Blog, She Wrote http://blogshewrote.org Embracing the Independent & Authentic Nature of Homeschooling Mon, 20 Jul 2015 12:35:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.3 Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environmenthttp://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/19/our-learning-environment/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/19/our-learning-environment/#comments Sun, 19 Jul 2015 04:00:15 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=10688 It’s time to share our learning spaces with everyone! We’ve been homeschooling for ten and a half years and our learning environment has changed a lot over that time. When Ethan, our 12th grader, first started homeschooling half way through first grade, we had just one small table in our living room and a bookshelf […]

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Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning EnvironmentIt’s time to share our learning spaces with everyone! We’ve been homeschooling for ten and a half years and our learning environment has changed a lot over that time. When Ethan, our 12th grader, first started homeschooling half way through first grade, we had just one small table in our living room and a bookshelf for his school things. As we added more children to the official homeschool roster, we added books, larger tables and we dedicated part of our playroom to homeschooling. Two years ago,when we began looking for a new home, we knew we were looking for some place special. It had to have space for our learning materials, our homeschool library, and our project spaces.

Essential Elements for Our Home Learning Environment

school 10-1

Our focus is not to recreate a school classroom in our home. However, with four kids immersed in learning throughout the day, it’s hard to miss that we homeschool. Here are a few “must haves” for our learning spaces.

  • Bookshelves for our homeschool library– while we do use the public library extensively, it’s important to have a variety of print material in our home. Bookshelves are essential.
  • Media Area– for the computers the kids use for school and projects. We keep them in the media room.
  • Slate Chalkboard– I adore slate and we had a smaller chalkboard in our last house, but this lovely piece of slate is a recent addition to our home learning environment and as you can see it has seen a lot of use in the few weeks it’s been up. We do a lot of math on the slate!
  • White Boards–  I often use it for explaining things along with a chalkboard. Or to write down assignments and reminders for the day. And sometimes the kids work problems and their own explanations on the board. I keep portable white boards on hand too for working math problems and playing games.
  • Large Table– for school work and projects. Though the kids can go to any area to do their work, they often work there together. We put it right in the large window so there would be plenty of natural light.
  • Storage Cabinet– or closet for homeschool materials that are not books. We have one large wooden cabinet which was a very special gift from specials friends and we have bookcases in our basement which hold everything else.
  • Project  Work Space– We wanted to provide a place where each of our kids could work on their own and plan and work on projects. This is an essential for us because a place for diving into and leaving out their work is important.

Using Walls for a Homeschool Learning Environment

school 9

While it would be homier to not use posters and maps on our walls, the extra immersion is great for growing minds! The only thing I’d change? I’d put wooden frames around each one if I could!

  • Maps– both US and World. I’d love a large physical map of the world too. We have a laminated set I bought at Staples many years ago.
  • Periodic Table of the Elements– I went for the one that has pictures of the actual element by Theodore Grey.
  • Calendar– a regular wall calendar is all you need, but I was compelled to buy a pocket calendar. I do not have calendar time! Conversation about the calendar has successfully taught all of my children the nuances of the calendar year. However, I keep a large calendar there for reference.
  • Bulletin Board– for student work and other displays
  • White Board/Chalkboard– previously mentioned.
  • Student Work– on display this could be work hard earned, work done well, and art work. Love to display art work.

Homeschool Technology

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We make ample use of technology in our homeschool. Here are a some examples:

Blog, She Wrote: How to Homeschool with a KindleManaging the Internet in Your Home

How do you handle internet access in your home? This important question is surely a part of a homeschool learning environment. Dan wrote a series of blog posts on Internet Filtering & Access Control. He answers questions like:

  • How do you control when your kids are on the internet with your router?
  • How do you filter content once they are there?
  • Using OpenDNS as your content filter

Blog, She Wrote: Managing the Internet in Your HomeTips on Using a Homeschool Library

We have books in almost every room of our home. Here are a few tips on handling homeschool books and making sure they get noticed and read:

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environement

  • Rotate books– especially if you don’t have room for all the books to be out or on a shelf
  • Reference Books– should be easy to find and use. We have a magazine rack that is our reference shelf.
  • Library Shelf– to shelve books we have borrowed from the library.
  • Display Area– this is the top of the library shelf for us, but I use it to put out books I want the kids to notice and leaving the book open is very inviting!
  • Coffee Table– is a great place to leave books you want kids to notice. Both the coffee table and the display area never fail to promote interest in a book. Try it!
  • Organizing Your Homeschool Library– Helpful tips on storing and using books in your home library. You don’t want to miss this!
  • Ten Things Every Homeschool Library Should Have– What’s in your home library?
  • The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home– Ideas for how to make your home encouraging to readers regardless of age!

Other Learning Environment Links from Blog, She Wrote

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment

Take a look at these other posts on our learning spaces– they are all still in use today.

  • Our Supply Cabinet– this is where we store our paper and art supplies for school. This post gives a list of what we have on hand in there.
  • Learning Spaces Full Tour– from last 2012. Things look nearly the same though we’ve upgraded some bookshelves and added more books!
  • Displaying Art– a post on how we use student work all over our home.

Thank you for joining us today at Blog, She Wrote for a look at our learning environment. Please sign up to receive updates in your inbox so you don’t miss the rest of the Not-Back-to-School Hop and Geography Quests here at Blog, She Wrote!

