Mar 26, 2013

Some Points of Contention--- Response to a recent article on Children's MD

I am writing this in response to an article written by Kathleen Berchelmann titled 18 Reasons Why Doctors and Lawyers Homeschool Their Children. Now you might think, "How could she possibly have a problem with a list that is promoting homeschooling?", but the thing is as I was reading this list many of the responses simply rubbed me the wrong way. I have to hope that the point was to try to connect with the "mainstream", but I really just couldn't let it go. I felt a need to address each of the 18 points. I am gong to try to not dwell on the fact that she is using the word "homeschooling" because she does seem to be speaking of "schooling at home", which I don't advocate for, but will try to just move past that to get to the gist of her points. Each of the points is listed below in bold face and my responses follow. It really would be most helpful to read the original post first to really get what I am saying.

1. We spend less time homeschooling each day than we used to spend driving.  ~~~ This can be true, but can also NOT be! When KM was in school we walked to school most days as the elementary school is less than half a mile from our house and her friends were right around the corner. Now KM has friends all over, some live well over 45 minutes away. We also are out to go to classes, library activities, hangouts, bowling, ice skating, chess club --- and the list goes on and on. I have put FAR more annual mileage on my vehicle since we have been home educating than I did when she was in PS. I only have one child at home and therefore can only assume that this would be multiplied by however many additional children a family has. 

2. We can't afford private education. --- I agree with this, but also feel that in most cases private education is not any better than public. 

3. Our kids are excelling academically as homeschoolers. --- I also agree with this one. No need to pull it apart, simple and clear. 

4. Homeschooling is not hard, and it's fun! --- OK this is one of the top 3 that really irked me a bit. It was very matter of fact with little substance. So many families feel like they have to live up to this "Perfect Homeschool Image" where everything is sunshine and roses. That is not the reality in the home ed families I see, speak with, tweet with, and read about daily - home learning can be hard, it can be REALLY HARD!!! There are going to be days when you want to throw in the towel or you think "wouldn't it just be easier to send them off on the bus!" and you would be right. But easier doesn't mean that it is better or right. The "boxed curriculum" fallacy is another point of contention - it is not going to work 100% of the time for any child and often is a huge cause of the frustrations for families. They are also super expensive and not at all worth it when you get nearly all resources you could possibly need online, for FREE! Home learning is FUN! School at home --- not so much. 

5. Use whatever public school services you like. ~~~ This is not true in quite a number of states. Some do allow home educators to pick and choose, most do not and some staunchly deny home ed families access. Not only that but it contradicts a few of her other points - like #11, #12, #16 & #18

6. I like parenting more, by far. ~~~ This is one of those that makes me think she is trying to reach the "mainstream mommies" and convince them that they could do it. You know the ones that ask you "HOW can you spend ALL day with your kids?" I do understand her point, I felt more like a warden than a mother when KM was in PS, constantly trying to meet their requirements and conform to their schedule. But the tone is just a bit....not quite as bad as #8 though.

7. Our family spends our best hours of each day together. ~~~ And the worst and everything in between. I again see her point, but this is another one that makes you think all the hours are going to be rosy, the kids are going to get along and every day will be blissful! Don't even get me started on the fact that she said "At recess time, the kids are actually excited about playing with each other!"

8. We yell at our kids less. ~~~ All I can say is did she seriously ADMIT that she spanked her kids???? Did I just get transported into the twilight zone....
 Apparently I need to clarify this better although I thought I was pretty clear in that I am shocked that someone would actually spank their children in hopes of coercing them to do something or the fact that I am even more shocked that a doctor would openly admit to spanking their children? Spanking should NEVER be an option and it is shocking to me that someone who is intelligent enough to become a pediatrician would actually think that that would be a means to a positive end.
Is that clearer?

9. Our kids have time for creative play and unique interests. ~~~ No issues with this one at all. It is extremely important and I am very glad that she is allowing them time to follow their interests, once they have completed her assigned tasks for the day.

