Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Learning Ideas~

I was checking through my emails this evening and almost missed out on the free Currclick giveaways and found this really great unit study Christmas Around the World Unit Study that I actually had considered doing about a year back and forgot about. It is from the Homeschool Learning Network. It is FREE until 10PM Tuesday evening so be sure and check it out!

 I think I will have much more extra time this month to sit and do some fun activities with my youngest so I started looking for a bit more. We are running way ahead of schedule this year and so we will not be as rushed as we usually are for our Christmas Activities.

In keeping with the same theme " Christmas Around the World" I found a great comprehensive unit study from Homeschool Share. One of the things I liked about this particular unit is its geography and also its recipes. I think it might be really fun.

A Christmas Read Aloud

This year for December I thought it might be fun to read a Christmas fiction book called "The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper", by Jean Van Leeuwen. 

It's a story about a mouse named Marvin who is in Macy's Department Store with all his mice buddies and find that Santa has gone missing! - my youngest still continues to love stories about mice and hamsters. So I thought this would be fitting for him. 

Here are a list of books by Jean Van Leeuwen.

  I just saw in the list another mouse story we may want to read "The Great Cheese Conspiracy", this could have possibilities!

It appears there are a few books she has written about mouses that we will be sure to check out~

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent Begins~

photo credit
Advent started today for our family and many others as well.  Each year we have an Advent Wreath and I wanted to share some daily prayers to use during the Advent Season.

Here is a Praying Advent Calendar outline for praying daily and week by week during the Advent Season. You can find other resources here as well for Advent.

Happy Advent Season~

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving ~ Pumpkin Roll Recipe

We are taking this morning to do some baking and cooking and I thought I would share a pumpkin roll recipe that is a real favorite in our home, sure to impress the family and guests~ I have posted it over on our facebook page in the notes section as well~ but will post it here as well;

Holiday Pumpkin Roll~

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Updates to Learners At Home

Learners at Home may start looking just a bit different.  ~ I am consolidating my information here so if you are looking for something that was in Free Resources OR My Favorite Teaching Resources, they are still here you can find these up above in the Tabbed Pages of the blog. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Middle Math Learning- Working with Ratios, Proportions and Percents

This morning we worked more on  the concept of Fractions this morning and I also decided to go over a "trouble spot" for my middle aged learner which was on Ratios and Proportions.  I found this great video which we worked with this morning and wanted to share.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reading the Bible and Our Catholic Faith Learning

photo by Roger Smith &  link credit
I wanted to share this blog post by Jimmie- I had never seen a list like this so I wanted to be sure to share this with my readers.
Jimmie recently blogged "Get a Head Start on Bible Reading". I really loved this and plan on doing this with the boys. I really think this will be a great Advent and Lenten Activity for them.  The checklist is not specific to our Catholic Bible, so will use this list I found. It will make it  much easier to continue with. There are also two other great resources found on Jimmies blog post as well.

We are a Roman Catholic family and in our Catholic teachings, I have found a few things to help us as well.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Thanksgiving Unit from History Classroom

As the boys grow older we do less activities and units for Thanksgiving.  Gone are the days of the Turkey pinecone center pieces, Thanksgiving placemats and turkey hand prints.
This year we are planning on watching this special on the History Channel and possibly working with the teachers guide and using their questions for discussions as written and oral narrations.
Another area we may actually explore and discuss is the  relationships between the Pilgrims and the Natives.

Math Struggles~ Sharing some thoughts on our Math and Home Learning

I often post about things we find helpful in our home learning but I want to start sharing more about  some areas we might struggle in and how I go about helping the boys work through these trouble spots.