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High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/13/high-school-curriculum-choices-2015-2016/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/13/high-school-curriculum-choices-2015-2016/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 09:00:24 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18273 Probably the best way to sum up how I feel about this post is- it is getting REAL here folks! This year we are teaching two high schoolers again only this time we have a sophomore and a senior. The best thing about high school outside of the awesome conversations is mentoring these young people […]

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High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

Probably the best way to sum up how I feel about this post is- it is getting REAL here folks! This year we are teaching two high schoolers again only this time we have a sophomore and a senior. The best thing about high school outside of the awesome conversations is mentoring these young people into adulthood by helping them to find their niche. Our curriculum choices reflect their interests and goals. Here’s a look at our High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016.

12th Grade Curriculum

High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

Ethan is our senior. He’s had quite a challenge as a junior having battled Lyme Disease the entire year. If he had not been ahead of the game, his senior year would look very different. Thankfully, he only needs one and a half credits to graduate. The rest of his courses are based on the colleges he wants to apply to.

  • Calculus– with Life of Fred
  • Physics– with ck-12
  • English V– with Excellence in Literature
  • Arabic– with Rosetta Stone after having taken an introductory course at our co-op and a summer course with a native speaker with iTalki.
  • American Government & Economics – with Notgrass and Uncle Eric
  • Novel Writing– with One Year Adventure Novel and Other Worlds. He has a goal to complete his current novel.
  • College Exam Prep– He’ll be taking the SAT and possibly the ACT this fall.
  • Driver’s Ed– complete his driving hours, take the 5 hour class, and pass the test!

Ethan’s hobby this coming year will be applying and getting accepted to universities. We’d appreciate some scholarship applications being completed as well. College visitations begin in September strategically chosen for the opportunity to see the Virginia Tech Hokies play Purdue at Purdue!

10th Grade Curriculum

High School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

It’s hard to believe Rebecca is already a sophomore! She has two very distinct niches and it will be interesting to see how she works them together as she completes high school.

  • Algebra– complete beginning algebra and work through advanced algebra by year’s end with Life of Fred.
  • Biology– using ck-12 and supplemental lab materials and entomology.
  • Spanish– with Rosetta Stone (we have levels 1-5 of the homeschool edition)
  • English III– with One Year Adventure Novel using the reading list he provides along with essay writing. We need to keep her skills sharp though she’ll be writing fiction this year.
  • Quest for the Ancient World– WinterPromise and she’ll be doing this with her 8th grade brother
  • Art– a credit of art using a variety of materials and online courses
  • Sewing & Design III– An independent study which involves teaching others and breaking new ground in design and construction.

Rebecca teaches two sewing classes right now. She prepares the curriculum and helps the girls learn new skills and complete projects. Rather than working at a sewing camp, she chose to try for more students. This is the perfect working environment for her at this time.

Other High School Posts at Blog, She Wrote

Creating Opportunities for Your Homeschooled Teen

Working with a Bright & Occasionally Very Motivated High Schooler: Tips and Strategies– Do you know any students like this? Helpful strategies for working with this type of student.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math– How to work with teens and complex math. It’s easier than you think!

Creating Opportunities for Your Homeschooled Teen– How to work to find experiences for your homeschooled high schooler.

High School Help– A gathering of high school posts here at Blog, She Wrote

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Middle School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/12/middle-school-curriculum-choices-2015-2016/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/12/middle-school-curriculum-choices-2015-2016/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 03:38:57 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18284 This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support! Isaac is our 8th grader this year. Probably the biggest difference for him will be the level of work we expect. 8th grade kicks things up a notch in order to transition to high school level work by the end of the year. Our Middle School […]

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Middle School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

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Isaac is our 8th grader this year. Probably the biggest difference for him will be the level of work we expect. 8th grade kicks things up a notch in order to transition to high school level work by the end of the year. Our Middle School Curriculum Choices 2015-2016:

8th Grade Curriculum Choices

Implementing Middle School Curriculum

Isaac will be working on more than those four pieces of curriculum would suggest. Art and music are part of his program along with some project areas. His learning time will consist of the following in addition to the four main subject areas above:

  • RC Plane Flying– He is a member of the local flying club and has three planes he flies and maintains. Two of them he can fly at the park behind our house and the other one is large enough to need an air field. That’s his newest acquisition and he’s quickly becoming an expert.
  • Model Rocketry– Isaac builds his own rockets from kits (some are more ready to fly than others) and launches them.
  • Daily Reading Aloud– Both as the reader and the listener. We read The Lord of the Rings together and take turns reading. Additionally, we read as a family.
  • Speech Practice– He has a history of severe apraxia and we are working on trimming up his R sounds. He gets weekly one on one speech therapy for articulation. I think he’ll be dismissed by summer’s end, but practice will continue. The sounds are there, but they require great effort from him.
  • Reading– Lots of reading is in store. Right now he’s immersed in a 14 book series by Robert Jordan called The Wheel of Time. In fact, his older brother and sister and his dad are all reading the series.

Other Middle School Posts at Blog, She Wrote

How to Engage Your Teens with Books

It’s hard to believe that, although we have one middle schooler this year, we are parenting and homeschooling three teens right now. Here are a few posts on homeschooling middle school.

Teaching Middle & High School Language Arts– Resources and information on how we approach language arts for our secondary students.

Homeschooling Middle & High School Fine Arts– Music and art in middle school

Homeschooling Middle & High School Math– We are Life of Fred users especially for upper level math. Learn about our strategy for teaching math in middle school.

Literary Adventures– Book fun for middle school or any age. Find a fun book which challenges your middle schooler and get started!

The Snake Project– This was our daughter’s 8th grade science two years ago and it was a fabulous example of what happens when you let a project develop and challenge a student.

