"That Is It! They Are Coming Home," by Kristen C

 

I never, ever, ever wanted to homeschool.

I thought all homeschoolers were weird, or at least pretty socially impaired. The nice, clever, well-adjusted homeschoolers that I knew were clearly the exceptions to that rule. I had had a decent education from both public and private schools, my husband had had a great private school education, and we both anticipated our children would follow along similar foot steps.

We were so wrong.

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Our daughter’s first day of preschool in 2007

Our first child was nothing like what we expected. She was fast-moving, smart as a whip, and never, ever slowed down. She wanted to explore and to learn and to see and to touch and take apart everything. After we had our second child shortly thereafter, I was exhausted. Our son didn’t sleep well and didn’t ever want to be away from me. We decided to put our daughter into a preschool  program a couple days a week to give me a bit of a break and to get her ready for Kindergarten in a couple of years. It didn’t go very well. Our daughter didn’t want to sit when it was time to sit. She didn’t want to walk in a line, and she certainly didn’t want to take a nap when all her friends were so close! Usually a very happy child, she left each day frustrated and I left each day beat down from hearing all the things she had done that day that had exhausted her teachers and that weren’t in line with their expectations. The final straw came the following semester after she had been placed in a room with new teachers. She had once again refused to nap and to sit silently on her mat, and she was brought to the director’s office. Yes, our barely three-year-old had been taken to the director’s office because she wouldn’t lay still for 45 minutes. The day I talked to the Director was it for my husband and me. There is a place for rule following and for doing things you don’t want to do, and every child needs to learn to obey. However, there is also a place for appropriate expectations and this wasn’t appropriate for my kid. So we pulled her out the following day and I started to Google “How Do I Homeschool?”

As this all was happening, I had slowly begun to meet more and more homeschool families that had happy and well-adjusted kids. I started to think that maybe these kids were the rule, and maybe the weird ones were just like the weird kids in public schools. I began to be aware that not all homeschool families were the same and that they all had their own reasons for homeschooling and none of those reasons were as abnormal as I had thought.  Maybe homeschooling wasn’t as fringe as I thought it was? Then my husband started to notice, too. He whispered to me at church one morning, “See those kids? They are homeschooled and they aren’t weird at all, huh? I think that family over there homeschools, and they aren’t weird, either.” So when we pulled our daughter out of preschool it was my husband who suggested that we try homeschooling to see if that was an option. After all, we could still put her in Kindergarten if it was an epic fail.

After we made the decision to give it a go, I went into full research mode. I checked out every book on homeschooling the library had. I asked every homeschooling person I knew what they liked and what they hated. I looked at the internet for hours upon hours upon hours. And at some point in that rabbit hole, I came across The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, and my life completely changed. Here was what I had been looking for, here was my blue print, here was the proof that I could actually do this and do it well. The idea of a Classical Education appealed to the History major in me, and to the disciplined nature of my husband. We knew that if we kept this structure around our school, we could let our kids march down the lines of it at their own speed. The best of both worlds.

So we trucked on, following our Classical Education ideals, for a few more years and a few more babies, loving every minute of homeschooling. I loved being able to pick my battles and let my daughter grow at her own pace. I loved our slow days and our time together, and our kids were learning awesome things. I did NOT envy my friends with their early morning drop offs. At least, not until a few months after our fourth baby was born. Our fourth baby was an easygoing baby but still a baby. He needed to be nursed and held and cuddled. At the same time, I found that our third child was in dire need of attention, and I wasn’t giving it to her. I was trying to teach the big kids and mother a newborn, our house was a wreck, and our little toddler girl was getting lost in the shuffle. At my wit’s end, I decided to put our older two into public school right away.  I didn’t know if it was for good or if it was for a break, but I knew I wasn’t giving anyone what they needed.

For a few months, everything went okay. Our little kids got the attention they needed, our big kids received consistent schooling, and our laundry was always done. Our school was lovely, our teachers were nothing short of God-given, and our kids were making friends.  What they weren’t doing, though, was learning much. Both kids were marking time academically, and forgetting a lot of those wonderful Classical Education foundations we had worked on while they were at home. They were getting embroiled in a lot of school-kid drama and bringing home awful attitudes towards each other, and worse, towards schoolwork. Their teachers worked with us, but as I came out of my exhaustion I knew that this wasn’t working. One evening after the kids had gone to bed, as my husband and I went over the newest thing our daughters teacher had called us about, I mentioned that she had somehow forgotten how to carry while subtracting, something that she knew cold while homeschooling. My husband lost it. “You mean they are acting like little jerks AND getting dumber?? That is IT. They are COMING HOME.” And that was that.

Since then, I’ve adjusted the expectations I have for myself and my home. I’ve worked on making time for the little kids a priority and we’ve dug back into our Classical Education plans, and things have been moving along quite well. Our days aren’t perfect. We’ve had a diagnosis of ADHD for my oldest son, a looming one of ADD for my daughter, some food allergy issues, and all of the regular teaching issues that pop up. Our days aren’t perfect at all, but they are Good Days. I can do attitude adjustments as the need arises and I am able to take the time to explain why we have to do things — why it’s important that we follow most rules and why some rules need to be broken. I can walk my son through his math as slow as a snail, knowing that he is actually learning the material and not being pushed further than his ability. I have taught three kids to read and have another one hot on their heels. Homeschooling has allowed my children to play to their strengths and to work on their weaknesses off-stage. There is no one staring them down as they struggle. Choosing to homeschool has been one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made, and from here on out, we plan to stick with it for the long haul.

