Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years 4-9-14

It is the time of year for many families to begin planning for the next school year!

Each week we look forward to sharing new posts filled with ideas and encouragement for homeschooling middle and high school.

Finishing Strong Link-up 040914

Do you want to connect with other parents homeschooling older kids? Join our Finishing Strong Community on Google+!

Our favorite posts from last week:

Don’t forget to check out all of the co-hosts – Aspired Living, Blog She Wrote, Education Possible, Eva Varga, Milk and Cookies, Starts at Eight, and Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus.

Eva from Eva Varga enjoyed:

Homeschooling High School is Not As Hard As You Think Though my kids are not yet in high school, I really appreciated this post. It gave me a lot of things to think about and helped put me at ease when planning and preparing for the high school years.

HS HS Part 1 button

The Salamander Room: Amphibians and Reptiles As a science specialist, this one really charmed me. My kids have a newly rediscovered love for herps and though we read (and enjoyed) this delightful story when they were younger, it is time we revisit it. I strongly believe that children’s books are a wonderful teaching tool for all ages and this book proves it. There are so many ways to integrate this book into the curriculum and Heather shares many. :)


Susan from Education Possible liked:

Writing Co-op for High School Students This post really touched me because my son also struggles with writing. We’ve decided to spend the next several months focusing on building his writing skills and confidence so the timing of this inspiring post was perfect!


High School Electives What a great reminder that high school is about so much more than just academics! Extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities will not only give student a chance to explore their interests, they can also significantly help with the college application process.


Bloggers, by linking up, you may be featured on our co-hosts’ social media pages or our Pinterest board. We may even select you to be featured in a future post!

Guidelines for the hop:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, pinterest, facebook, twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 7 sites. If you were featured, make sure you add an “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Share the love.

Add our button to your post.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Was your post featured?

Grab an “I was featured” button!

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

We love people who SHARE WITH US!

*By linking up, you agree for us to share your images, always with credit!

So tell us, what have you been up to?

Add your amazing posts that focus on homeschooling middle & high school students. Share your ideas, unique learning approaches, and encouragement, and more.

 Loading InLinkz ...


The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Reading. It’s what every parent hopes for their children from a young age. It’s the primary educational goal for young students in school. In fact, even after children learn to read, schools concern themselves with how well they are reading- with leveled reading books and reading comprehension exercises designed to improve fluency and understanding. This post is all about how to build a reading culture in your home without a structured, prescribed method but by immersing your home in story and books.

As homeschoolers, we have a unique opportunity to engage our children in the world of reading and most families I know want to take advantage of it. How do you go about establishing a reading culture at home? Let’s take a look.

Blog, She Wrote: Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Build a Home Library

For certain, one of the best ways to make reading a priority is to make books a priority. Surround your children with a print rich environment from the start.

  • The book basket- When our 15yo was a baby, we had a basket of books in every room he hung out in his nursery, the living room, the car, and the kitchen.
  • The bedroom bookcase- Make sure your child’s room has books! We’ll talk about organizing books in a bit, but having them where your kids are is important.
  • Buy Books- The library is a wonderful resource, but nothing beats owning books.
  • Get books at Library Sales- This is my favorite way of getting new titles because there is so much available at low cost.
  • Growing Your Home Library without Breaking Your Budget- A post on how to get books the frugal way.

Choose The Books for Your Library

Once you decide to build the library, how do you know which books would make a good library? Lucky for us, there is no shortage of resources and information on the topic! Here are some of my favorites and links to other bloggers with their own ideas.

  • Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families- I love this book by Sarah Clarkson. She shares compelling reasons for making books a priority in your home. If you choose just one book to take away from this post, it’s this one!
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart- A classic book on using books with your children. I have one of the original editions and the newest edition which addresses screen time. You’ll find a nice anthology in this book to give you a hand with choosing titles.
  • Honey for a Teen’s Heart- Based on the same idea as the first title, this book focuses on books for older kids which is a much needed resource! I love this one because it shares how to communicate with teens using books. Imagine advice on enhancing the relationship you have with your teen based on shared books!
  • Charlotte Mason Series: Living Books- Cindy West tells all about “living books” and what to do with them. If you’ve never heard the term, living books are books written by one author who cares a lot about a topic. They make a much better read than text book type books which are edited by more than one person- less personal and more cursory on the topic.
  • Choosing Good Children’s Books- A look at how to go about discerning a good book for kids.
  • 50 Great Books for Young Readers- A lovely list of titles for elementary readers. I love a good list. Don’t you?
  • Emergent Readers to Super Readers- Wonder what books to put on the shelf for kids just leaving phonics and working on fluency? This is a must read!