We hit a wall with our math learning this morning, well actually I would say it was really this whole week. We have been using Teaching Textbooks 7 and my son was re-starting fractions (which he has done before so some was review) with unlike denominators.  He had a really difficult time understanding because TT actually had taught adding/subtracting uncommon denominators "before" actually teaching (which was a lesson or two after this lesson) common multiples and least common multiples. So things started to get confusing.
He also had trouble with how they were explain ratios he got some of it but not all. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Success with Google Calendar - Scheduling that is Paper Free

Thanks to lots of research and perseverance I have found success with Google Calendar for daily/weekly lesson organization for my teen!
I appreciate the support from my good friend Jen B in helping me work through what I needed to in finding what might work best.
It took a bit of time but I am sure this will work very well for us. We tried it out this morning ( we are only working the 3's this month as we are doing more delight directed learning for right now with the holidays coming up and things being just so crazy around our home at this time of year with my own work.
I found this to work very nicely. Here is how we are going to be using Google Calendar;

I plan on filling out the calendar for the month with all his studies and lessons (specific to where and what he is working on) one big reason why I am doing this is if I have appointments with clients or am not around he has everything in front of him to begin his own work for the day.

I have added his calendar to my own and can work right off of his calendar in my own google calendar ( making sure I am adding to his calendar and not mine, lol )
Anything I add to his calendar shows up directly on his own, the only difference is in the Tasks Box his doesn't say "Tracey".

Once he goes into this google calendar and sees all his class assignments he then goes to day or agenda and sees a list just for that days work. He then will go and click on the left hand side "tasks" and his task box will open on the right like mine and he can then read and list all his assignments for the day (this may seem redundant but is a great way for him to know what he is actually doing for the day and ask any questions he might have about it)

As he works the assignments on the list can then when he is done go over and click on the check before the task and it makes the task crossed out so he knows it has been done, the other thing he can do also is to go in and edit the item and mark "done" also.

We tried it all this morning and he did great and said this will be perfect for what was needed. SUCCESS!

As we work with this further I will be sure to post anymore ideas/tips I have for using this as well.

Some thoughts on "Avoiding Homeschool Pitfalls"-

I saw this blog post over on the Lesson Pathways blog just this morning and it got me thinking of a few other things I might be able to add to this list. I really like this blog post and I think that new homeschoolers or possibly parents who are struggling can really learn quite a bit from posts like these.

Here are my own personal thoughts based on my experiences with homeschooling for a number of years now:

1. Never compare your own children when it comes to their abilities and needs with their home learning.  We all have done it so getting over the "guilt" of having done this and moving ahead will not only help your learner but also will help you! ( just don't go back to doing it, lol)   Our children are all different and even though there may be similarities there is nothing to gain by comparing them at all.  * Children are smarter than we give them credit for, they know when we are comparing them how we might really feel, by not comparing them and accepting them for who they are, with all their unique qualities may actually alleviate some sibling rivalry that may be going on also*

My boys could not be more different. I can see this in just about everything they do. The way they play, interpret information, personalities and many other things as well.  In the beginning when they were first diagnosed with the same learning disability I found I started doing this more often, but then I realized just how different two children having the same disability can be!  I learned I couldn't even remediate them the same.

Both needed to be taught and helped through their own strengths and when you begin to really start thinking like this you realize that if your thinking MORE about their strengths then you really can't teach them the same because it would not make any difference to them.

I have one son who dislikes workbooks, writing and any kind of real "rote" learning. And I have the other who is diving more and more into more left brained learning, with more traditional methods, workbooks and is thriving on more rote learning. * I am planning on posting about different methods, tools and techniques I use for each of my "different" learners very soon*.

I don't even try to compare these two boys because it would be unfair and as home educators I really believe we need to move away from this thinking all together. Richard Lavoie said it well "Fair doesn't mean that every student gets the same treatment, but that every students gets what he/she needs." 

2. Don't attempt to keep up with our public/private institutions.  I think this is a huge mistake and is counter-productive of what we are trying to accomplish by teaching our children at home.  Grade levels are in most cases not helpful, since they tend to "box us in" by what we are to be teaching not allowing for us to be able to expand on the learning and reach out and stretch a bit further, which really can make learning much more fun and exciting.

3. Move away from feeling like you have to "hurry up and finish up a program" just because it is nearing a certain "term", "semester" or "season". It's not helpful, try and think back to when we were in school and we knew we had winter vacation coming and we knew things were going to "ramp up" just because we needed to meet the needs of the calendar year.  It causes much anxiety in the learning process where finishing something becomes priority over learning something. How is this real learning?