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Elementary Curriculum Choices 2015-2016http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/12/elementary-curriculum-choices-2015-2016/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/12/elementary-curriculum-choices-2015-2016/#respond Mon, 13 Jul 2015 01:26:59 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18288 This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support! Joshua is our last elementary student and he’s a 5th grader, so this is our last year teaching elementary school. Wow- will our homeschool look different next year considering we have a senior this year as well! We’ve made some fun selections for our Elementary Curriculum […]

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Elementary Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

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Joshua is our last elementary student and he’s a 5th grader, so this is our last year teaching elementary school. Wow- will our homeschool look different next year considering we have a senior this year as well! We’ve made some fun selections for our Elementary Curriculum Choices 2015-2016.

5th Grade Curriculum Choices

  • MathLife of Fred Fractions and Decimals & Percents. Along with games, practice, and math adventures using Math on the Level.
  • BiologyChristian Kids Explore Biology from Bright Ideas Press along with other resources based on my professional background. CKE will keep me moving forward!
  • Social StudiesAround New York in 80 Days. I’m pretty excited about this one. It’ll be fun to do local and state history and take some field trips.
  • Language Arts– with The Writer’s Jungle. Lots of fun writing is in store for Joshua and I think this is just his speed. I also have tons of resources for writing to use if he needs a boost or a change up.
  • Latin– with Prima Latina. He’s so interested in learning Latin names especially in science. The spark for learning Latin was lit by The Penderwicks. Mr. Penderwick is always speaking Latin.
  • Unit Studies– literature or topically based with BYFIAR, scientists, Lion Preparatory Academy, and the Prairie Primer.
  • FIRST LEGO League– This will be his second year on our FLL team. He loves to program the robot for missions.

Elementary Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

Implementing Our Elementary Curriculum

I wouldn’t want anyone to start panicking over this robust plan! Joshua and I read together aloud every day and I know he will enjoy doing unit studies along the way. We’ve been very successful working together. He’s a unique learner with some strong gifted characteristics. Some general thoughts on his formal and informal learning experiences:

  • He’s an intense learner– I’m certain we won’t do all of these things at once, but a few at a time for a length of time or until he runs out the learning on a particular topic.
  • Bible Time– While the next two older kids are working on ancient studies, he will be listening in to the Bible readings from the Archeological Bible.
  • Read Aloud Time– Those of you who have younger and older students probably run into the fact that you haven’t read books to your youngest that you read to your older kids! Joshua and I are going back to read together the things our older kids enjoyed with us before he has memory of hearing the stories.
  • Local History– NY State history and geography is on the docket this year and our older kids will enjoy revisiting some of it.
  • Writing– Lots of dictation and free writing are on tap.
  • Unit Studies– We may not do these one after the other, but I expect a few each quarter will do the trick based on his interest.
  • Audio Books– Joshua listens to stories as he falls to sleep. His mind is always working on a problem and this has been a successful way to get him to relax.
  • Project Based Learning– One of the ways Joshua is intense is with his work. He loves to solve problems, engineer, and program. He reads whole manuals on programming languages and is tenacious enough to figure things out on his own. He will spend many hours at work and this is actually one of his biggest gifted behaviors. He does not like his work to be interrupted! Part of his curriculum is the time, space, and materials to accomplish his work goals.
  • Mindstorms EV3– He has his own EV3 kit and Dan gives him programming challenges. He also likes to use his Arduino shield to program the brick with software other than the EV3 code. Right now he’s using Lejos to program the EV3 using Java which runs off an SD card. EV3 runs a stripped down version of Linux and he enjoys customizing the programming use a different language.
  • Entomology– Joshua is preparing to turn in his second year collection to the 4-H Fair. He will continue to collect and pin insects this next year.

Related Posts at Blog, She Wrote

How to Teach Science through the Lives of Scientists

Here are a few posts relating to elementary instruction or planning.

How to Teach Science through the Lives of Scientists– Our kids have always loved learning about people who do extraordinary things and our youngest especially enjoys learning about scientists. This has been a great fit for him and we’ll continue to approach biographies in this way.

Math Planning– How I put together math plans based on concepts my kids need to accomplish before Algebra.

Beyond Five in a Row– This page has all things Beyond on it including ways to plan, how to use the curriculum, and sample work from the books we’ve studies.

How to Keep up with Your Accelerated Reader– Do you have a child who read well above grade level? How do you keep up with pre-reading?

Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home– All of our kids are readers and this has always been a priority in our home. Though our kids all came to read fluently at different times and enjoy some different tastes in reading material, our home is still a haven for reading. It’s well worth the time to build this in during the elementary years.

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Teaching & Mentoring High School Mathhttp://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/08/teaching-mentoring-high-school-math/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/08/teaching-mentoring-high-school-math/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 09:00:02 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18221 This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support! It’s probably one of the most anxiety producing thoughts for homeschoolers- teaching high school math. Well meaning observers want to know how it’s possible to make sure our kids get the higher level math. If we have struggled with math, how will we help our kids […]

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Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

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It’s probably one of the most anxiety producing thoughts for homeschoolers- teaching high school math. Well meaning observers want to know how it’s possible to make sure our kids get the higher level math. If we have struggled with math, how will we help our kids to learn it? I have good news! Teaching & Mentoring High School Math is doable. Read on for some tips.