10. We are able to work on the kids' behavior and work ethic throughout the day. ~~~ I agree with her main point here, but not her explanation. "we’ve been able to push him to his full potential" - really because the parent has the all powerful insight to know what the full potential of their child well before they have reached adulthood. At 34 I don't even know what my "full potential" could be. 

11. Get rid of bad habits, fast. ~~~ Ok I see this in a similar light to the previous one, I  agree with the main statement, but not her tactics in implementing. Didn't she say in a previous post that "loving authority" and "loving obedience" needed to be established and she seemed to want to emphasize free play, but I guess that can't work if you aren't "dressed properly." 

12. Be the master of your own schedule. ~~~ Couldn't agree more with statement, as long as you are also taking into consideration your family as a whole when you are mastering your schedule. 

13. Younger children learn from older siblings. ~~~ This is a tremendous benefit of home learning and I have no complaints here. 

14. Save money. ~~~ I don't really know where to start on this one.  You can save money if you are currently sending your kids to private school, but you could be spending more money if you send your kids to PS. This could really go either way especially for those of us who live in states where you can't pick and choose what you want your kids to participate in at the local PS - note #5.  I know many families who are home educating on incomes of less than $40K. It can be done at any income level, but you may not be saving.

15. Teach your kids practical life skills. ~~~ This is necessary in all kids and seriously lacking in many families.  So many parents are doing a disservice to their kids by coddling and pampering them. If your kid is 12 years old and doesn't know how to use the washing machine I consider that neglect. If your 16 year old thinks that toilet fairies clean the bathroom I consider that neglect. If your 18 year old is getting sent off to college without knowing how to eat nutritiously I consider that neglect.  You are a negligent parent if you are not teaching your children how to be responsible for meeting their own basic needs.  

16. Better socialization, less unhealthy peer pressure and bullying. ~~~ This one she has hit right on the mark with the one exception that although they can be far and few between there are bullies in the home ed world - there are bullies in every world, that is just part of reality. It does feel as though it can be easier to deal with the home ed community as it is usually addressed immediately and the higher level of parental involvement can help to make it a less scaring scenario.  

17. Sleep! ~~~ I have written several posts on this one, check the archives if you like! 

18. Teach kids your own values. ~~~ This is a good point and works into the freedom and managing your own schedule ideas. I was a bit surprised that she had no issue with the "values taught in either our public or private schools" but to each their own. 

All in all I think this article was a fairly decent way to connect with "mainstream parents". I don't however think that it was an excellent representation of the vast and widespread demographic that encompasses the home ed world as a whole, but really how could it. The amount of attention that it is getting is good, but the propagation of stereotypes is a bit disheartening. I think the tone and title of the article was more than a bit condescending - as if we needed approval from the white collar world to validate home education.

I would love to hear what others think so please leave comment and let me know which one you 

Mar 25, 2013

Why didn't anyone tell me there were more Crash Courses????

I haven't had much time to poke around You Tube lately, so I missed the fact that Crash Course added MORE COURSES!!! YIPPEEEE!!!

They now have U.S. History, Chemistry, World History, Biology, Literature, and Ecology. So whether you are looking for a full course or a supplement to what you are using, be sure to check out Crash Course!!

Mar 21, 2013

An Incredible New Experiment - The Puzzle School - Official UM Review

Despite the fact that I try to stay as far away from anything with the word "school" in it, here is a site you NEED to check out!!! 

Our Mission:The Puzzle School was started with the mission of creating educational environments that will inspire a greater love of learning. We strongly believe that learning is something people truly love to do when it is presented in a way that gives the learner a sense of progress toward their learning goals.
We focus on puzzles as they provide one of the most effective ways of creating a learning environment that is interactive, giving students an immediate sense of progress as they try to "figure out" the material they are learning.
The methods we use at The Puzzle School mimic the learning environments that children thrive in while learning how to walk and talk. This model can best be summed up as hypothesis and error driven learning, where students develop a hypothesis toward solving a problem and are able to test that hypothesis using feedback loops, learning from a success or failure as they move closer to a solution.
This model has been used successfully in thousands of schools around the world, most notably Montessori Schools. We simply want to highlight this method and make it so that all students have access to environments where they can learn in this way. We believe this will encourage a love of learning in all students.