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Organize Your Home Library

Once you have a lot of books, you’ll need ways to organize your books as the collection grows. I’ve found a system which really works. What’s your preference?

  • Organizing Your Homeschool Library- Ideas for how to organize your books by topic. This is an older post, but we still organize books this way. Only we’ve added many titles since then!
  • Face the Covers Out- Find a way to face some of the covers out like they do in bookstores. I like to put books in a plastic shoe box so we can flip through them like papers. It saves bookshelf space too. The orientation of the books makes it easier for kids to see the books and choose to read them.
  • But Where Do We Keep the School Supplies?- A fun look at a homeschool library. I love the sheer volume of books from the basement up in this unschooler’s home!
  • Organizing Children’s Books- Another look at how you can organize books for young children.

 Set Up Your Book Environments

It’s important to have lots of areas with access to books. What does your home library look like?

  • Educating the Whole-Hearted Child- Sally Clarkson does such an outstanding job of explaining how your homeschool world could look. In it you’ll find suggestions from a veteran mom on how to encourage book reading at an early age. Trust me. This is inspirational!
  • Provide plenty of reading nooks and/or places where each child and go on their own to enjoy the book.
  • Help Your Child to Become a Confident Reader (and lover of books)- Great ideas on providing time for reading and a cozy reading environment
  • Homeschool Extras within Sight- Keep your books in your kids’ minds by setting them out on the mantle. Great tips on getting kids to notice books.
  • 10 Homeschool Centers- Include reading nooks. Love this tour of the Hodgepodge school by Tricia.

Blog, She Wrote: Library Shelf

Establish a Library Shelf

One of the best things I did for our homeschool library was to find a bookcase that I could use only for library books. Who among us doesn’t use an inordinate number of library books at any given time? Benefits of a library shelf:

  • One stop for all things library- easy to keep them there and have them returned there when a child is finished with a book
  • Easy access for exploring the books- when they are stuffed in the bag you bright them home in, they aren’t likely to be remembered or seen because they get forgotten about in there.
  • Makes a great way to find the books that need to be returned to the library- cuts down on (though doesn’t eliminate) the panic of finding a book on the due date as you try to scramble out the door!
  • The top makes a fun place for themed displays. (see link)

Read Aloud to Make Friends with Books

Reading aloud to your kids from a young age and long into their teenage years is a great way to make friends with books and to deepen and continue the relationship. It also soothes away the grumps and helps to refocus your kids on school. Need proof that it’s worth your time? Check out these posts and articles.

  • The Read Aloud Handbook- This is a topic near and dear to Jim Trelease and in this book he compels the reader to make the time for a host of undeniable reasons. Included with this book is a thorough annotated bibliography for extra help in choosing the right books.
  • Trelease on Reading- If you want to hear more on how reading aloud affects the ability of kids to read, check out Jim Trelease’s website. You’ll find a lot of great information here. One of the things I love about Mr. Trelease is his unwavering opinion that reading aloud does take a lot of time and it’s worth all the time you can give it.
  • The Reading Promise- This is a book about Alice Ozma and the books she shared with her father. It’s mostly about their relationship and the commitment he made to reading aloud to her. Their “streak” lasted well over 3,000 days. I’d love to see more about the books they read than the interpersonal goings on, but with regard to the reading commitment it’s very inspiring.
  • Tips for Reading Aloud- Ideas for how to have a successful read aloud time with your kids.
  • List of Our Favorite Read Alouds- This is the Baker’s Dozen version of a Top Ten list. Which ones does your family enjoy the most?
  • Introduce Your Kids to a New Series or Book- Often if I have a child who is reluctant to read a new book or author, I will start reading it aloud until they are drawn into the story. Then they will voluntarily read it by themselves- and love it.
  • Handwork Ideas for Read Aloud Time- Fun ideas for keeping hands busy while you read aloud.

