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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Math Manipulation

Math is not my subject! I have had to take algebra twice and just now, in my 30s, am I learning to get a handle on variables, fractions, and the Pythagorean theory. Teaching my son math has been a challenge, one which I am thankful to have my husband help me with. In our home writing and history are my fortes while science and math is his. 

Recently, Tristan had expressed an interest in both computer programming (currently he thinks being  a video game designer would awesome) and to pursue possibilities in these career choices I explained that he will need more rigorous math practice. For my own college I have had familiarity with Aleks and since I am currently in an algebra class I figured I would let him try out my program. He is ready for algebra and found Aleks straight forward and easy to use. I personally think it is an all around program good for higher math above 5th grade and I was happy to find that they also have a homeschool subscription option. 

For all grade levels though, math can be a difficult curriculum to teach. Even homeschool parents with a college education may find that they haven't been in school in a while and are rusty in their skills. If you are not confident with your own skills, then you will find that it is exceedingly difficult to teach another. It may be helpful to find a good math program and learn the skills again with your child so while they may not have you as a teacher you can work together. 

Ultimately, what is important is finding the right math curriculum for your child and one that will enable them to learn without being so challenging that they give up. Even for unschooling families that may not do regular book work and prefer experiential training, finding an online option, games, and skill worksheets can help once their kids find an interest or need for math in their lives. I am wanting to share some of the sites that I have found helpful and will be developing a full article with more in depth resources later. 

For now, here are some tried and true sites that are great starting points for math learning of any level: 

  • Math Games    Cool Math games for the younger crowd. Has adding, division, money, multiplication, fractions and more. 
  • ALEKS Link to the homeschool page to find out more information for a subscription for your family
  • Math Resources Federal resources page. Has links for higher math educationals, workbooks, and on-line lesson plans for algebra, measurements, geometry, trigonometry, and advanced math. 
  • Khan Academy Visual online lectures of just about any subject. Get a professor in your home for free! 
  • Practical Math offers practical applications for higher math and a bunch of other tools! 
  • Worksheets - K-5 Lower level math worksheets - adding, fractions, order of operations, counting, money and more 
  • More Worksheets - K-5 Simple and straightforward worksheets. Create your own worksheets. 
  • Math Drills Multiple drill worksheets for all math levels 
There are many, many, many more links out there and please feel free to share. These are just some of my favorite tools and ones I have used here for our lessons. If there is one that your family uses routinely or have tried and liked then let us know! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wordle for Learning

For those of you that are looking for creative ways to help your kids remember topics that they are learning, I would like to share with you one tool that I have recently added to our homeschool curriculum. I like to have options when it comes to note taking. While I encourage Cambridge note formats as I know from my own experience that they will allow you to take notes in a college setting, I also think that it is important to create creative ways to engage the brain. Wordle is one such tool that can assist your learning endeavors while keeping your kids technology savvy.

Wordle is a tool with one main purpose: To create an image based on the inputted words. You can create a wordle for just about anything. I have actually used it a number of times over the last year for work. Here is a sample of a wordle I created for my writing business, The Articulating Goddess.

By looking at the image I am sure you can get some idea of what kind of work that I do. It hit me last week that I could use this for school lessons. Why not? I actually learned about the program in one of my own college classes and I think it is a great tool to utilize to get your kids thinking about the words they are trying to learn. For example, when doing a history assignment on the Salem Witch Trials, we created this wordle together. 

To create your own wordle on any subject, there are a couple of ways to do it. 

First, you want to go to WORDLE

To create a new wordle, click on CREATE. 

You can do a couple of things next. 
  1. Insert typed notes on a topic, an essay, or a personal writing in the upper box. 
  2. Type words about your topic in the upper box.  
  3. Link to a website of your choosing and allow wordle to utilize the RSS feed in order to establish a word pattern for your image. 
Once you have inserted your words, you will click 'submit' or 'go', depending on which input format that you chose. It's interesting because the tool will take the words from your writing, notes, or website, and input them into the wordle tool and pull out the most common words. It will automatically leave out common words such as the, and, or... or... 

You can create the format, change the colors, and customize your wordle. Once you decide that you like it then you are done. It can be difficult to copy the page and in fact, the tool will not allow you to simply save the image. Personally, I always just to a print screen and then paste to paint and crop it to save it. That's the simplest way that I have found. 