Math Instruction for High Schoolers

After laying the foundation for algebra in elementary and middle school, high school students are better able to tackle math on their own. We are Life of Fred users for high school math. You can read more about our Fred experience here. We locked on to Fred for high school math because it introduces concepts regularly and doesn’t beat the dead horse when it comes to practice. Beginning Algebra accelerates fast and it’s thorough. Here are a few reasons I use Life of Fred for high school math:

  • Instruction is not overly repetitive– Less drill and more complex problems. Just less problems overall. So, less fatigue and increased accuracy
  • Encourages a different approach to attacking a problem– it causes students to think. This is a big deal for a linear kid who is a computation king, but has trouble fitting ideas together to come to a proper conclusion.
  • Cost– honestly for $16 per book for the elementary texts and as much as $30-$45 for upper level math texts, you can’t go wrong even if you just wanted to try it out. Dr. Schmidt packs a lot of concepts into a non-consumable text I can use with all of my kids
  • The program is designed for students to read on their own– and do the problems and check them. Parents are not directly responsible for instruction. This is perfect for the high school parent nervous about math. The texts are written to the student and the author is vocal about staying out of the student’s way.
  • Allows lots of student to student mentoring– because they are all immersed in Fred’s world for math, our older students can help our younger students.
  • Spurs mathematical conversations– almost at any meal time. How many lunch tables vigorously take on set theory- especially when everyone from 10-16 can weigh in on the conversation all of them having been introduced through their Fred books?

We often hear Fred through out the day. Our high school senior recently read from his Trig book as he was reviewing. I adore being read to and it’s a great way to stay connected with their math assignments.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

Big Explanations for High Schoolers

When our high schoolers run into problems they have trouble solving, they turn to our slate chalkboard. Sometimes working a problem on a large surface helps the thinking process. It’s also a great way for us as parents and teachers to help out. We have a lot of discussions at the slate! After working a problem at the board, Ethan explains to Dan how he got to where he is in the problem.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

There are a few ways we can intervene when math gets tough:

  • I get the information from them and begin the problem on the board– often just starting the problem and watching it from afar, helps them to see where they went wrong. They finish it up on their own.
  • Dan comes to the rescue!– Nothing is better than an explanation from our school principal and great all around dad, Dan. He will use the chalkboard too (and admits it’s like butta!) and give long explanations to the problems.
  • Kahn Academy– If I’m not helpful at jogging a thought process and they’d rather not wait for Dan, then we seek out tutorials from Kahn Academy. It’s easy to search and it’s free. That’s a win! Often they will find the concept they are looking for and it will be helpful to keep going.
  • Revisit the instruction– When they have trouble, I send them back to the chapters they need to get grounded again and they move forward. Often times, re-reading will spark something which helps them along.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

College Exam Preparations for High Schoolers

If your high school student is college bound, then preparing for the college entrance exams needs to be part of their high school math experience. Your student may want to prepare for the following tests:

  • PSAT– Taken officially in 11th grade and qualifying students may be awarded a National Merit Scholarship. So, taking this exam gives students a glimpse of the next level of test and has the possibility of earning scholarships. Often 10th graders are permitted to take the PSAT as a practice. Some 7th graders may take the test to qualify for gifted and talented programs as well.
  • SAT– The infamous Scholastic Aptitude Test has sections devoted to math. A working knowledge of Algebra and Geometry is a must for this test.
  • SAT Subject Tests– There are 20 subject tests which students can opt to take depending on requirements from the universities and colleges to which they want to apply. There are two levels of the math subject tests. Math Test I tests on both years of algebra and geometry. Ethan is preparing for the Math II test which assesses the same topics as math 1 with the addition of trig and elementary functions.
  • ACT– An alternative to the SAT, the ACT is a different sort of aptitude test. Many colleges and universities accept both the ACT and SAT scores.

One thing to keep in mind when planning high school math courses is what math is necessary to score well on these college exams. Geometry gets a lot of time on these tests. If your student does two years of Algebra before doing Geometry (as is Fred’s scope and sequence), then he might be challenged on the math section of these exams. We found that Ethan scored even higher once he completed Trigonometry.

Teaching & Mentoring High School Math

Resources for Exam Preparation

Some students need more time for exam prep than others. Knowing how to take the test and what to expect can go a long way to success. When your high schooler begins working to prepare for these exams depends on when she plans to take them. The test sites have guidelines on how and when to study. Our rising senior is taking his exams this fall and will spend the month of August preparing in earnest. We did take practice tests in his junior year to gauge where he was and what he might need to work on.

  • The Official SAT Study Guide– from College Board. Reading the front matter of the guide will give lots of information on testing taking strategies.
  • High School Testing– by Lee Binz
  • SAT Question of the Day– This is provided by the College Board so that you can practice daily. Sign up via email or get the app and you’ll get a question delivered.
  • ACT Question of the Day– from ACT. Just remember that with questions of the day,  you’ll also be getting verbal questions in addition to math.
  • The Real ACT Prep Guide– The official guide from the makers of the ACT.
  • Apps– If you search your app stores for SAT and ACT apps, you’ll come up with lots of choices. Some are just for math practice. We actually have an Amazon app for our SAT Question of the Day.

Other Math Content at Blog, She Wrote

The Making of a Wizard & the Crafty Side of Math

Math has taken on different forms in our homeschool since we started homeschooling 10.5 years ago. These are additional posts on math you might enjoy.

  • Life of Fred Homeschool Math– This is a summary of our experience with Life of Fred from Apples to Calculus. It goes into more detail about how it works for all ages at our house.
  • The Making of a Wizard & the Crafty Side of Math– Do you have a creative child in your midst? Does math present challenges as a result? This post addresses how we keep our creative girl engaged with her math inspiring confidence in her math endeavors.
  • Homeschooling Middle & High School Math– This post summarizes our approach to math in middle and high school. You’ll find more details on helping older students with math.
  • Math– This is my math page with multiple links. You can find links to math for younger kids here including how we use Math on the Level.

Share with us your favorite high school math resource!

