Friday, September 23, 2011

What to virtual schoolers do when the internet breaks?

Well, first we run around in circles in a complete panic because we can't remember where people gained knowledge before google.

Then mama remembers that time before the internet existed.
You know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

She feels all nostalgic and pulls out BOOKS.

Of course, some of us can't remember that time, so they start an art project making themselves a laptop.

The rest of us get out our books and start our assignments. We don't need no stinking interhighway!

Well, one of us does.
He was much happier with his laptop.

I joke, but really, what does a virtual school family do when their internet service goes out AGAIN?
Well, first they get a new provider (and we did, hooray!).

Then they get out the books and teach the old fashioned way.
It was a lot of fun to go through our books, talk about things we read and remember that the internet is a great tool for teaching, but it isn't the ONLY tool.

How do you teach without the internet?
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Following a Science Curriculum

Science is always happening at our house. The boys always have new interests and we explore each one until they are ready to move on. I decided though, when Atticus started his "first grade" studies, to follow the four year science rotation suggested in The Well-Trained year each of Life Science, Earth/Space Science, Chemistry, and Physics repeated three times through the schooling cycle. I searched for a curriculum that was a) secular; b) organized; c) experiment heavy; and d) open and go. I found R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey, and we have been very happy with this choice! With each lesson we Read, Explore, Absorb, and Learn about science. We generally do two labs a week and explore the topics in further detail through library books or museum visits.

We started first grade with Life. We are about to finish up Earth & Space in a few weeks and then we'll move on to Chemistry. You are allowed to reproduce as many copies as you want for your family's use, and with my fun Pro-Click binding tool, I can create a book for each kiddo full of their labs.

I love the organization of the books.

The author provides a summary of what your child should take away from each topic.

A list of supplies for each topic.

Suggested readings for each topic. (Note: Sometimes I am unable to get the suggested titles from the library, however it is a great starting point for my searches.)

And website suggestions as well.

The lab sheets are easy to read and child-friendly.

They require very little in the way of artistic endeavors, which is important to my 8 year old. And you can make keepsake books highlighting important facts to chronicle your learning.

You utilize many household products.

As well as things you can find outside.

Lots of food.

And you get to measure.

You look at rocks using magnifying glasses.

And use dangerous tools.

Observe things as they sit around and grow.

Play and experiment with live animals.

Get "tested" using stuffed animals.

And involve all of the kids.

What do you do for science? Please share!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Homeschool Organization: The School Rooms

Welcome to our school rooms!
With 2 school age kids, a preschooler, a baby and a papa doing college online, we needed a designated location for all this learning!

So we took two of our rooms and made them into school rooms.

This is the little classroom. It used to be my sewing room and it is perfect for storing a lot of our curriculum.

Kid school on the bottom and up at the tippy top my husband's college stuff.

Places to put books when we are done and the "librarian" (that's me) needs to clean up.

More drawers and supplies.
Maps and other important posters.

The other room is called the big classroom. This is where the kids and I spend most of our time. If all 3 kids need a computer or I need a computer and 2 kids need a computer, we simply scoot someone into the little classroom while we do school right next door in the big classroom.

Desk and printer (and Sid the Science Kid!)

I kept a few toys in here for the baby (like the bucket of legos there) but it is mostly just  school stuff. There are our workboxes for 3 kids and there is the other computer.

A couch for lounging, toys in the corner and a coffee table for play and for school.

We keep the tv in the closet.

There are all sorts of ways to put your school  together and this is what is working for us.

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Creating A Routine (Calender Making)

I don't know about you, but in order to keep the house running with minimal carnage, I need a routine.
This is what I did to help myself stay on track. I made a daily routine.

I sat down one day and I wrote out everything that happens consistently. Then I made a daily calender for each day of the week so I could see it all in front of me at any given moment.

I actually posted a pic here of one of my days so you can see an example.

I got this template HERE.
This is a really simple daily schedule I have on my fridge in a sheet protector thing. I simply keep all the day of the week in there and rotate them each morning. I can look at it and see roughly what I should be doing and when. If I get off track it is okay, I have left blank spots here and there for the kids and myself to use to catch up, do something extra or just hang out. I have our extracurriculars listed and I even have a baby nap in there so I remember that the BABY MUST SLEEP or there will be great sorrow in our home.
Some days have chores, some have craft projects.
I have time for me to do emails for things that are important to me (mommy has extracurriculars too!) and on some of my days I have my piano lessons listed and during my lessons I have a list of what the kids can do for fun at those times.
This routine is not set in stone. It does get knocked out of whack on occasion. But more often than not it keeps me on track and that is what I need to feel peaceful and like I am making progress in my days. It also keeps my patience level much higher.

Now tell me what you do to stay on a routine or why you don't use a routine.

Virtual Homeschooler Organization: The beginning

For many people the idea of homeschooling can be overwhelming, but they still want to do it.
I was one of those people.

I wanted to be more involved in my kiddos' education but the idea of making my own curriculum or trying to afford curriculum was overwhelming.

This is where virtual learning came in for me. In my state (here we have Idaho....) we have a great public charter school called Idaho Virtual Academy.
Yes, I realize some of the diehard homeschoolers are doubled over in agony right now because I have just revealed family's huge character flaw: We are NOT true homeschoolers. We are actually PUBLIC charter schoolers to happen to attend school at home. (There is a chance we have horns too.)
Love it or hate it though, in my opinion the future of homeschool is online and for people like me who need training wheels to begin homeschooling, these great public charter schools are the way to go.

The upside is of course the free curriculum that is delivered to your door. All you do is follow the lesson plan set every day and you are golden.
The downside is that occasionally you can get caught up in checking all your subjects off and you start to feel like you are in a race with the clock.

I'm going to give you some ideas to help with that. If these ideas don't suit your family, I hope they at least give you a light bulb moment.

1. You don't have to do every part of ever lesson every single day. Seriously. Does your kindergartner understand the color yellow? Then skip that part of the lesson.

2. You can take the test first. The key to these lessons is the test. If your kid can pass the test, then why do a lesson and repeat what they obviously know?

3. If you have a rough math day you can stop and come back tomorrow. Don't die on that multiplication hill people. Regroup and come back to fight (or hopefully just learn) another day.

4. You can change your calender of classes. Do all your math on Monday, Science and History on Tuesday, Language Arts Wednesday, Electives Thursday and take Friday off! Or make up another plan. It is YOUR SCHOOL! Make it the schedule you prefer!

5. Ease into it. Start at part time. Do one or two classes the first day, then add another one, do that for a day or so and then add another one. You can start at the shallow end of the pool instead of diving in.

There you go, a few tips that I hope will help!