This site has so many great resources to help introduce or reinforce a number of concepts. One of my favorites was the XYFlyer which requires no previous math experience. A beginner can start out playing and, with the help of immediate feedback loops, gain some basic understanding and familiarity with equations and graphing. Now I might be partial to this because of my love of graphing, but I really think even those who don't like it or don't get it would be able to have a clearer understanding of the properties behind graphing equations. 

Code is something that I know VERY little about - which is why I use blogger...- but I am starting to understand a little now that I have started using Peanutty. This is an experiment in teaching people how to code. People can solve physics-based puzzles sort of like Angry Birds, while watching their actions create code. Once people realize that their actions are creating code they can start to tweak the code and see what happens. Small tweaks lead to larger and larger tweaks until they are capable of designing their own Peanutty levels. Now I am no where near ready to design my own level, but I am having a whole lot of fun learning more about it! 

KM saw me playing on the site and asked me to send it to her. She tried out Light It UpLanguage Scramble and Code Puzzles. She would have really preferred that Language Scramble was in Japanese - HELLO have you seen that she is OBSESSED with all things Japanese - but seemed to really pick up on the words far quicker than either of us thought she would. She thought that Light It Up was fun, but that it could have been a bit more challenging - I did explain to her that these are still in the testing phase and did not have complete levels -, but she also said that if she didn't understand the concepts it probably would have helped her "get it." She knows NOTHING about coding, but seemed to really cruise right through the Basic HTML and jumped into the Basic Javascript with a maniacal giggle --- "maybe I should be a computer hacker!" After 45 minutes on the site she was done and said "I liked it!" - which is pretty high praise from a 15 year old! 

I applaud the efforts of Jared Cosulich to create an environment that engages and excites learners. He has recognized that mainstream education tactics are overrated and outdated! I will be keeping abreast of new developments and look forward to seeing what else he comes up with!
When you head over to the site don't miss out on the great list of other resources that they have reviewed HERE!

Mar 20, 2013

They don't need socialization! They need FRIENDSHIP!

I wanted to recycle this post that originally appeared on Unplugged Mom after a number of posts I had seen on local lists. It is a good one and should be shared!!! 

As my daughter has gotten older, I have seen more and more of her acquaintances heading off to the halls of high schools and have sat bewildered by the number of veteran home educators giving up at this late stage of the game. The number one reason for teenagers and kids to head back to school is the idealistic concept of socialization in schools. Even successful home schoolers, home educators, home learners, unschoolers, independent educators or whatever other name they are going by, seem to have this image of school being the only place that their kids can be around other kids on a regular basis in order to build relationships. I am here to declare this is not the case! These kids don't need socialization they need friendships. This is what they are longing for and this is not something they are guaranteed or even likely to find by sending them to any school environment.

In schools kids are herded together by age and required to study subjects based on a core curriculum. Even in high school the majority of the classes that kids take are mandatory and do not tend to be based on an interest for learning the subject matter. During class they sit in their seats and listen to the teacher, discussing the topics of aforementioned uninteresting subject, sometimes being allowed to carry on dialogue  but quite often not – they are just expected to regurgitate the information back to the teacher on the test. Between classes there is no time for them to interact with others as they generally need to get from one end of the building to another in less than 3 minutes. Lunch is about 20-25 minutes long and though they do get to choose where they sit and who they sit with it is a crap shoot as to whether their friends will be in the same lunch period, most cafeterias have volume sensors which regulate the levels of noise and often they don't even get to their table with enough time to eat nevermind hold an actual conversation. There are of course afterschool activities, sports and clubs, but these types of things are generally available and can be formed rather easilly for the home ed community as well. As with everything there are always exceptions, but from my own experience in school, working in schools, and from the mouths of current students, this is basically what goes on.