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Resources for Teaching Human Geographyhttp://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/06/resources-for-teaching-human-geography/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/06/resources-for-teaching-human-geography/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 09:00:56 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18195 This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support. When we think of geography, we think of places. Whether it’s countries, states and their capitals, bodies of water, or landmarks, we are thinking of where things are in our world. Political boundaries make sense to us. For me, the next most popular geography theme is […]

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Resources for Teaching Human Geography

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When we think of geography, we think of places. Whether it’s countries, states and their capitals, bodies of water, or landmarks, we are thinking of where things are in our world. Political boundaries make sense to us. For me, the next most popular geography theme is physical geography. We know to teach about landforms and natural phenomena. However, we don’t always think about people and their influence on geography. People groups, culture, and history are all part of human geography. Resources to Teach Human Geography will provide you with some ideas on how to teach the people part of geography.

Why Teach Human Geography?

Humans impact the geography of the world every day.  It’s the study of people- where and how we choose to live and how we engage the world around us. Why study the human factor in geography?

  • Humans can change geography– whether it’s political boundaries or environmental impacts on the land
  • Studying cultures help us to understand people who are different from us- which helps us to think more globally.
  • Worldviews and philosophy– affect how humans interact with those around them whether it’s other people or the land around them.
  • Law & Government– We can learn about where countries are around the world and better understand how they are governed. What a great way to learn more about our own government when you compare our democratic republic with other forms of leadership.
  • Transportation– How we get around changes depending on technology, topology, and economy.
  • Economics– Countries around the world have different economies based on their form of government and currency.

Forms of Government with Civitas Card Game

Civitas-official-full-logo-2This card game stems from ideas in North Star Geography on teaching forms of government.

  • Plays like Uno- easy to learn and there are reference cards if you need help remembering what happens next.
  • Cards get played- they are laid down to change the game play according to how that form of government operates.
  • Get to experience forms of government by acting out their methods of engagement.
  • Provides lively family time with great discussions on government and current events.
  • Creative way to cement the concept without preparing the card sets yourself.

If you pre-order Civitas now you can receive 25% off with the code heatherplayscivitas. The code is good for the upcoming school year as well.

Resources for Teaching Human Geography

Resources for Teaching Human Geography

How to Build a Country– a Kids Can book gives step by step guidelines on how to build your own country.

MicroNations Invent Your Own Country & Culture– 25 projects to help with creating your own country and culture.

Civitas– a card game all about forms of government. Don’t forget the code: heatherplayscivitas to receive 25% off the price.

North Star Geography– a complete geography curriculum from Bright Ideas Press which includes many chapters on human geography.

Hands-On Geography– Activities to explore God’s world with lots of ideas on people and culture throughout history.

The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide– has a section on human geography and many references and ideas for studying geography in a lot of different ways.

Enjoy a look at the people groups of the earth and how we have formed our cultures. Where will you begin your journey?

North Star Geography homeschool curriculum

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How to Host a Summer Writer’s Workshophttp://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/03/how-to-host-a-summer-writers-workshop/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/03/how-to-host-a-summer-writers-workshop/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:00:13 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18137 This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support! Summer is officially underway at our house. We’ve finished up our year end testing, the school reports have all been submitted, and our Letters of Intent to Homeschool the next academic year have been sent. It’s break time! While we are not year round schoolers, […]

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How to Host a Summer Writer's Workshop

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

Summer is officially underway at our house. We’ve finished up our year end testing, the school reports have all been submitted, and our Letters of Intent to Homeschool the next academic year have been sent. It’s break time! While we are not year round schoolers, I do use the summer to focus on a skill area which could use some practice. Usually it’s math, but this summer we are writing. It’s a family affair! I’ve come up with a bunch of ways to have fun with this and maybe you’ll want to join us in How to Host a Summer Writer’s Workshop.

Using a Writer’s Workshop Format

Writer’s workshops can be organized in a few different ways, but generally they involve a short teaching time which focuses on a skill or strategy followed by time to write. We’ve been using the time to try out different sorts of writing with a big emphasis on sharing. This has been a successful format for us, but it appeals to a particular type of writer. This summer the plan is to:

  • Meet weekly for a family workshop– Each week we’ll meet to play some word games, try out some writing explorations, and share our writing. Since there are 5 of us meeting, that’s a good little group and it will help some siblings to practice giving positive feedback to one another.
  • Establish a new group of writers– We had a writer’s workshop meeting for about a year and a half, but a winter full of illness suggested that we slow things down. We’d like to form a new group and begin meeting again. We have some ideas which will bring us writers of varying styles. If getting together seems too difficult, I’m considering some remote meeting possibilities.

Elementary Summer Writing Skills

Joshua is our incoming 5th grader and he’s working on more consistency in his writing. He is talented when he feels like taking the time and distracted when he’s not. He does respond well to varying the activities which focus on writing skills. Here are a few ideas brewing for his summer workshop:

  • Writing Fan Fiction– He’s a big fan of Redwall and has written fan fiction for Life of Fred books, but this time he’s working on a story about an inventor in the Redwall books. He’s the inventor, of course, and he’s got plans. This is one he’s typing out right into the computer and adds to the story regularly.
  • Using Copywork– We used copywork often when our kids were younger, but it has value as students get older. Copying good writing has its own value and practicing handwriting without the extra task of creating the writing makes for better focus on the mechanics of writing.
  • Practicing Dictation– I like to use dictation to hone skills which need work pulling from stories that he likes a lot.
  • Playing Word Games– Scrabble, Boggle, You’ve Been Sentenced, and Scattergories are all great games to bring the fun to words. Do you need more word game ideas? Try 100 Family Games for Kids of All Ages and scroll to the word game category for the ultimate list.
  • Book Check In (aka Narration)– He loves to chat about the book he’s reading and this gives me a chance to hear what he thinks about his books. I highly recommend this method. It beats other forms of reading comprehension. A lot of times narration is good fodder for writing prompts or you can just listen to the oral explanation.

