Jul 31, 2012

Science Jim - Bringing Science to Life in Your Home!

For nearly three years now Science Jim has been our go to product for interesting, intriguing, engaging and amazing Science Curriculum! From his incredible FREE science webisodes to his well-written ebooks and his engrossing webclasses there are no other products being offered like these on the web!

Science Jim has a comfortable, humorous style that gets kids interested and keeps them hooked. The hands-on activities and experiments included in his ebooks always utilize things that can be found in most households and his sequential cumulative lessons have an overall focus of bringing science to life for learners.  Another important feature to me is always customer service and Science Jim has always gotten back to us in a timely manner no matter what question or issue was presented to him.

So if you are looking for affordable classes or ebooks to get your learners interested and engaged hop on over to Science Jim's site and check out some of his free samples!

To view pasts posts that have included info on Science Jim click HERE!

Jul 29, 2012

Don't Do Drugs Stay Out Of School - Book Review

Don’t Do Drugs Stay Out Of School challenges parents everywhere to rethink the necessity of conventional schooling. Probing questions explore the concepts of learning and childhood development and offer the suggestion that perhaps a life without school is healthier for children and thus for the world. Is learning the real purpose of school? Does school offer true educational value? Is there a better way? How can children learn and grow without school in their lives? How has the school culture affected society in the last hundred years? - description from UnpluggedMom.com

In Don't Do Drugs Stay Out of School the reader is taken on a journey through recent history as Laurette Lynn points out the undeniable correlation between our societal decline in educational acheivements, health, family connection and personal drive and the evolution of compulsory schooling. Laurette has taken some of the most common points, that are often presented in a disunited manner, and concisely connects the dots to allow the reader a chance to step back and see the real picture - SCHOOL IS NO PLACE FOR CHILDREN!!! 

Unlike others that have come before her, Laurette also gives a clear outline to the educational solution which emphasizes learning independently, as well as through cooperative community based learning programs and apprenticeships. These keys are currently working throughout the nation for freely educated children everywhere. 

As always Laurette does not tell you what to think, but presents you with a number of scenarios and facts, daring you to look deeper for yourself and your children! Anyone who reads this book and still thinks school is the "right place" for children should NOT have them! BRAVA Laurette!!! I can't imagine anyone laying things out any clearer! 

Jul 28, 2012

Readers or Test Takers ~ What really is the intent of this book? - Review of Motivating Teen and Preteen Readers by Jeffrey Pflaum

Repost---- Originally posted Nov. 1, 2011

I would like to preface this review with the information that I love reading, my daughter loves reading, my stepson loves reading, however, in my previous life – prior to unplugging – I worked and volunteered in schools, mostly with kids who were wrongly diagnosed, grossly neglected by and often tortured through the system and more often than not HATED reading. I feel reading is the most important skill for a successful life. Reading opens minds to worlds without limits, breaks through any restrictions, and allows true freedom from everything, so when I was contacted to review Motivating Teen and Preteen Readersby Jeffrey Pflaum, I was really excited to delve into something that might help those who have no interest in reading.

The outline of the program that Pflaum puts forth is this -
  • 4 books of questions on reading and reading life
    • students answer questions on a schedule spread out over a course of a year and then discuss answers
  • brief teacher/parent raps and mini-discussions examine the experience of reading
  • class or 1:1 discussions bring out reading-world encounters and ideas
  • evaluations follow up each set
The list of goals that Pflaum lays out on pages 6-8 are somewhat inspiring and include -
  • Motivate, reading by heightening understanding of its processes.
  • Reveal the power of the written, spoken and imagined word.
  • Define reading as a process of self-communication.
  • Deepen students' understanding of reading's affective side.
  • Create confident, intrinsically motivated, effective, independent, lifelong readers.
Throughout the first few sections of the book, I felt there were a number of contradictions that I had a difficult time getting past. The author seems to illustrate that these books of questioning techniques will boost adolescents' motivation to read, but he states that motivation for reading must be intrinsic.  My question to the author is, "How are these extrinsic questions going to bring about a self-motivating drive?" A quote from page 1 "Reading in the 2000s is functional: to get grades on standardized tests." may seem to be taken out of context, but shortly there after Pflaum states "They [the questions] motivate students to make sense of reading and realize that testing is only a small part." p. 8. This leads me to wonder the actual intent of the book - is it to increase test scores or to create an interest for teens to read?  I am uncertain as to whether it is about essay writing and expression of experiences than actual useful tips to help teens WANT to read.
The four books of questions - which by the way are actually all included in this compilation - are comprised of questions which are suppose to make the reader enjoy reading more by teaching them "fundamental prerequisite skills or tools needed to enjoy reading and learning".   After looking over the questions I could picture was a class full of high schoolers rolling their eyes at these touchy feely questions -
  • How cool and calm are you when you are reading? Explain your answer.
  • Do you enjoy the solitude and silence of reading and your reading life? Explain your answer.
  • When is reading sweet peace for you?
Again I am no expert in this area, but my 14 year old daughter said it rather eloquently when she stated - "You just need to find a book genre that you like and read." To me this is the quintessential solution - let kids read what they want to read when they want to read it. Many kids hate to read because they are forced to regurgitate the information to pass a test. They are made to feel inferior if they cannot read at the same time or earlier than kids their own age. They don't connect with the book because they see it as "work". They have no time to read for "fun" because they have homework and sports and dance and even over the summer they have stacks of books that MUST be read by the fall. While I don't want to say that ALL home educated kids like to read, I have never met one who doesn't.
When kids aren't rushed, prodded and ordered to read restricting possibilities, content and given strict timelines, they tend to have that intrinsic motivation that Pflaum mentions naturally. This is just another approach to the same end, get the kids to write so they can pass the test. I don't mind offering the advice of my young sage!