I won't even get into the negative social interactions at this point as I would like to quickly back up and clearly define some terms before we move on -
  • socialization   n - 1. (Psychology) Psychol the modification from infancy of an individual's behaviour to conform with the demands of social life 2. (Sociology) the act of socializing or the state of being socialized
  • so·cial·ize v. so·cial·izedso·cial·iz·ingso·cial·iz·es - 1. To place under government or group ownership or control. 2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable. 3. To convert or adapt to the needs of society.
  • friend n. 1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. 2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance. 3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade. 4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.
  • friend·ship  n. 1. The quality or condition of being friends. 2. A friendly relationship: formed many new friendships over the summer. 3. Friendliness; good will: a policy of friendship toward other nations.
In our culture there is a serious misunderstanding and misuse of the term socialization as meaning to "hang out with friends and build relationships." This is where the confusion of school being the only place for kids to socialize comes from. I, for one, don't want my child, or any child for that matter, to be socialized. I prefer that their natural behaviors and personality be left intact. I don't believe there is any need for children to be placed under government ownership or to convert to meet the needs of the society. I do feel that social interactions are imperative to a child's development. True friendships feed the soul! They encourage you to become a better YOU, not something else altogether.

The confusion among adults as to how friendships are formed is another issue that seems to arise quite often and leads to children feeling alone and unconnected. Friendships are not formed in the classes that our kids take, be it co-op, public school, dance classes, swimming lessons or whatever. Friendships are not formed during organized field trips to museums with docents leading the way, pointing and lecturing as they go. Friendships are not formed during book clubs, at the movies, at lego league, or during math club. You meet people at these various outings and events that are interested in similar things as your family - that is why you both choose to partake in the event! These things allow for introductions and common ground to be formed, but friendships are formed during down time! Friendships are formed at playground days, at intimate meetings with another family, at the picnic in the park after the trip to the museum, at the pizza parlor discussing the movie you just saw, by getting together with no plan in mind and seeing where the afternoon takes you.

Instead of packing your child's week with extracurricular activities so that he/she will be "socialized" allow free time in the schedule for them to get together with friends, plan field trips with playgrounds or parks near by and invite the families to come hang out after,  organize an afternoon park day where kids can choose what they want to do and give freedom of interaction with their peers, allow for snack breaks during math club so that kids have time to chat and joke around. These are the situations that home educators are missing. Relax on the academics and let the friendships form. Is it more important for your child to be well-adjusted, happy, fulfilled and satisfied or that they can recite the preamble to the constitution and identify all the elements on the periodic table by atomic number? You, the parent, need to decide, but I implore you to take steps in this direction as soon as you can. For the betterment of your children and the home educating community as a whole!

Mar 18, 2013

IEW - Student Intensive Writing Course - Official Review

I recently borrowed the IEW - Student Intensive Writing Course Level C, from a very dear friend of mine to try to help KM prepare for the writing portion of the GED. My friend's children, whom KM is very close with, enjoyed the program and highly recommended it. I also have heard many rave reviews on several of the larger home ed lists that I am, but was always hesitant because of the price and some potential negative outcomes that I had heard of. So when my friend eliminated the cost issue by lending it to me, I figured we would give it a try.

Here is the description of the program from the website - Recorded live with Mr. Andrew Pudewa, this four-DVD writing course for students lays a solid foundation of writing skills, based on our Teaching Writing: Structure & Style syllabus. Over the course of 15–30 weeks, students will learn how to effectively use a wide range of structural models and stylistic techniques in their compositions, as they write on a variety of enjoyable fiction and non-fiction topics. Included with the student handouts are complete teacher's notes, source texts, assignments, and checklists.

As I mentioned previously, we decided to take some time to focus specifically on KMs writing skills this month, so I thought this would be the perfect thing to start with. We decided to do about a lesson a day, but that we would keep it open ended in case KM needed more time on something. The videos were recorded over four days, but that is more than a little TOO intensive for us.