The tool can be printed and added to any lapbooks, posters, or notebooks. It adds color and creativity with the words that certainly verifies merit for the tool. 

We would love to see some of your creations! Try it out and let me know if you like it or what you used it for! 

Happy Wordling!

Friday, December 7, 2012

December 7th - The day that will live in infamy...

December 7, 1941 was the day of my grandfather's birth. My grandmother, MaMaw as we called her, used to tell me that good people were born on this day to balance out the evil of D-Day. I don't think it was until Sept. 11 happened that as an American I could really understand the impact that Pearl Harbor had on America. Sure, I had heard stories. I watched the documentaries and even stomached Ben Affleck's performance in the Hollywood Tribute, "Pearl Harbor". 

It seems to me that few of my generation... and those younger than me... can truly understand this day. For that reason, I'm going to start with just a brief recap. December 7, 1941 was the day the Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. They had made a careful strike against our Navy as a way to protect themselves from what they thought was a potential threat. Whether or not they were right in their fear or there were other motives involved, many people lost their lives that day. Many more lost their lives as the US retaliated. Because the bulk of the naval fleet and submarines were not stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time of the planned attack, which is a bit of a miracle itself, American forces were able to keep their arsenal and the damage that was intended did not happen. This attack on American soil did have long standing repercussions. The US officially entered into WWII which changed the direction of history for our country and those around the world. 

Today is an important day to recall and a good topic to discuss this week as a look into history. Consider an open discussion and research about D-Day with your kids. I've included some of the links to previous lesson plans and blogs that I have used before. Please feel free to share some of your ideas for your homeschooling curriculum for this important day as well! 

Lesson Plan Ideas: 

  • Journal Entry: Imagine that you are witnessing the attack at Pearl Harbor. Research for the time that the first bombing took place and describe what you were doing and how you reacted. 
  • Watch a documentary on Pearl Harbor and WWII 
  • National Geographic - visit this site for a look and informative online presentation about this day in history
  •  Visit the WWII Museum in New Orleans page for great learning tools and information!
  • For all grade levels Scholastic has a great learning program that is developed for multiple age groups

Happy Birthday with the Family

I turned 32! Huzzah!

Birthdays are an important part of our household. For the last couple of years I have shared my birthdays with the youngest. No, he was not born on my birthday. Rather, in 2010 (the same year he was born) he had open heart surgery to patch up some holes in his little heart. It was the best 30th birthday ever! Staying true to style, he had a fever this year due to an ear infection and we spent the 4th year in a row in the ER for him. Oddly, he's only 2 years old, so it may take a moment to realize that he was in the ER even when he was inutero! I think he's making it a trend!

Thankfully each year he has made it from the ER and back to home and all in all this was a good year. Tristan took a note from our month long backing sessions and made my birthday cake all on his own. White cake with lemon frosting. It was excellent!
Cutting the cake!

Tristan showing some love with his mama and his creation!

As with everything, it comes back to learning. This year has been a LONG year of lessons and learning for our family but as we all sat down that night we ate cake and hung out as a family. Felix helped me blow out candles and my nephews ran around acting like silly teenagers. It's amazing what family time can bring and how happy it can make me. I truly love this time with my family.

Just wanted to share some family fun with you all!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Breaking Free