I'm interesting in learning from the author during his upcoming interviewwith Unplugged Mom, whether the intent of the book is to "teach the test" or to motivate a true love of reading and appreciation of literature.   I look forward to the opportunity to hear from him. ---- 

Updated– Nov. 15, 2011
After listening to Pflaum's interview on UMRadio, I feel like he has the best intentions, but the ideas expressed in his interview did not translate into his writing. It is my opinion that this is a teacher trying to make better students, rather than make better readers and I don't know if he truly understands the difference! This may sound harsh, but I feel as though it is my duty to call out a wolf when I see one! 

Jul 22, 2012

Free Resources in Your Mailbox from NRCS

This is just one of the many - 277 to be exact - resources that you can receive FREE in your mailbox from the National Resources Conservation Service! Pop on over to see what might inspire you and your children!

Jul 18, 2012

Introduction to Essentials of Cell Biology | Learn Science at Scitable

Stumbled across this great FREE Resource Introduction to Essentials of Cell Biology and just had to pass it on!

Synopsis ~ What do an amoeba and an elephant have in common? If liver cells have the same DNA as brain cells, why are they different? What goes wrong during cancer? The answers to these questions depend on the properties of cells, the fundamental units of life. Essentials of Cell Biology introduces readers to the core concepts of cell biology. This course can provide an introduction to cell biology for beginning students of all ages or be a springboard to more specialized topics for advanced students. The course begins with a discussion of the fundamental properties of cells: the origin of the cell, how cells are organized, how they reproduce, and how they use energy. Other units in the course expand these topics and provide insight into the processes that regulate cell function and generate the amazing variety of cell types seen in living organisms. Topics include the decoding process that produces distinct sets of proteins in different cell types, the cellular structures responsible for cell function, the signals that cells use to communicate with one another, and the intricate controls on cell division. At the end of each unit in this eBook there is the option to test your knowledge with twenty multiple-choice questions.

Scitables also has other FREE resources available and some very interesting Knowledge Projects ~ The Knowledge Project is an effort to work with the science academic community to build a reliable, openly accessible library of educational science content for college and high school students. Each article is written by experts in their field. The Knowledge Project is a living effort; articles will be updated over time in response to new developments in the field and specific suggestions by users.

Jul 16, 2012

Homeschool Atheist Momma: Nine Disadvantages of Homeschooling

Take a peek at this great post at Homeschool Atheist Momma: Nine Disadvantages of Homeschooling:

My comment on the post ~
The biggest disadvantage that I could come up with is teaching writing! Nearly every single FRUSTRATION that we run into here revolves around writing and KM's PTSD-like response, but really this is the fault of the school teachers that she had, if only I had saved her earlier!

You Tube Monday - Annoying Orange - Avocadbro

Jul 14, 2012

Ganson Sculptures at MIT Museum

We visited the MIT Museum during their Second Friday program and had a great visit. The Ganson Sculptures had to be our favorite area - we could have watched them for hours! Here is a TEDTalk about how he was inspired and created his sculptures - 

Jul 13, 2012

Volcano in a Beaker Science Project

Home Science Tools has some really great simple experiments that can keep your kids doing science all summer long! Here is a super simple one that we found soooo much fun!

Jul 10, 2012

Summer Session - Another example of why we do lessons year round!