The program starts out by explaining an outlining technique that helps you jot down a two or three words to remind you of the content in the sentence so that when you go to summarize you don't look at the actual paragraph, article or whatever source you are using. This worked out very well for KM. It allowed her to have something to write about without the stress of having to "think" of something on the spot. Here is what she came up with -
How Music Shaped our Nation
The committee in charge of writing the Declaration of Independence consisted of John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, who all agreed on the main points of the first draft, but decided that the final draft should be more artistic and precise. Jefferson received this task because Adams was too rough, Franklin too sick, and Paine was too controversial. Jefferson’s landlady recorded his struggle in her journal, which was him pacing and seemingly accomplishing very little. He sent home for his violin which he would play for a while and then quietly work on the Declaration. After a few days it was completed and ready. Music helped him unlock his linguistic genius and helped him find the words of destiny which few people know about today.

The next lesson covers structure and explains the "story sequence". The kids were given a story to outline and they could either rewrite it or create a similar one with the same sequence. Again KM liked this outlining format and found it very helpful. Here is the story she came up with -
Le Chef Foo

Once upon a time in Cheshire, Mongolvia there was a young, simple Chef de Cuisine. He had finally graduated from culinary school and opened a new restaurant. Chef had was working on a recipe for a stew, that his grandma used to make, for the grand opening. He was about to put in some pepper when his sous chef said “No, no, no! You should use the onion powder instead.” And so the chef did.
Next, the chef tried to put in some potatoes, but his chef de froid told him, in a very knowing tone, “You mustn’t use those, put in some artichokes.” Well the chef de froid seemed to know best, so the young chef put in the green thistle.
As the chef was slicing the beef, the old pastry chef walked over and shook his head. “What is the matter?” asked the young chef. “You shouldn’t use beef, my boy, rabbit would be far better.” replied the old chef. Since the Chef de Cuisine was so young he trusted his elder and added rabbit instead.

Finally it was time to serve it to the customers and boy, oh boy did they hate it! Every single dish was sent back. All the critics said it was the worst food in town. After everyone read the reviews no one would dine there. The restaurant had to close.
Who Won the West Side 
In a dark alley Mr.Duke, a big mobster, was patiently waiting for his rival Mr.Wallace. They were in a fierce battle over territory on the West Side. Mr.Duke heard a scuffle from the foggy opening, which made him whip out his shotgun. “Mr.Wallace has arrived.”, thought the mobster, as he fired his first of six bullets.

“Hello, Mr.Duke. One shouldn’t fire shots as a welcome.”, whispered a voice from behind him. Mr.Wallace walked up to Mr.Duke, who was quite scared, and held his gun against the mobster’s back.
“Surrender your turf to me now.” Duke swung around with incredible speed and as he grabbed the gun, he aimed for Wallace’s foot. He shouted, “Never.” when he shot the gun.

Although Mr.Duke had won the battle, there was another predator waiting around the corner. Agent McKinley had trained as a sniper during the Korean War, which allowed him to be unseen by the winning mobster. McKinley quickly fired 2 shots at Mr.Duke, who fell instantly to the ground. 
Mr.Wallace heard the shots and cautiously peeked around the corner to see what happened. When he saw Duke lying on the ground, he knew that all of the West Side was now his.
KM had no complaints up to this point other than the fact that she felt that Mr. Pudewa talked down to the kids, talked A LOT and didn't give them enough time to write down the notes as he was giving them.

The next skills that they covered were called "dress-ups" and these are things that Pudewa thinks should be added to enhance all writing and here is the point where I started to loose confidence in the program. The students are required to included certain things in each and every paragraph and this cause the writing to all sound very much the same - a potential negative outcome that I had thought might occur given the extremely structured nature of the program. 
The revisions are minor, but to me, they seem to be more distracting than enhancing. 
In my opinion, KM's story was better before she did the following rewrites to Le Chef Foo

Once upon a time in Cheshire, Mongolvia there was a young, simple Chef de Cuisine. He had finally graduated from culinary school and determinedly opened a new restaurant. Chef was working on a delicious recipe for a stew, that his grandma used to make, for the grand opening. He was about to dash in some pepper when his sous chef exclaimed, “No, no, no! You should use the onion powder instead.”, which convinced the chef to do so.

