kit- this is an advanced physics kit teaching all sort of concepts in physics using technic type pieces.

Blog, She Wrote: 10 Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

Robotics for Your Inventor

LEGO Mindstorms NXT & EV3- NXT has just been upgraded to EV3 with the release having been late summer this year. While we plan to get an EV3 kit at some point, we are heavily invested in NXT and we’ll continue to use it. Our family is a long time FIRST LEGO League family with Dan coaching and running a JR FLL event annually. Our kids participate on teams and they play at home. This has been a great investment for our family.

Remote Control Machines- this is a great kit for building machines and powering them with the remote control. A nice one for elementary aged kids and up because the pieces are larger than LEGO Technic pieces and there is no programming involved.

Blog, She Wrote: 10 Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

Other Necessities for An Inventor

Don’t forget some of the most important items for any inventor that cannot be bought.

Workspace- a place for your inventor to have ongoing projects and his work all around him.

Time- Inventors at any age need the time to tinker. Leave some margin in your routine for those explorable moments.

christmas-gift-listsVisit other iHN Bloggers to enjoy other Christmas Gift Lists.

Uzinggo: Online Math & Science Tutoring

Uzinggo Math & Science Tutoring

Disclaimer: I received a year long subscription for math and science for free and I was compensated for my time in writing this review. All of my opinions are honest according to my experience with the program.

It’s that time of year when school aged children everywhere are heading back to classrooms and homeschools. It always takes me by surprise how slow the process is even in a homeschool. Everyone has to work back up to their full academic schedule. I was excited for the opportunity to try out Uzinggo because I thought it would be a great slow and steady start back to our regular academics. And I was right!

Uzinggo provides online math and science tutoring for your homeschool – both mom and student. Enjoy a look at a tool you can use with your middle school and high school math and science students.

Uzinggo Online Math and Science Tutoring

Online Math Lessons

Uzinggo is a great way for kids to review and solidify concepts in math. Middle school prep and review math courses include:

  • math for grades 6, 7, 8
  • pre- algebra (grade 7)
  • foundations for Algebra (grade 8)

Math courses for high school are:

  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II

Ethan has been reviewing geometry this week in order to prepare for continuing on with his geometry course. Each lesson lets you answer questions and interact with the material. There are even additional resources to print and use with your student.

Uzinggo Math and Science Tutoring

Online Science Lessons

In addition to the standard subject areas below, you’ll find review and prep classes available for your students.

Middle School Science includes:

  • Life Science
  • Physical Science
  • Earth and Space Science

High School Science includes:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Earth and Space Science

The great thing about Uzinggo packages is having all the science topics at your fingertips. Not all of our kids are working on the same science classes at any given time so having everything available to us rather than just one subject area is a real bonus.

Uzinggo Math and Science TutoringVirtual Science Labs

One of the things I love about Uzinggo as a biology teacher, are the interactive virtual labs. Pictured above from high school biology is the activity requiring students to fill in the plant and animal cells. The animations and details are so well done! At each step of the way kids can work to complete the activity and they get immediate feedback and the chance to try again.

Once the cell is “built”, you get to spin it around so you can see it in 3D how all the parts fit together. This beats a mere drawing of a cell hands down! Of course, what biology teacher can resist the urge to have students draw a cell?

Uzinggo Math and Science TutoringPlans and Pricing for Uzinggo Subscriptions

You can purchase an annual subscription or you can pay monthly. In addition, there are math plans, science plans, and combo packages.

Our kids are really enjoying the Middle School Ultimate Package which is both math and science for $134.95 a year.

Our 10th grader has been enjoying the High School Ultimate Package which contains the math and science animations.

Benefits of Subscribing to Uzinggo:

  • Provides a great supplement to your current curriculum
  • Like a personal tutor which will help cement concepts- at a fraction of the cost
  • Helps parents with explaining concepts- especially parents who are intimidated by higher science and math course work
  • Self-paced for the student
  • Clear format & professional animation provide clear explanations
  • Resources are provided inside each animation (quizzes, activity sheets with an answer key, lesson plans for the teacher)
  • Has a built in incentive program for the students with real encouragement
  • Provides parents with resources that allow them to help with a concept
  • Students can work through the Zing Paths or they can pick and choose a concept which is helpful especially for review
  • Gives a change of pace for math and science instruction- something my creative girl appreciates.

Uzinggo Math and Science TutoringWhat Do My Kids Say about Uzinggo?

I like the interactive nature of the program like the telescope. It was fun to mess around with the telescope lenses and see which one worked best. -R13

This was our first week of school and they’ve all been asking for some time with Uzinggo. I think one of the best parts is seeing them enjoy the incentives. Not only can you “buy” virtual items and build a little world, but there are opportunities for real donations and drawings for gift cards.

I like that I can do something with the Zings I earn. It’s cool that if you aren’t into virtual worlds, there are donation options. It’s cool to be able to help give food to people in Africa and drinking water to villages. Or to save rainforests and coral reefs. – R13

Even my high schooler can buy into the incentives. If he’s not feeling altruistic, he can always enter the drawing for a gift card. That’s a win/win for students.

Giveaway and Discount Offer

Click here for a Rafflecopter giveaway of Uzinggo!

Uzinggo is offering a 15% discount with the promo code iHomeschool15 (case sensitive). If you choose the monthly subscription, this discount is valid for up to one year from the purchase date.

The discount can be used for more than one package so you can use it on the middle school package and then purchase the high school package with the same code.

Other Ways to Connect With & Explore Uzinggo

Our family has only begun to discover all the concepts and animations in Uzinggo. I’ve tried to share with you some of the high lights of our experience. My kids are looking forward to using it whenever they can and I know that my 10th grader will like the biology animations to go with his biology program this year.