4.  Don't let programs run your home learning. YOU run them. How many times have we heard this before? I know many. BUT do we practice this?  There are lots of great programs out there, probably too many, but not all meet all our needs and the abilities of our learners. This is where we can find a program that meets our own needs as a home teacher and then alter it a bit to allow it to be flexible enough and be able to meet the needs of the person actually doing the program.  If your learner doesn't learn vocabulary by reading a word and writing down the definition why do it? Why not find other ways to learn about these new words either with discussion ( like my boys) or making a poster or playing a game. :)  I think this becomes very powerful when we re talking about children with special needs especially.  There are many ways we can alter things to meet our children where they are and not push them into a box which is what many programs can do.

I hope some of these tips help you as much as they have helped me. Following these and practicing them can really make your homeschooling much more successful and less stressful.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Student Organization -More Searching and an Alternative to One Note

I have been really working on trying to find an online calendar for my teen. I had been looking at many of the sites I had posted about and none of them seem to be a fit for us. My attempt is to help my teen become even more independent by setting up an online assignment calendar that acts as both a to-do list and also a syllabus. ( example above)
I really like Google Calendar and am trying to see just how my son can check off or mark something as being completed. I have not exactly figured that out yet, but have learned that daily he can go in and type in his tasks on his task list (right side of the calendar) and as he does them he can click on the arrow and it will cross out that item as having been completed. I also like that if he does not get something done he can drag it to the next day. So this keeps him much more on top of assignments.  
Update: * it would appear that I may be able to actually be able to check off tasks as long as they are in an All Day Event for the task list. See this write up here for more information, I definitely plan on trying this out*

The two closest tools I have found that will work as close to what I need are Google Calendar and also School Binders

I really like Schoolbinder also and am going to be sort of testing this one out as well. It gives a bit more flexibility for certain things like maybe files and bookmarks, but I am not exactly sure this will be needed since OneNote meets our needs for those things as this point. I did, actually look at having a calendar inserted into his OneNote, but it would not be able to do what I wanted it to do so I decided against this.

In looking through all these sites I actually found something new I wanted to share with my readers, perhaps you have heard of it? Google Notebook This is an online, free tool by Google where you can add notes/information from a website or anywhere and share the information and set up notebooks for that information.  For those who do not have One Note or are more comfortable using Google products this might be a real gem! So I thought I might share. You can find Google Notebooks by googling "google notebooks". 

I really hope to have this firmed up by the end of the week and I hope some may find this extra information a bit helpful in considering online student organization as well. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Student Organization with Assignments:Help with Time Management

I have been using Microsoft OneNote for a while now and really have seen this tool help us in my own lesson planning and also help my teen in every subject area for his studies.  After having taken some time to see how this would work for our home learning, I decided that now that we are more comfortable I would go ahead and see about expanding things even a bit more for my teen.
I have been researching and thinking more about organizing my boys ( most especially my teen for right now) with his studies. He seems to be very interested in taking on more control of his learning and the time he spends at tasks and I think he is ready now to begin using a more structured plan for his studies, perhaps with a syllabus or maybe where he has weekly assignments that can be scheduled and completed by the end of the week.
I don't exactly have all the answers yet in what I am planning on using and doing. I suppose you could say I am in the brainstorming phase at this point.
I think that where I have now made the decision to begin working again I have been thinking more and more about organization and how certain tools may help us with our days and make things easier for all of us in tracking, organization and collaboration etc..

 I was researching a few sites and happened upon this site Assign-A-Day and could see that it would be really helpful if I could actually create an interactive calendar for my son's weekly assignments.  The site explains it is only for school so I have emailed them to see if this could be used for home educators as well and am waiting to hear back.

I read more about it and looked at the samples and sort of thought this sounded much like my Google Calendar which I really want to learn more about. I am planning on reading through Google For Educators to learn more. I have heard that you can actually share your calendar and use it for many things for school/studies so I plan to try and learn more about this since I am already using already for personal use.

As I continue to look at possible ideas for this kind of organization I found this blog post entitled " School: Assignment Tracking" and in this blog post the writer mentions "Remember the Milk" which I am only vaguely familiar with so I plan on checking this out also.
I also have a list of others I plan on exploring also just to see what they might have to offer us and see how they might help. Here is a listing of them;
* Update: I actually have been looking further at RTM and found this also that might help a bit more, from Free Technology for Teachers: 7 Organizational Tools for Students.

