Sunday, May 27, 2012

Playing in Google Docs today

I'm not sure how I feel about this Google Docs thing. I love the idea, but I find it really difficult to use. I'm pretty good at PowerPoint and such. Maybe I am missing something?

Anyway, I thought I'd publish a freebie and see how it goes. Frogs- Facts or Opinions is available. There are many facts and a few opinions in the text. Students can choose to write facts and opinions down on the chart, or they can use a highlighter.

It's pretty basic, but I've worked on it for a while. All that work should be for something! Plus, I've taken advantage of a lot of freebies myself. (They are much, much better than mine!) The goal is to get really good at it. We'll see.

Hope you enjoy!

Choosing curriculum

Since we've announced (Ta-da!) that we are homeschooling next year, I've gotten several questions about which curriculum we plan to use. I've probably mentioned before, but I'm not using a commercially created homeschool curriculum. There is nothing wrong with them. Some of them look really cool, in fact. But there are several reasons why they aren't right for our family (at least this year.)

1. They are expensive. Oh my stars, are a lot of them expensive. While I'm sure they are worth the money, they are out of our current budget.

2. They have limited flexibility. If my kids decide they want to learn more about red foxes, we have the ability to learn all about them, without having to worry about staying on a schedule. On the flip side, commercial plans have really well-structured activities.

3. They bring my inner hippie down.

4. We can be less like "school" and more like "home."

5. I love the idea of creating lesson plans for us. We'll see how long that lasts.

Like I said, there are a ton of really great materials available. And if you use one, I'd love to hear more about why you chose it, and why it works for you!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Celebrating the first day of summer vacation- with homeschool!

Ahhh, summer break. It brings to mind long, lazy days...cookouts....jumping in the swimming pool....and if you live in our house, a science field trip and lesson!

I based this lesson off a plan on the Smithsonian Education website. I used this activity as the base of our learning. Instead of using a meter square and the worksheets, we used a jump rope and some paper and markers.

To begin our activity, we posed a question. (Well, I did.)

Where is plant life more diverse in Bledsoe Creek State Park? Then we talked about diversity and how it applied to plant life.

Then we each made a hypothesis. Anthony predicted that there would be more plant species where there were lots of deer. Normally, we see tons of deer, but no such luck today. Jerimiah predicted we would find more plants at the bottom of the park, about 50 feet from the lake. Mom agreed with Jerimiah's prediction. Dad predicted we would find more plant species around a tree in the forest.

With our prediction in place, we began exploring. To gather our data, we made a circle with a jump rope in four locations. In each location, the kids and Dad counted the different types of plants in the circle. Anthony recorded the data for us.

The boys making their circle to begin counting the number of plant species.
 Anthony counting 

 Making the circle around a tree to test Dad's hypothesis.
 Counting at the top of the "mountain" at Bledsoe Creek.

 Jerimiah counting the types of plant species at the bottom of the "mountain" near the water.

Anthony diligently recording our data.

So, after all the data was compiled, we made a graph to show our results. 

Our data.
Dad helping to create our chart
Our graph

It's not a perfect graph, and the spelling is not perfect either. But today we covered several subjects. Our hike covered P.E. We discussed the scientific method and ecosystems for science. We built a graph from a table of data, which made an excellent math lesson. Most importantly, we had a great time. 

And nothing makes Dad happier than being right. :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kicking off the Summer!

Public school ends in my town on Wednesday. The boys are super excited! We have taken to saying, "School is out for the next 15 months in our house!" The kids get a big kick out of that. Since our homeschooling adventure is, for now, a one-year trial, 15 months seems reasonable, right?

We plan to fill up this summer with fun and learning. Our first plan is to get moved into our new apartment. Moving is so fun. (Or not so much.) We will need to determine how and where we will do our homeschooling activities.

We will be participating in the Hendersonville Library's Summer Reading Program. Nothing gets my guys more motivated than a good dose of incentives.

We also plan to work on our Jr Ranger certifications at the state parks near us. We love to be outdoors, even though I'm pretty sure the temperature hits roughly seven million degrees here.

Warm temperatures mean we get to go swimming! Swimming is a family favorite as well, and what a great way to get some exercise.

We are also hoping to go to to the Discover Center. Anthony went for his field trip this year and had a great time. Jerimiah has been hoping to visit Old Hickory Lock and Dam as well. This link takes you on a "virtual field trip."

What do you have planned for your summer? Any great learning activities I should add to the agenda?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Curriculum materials are all around!

I'm still in the planning phase of homeschooling, but I was starting to get worried about how much all of this would cost. Granted, public school has a lot of costs associated with it as well. It seems like every five minutes we're being asked to pay for something like pictures, fundraisers, field trips, teacher gifts...the list goes on and on. I don't mind paying for any of these things (especially teacher gifts!) but it gets expensive. So I've been excited to find so many free and low-cost materials for our homeschool adventures.

Goodwill has been a great resource for us. Just yesterday, we found:

1. Brand new math workbook with activities and workbook pages for the summer before 3rd grade.

2. History textbook for middle school.

3. A beka reader for second grade.

4. Reading textbook for late elementary/early middle school.

This is in addition to the great Bible, two other A beka readers,  and "What Would Jesus Do" story book we've found on previous trips.

Total cost: $12

(If you ever want some sticker shock, check out A beka's website! Whew!)

Now, some of this material is a grade level or two above where we are now. I'm not worried about that at all! The history textbook follows the exact plan that I wanted to use this year with both the boys. Some of the material may be too advanced for right now, but I can use it to have a path to follow. Also, homeschooled kids seem to learn faster, according to what I've read. I like knowing I have some more advanced material ready to go. Additionally, who says we can't read a grade level or two above where we are "supposed" to be?

I've found great items other places too. The library, as I'm sure everyone knows, is a great resource. Since we are doing unit studies, I can use the library to supplement what I have planned. This gives my kids some freedom in what they are learning. If they want a book about three-toed sloths, so be it! Our library is also starting a homeschool book club. I cannot wait to join that.

State parks are a great resource as well. What better way to teach life science than to become a junior ranger? Tennessee's program is great. It combines all kinds of subjects like writing, reading, science, and social responsibility. Check out their Jr Ranger packet!

What are some of the materials you've found?