Although the chef tried to add some potatoes, his chef de froid told him, in a very knowing tone, “You mustn’t use those, put in some artichokes.” Well the chef de froid appeared to know many things, so the young chef put in the green thistle.
As the chef was slicing the beef, the old pastry chef walked over and shook his head. “What’s the matter?” asked the young chef. “You shouldn’t use beef, my boy, rabbit would be far better.” replied the old chef. Since the Chef de Cuisine was so young, he trusted his elder and added rabbit instead.

Finally it was time to serve it to the customers and boy, oh boy did they hate it! Every single dish was sent back quickly. When the critics said it was the worst food in town, no one would dine there. The restaurant had to close.

At this point they continued to cover more detail oriented things such as sentence openers, note taking, planning a paragraph, taking notes from live lectures, and writing full reports. As Pudewa read the students work, it was clear that the students in the class were catching on and KM was also noticing how similar their style was at just the point when they introduced more things that you should add and they called these "decorations". These included things like questions, dramatic openings or closings, similes or metaphors, and alliterations. KM agree with me on her pre-edited work being better, so was loosing gusto with the program. I told her to take things that she thinks will work and leave those that she feels are unnecessary. She should make it what she needs it to be.

After reports they proceed to more things that they recommend you put in each paragraph and these are denoted as "decorations" - things like questions, quotations, alliterations and similes or metaphors. While the program thinks you should have one dress-up in every sentence, they advice utilizing 1 or 2 of these in each paragraph. 

Finally the program heads into essay writing, which was the main area that KM was looking for assistance in. They begin with the basic 5 paragraph essay and give some tips on planning out how many paragraphs you need to write for an assignment if it is given to with required words or pages. They also cover the Rhetoric Model, Super-Essay Model and outlining and thinking skills. These are all things that KM is fairly familiar with so was feeling more than a little disappointed by the lack of new information.

All and all KM felt let down by the program. She felt although the description of the program was accurate, she had been expecting more time to be spent on essay writing and more suggestions on open prompt writing as 90% of the assignments were rewriting the work of others - short articles or stories that you used the outlines structures to recreate. I honestly feel that there were some positive benefits as she had a good time being creative and the program did get her to write which helped improve her confidence. I also think that the outlining, story sequencing and note taking will be very helpful to her reading comprehension and study skills. However it did not give her any sort of tools to help her get past that blank mind feeling she gets whenever she sees a writing prompt. This is generally called brainstorming skills and we are going to have to find something to help her work on that. I am glad that she had the opportunity to try it, but also glad that we borrowed it because I do not feel that it would have been worth the $109 + shipping.

Now I feel as though I should also mention that although this program would not be considered secular by many people there was only one small mention of the bible and it was in regards to there being a number of similes and metaphors within it's passages. 

Mar 16, 2013

Our favorite comedian is....

Adam Sandler! He is our absolute all time favorite. We have every single one of his movies and have been slowly exposing KM to his greatness!! The other night we watched a dvd of his best SNL clips and this one nearly had her gut busting!


and did mention we're CRAAAZZZYY!!!

Mar 14, 2013

Cosi Fan Tutte - Boston Lyric Opera - Review

We were fortunate to participate in the BLO's Final Dress Rehearsal For High School Groups program so that we could see Cosi Fan Tutte. We had 30 people in our group and they all had a great time! Below is KM's review of the performance!

Review of Cosi Fan Tutte

Cosi fan tutte is a very intriguing opera. Alfonso makes a bet with two young men, Ferrando and Guglielmo, that their girlfriends will not be utterly faithful to them. The men accept and pretend to go off to war, leaving their girls, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, heartbroken and full of grief. Suddenly two strange foreigners, Ferrando and Guglielmo in disguise, appear and try to woo Dorabella and Fiordiligi.