School Binder- Free online Student Organizer
Homeschool Tracker
Homeschool Shedtrack
21 sites offering free Homeschooling and Organizing Printables - I am not exactly looking for printables, I feel like I have enough "paper" to deal with, but listed this just in case I see something that I can use in creating an online template :) 

That is probably enough for me to go through at this point and will probably take a bit of time. I will be sure to share what I choose and why once I have things sorted out.

Happy Planning!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning through Webquests- a Different "spin" on History & Science Learning

I recently had been going through my many email newsletters I subscribe to and found out about this site  (Webquest.Org ) for researching Webquests. I was not exactly real familiar with Webquests and just how they might fit into our home learning.  Afterall, we already have a program we have been working through and have been satisfied for the most part with it so I wasn't entirely sure something like a Webquest would really be helpful to us until this past week my son had gotten a new PS3 game in and was all excited and explaining to me and showing me things about the game he liked.
I found his explanations really interesting because as he told me how he enjoyed the game and it explained what it had to offer in the areas of history and science and the very fact that it was so interactive and full of adventure he just loved it.
Three words stuck out at me as I listened to him; Science, History and Interactive.  I remembered the Adaptive Learning Curriculum that we had purchased and has not been used yet because we had been working on our Introduction to Neurology Unit and that got me thinking even more... "interactive".... so once I learned more about what Webquests actually are  ( link provided) and how they are used I feel like I may have tapped into yet another one of my son's strengths. ~ he loves using the computer for learning and I think this may just really ignite further in-depth learning for him.
In our history program we are working this portion of our year on Ancient Civilizations and will be starting a unit on Ancient Crete and then Ancient Greece.  I decided to use our chapters on these as a springboard for a possible Webquest he could attempt to do. 
I found this Webquest, appropriately titled "Greece" and plan on reading through this and see if it might be something for us to try out. It sounds really neat.  In the introduction it is explained that you are a tour guide for a group of sixth graders who are creating a model for Ancient Greece and your job is to be the tour guide and escort the people around through sightseeing tours and provide information in specific "points of interest".
The webquest is actually set up to be used in a classroom setting but we can tweak things so that he can either choose one particular area to learn about OR if he chooses he can learn about each and do the activities for each.
I am still browsing and found a few more that I have to share. I plan to look through all of these and he can choose which one he might like to do;

Ancient Greece Webquest: ( your a film maker and your boss has assigned you to reconstruct a documentary on Ancient Greece)
The Olympic Games of Ancient Greece ( task is to find out as many interesting facts and information about the Olympic Games)
Ancient Greece ( creating a time capsule for Ancient Greece)
Get Civilized! ( another webquest where your creating a time capsule, this one is for younger elementary aged learners, approx. grade 3)- I really like the pictures in this one and you could use this along with possibly a lapbook also if you so choose. here is a lapbook on Greece. There are others also you can find by using Google.
Webquest of Ancient Greece ( travel back in time to Ancient Greece and come back to report on various aspects of the culture) ages 12-14 as mentioned.

Along with doing the Webquest or various Webquests, we will be reading "Greek Myths" by D'Aulaires and also "The Odyssey" by Homer.  I also thought that it might be a great time to maybe start the Percy Jackson series as well, we shall see.

Our younger son heard about these Webquests also and as I explained to the boys what these were they both now are interested in doing something like this. I think it just kind of adds a bit different "spin" on things. So I will be looking in their history and science to see what other Webquests we will plan to do also.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finding that Book with Story Snoops~

I am really so excited about finding out about this site. I subscribe to the TeacherFirst Newsletter and read it faithfully each week and just love all the wonderful resources they have to offer teachers.
Another real gem they posted this week is called Story Snoop. 
Created by mom's, its a great site to look up particular books in specific genres and read more and learn more about the book.
I think all of us at one time or another are stumped with finding books for our kiddos at different levels and ages this kind of site takes the work out of all of that and I think that is why I am so excited about it. It really gives you a chance to read and learn more about a book your considering and also offers (depending on your search) many more alternatives for books also. Be sure and add this to your bookmarks, its a keeper!