Blog, She Wrote: Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture

Engage in Activities Based on Books to Have More Relationships with Books

My kids have always been taken with stories and making activities to go with books has never been a problem- even from when they were tiny. Here are some links and tips:

  • Create more fun from a book they love- without using any books at all, I would make up activities based on what I noticed them enjoying the most out of a book. For example, my oldest loved the book Too Many Pumpkins. One page he would spend a lot of time on is the page with all the jack-o-lanterns lit and covering two pages. I made a felt set of pumpkins of different shapes and sizes with the face pieces for him to decorate. I especially made sure to make the letters for his favorite pumpkin which said, “Boo!”.
  • Five in a Row- in all its forms including Before FIAR, Beyond FIAR, and even Above & Beyond FIAR. From preschool to middle school, this curriculum will introduce your children to books and the many layers of learning you can experience with them.
  • Picture Book Activities- this book has less formal activities such as snacks, fingerplays, and crafts that go with picture books. It’s written for preschoolers.
  • Picture Book Art- This is a lovely book with art lessons in imitating children’s story book illustrators. These are easy to follow making the process enjoyable and the results fabulous!
  • The Gentle Ways of Reading- A lovely post about how to incorporate books and reading into every day life with your children.
  • Summer Reading Fun- Ways to enjoy books all summer long with activities and incentives
  • Literary Adventures- An Adventure Box them to take your kids on a literary voyage. If you want a way to immerse kids in a fun learning experience, check this one out.

Host a Book Club  & Other Ways to Involve Older Kids with Books

As your kids get older, you can try a lot of different ways to interact with books using more sophisticated conversation. Book clubs are a great way to read books you normally wouldn’t read and to try new foods and activities. Best of all, it gets middle and high schoolers talking about books and relating them to their own world. That’s a win!

  • The Kids’ Book Club Book- A nice volume all about planning & implementing a successful book club from tweens through teens. You’ll find out how to make the guest list, where to meet, how to invite, what to do and what to eat. There are also book suggestions with ideas for club meetings.
  • How to Host A Classics Book Club- Find out how to choose books and activities to go with classic book choices. Middle and High School students are often surprised at how enjoyable classic literature can be. One favorite idea is to watch the movie after reading the book and comparing the experiences.
  • 5 Reasons to Host A Book Club for Girls- We’ve been hosting a book club for girls since September and this post details all the benefits of girls enjoying a book together.
  • How to Start a Book Club for Kids- This post from World for Learning includes a free checklist to go through as you prepare for a book club. You’ll find lots of practical ideas on how to put a group together and what to do each time. Take a look at the bottom of the post where you’ll see activity guides for three classic literature pieces.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool Part 1

Use eReaders to Boost the Reading Habit

Book lovers are sometimes reluctant to embrace the eReader, but it’s been a lovely addition to our reading culture. Enjoy the following eReader resources:

  • Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool- This is part one of a post on using Kindles which focuses on the eReader format.
  • Quick Acquisition- One of my favorite reasons for using a Kindle is that you can have that book within a few seconds of browsing for it. This is great when you forget to plan ahead or you didn’t count on the one title you need. Sometimes a Kindle book is less than the cost of gas to get you over to the library!
  • Built in Dictionary- Kids don’t think it’s a big deal to look up a word they don’t know while they are reading. Works for adults too! Don’t get me wrong. I love a good print dictionary and everything you can do with it, but we often don’t bother to look things up and the ability to linger your touch on a word in the text and have the definition and other information appear is simply magical.
  • Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool (Part 2): The Kindle Fire- The Kindle Fire brings color and interactiveness to the book party. It allows you to view picture books. While this may seem crazy to some, it does open many possibilities for taking large numbers of books with you on vacation! I love the Kindle Fire for reading pdfs and non Kindle ebooks over the eReader.
  • Free Kindle Book Series- Judy at Contented at Home keeps a fantastic list of free books you can get by series for the Kindle. Follow along with Judy so you can get all her latest book from Amazon.
  • eReader Homeschooling on Pinterest- See my collection of eReader ideas for homeschooling and reading.