How to Host a Summer Writer's Workshop

Middle School Summer Writing

Our new 8th grader will be working on getting more versatile in his writing. Some ideas for him include:

  • Find a Little Inspiration by Reading– I have in mind the book, Guy Write What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know by Ralph Fletcher. This is a book about boy writing. Perfect for this quintessential adventuring boy of ours.
  • Word Games– Keeping the vocabulary nimble and working with words without requiring writing them down.
  • Dictation– Specifically to hone in on the things I know he needs work on.
  • Writing Exploration– Simple writing exercises which are fun to think about. They can be lists, descriptions, captions, etc.

High School Summer Writing

Our high schoolers will be a senior and a sophomore this year. In case you’ve forgotten the class structure lingo that’s a 12th and 10th grader. Where has the time gone?! Ethan, our senior, is an engaged writer and plans to major in professional writing with the goal of being a technical writer (with a minor in computer science or math!). His writing focus this summer is mostly aimed at helping him achieve some personal goals in writing. Rebecca, our upcoming sophomore, will be working on a variety of skills. Here is a sampling:

  • Expository Essays– All high schoolers need to be able to write a solid expository essay. Rebecca is working on one now entitled, “Hemlines in History”. It takes a look at the trend in skirt length from 1900 to present. This goes along with fashion in history theme.
  • SAT Essay Practice– The class of 2016 is the last class to have the essay portion on the SAT. Ethan will spend time getting organized thoughts on paper in a timely manner in preparation for the exam in October.
  • Novel Writing– Ethan has been working on a time travel science fiction novel since working through his Other Worlds curriculum. He has a personal goal for completion.
  • Word Games– Any time you can play with words is well spent. For all of us. Including high schoolers.
  • Persuasive Essays– Another popular essay form for high schoolers and a hallmark of the SAT, is the persuasive essay. Just today Rebecca was making an argument for why Pluto should not be re-designated as a planet. Sounds like a perfect topic to me!
  • Collaboration– Ethan and Rebecca are planning a project where he writes and she illustrates. I don’t know what direction they are going in yet, but I’m eager to see the results.

How to Host a Summer Writer's Workshop

Round up of Writing Ideas

There are a few places in the world of the internet which I enjoy visiting for ideas. I’d like to share them with you:

  • WriteShop Blog– WriteShop is fantastic at breaking down the writing process. We have used WriteShop materials and I love the writing prompts they share on the blog.
  • Brave Writer– I’ve been hearing about Brave Writer for a long time and I recently picked up The Writer’s Jungle and High School Help. It’s so refreshing to read from a curriculum writer who gets how I teach writing! Julie has a lot of great prompts and ideas. Plus, you can sign up for daily writing tips.
  • Small World at Home– If you need ideas on Creative Writing check out Sarah’s sidebar for The Ultimate Guide to Creative Writing Resources and Wordsmithery.

Other Blog, She Wrote Posts on Writing

I’ve written a lot on our brand of writing instruction. Below are some links for more reading!

Resources for Coaching Writers

The idea isn’t to overwhelm my students and have the work nose to the grindstone all summer. Rather, we’ll do a few things a week just to keep the skills sharp, to develop a few without distraction, and to work toward goals they have set for themselves.

We’re looking forward to reading, discussing, and sharing the writing we’re engaged in this summer. Do you have plans for summer writing? Leave a comment and tell us what they are.

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Science Quest: Shark Editionhttp://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/01/science-quest-shark-edition/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/07/01/science-quest-shark-edition/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:07:38 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18148 Shark Week is coming! I don’t know who made up Shark Week, but the hype is sorta fun and as a homeschool blogger it provides a fun set of topics. Shark Week has been moved to next week (the first week of July this year) to coincide with the release of the new Jaws movie. […]

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Science Quest- Shark Edition

Shark Week is coming! I don’t know who made up Shark Week, but the hype is sorta fun and as a homeschool blogger it provides a fun set of topics. Shark Week has been moved to next week (the first week of July this year) to coincide with the release of the new Jaws movie. We’re about to be swept up into a wave of shark madness! Sharks also give me a fantastic excuse to bring alive my idea of Science Quests here at Blog, She wrote. The first stop is Science Quest: Shark Edition.

Shark Classification

Sharks are a special sort of fish. Do your kids know how sharks are classified?

  • What is the classification down to family?
  • Research the animals closely related to sharks.
  • How many species of sharks are there?

Biology of Sharks

Characteristics of fish and sharks

  • How do sharks get oxygen?
  • How is swimming related to the way sharks breathe?
  • What is special about shark teeth?
  • How are sharks designed to live in their habitat?
  • What do sharks eat?
  • Sharks are classified as a fish- what makes them different from other fish?

Shark Habitats

Habitat is the environmental and ecological area where an organism lives. It encompasses the biome and ecosystem and everything in them.

  • Where do sharks live?
  • Which zone to sharks thrive in?
  • Do sharks live all over the world?
  • If you wanted to catch a glimpse of a shark in its natural habitat, where is the best place to go?

You might want to research a particular species of shark. Find out all you can about it and share it with your family. We like to share findings at dinner time. Does your family have a special time to share research?

 

Science Quest Shark Edition

Shark Art with Sharks Volume 2 from Hodgepodge

Tricia and Nana are at it again with a new volume of Sharks in chalk pastels!

Shark Chalk Art - You ARE an Artist Introducing Sharks 2 for all your shark loving artists and non-artists! Upon seeing some of the lessons in this book, my 16 year old, Ethan said he was going to have to try out some of these.

Price through today July 1, 2015 is $5.99.

 

 

 

 

 

If you missed out on last year’s Sharks ebook, then you will love the Shark Bundle. The bundle is $12.99 and includes twenty shark lessons. These ebooks come with art lessons, information on sharks, and a video tutorial.