Monday was the perfect example of why we do lessons year round. KM's alarm went off at 9 and she came bouncing out of her room and was dancing through the kitchen. When I asked why she was so happy she said "I get to start my cosmetology book today!" Now we have had this book for months and she could have begun it at anytime, but today is the first day of our summer session which is when she decided to have the cosmetology added on to her schedule. She is really driven by her schedule, it keeps her motivated and focused. Without it she tends to just motor along with no real direction and SHE notices that she doesn't seem to be herself.

She had a little over 4 weeks off from book work, but by the beginning of the third week she was really getting bored, losing focus and started asking about doing different sports - volleyball at the high school, taking gymnastics, maybe trying a dance class, but when I said most of those things start in the fall she said well I won't have TIME for that then! Each and every time we take a break longer than a week or two she gets like this EVEN when we have things planned most days. I see a very REAL difference in her personality, demeanor, and attitude. Don't get me wrong she has days where she enjoys doing nothing - like when we spent Sunday watching almost the entire first season of Gossip Girl on Netflix -, but if it goes on for more than a day or two she is just off.

Today was a great start she went and completed her volunteer hours in the morning, we had lunch after I picked her up and she was off and running with the Hands-On Banking for Teens, her cosmetology program and she began her history assignment for the week. Summer lessons are much more laid back, but she knows that it allows us to have greater flexibility in our schedule throughout the rest of the year. I am think of switching it up a bit more and cutting back the two lengthier breaks - Sept and June - and adding those extra weeks throughout the year so that we don't get this funk again. 

Jul 6, 2012

Recognizing What is Really Important - Thinking about your child's future

Should have known then
 she would want to go
into cosmetology!
There is no time like the present to think about what your child wants in the future. If you have been a reader of my blog for more than a week I am sure that you have seen more than one post about changes that we have made - in curricula, scheduling, hair colors you name it! We are all about changes, going with the flow, following interests and dropping things that just don't work, but I also really REALLY like a plan so that I have a constant direction.

When a parent is looking ahead at their child's home education path they need to have an end goal in mind in order to help their child achieve their goals - be it college, trade school, internships, job skills, entrepreneurship or whatever else they can think of. In order to focus on what is important to the child you need to be aware of their likes and dislikes and allow them to have some say in what they are doing. You also need to be observant of your child and by recognizing their strengths and weaknesses you can often discover at a young age which path might be a good fit for them and help to lead them in the right direction. I am not saying that you can determine at the age of 5 whether a child will be a doctor or a runway model or a gas attendant, but if you pay attention you will be able to acknowledge that your math hating 14 year old will probably never be an engineer.

I hear so many parents complaining about fighting with a child to get work completed, especially when the kids enter the teenage years. The cries of "when am I ever going to use this?" bring frustration and resistance into a relationship at such a critical stage which requires nurturing and continuity. Listen to your child and really think about whether they are likely to "use this" or are you just following someone else's pre-designed plan. More than 90% of people never use the advanced high school math that they were forced to learn in the "real world". That is JUST math. How many adults know how to diagram a sentence, know all of the functions of the organs, can recite the periodic table of elements, can name all 50 states - you homeschool mom's don't count, since you probably learned it while TEACHING it to your kids!!!

I am not discounting any of these as important or not, just using it to point out that different people have different skill sets and different kids have different interests. Families have things that are important to them and parents have some things that they are not willing to bend on for various reasons. You should expose your kids to EVERYTHING, introduce and encourage exploration, but if no spark is lit then what is the point in forcing drudgery and disdain for the topic. This "one path fits all" approach that many homeschoolers start out with really is not much better than school. Not all children are going to head off to college and they shouldn't! We need people who work at the grocery store, at the gas station,on the theater stage,and  to invent the next must have gadget, just as much as we need doctors and engineers. There is no less value in any particular path and all are necessary for our society to function.

So when planning ahead really take into consideration your families fundamental requirements and your child's interests and goals. Don't just follow the status quo, but challenge it and challenge yourself to truly meet the needs of your child!

Jul 5, 2012

The Hokey Pokey - Shakespeare style! - By Jeff Brechlin

The Hokey Pokey - Shakespeare style! - By Jeff Brechlin:

The following is from the Washington Post Style Invitational contest that asked readers to submit "instructions" for something (anything), but written in the style of a famous person. The winning entry was The Hokey Pokey (as written by William Shakespeare).

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.
        -- by "William Shakespeare""

'via Blog this'

Jul 4, 2012

Back to Basics by Barbara Frank - Recommended Reading

I think the excesses of the past few decades have not benefitted us in the important ways.

I just downloaded Barbara Frank's Back to Basics Raising Self-Sufficient Children to my Kindle and before I even finished the first page I KNEW I was gonna love it!!!

I look forward to people concentrating less on big houses, pricy vehicles and designer everything, and more on being content with what they have, helping each other and learning to become more self-sufficient.