Surrounding your family with good books and reading them together is never wasted time. At this point in our homeschooling, we have grown four excellent readers- some reading earlier than others, but all going from just starting out, to emergent reader, to fluent reader, and finally to being a fully engaged voracious reader. Even my 8yo is a reading hound. His greatest love right now are computer manuals as he tries to learn new programming languages!

Enjoying books together has always been a part of our family culture and it pays off in big ways as your children become teens. Ethan, my 15yo is taking literature classes both at home and at our co-op. Reading and discussing books with your teens is a fun way to stay connected.

Invest in your homeschool library! Establish the reading culture early on and enjoy the benefits of learning together with books.

Other bloggers with the iHomeschool Network are sharing Ultimate Guides today. The topics are terrific so make sure and stop by to see all the resources waiting for you!


Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years 4-2-14

Welcome to the Finishing Strong Link-up!

Spring is here! For many families that means getting outdoors to explore nature, starting new homeschool projects, and planning for a new school year. We would love to hear about your adventures!

Please stop back every week to share your creative and inspirational posts about homeschooling older kids.

Finishing Strong 4/02/14

Do you want to connect with other parents homeschooling older kids? Join our Finishing Strong Community on Google+!

Here are a few of our co-host’s favorite posts from last week:

Amy from Milk and Cookies liked Celebrate Spring with Hodgepodge Art! from Heather Woodie

We are NOT an artsy family. Painting, drawing, sculpting…it is a challenge for us. Heather, Tricia, and Nana make chalking look SO easy. This post has convinced me to give art another try! Pass the chalk pastels, please.

Celebrate Spring with Hodgepodge Art!

Amy was also a fan of: The Benefits of Making Mistakes: Lessons from Toll House Cookies from Megan Zechman.

My blog name tells you that I am definitely a fan of cookies, so I immediately clicked over to see how Megan was going to creatively incorporate yummy cookies into her homeschool. Not only did I discover a new book about inventors, I learned the difference between baking with 3 different styles of chocolate.

The Benefits of Making Mistakes: Lessons from Toll House Cookies

The Finishing Strong Link-up is brought to you each week by – Aspired Living, Blog She Wrote, Education Possible, Eva Varga, Milk and Cookies, Starts at Eight, and Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus.

Kyle from Aspired Living enjoyed Life of Fred Homeschool Math by Heather Woodie

Have you heard of Life of Fred? LOF is an innovative and unusual Math program written by a college professor who teaches math to children while they follow the Life of Fred. She uses it as her main math program and I use it as a supplement to our math program. This post provides a very detailed explanation of LOF, a unique and fun math program.

Life of Fred {Homeschool Math}

Kyle was also excited to see: Year Around Homeschool Planning Schedule by Tina

Maybe it’s just my personality but unless I plan it out it just isn’t happening. When I first began homeschooling I took a class from Tina IRL and ever since I’ve used her planner pages in my homemade planners. As we begin to school multiple levels from High School to preschool I’ve found planning is even more important and then ever!


Kyle also wanted to let everyone know how much she really likes the blog AngelicScalliwags!

This is one creative homeschool Mama as you will see. This woman used Playmobil to explain Dante’s Inferno to her students. This is off subject but in her post she has the biggest basket I have ever seen it almost engulfs her teenager.Back on topic….she created a Playmobil Diorama that does a better job explaining the rings of the inferno then my professor did at Berkeley! At the end she says “I’m not sure how we did it, and I’m certain I never want to do such a complex project again, but we did finish it and in the assigned week. Phew. Never again though.” What I want to know is how she thought of this in the first place?! If you are looking for creative homeschooling go no further stop and visit Angelic Scalliwags!

Making a Diorama of Dante’s Inferno

Bloggers, by linking up, you may be featured on our co-hosts’ social media pages or our Pinterest board. We may even select you to be featured in a future post!

Guidelines for the link-up:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, pinterest, facebook, twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 7 sites. If you were featured, make sure you add an “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

Share the love.

Add our button to your post.

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Was your post featured?

Grab an “I was featured” button!

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

*By linking up, you are granting us permission to use your images, always with credit, within this link-up.

So tell us, what have you been up to?