Of course the girls stay faithful, until the second act when they are encouraged by their maid Despina to give into a little “harmless” flirtation. In doing so the girls, unknowingly, choose the other’s true lover. The girls try to resist but eventually fall in love with the ones they chose. Hearing this Alfonso creates a fake wedding, in which Despina is a fake lawyer. After the ceremony Ferrando and Guglielmo “return” from war and reveal that they were the strange men. In the end no one goes back with their original partners nor their new ones.

I found this opera quite humorous but unnecessary in certain places. Often the actors would repeat lines over and over again, as if to make sure they had gotten their point across. The scenery was very nice but some of the objects suspended in air were crooked and unnatural. The lighting and costumes were very well done. All in all it was a very good performance.

Mar 13, 2013

Online Favorites ~ Resources we have LOVED

In our five years of home learning, my daughter has tried a myriad of resources so I thought I would create a post that highlighted some of her favorites. This list is in no specific order, other than how they came to my memory. These are not all free resources, but those that aren't are very reasonable priced! I have also included links to any full length reviews that I may have done in the past so be sure to click through the links in each section! ENJOY!!!

Khan Academy - This was a great supplement for Math, Science, and History. I think if we had found it earlier we would have used it as full curriculum core and we plan to do so in the future for things like Art History and Computer Science.

Science Jim - KM LOVES Science Jim!!! She has taken a number of classes with him and has watched every one of his webshows! Here is our full review.

Hippocampus - We used this to supplement her history program for a while and it really seemed to help solidify the topics. Here is a link  to the course that she used.

Manga High - Super fun ~~ and FREE ~~ games for improving math skills and increasing speed! A few of KM's faves were Sundae Times, Pyramid Panic, and Sigma Prime. For a list of all the games click HERE.

Mathletics World Games - These annual events are so much fun! Check them out here and here are links to our experiences.

Yale Open Courseware - KM felt like she learned a lot from Listening to Music

Ko's Journey - This is a fantastic supplement to any math program. It is so engaging and interactive! Check out the full review and screenshots HERE

BrainPop - We have loved BrainPop since before KM was officially a home learner, but it always drove me CRAZY that they didn't have answer keys available to their lessons. GUESS WHAT!! Now they do in their Educator's section and you can sign up absolutely FREE!!

CNN Student News - This is our 3rd year using this incredible resource and it never lets us down! From the site - CNN Student News is a ten-minute, commercial-free, daily news program for middle and high school students produced by the journalists and educators at CNN. This award-winning show and its companion website are available free of charge throughout the school year. At, you'll find a wealth of teacher materials presented free of charge, including Daily Transcripts for each show, Daily Discussion questions, the Media Literacy Question of the Day, downloadable Maps and additional support materials to help students understand the news. In addition, the educators at CNN offer Discussion Guides for CNN documentaries and initiatives, including Black in America, Latino in America and CNN Heroes. 
Check it out HERE! I should mention that I may be a bit partial as Carl Azuz tweeted with us and gave a shout out to homeschoolers

Scholastic Webcasts & Lessons - We have really enjoyed quite a few programs from scholastic, in fact I don't think there have been any that we didn't really like. Just a few that we have done are First Thanksgiving, 39 Clues Club, Iditarod Lessons, Winter The Dolphin, Science World and a link to view previous webcasts HERE

This really is just a small sampling of the things that she has used and enjoyed, but it is a great place to get started trying out alternatives!!!

Mar 11, 2013

If I ask a question, please don't take it as an attack.

When did being inquisitive become an aggressive trait?
I am really tired of feeling as though I have to constantly clarify my intentions
when all I really want is to clearly understand someone else's position.

I want to know your logic.
I want to know why you feel that way.
Tell me your experiences or observations that have made you come to the decision or position which I can't comprehend.

It is not an affront on your character if what you are saying does not make sense to me.
If you want me to understand, repeatedly saying the exact same thing is not going to make it any easier for me to understand it.

I am not trying to be snide, argumentative or confrontational.
I am a learner. I want to be fully informed.
I do not just nod my head in agreement or wag my finger in disgust when I hear something that doesn't sit quite right with me.
I may even ask you why you agree with me.

I ask questions. That is what I do and it is not me attacking you!