Learning should be a joy and full of excitement. It is life's greatest adventure; it is an illustrated excursion into the mind of noble and learned men, not a conducted tour through a jail.
Taylor Caldwell
I have often thought about the loss of wonder through educational facilities. I can't help it... or at least I haven't figured out how to help it... I have a way with making my public schooling friends a bit upset... Deep down I just HATE hate HATE the whole system. I will say that I think it is good for some people, just not my family. Not only do I not agree with the system, I find it insulting to the kids that are there. When people tell me that their kids do fine there I often do not credit the school system but the incredible resilience of the human race, the younger ones in particular. 
Human beings are creatures that have intellect and reason and many of them can rise above trauma and plagues in their lives. This is the challenge of the school system that many kids in the homeschooled environment don't face. They are not put in with many and told to learn this and that. But that being said, I was informed recently that this is more my own view as a liberal and borderline unschooling parent. 
Recently I put my own son to the test, unintentionally of course. When he wanted to go to public school we let him. We found out he was on par in many areas and exceeding others. While I had fears that would be behind, he wasn't. The teachers seemed shocked by this. In fact, one teacher expressed how it was refreshing to have him in their class. 
I was also tested recently. My niece is married to an absolute jack... um... not a nice guy. He recently informed me that my oldest was weak because he is not a fighter and said that he was socially retarded. not my words, but his. I was upset, obviously. It made me think though. Is my son socially inept? Am I missing something as I raise him behind mommy goggles? While pondering, I decided that my niece's husband is a jerkface and his own words that were in essence, picking on my son who is 12... they are unfounded. 
But I also realized that perhaps my own judgment was flawed as well. I realize that some people don't have a choice. That stinks. There are those that would like to spend days with their kids. There are also those that couldn't manage their kids all day and in that case - maybe it is better for all family relations that public schools do exist. 
The argument over whether homeschooling was good or bad is not the issue. The question in my mind is whether or not public schools are indeed like prisons.  So, I did the same thing that I would tell my own sons to do when they wanted to find out more information. It's amazing what a school library and Google could find. Actually, I found there were concerns just like my own. There were many others out there, even those with more experience than I have, that questioned the higher incidences of severe punishment for our youth and how more stricter education systems were turning school environments into prison like institutions. 

One of the reasons that I initially took my older son out of school in 1st grade was because the local school in Las Vegas had the feel of a jail. There were high wrought-iron fences and a security guard. I didn't like the environment or the careless attitude from the women at the front desk. When I sent my son to middle school at his request, I had a similar incidence with the principal but he didn't seem to take concerns for my son seriously. On one hand it is almost as if the schools don't care but they are forced to by sensationalized stories such as Columbine. Their attitude gives me the same feeling that I had when I worked in customer service for the insurance field and we had to care or we would get sued. I guess it is partially the way of the world these days with medical practices and law firms. The problem with that mentality is that we are dealing with children. CHILDREN. One study actually found that, 

The historical reality is that America's public schools are very safe, even when located in high crime neighborhoods. Yet, school discipline is becoming increasingly punitive, moving from the schoolhouse to the courthouse. This is apparent in Texas, where a multi year study has determined that schools' discretionary decisions to suspend, expel and/or criminalize student misbehavior contribute to student push out, dropout, and what has been described by researchers as the school-to-prison pipeline. (Fowler 2011) 

I am not a parent that forgoes discipline, I simply cannot fathom how it is in the best interest of further generations to treat kids in a proactive manner based on criminal instances of other schools. The statistics do not merit this kind of reaction. My own opinion is that why do I personally need an institution to do this to my child? Children are no longer opportunities to teach but rather, they are are liabilities for the school, dollar signs for funding, and an example waiting to be made.

Over the last several months, the Committee on Education and the Workforce has been actively examining the current state of education in the nation. Everyone has listened to state and local leaders who are working to improve the quality of education the children receive. Through a series of hearings, they have heard stories of both challenges and opportunities facing schools. The opportunities are found in the determination of countless individuals who realize the current system is failing our children and are fighting to do something about it. (Committee of Education 2011)

 I am sure there are great teachers out there but it seems to me that if they realize the system is broken then is there not a better way to utilize their love of education and desire to help young minds than by joining the same broken system that they don't agree with?  How likely is it that the current system can be fixed? It all just seems ironic and silly. 

In the end, parents have the right to decide. It would be interesting to see how we would fare if there was a different choice. We do seem to be getting more of those with charter schools and online. In fact, we had a good experience with HOPE Academy in Colorado. I am sure there are some options out there emerging. Perhaps I should give kudos for those fighting the good fight. I tend to think that by withdrawing we are taking our own stand. We are showing our own kids that this is how we do things and trying to make it in society. It's easy to point fingers, which is meaningless. It's also a hard habit to break.

Fowler, D. (2011). School Discipline Feeds the "Pipeline to Prison". Phi Delta Kappan, 93(2), 14-19.
         US House of Representatives. Committee on Education and the, W. (2011). Education Reforms:      Promoting Flexibility and Innovation. Hearing before the Committee on Education and the Workforce. U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, First Session (April 7, 2011). Serial Number 112-17. US House of Representatives.