Add your favorite posts that focus on homeschooling middle & high school students. Share your ideas, unique learning approaches, encouragement, and more. If you find something particularly helpful, please take a moment to comment on posts and share your thoughts.

Please link-up your posts below:

 Loading InLinkz ...

The Salamander Room: Amphibians & Reptiles

Blog, She Wrote: The Salamander Room- Amphibians & Reptiles

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s the last day of March, 2014! Surely it will be time to choose spring titles and enjoy the good weather. The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer is an adventuresome tale of a young boy on a quest to keep a critter he finds in the woods.

Author Inspiration & The Making of a Book

We had the amazing opportunity to meet Anne Mazer last fall when she agreed to meet with our Writer’s Workshop group in our home. I was reading in the back of Spilling Ink, a book we use in workshop (which she co-authored) and it turns out she lives in our town! I reached out and she was delighted to join us. We were thrilled to listen to her stories about being an author and we learned the inspiration for The Salamander Room. Here are some tidbits of what she shared with us that day:

  • The Salamander Room was inspired by a boy asking his mom “what if” questions while she was on a group hike one day. All kinds of experiences lead to writing ideas! She’s never seen the boy since. Our writers thought it would be so cool if the grown boy were to find out he was the subject of this timeless tale.
  • We saw the galley copy of the book- A book galley is a preliminary copy of the book with most things final, but the author has a chance to change a few things if they are not right.
  • Author’s Notes- We saw an entire folder of notes and manuscripts of the book. Bits and pieces of her writing process- just fabulous!
  • The publishing process- She told us many stories of how a book comes to be from notes to published book. The kids were riveted and could have listened for hours.
  • What else? We learned about other books she has written and what books are in the works- like a sequel to Spilling Ink.
  • Bonus- She was thrilled to listen to the kids’ workshop stories that day. What an experience for the kids to be heard by our special guest that day.

Blog, She Wrote: The Salamander Room- Amphibians & Reptiles

Studying Amphibians & Reptiles

Spring is a wonderful time to get out and observe reptiles and amphibians. Vernal pools abound where these critters will make their seasonal start. Make plans to get out and observe!

Teaching Classification of Organisms

Blog, She Wrote: The Salamander Room- Amphibians & Reptiles

The study of animals gives you the perfect chance to introduce the categorizing of animals (and plants or other organisms). Discuss:

  • Linnaean Classification- A way to sort organisms by their like characteristics developed by Carl Linnaeus in the early 1700s.
  • Bionomial Nomenclature- Widely regarded as the biggest contribution Carl Linnaeus gave to the categorization of organisms.
  • Domains- Are you aware that there is a new level of classification above Kingdom? I have to admit this was new to me as I studied with my kids this year in biology- and I’m a certified biology teacher! The domains identify two types of bacteria and then eukaryotic life forms as the three domains. Which means if you use Domains, then you also have a four Kingdom system of classification.

The Classification Game

Blog, She Wrote: The Salamander Room- Amphibians & Reptiles

There are a variety of ways to play this classification game. You’ll need a large number of pictures of animals. If you want to include plants and other kingdoms that’s fine too. You’ll need to determine how big you want this game to be. You can use it to cover all of the classification system or just portions of it. The pictures here show classes within the animal kingdom. A few ways to play:

  • Plain Sorting- Give the student a large pile of animal pictures with no labels. Have them sort the animals into groups based on their characteristics. When all the animals have been sorted, have them take the class labels and place them with the correct group. This is a fun way for kids to discover how animals are alike and different and from there to identify and name the criteria for membership to a group.
  • Sort into Classes- In this version, set out the labels for the classes (and whichever other groups you want to include- orders, for example) and give the students the pictures. They must put the picture under the correct label. They can play alone or with others and take turns.
  • Race- this game is played with the labels already out and you provide each time with a set of the pictures. See who can win first. If you are playing in several groups and the winner isn’t entirely correct, then they are out and the other teams can start again.