20 Shark Chalk Art Tutorials

The Summer Bundle is $19.99 and includes Art at the Beach along with Sharks and Sharks 2. Lots of summer art fun!

Art at the Beach + Sharks

Shark Week Resources

Sharks make a great summer unit study, don’t you think?

Shark Week at the Discovery Channel– Pretty sure these guys invented Shark Week. You will find shows and all sorts of shark information.

Sharks in the News– As it happens, NC has seen it’s sixth shark attack in a month. This is a great current event to discuss right now.

Enjoy a fun summer week of shark lessons and art!

 

Shark Chalk Art - You ARE an Artist

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Ten Things Every Homeschool Library Should Havehttp://blogshewrote.org/2015/06/22/ten-things-every-homeschool-library-should-have/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/06/22/ten-things-every-homeschool-library-should-have/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 09:00:36 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18032 I’m a big believer in homeschoolers keeping large collections of print material in their homes. Seeing books around and seeing them being read is one way to build a reader. Today I’m discussing Ten Things Every Homeschool Library Should Have. How many of these are in your library? Reference Materials for a Homeschool Library Nature […]

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Ten Things Every Homeschool Library Should Have

I’m a big believer in homeschoolers keeping large collections of print material in their homes. Seeing books around and seeing them being read is one way to build a reader. Today I’m discussing Ten Things Every Homeschool Library Should Have. How many of these are in your library?

Reference Materials for a Homeschool Library

Nature Field Guides– These are at the top of the list because we use them nearly everyday. We collect them at book sales and have quite a collection. We take them on excursions and use them for identifying new things in our back yard. If there’s a chance of going somewhere new outdoors, Rebecca will bring a field guide. Ok. I admit it. I grab guides too!

Biographies of Scientists– All the better to teach the lives of scientists with! Our kids are always amazed at the lives of people with a great focus and imagination.

Books on Books– Do you know the ones I’m talking about? These are books which tell about other books. They can be annotated bibliographies and many give additional advice about reading in general.

Atlases– Every homeschool needs a good atlas. I’d say you need more than one. Actually, I’d suggest as many as you can fit! We have all sorts of atlases including those of fictional worlds. Who can resist? I also like to have enough that my kids don’t have to share.

Dictionaries– We still love paper dictionaries here! While it’s convenient to use an electronic version, it’s a lot of fun, it’s wildly good educational practice to have students flip through old school and look up a word. On the way they get to meet other words and see the pictures. It’s easy to get lost in a dictionary when you are a word kid.

ThesaurusThe Synonym Finder is an excellent resource for the homeschool library. Your library should not be without a good thesaurus.

Technology for a Homeschool Library

Kindles– I often extol the many virtues of a Kindle Fire and Kindle eReader, but I’ll do it again. Not only can you read easily on a Kindle, but the Fire is a great reference tool for any homeschool library. Kindle Fires are extremely economical and a great way to enter the world of the tablet.

Audio Books– Rainy days and long trips are good times for audio books, but I contend that any time is a great time for an audio book. Audible makes it very easy to download new audios wirelessly, but you can get audio book files from various artists as well. I have kid who will listen to books over music when they do chores and other work.

Physical Space for a Homeschool Library

IKEA Expedit Shelving– We live many hundreds of miles from an IKEA, but I keep my eyes out on Craigslist which is where I’ve gotten the two that we have. Pretty sure they replaced the Expedit line, but hopefully a similar sturdy, cubby like bookcase is available. They hold a ton of books and it’s easy to organize with them because the books are in little square areas instead of across a shelf with no breaks.

Library Shelf– This is a bookshelf which is dedicated fully to library books. Kids can put books back there once they’ve been read and the great thing is when you go to return them on library day, they are all there in one place!

Other Homeschool Library Related Posts from Blog, She Wrote

Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Organizing Your Homeschool Library– Find out how we organize books and arrange our library so the books remain accessible and it’s a comfortable place to be.

The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home– The big post on how to go about building your home environment to promote a culture of books at home.

Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment– This is one of my favorite posts. What are the must haves for a homeschooling family? How do you set up your home to be a respite and a place of learning?

Learning Geography with Atlases– Ever wondered how to choose an atlas or how to use different styles? This post is all about atlases including a video where Tyler Hogan from Bright Ideas Press and I chat about our favorites!

How to Grow a Reader– How to engage kids with books from birth to high school. A comprehensive post on ways to enjoy books with kids of all ages.

How to Engage Your Teen with Books– All things related to communicating with your teen about books.

100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20– A list for teens by teens. Which ones have you read? Subscribe to Blog, She Wrote for an ebook and printable list!

So, tell us what your homeschool library can’t do without?

 

Other iHN bloggers are sharing what their homeschool can’t do without. Nothing better than a fun list!

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5 Pieces of Technology Our Homeschool Couldn’t Do Withouthttp://blogshewrote.org/2015/06/20/tech-for-homeschool/ http://blogshewrote.org/2015/06/20/tech-for-homeschool/#respond Sat, 20 Jun 2015 09:00:41 +0000 http://blogshewrote.org/?p=18034 I suppose that’s a little strong. I mean we could  live without these items in our homeschool. But, for sure, it would be missing some exceptional opportunities. This post is all about the 5 Pieces of Technology Our Homeschool Couldn’t Do Without. I hope it encourages you to consider how you might make better use […]

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5 Pieces of Technology Our Homeschool Couldn't Do Without

I suppose that’s a little strong. I mean we could  live without these items in our homeschool. But, for sure, it would be missing some exceptional opportunities. This post is all about the 5 Pieces of Technology Our Homeschool Couldn’t Do Without. I hope it encourages you to consider how you might make better use of some of the everyday technology in your home.