Happy Searching!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Unplanned Lessons Can be the Most Rewarding and Comprehensive-

We were sitting down yesterday evening and channel surfing, looking for something on television to watch.  We saw a program on PBS that sort of grabbed my son's attention so decided to start watching.  It was entitled " The Spirit of Sacajawea".  

I have to say this was a beautifully narrated program to watch to learn a bit more or realize how little we know about Sacajawea's life after her expedition with Lewis and Clark.  I really need to remind myself of this wonderful way to bring even further depth into our history learning. My boys love watching videos of history.

We found ourselves completely involved with the program and its narrators.  I just loved it and more importantly so did my son. We have not yet started learning about Lewis and Clark but watching this really ignited a great interest and I think he will really enjoy this part of history.

We then watch some of the next program from Ken Burns (a favorite filmmaker and producer of my husband) entitled "Lewis and Clark Expedition".

I realized how little I check on our listings for PBS and decided to add PBS' daily programming schedule to my "Morning Coffee" Firefox Add-On so I can remind myself and glance at this daily.

I also want to explore further the PBS teacher resources they have on  PBS Teachers.
Happy Living History Learning~

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Learning Latin-

We were heading to the groccery store today to do our weekly shopping and started talking about our studies and the topic of learning a foreign language came into the conversation. I mentioned learning French and that we have a DVD set all ready to go~ but my teen had another idea and said he really thought it would be cool to learn Latin.

I actually thought this might very well be a great time to do this as well and couldn't agree more. Before looking at all the pricey programs/workbooks/texts out there for learning Latin I decided to search for some free resources to get us started and make sure this is what he wants and will go well before spending all that money.

I was really surprised to have found the things I did.  Here is some of the resources I am planning on using to study Latin:

Latin Texkit is the first link resource will will be starting with. It has downloadable, free PDF texts for learning Latin. Latin for Beginners is the first book download we will start. I uploaded this into our Dropbox  so all he can work of of this on all our computers if needed without printing out the whole book.

The first book I plan on starting with is the Latin for Beginners Key By Benjamin L. Ooge.
I found a google books format as well on this particular text here. 

Along with this resource I found Beginners Latin Tutorial also which we can use for learning and practice. 

Here is an online text he can work from called Easy Latin Stories for beginners which I think will be perfect for practice.  I was really excited to have found this resource as well.

Other resources I have found:
Latinum-free online Latin Audio Course and the website here

Here is a list from Open Culture which lists many different free foreign language lesson.

I would love to hear of any other free online sites for learning Latin if anyone has any to share. 

If things go well we can just keep going or I can consider purchasing something from Memoria Press called Prima Latina but need to be sure they have an older age level version for him to work from. We may not even need it but have this to look back at just in case.

I never really thought I would be able to find some thing like this that is free so I was pretty pleased this worked out the way that it did.  He is really excited to start~ he seems to have taken an interest in Linguistics lately, it seems he is following in his older brothers footsteps... :)

If I see he really dives into this I may actually pick up Ellen McHenry's unit entitled; " Excavating English"   He is the kind of kiddo that really gets into this kind of thing so this may be in our future. ~

You can find out more about this and what the unit study covers by downloading the sample. It looks really good.

Happy Language Learning!

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Twice Exceptional Learners-

An article; Twice Exceptional Kids from Parents Guide News

"Exceptional because they are gifted & exceptional because they learn differently"

I found this article this morning and I really thought it explained in further depth about children who are twice exceptional. My boys are both twice exceptional. They are both doing wonderful at this point and time in their schooling.
I really feel that this quote from the article really sums things up for me and is so very true; "  Parents are also encouraged to advocate for strength and evidence based, as well as dually differentiated, educational opportunities for their remarkable children." Kimberly Busi

I have yet to find any professionals that are specifically trained in 2e children, but I have found that teaching through their strengths rather than weaknesses and working in a differentiated manner really has played a key role in how my boys learn and process and excel in their learning at home.

It isn't always easy (and can tire me out actually, lol) but always stretching things further using various resources in a multi-sensory way can really pay off when working with these kinds of learners.

There are many more articles to read at Parent Guide News so I thought I would share this with my readers.

You might like these~

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