Resources for Studying The Salamander Room

  • Giant Science Resource Book from Evan Moor- This is one of my favorite books for simple, clean, thorough notebook pages for elementary and early middle school science.
  • Fold n Learn – by Five in a Row. FIAR offers free fold n learns for their units if you sign up for their mailing list. What a deal!
  • Snakes in Culture- CurrClick class on April 15th. Take a look at the snakes around the world and how they are viewed in that culture. A family friendly one day class.
  • Five in a Row unit on The Salamander Room at Blog, She Wrote
  • Adventure Box: Insects & Critters- has many ideas and resources for keeping your own amphibian and reptile pets

Have fun exploring critters and habitats in the warm weather this spring!

BookBigIdeaSpringJoin other iHomeschool Network bloggers for A Book & A Big Idea Spring. Put a little spring in your homeschooling this season with lots of seasonal book ideas.

The Snake Project

Blog, She Wrote: The Snake Project

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

The Snake Project was born out of Rebecca’s interest in the wild caught snake she started caring for last summer. Of all the kids, she took a liking to him and asked to keep him long term. She learned about garter snakes and what they eat and how to care for them in captivity. Throughout the summer her interest grew and when it was time to discuss what she would study in science this year, she chose to use snakes as her entry into the world of biology.

Why Study Snakes?

The inspiration for the project was a wild caught garter snake found around our mailbox last spring as the weather was finally turning consistently warm. What made us turn the experience into a biology course?

  • We had a live specimen to care for and learn about.
  • Snakes are a window into how live organisms are organized and put together.
  • Taking care of a snake requires a lot of research- so studying snakes and their morphology is a natural extension of the work involved.
  • It isn’t just about the snake we have. It opens a world of exploration on many species and classes of organisms.

Blog, She Wrote: The Snake Project

Snake Research Is The Basis for a Study of Biology

Seeking information and researching snakes on a deep level has led to exploring the following biological concepts:

  • Cellular Structure & Function- animals cells to see what snake cells are like  but also plant cells as a comparison.
  • Skeletal & Muscular Systems- of snakes but also humans to see how they are the same and different
  • Aestivation- survival mechanism of reptiles for when they are overheated
  • Brumation- Reptilian hibernation
  • Classification- traditional Linnaean classification with binomial nomenclature
  • Digestion- Snake anatomy and function with a look at human digestion
  • Excretory System
  • Nervous System
  • Respiratory System
  • Reproductive System
  • Circulatory System
  • Habitats
  • Ecosystem
  • Biomes
  • Communities & Populations- community interactions, characteristics of populations, biodiversity
  • Recycling of Matter- nitrogen cycle, carbon cycle, water cycle, carbon dioxide-oxygen cycle
  • Survey of the Animal Kingdom- Starting with the least complex to the most complex

We started with a list of things she wanted to know about and then the list expanded as time has gone on. Bring your kids to the table and let them take charge!

Blog, She Wrote: The Snake Project

Resources for The Snake Project

This project was Rebecca’s creation right down to the resources she wanted to use. Below is a list containing the types of books and websites she used along with some specific titles if she found the book particularly useful.

Note that she is going beyond what is typically available to kids her age and seeking out expert materials.

Some of these titles are pretty intimidating for most, but she enjoyed them. Even the books meant for veterinary school students had plenty to read that she understood based on the other work she has done. There are pictures and diagrams to decipher. Rebecca says that it was difficult sometimes not knowing all the terms, but she gained a greater overall understanding of what she was after. Definitely a win!

Take away: Don’t be afraid to get college and professional level resources. They will provide more detail and less overview which will result in a deeper knowledge of the topic. So much better than always skimming the surface!

Blog, She Wrote: The Snake Project

Seeking Experts for Project Discoveries

Rebecca exhausted the resources she initially got from the library and off of our bookshelves pretty quickly. She poured through them and made lots of notes. As she worked, she began to have more questions which she wrote down.

One question she wanted to answer was, “How do snakes move?” To answer the question she reached out to some experts she knows.

  • A professor at our local veterinary school
  • A student at the local veterinary school
  • She simply explained what she was studying, what she wanted to know, and asked them for any resources they might have on the topic.

Later, when she needed help checking the health of her brumating snake she:

  • Contacted students from the Herpetology Club at the local university- she had just seen them present a few days earlier and reached out to them.
  • They contacted an expert they knew and gave Rebecca suggestions.
  • Checked in with the local pet store- to ask about snake care. This is not a chain store, but a locally owned small animal store with many reptiles for sale.