Mar 10, 2013

Spring Session Lesson Plans

Spring is all about focusing around here, specifically focusing on writing a clear, concise, and comprehensive essay. Since KM busted butt and finished her Applying AlgebraPhysics, Glencoe Literature Units, Movies as Literature  and the GED Writing Book we have streamlined her lesson plans to the bare-bones to be able to put the majority of her energy into prepping for the GED Essay. 

We will be using the GED Essay workbook by Steck-Vaughn in a few weeks, but first we will be utilizing IEW Student Writing Intensive Group C. I have to admit that I bit the bullet...despite all my former positions on writing curricula, I BORROWED - I am stressing the fact that I did NOT buy the program - from my very dear friend and personal home ed guru. She is an accomplished writer and two of her three girls who have taken the SAT got PERFECT writing scores on their essays, sooooo I give her opinion a lot of credence. She recently completed this program with her three younger kids and even her most reluctant writer enjoyed the program. KM feels given the great praise her friends gave it, that she should give it a try. She will be working on this when I am home so that I can be sure that things are moving along appropriately and I can be aware of what advice and tips the program is giving in each lesson. When we are through with it I will be sure to give a full review of this program.

Here is what KM's daily breakdown will look like for the next 10-12 week session - 

For a bit more info on the current GED essay guidelines download this free PDF - HERE.

These are the additional resources that we will be trying out during this intensive prep period - 

~~~~~BE AWARE though the current format will only run through the end of 2013. There will be a new GED released in 2014 and these materials will be obsolete.

To see are many other posts on our frustrations with writing HERE

Mar 9, 2013

Flocabulary - Free schoolwide access through June 30th

We have used a number of their free resources so I am excited to be able to try out their full line!!!

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Mar 8, 2013

Everyone works

ENOUGH!! Seriously, I have had ENOUGH!!! I really think that it is time for spring to get here already!!! I have had more than enough of all this white stuff taking up space and stealing my time away!!! These are the days when I REALLY miss CJ and long for the time that we could just sit back, cuddle up and wait for him to pull in with the plow.

But that era is gone now, with him on the road and me working. For those of you who don't know, I work outside the home part time and although it is only part time I work in a healthcare profession and am an "essential worker". This means that even if they call off all events in the county and the plow truck drivers are sleeping in some parking lot somewhere unknown to the rest of us, I still have to make it to my clients' homes. So this morning when I awoke at 6:05 to 6+ inches of snow, I called in to work and said I would be running a bit behind. I then had my breakfast and at 6:20 went into KMs room to ask her to come out and help by shoveling while I ran the snow thrower. To my amazement she was out of her bedroom and getting ready to come out before I had gotten all my snow gear on. I was OH SO THANKFUL! I had hesitated in asking her because she is NOT a morning person, but I am so glad that I had enough faith in her to ask. It took us less than an hour to get half the driveway and my car cleaned up enough so that I could hit the road. Luckily I only had one client that I was required to see this morning and when I got back to the house 4 hours later the driveway looked as if we hadn't even touched it!!!

I made some lunch before I once again asked KM to bundle up and grab a shovel. She said "OK". No whining, no complaints, no dilly dallying. She just got her stuff on and headed out with me. She did everything I asked and kept going the entire 2 hours we were out there. I can't even remotely express the appreciation, joy and pride that I felt every time I glanced at her, working diligently along with me. This is part of being a family. Everyone works, so that everything can get done and no one has to do it all by themselves.  

Mar 3, 2013

FREE 39 Clues Virtual Field Trip - March 5th

Here is another great FREE resource from Scholastic! 

On March 5th at 1 pm (EST), New York Times Bestselling author David Baldacci will take students on a virtual field trip to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History to explore some of history's great mysteries. With David Baldacci as their guide, students will meet renowned museum curators, go behind the scenes, and investigate some of the most fascinating moments in American history.

To sign up to start a The 39 Clues Reading Club click HERE
For the downloadable pre-webcast materials click HERE 
This is a direct link to the webcast sign up - 39 Clues Virtual Field Trip