Kindles & Tablets

How to Homeschool with a Kindle

We use our Kindles every day! These have probably been the single best addition to our techy homeschool in the last two years. All the kids have them and use them in a variety of ways. Of course, other tablets such as iPads and Android tablets work well with Kindle apps, but if you are looking for an economical way to enter the world of tablets, you can’t beat the Kindle Fire. The Paperwhite is a great tool as well if you just want the reader. I’ve written a lot about how we use Kindle tablets, but here are a few ideas:

  • Read Books– Nothing like a good old fashioned read from a tablet! There are a lot of ways to highlight and take notes while you read. Get to know your tool and it won’t let you down.
  • Listen to Audio Books– This is especially dreamy with an Audible account which allows you to download the files wirelessly.
  • Do Research– Having a portable portal to the internet means being able to keep working and look something up at the same time and a small device works well in small work spaces.
  • Watch Video Content– Either from a YouTube playlist, embedded text links, or other sources. You can watch anywhere at any time. Dare I admit that we can even access our satellite dish remotely on the go?
  • Follow Tutorials– This is great for art projects and hands on moments. My artist daughter uses it for her Craftsy classes. It’s so easy to have the tablet right there and to work as she watches.

Video Conferencing

How to Collaborate As an Illustrator

Whether it’s Skype or a Google + Hangout, we can meet long distance for a variety of reasons. For example:

  • Playing Chess Virtually– with a relative or a friend. Our kids have played regularly with their grandfather over Skype.
  • Conducting G+ Hangouts– I appear regularly with Bright Ideas Press
  • Project Collaborations– with homeschoolers far away. There are so many things you could work on together even while far apart.
  • Book Clubs– A fun way to get like minded kids and teens together to discuss books
  • Writer’s Workshops– Long distance sharing of writing is a great option for a video conference format.

The nice thing about using video conferences that it brings people together if they are far apart and it’s an easier way to convene if you live local to one another as well. Sometimes it’s easier to set aside time if you don’t include drive time.

LEGO Mindstorms

Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool

LEGO Mindstorms have been a mainstay of our homeschool for many years. We got our first kit ages ago and we’ve been exploring the world of robotics ever since:

  • Benefits of Using LEGO Mindstorms in Your Homeschool– This is a great list of why we use Mindstorms and it tells some of the cool things we’ve done with the kits.
  • FIRST LEGO League– Dan has been an FLL World Congress judge and a coach for 8 years. He had the opportunity to judge the World Congress in 2005 when the challenge was a Nanotechnology theme. Since then, he’s been coaching teams and running a JrFLL event. Our teams meet 7 hours a week in preparation for competition days. That’s a lot of Mindstorm time for our kids!
  • Assigned Challenges– For example, when our 16yo was 10 he was challenged to make a speed trap for a marble on a marble roller coaster.
  • Programming Challenge– Our 10yo is a new EV3 owner and he’s been working to program the brick with Java instead of the Mindstorms software. He’s always looking to push the edge!

Digital Microscope

Tips for Using a Digital Microscope

Do you have a microscope in your homeschool? You can use digital microscopes to:

  • Allow all of your kids to see the image under the scope at once- huddling around one expensive microscope it highly overrated.
  • Let’s younger kids use a microscope successfully without damaging the slide.
  • Fantastic tool for taking a quick look at a specimen- whether it is living or not.
  • Record live video of a pond critter on your slide.
  • Take still photos of magnified specimens.

Visit Tips for Using a Digital Microscope to read more about how we use this technology.

Computers/Laptops

We have three desktop computers and three laptops. Two of them belong to Dan and I and the others are shared by the kids. Several of them are hand-me-down machines that aren’t the top of the line, but they are hard workers and allow our kids to work simultaneously when it’s necessary. It’s a lot of work to support and maintain a computer network, but it’s worth the effort.

Computers are used at some point daily to:

  • Participate in Online Classes– both long term and short term
  • Attend Conferences
  • Listen to Podcasts & Other Audio
  • Play Music– We have a Rhapsody account and we listen to music with an online interface or app
  • Access Video Content– whether it’s YouTube or hyperlinks within text
  • Word Processing– writing and editing papers, stories, etc
  • Spreadsheet
  • Computer Programming– Our 10yo is an avid programmer and is always into creating new code for an idea he has.
  • Interfacing with LEGO Mindstorms
  • Arduino Work– Joshua works with his Arduino board and programs it using the software.

More Technology Posts from Blog, She Wrote

How to Make a YouTube Playlist

Managing the Internet in Your Home– This is a three part series written by my husband, Dan on how to use your router and Open DNS to filter content and to implement access control. You’ll be given the tools and instructions for limiting time on devices and turning internet on and off at various times- down to the machine or device you want off or to have access.

How to Homeschool with a Kindle– Kindle eReaders and tablets are essential to our homeschool these days. How do we use them? What’s the big deal? Read on to find all the ways we enjoy them.

How to Make a YouTube Playlist– Did you know you can make a preset playlist of YouTube videos for your children to view? You can! And you can make as many categories as you’d like to sort them.

Best Educational YouTube Channels for Homeschoolers– Now that you know how to make a playlist in YouTube, it’s time to visit the best educational channels around and add to them!

How to Use Google Earth– What’s not to love about this virtual globe? Learn how to use this tool to its fullest potential and see all the resources out there to help you use it in your homeschool.

While technology doesn’t make up our whole homeschool experience, it certainly does enhance it in extraordinary ways.

How do you use technology in your homeschool? What’s your family’s favorite?

 

Other iHN bloggers are sharing their lists of things their homeschool can’t do without. Visit and enjoy!

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