Some of the most valuable information she has gained during her studies this year have come from experts in the field. Don’t hesitate to contact your local university. If you have trouble making the right connections, try your state’s land grant university which is home to the Cooperative Extension. Their charter includes outreach to the public and you may have success.

Blog, She Wrote: The Snake Project

Snake Project Success

The project has been successful enough to continue all year. I started out with the idea that we could commit to the first quarter and depending on whether or not she was still learning and heading into new territory, we could keep it going. Here’s a look at some of the big moments so far:

  • Temperature Study- On our basement to determine whether it was safe to brumate her snake there for the winter. She used a temperature recorder used for tracking the temp of chemical shipping crates and kept in the basement in December. She put the temperature tapes in her project notebook and graphed the results. Steady temps for sure!
  • Food Study- She researched what garter snakes eat and how much of each thing. She was able to feed him up until worms and slugs were no longer available.
  • Brumation vs Feeding for The Winter- She calculated how much it would cost to feed her snake its winter meals vs brumating him for the winter months. Given her careful research and conclusions, we allowed her to brumate the snake.
  • Herpetology Class- at our homeschool co-op this spring. While she is not learning much new content, she has enjoyed seeing and learning about different reptiles. This particular class is student taught which is unique.
  • Designed a Snake Garden- With information about shelter, plants, and food, Rebecca mapped out a garden which would attract snakes. Just what you want, right?
  • Brumation Observations- She checked on her snake and kept notes on his demeanor while he was brumating.
  • Snake Morphology- She has done extensive studying on the structure and function of snake anatomy with labeled diagrams and notes sometimes comparing them to human anatomy and physiology.
  • Snake Diversity- Explored types of snakes and where they live, safe vs non-safe snakes, etc.

Blog, She Wrote: The Snake Project

The Mentor’s Role in The Snake Project

Since this is a student led project, what have I done all this time?

  • Kept my own project journal based on her work- I actually have all her projects in one notebook separated by tabs. Too many projects to keep after to have one for each!
  • Jot down her ideas when she tells me about them- I can use it later as reminders for her.
  • Keep a list of questions she asks- This is great fodder for when the project slows down. I can ask whether or not she ever found out about __________.
  • Make equipment/materials available- I don’t necessarily advertise what we have, but I do make sure she knows what’s around when she is searching for the right thing. For example, we’ve used the temperature recorders before so she knew we had them on hand.
  • Advice on contacting experts- She knew who she could contact, but little reminders about etiquette are always nice and making sure it’s a kind email is important!
  • Help to the the resources- Once they are identified, I make sure they get here if my help is needed (like picking up a book at the library).
  • Available for Conferencing- Being generally available to answer questions and point in the right direction if stuck is time well spent.
  • Provide the time- Just as with her history and fashion projects, we’ve afforded the time for her studies. She is eager to learn biology. Why not have it happen within the context of a great project that she has designed?
  • Keep tabs on forward momentum- This is big for me. I want to be laid back, but I need to see forward movement on projects and not stalling!

Wrapping Up The Snake Project

As the school year draws to a close, what is next for The Snake Project?

Rebecca’s project journal is full of notes, sketches, labeled diagrams, lists, questions, resources, etc. It’s my hope that she will put all the data together in a way that can be remembered and presented to others which will help to cement what she has experienced this year. Ideas I’ve heard her toss around:

  • A Snake Encyclopedia
  • New Snake Enclosure
  • Branch out into other reptiles- She’d like a Gargoyle Gecko
  • Book- with information she chooses
  • FAQ book/poster

I’ll be sure to share the last few months of the project as well as the final result when the time comes.

It’s been a fulfilling experience so far and I think much more meaningful to her as a student of biology to have filtered the topic through the lens of her interest in snakes.

I’m looking forward to her next science project!

Project Based HomeschoolingIf you’d like to learn more about this approach to learning, check out Project Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert. This book has given form to ideas I’ve been using for years! You might also be interested in Lori’s blog Camp Creek Blog- Project Based Homeschooling where she has a wonderful community of families with similar philosophies of learning.