Kristen C13021867383_2cf4e968cb_q. is a homeschooling mom of four, living deep in the heart of Texas. She loves history, running, and camping, and drinks more coffee than is prudent. Kristen blogs about her daily adventures trying to classically homeschool kids who would always rather be up a tree than writing anything, ever, at www.unsinkablekristen.blogspot.com

Watching an Eclipse, by Jane-Emily

Science With Friends

 

In late May 2012, I was very lucky; there was a solar eclipse right where I live!  We had a great time getting our friends to come and watch it with us, and preparation was the key to a good experience.  Most of us don’t think too hard about an eclipse until it is about to happen, and by then it might be too late to get good equipment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI knew something about a solar eclipse coming up, but it was only about six weeks beforehand that we really got serious. I got to attend a lecture on upcoming astronomical events (there were a bunch in 2012!) given by one of my all-time favorite college professors, Dr. Alexei Filippenko.* He gave us a lot of great information and stressed the importance of having correct viewing tools. We’ve all heard that welding glass is a good viewing medium, but it turns out that not just any welding glass will do; it should be #14 welder’s glass, which isn’t as easy to get. Happily he had bought up a large supply and shared them with us at cost, so I snapped up four or five. (I keep one in the car so I can look at the sun anytime I like!)

After this, we were very excited about watching the eclipse! We wanted to share the fun, so my husband put in a large order for eclipse sunglasses. These look like old-fashioned 3D glasses, but they have very dark plastic in them that is just as good as the welder’s glass.  We got 100 of them and invited everyone we knew to buy them from us (at cost, of course). At first we didn’t get a lot of takers and we worried that we would have a lot left over, but as the day approached, everyone wanted them and we worried that we would run out instead.

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On the big day, we gathered at a neighborhood park. We made sure everybody had proper eye protection, and we sat down for a picnic. An eclipse is a long event and it was a hot, sunny afternoon, so we went prepared for the heat. A couple of people brought a tent for shade, which was great and served as a lovely projection screen. Many families had blankets to put down in shade areas. I remembered at the last minute that I really dislike having the hot sun on my face (and I have a redhead prone to sunburn!), so I made several full-face screens with large pieces of cardboard. I just cut a rectangle shape out in the middle top area and fastened my welder’s glass down with packing tape, and ta-da! –I could watch the eclipse in shady comfort.

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This particular eclipse was an annular solar eclipse.  The moon went exactly in front of the sun (in our area; this, of course, depends on where you are), but because the moon was at its furthest point in orbit, it did not cover the sun’s disk completely. We saw a “ring of fire” around the dark disk of the moon. It was an amazing experience to be able to watch the whole thing happen. During the long period of time while we watched the moon eat away at the sun bit by bit, we played around with shadows and projecting images, used binoculars to project the crescent sun onto anything handy, and marveled at how the shade of the trees made for thousands of crescents. The peak of the eclipse lasted just a few minutes, and we could see the shape of the sun’s disk changing moment by moment. For most of us, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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Check out NASA’s Eclipse Web Site to see what eclipses are going to happen around the world in the next few years. Maybe you will be lucky enough to have one nearby!  Australians, take note: you will get to see part of a very unusual kind of eclipse next month! Americans have to wait until 2017 for the next full solar eclipse and may wish to plan to travel to see it. Wherever and whenever you get the opportunity to see a solar eclipse, remember that preparation will help you have a great time.

* I took astronomy from Dr. Filippenko when I was in college, and enjoyed it a lot, so much so that I’m planning on using his Teaching Courses materials for my own kids next year.

Featured photo : Thomas Bresson. From Wikimedia Commons.

Janejane-emilyEmily homeschools two daughters in California.  She is a librarian who loves to quilt and embroider, and she’s a Bollywood addict.  Her favorite author is Diana Wynne Jones. She blogs about reading at Howling Frog Books.

Even More Science Apps, by Jen W.

Homeschooling With Technology

by Jen W.

Each day seems to bring more education-related apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms. However, not all of these are created equal. Here are some apps that my kids and I have found to be of great use as study tools or as methods of demonstration. It’s worth noting that there are many science apps that serve as little more than vehicles for flashcards or quiz questions; all of the apps on this list have more substance than that.

 Life Science:

  •  12979204503_02ee7056d6_s HudsonAlpha iCell (iPad, Android): This app gives students a 3D, easy-to-rotate view inside the three basic cell types: animal, bacteria, and plant. While viewing a specific cell type, students can tap the parts of the cell, which both zooms in on the part and provides a brief description. It provides three levels of knowledge: basic, intermediate and advanced. Basic is good for elementary (or lower level readers) while the intermediate and advanced are good for middle school through very basic college-level biology. I highly recommend this app as part of learning about cells and/or while working on microscope skills. It could use more information, such as the fact that a cell might contain thousands of organelles or show the internal structure of the mitochondria.
  • 12959942533_327553031e_s  D. Bones (iPad, Android): This is a great app for learning all about the skeletal system. It has three modes: a text that provides information about each bone in the body; in puzzle mode, students drag and drop parts of the skeleton with three different levels of difficulty; finally, quiz mode tests  students on their knowledge base using two different levels of difficulty. My only complaint is that it can a little hard to tap exactly where the app wants you to.
  •  12959862334_399813e5be_s Biology – Plant Handbook HD (iPad, Android): This is a wonderful high school level app designed to teach students about the biology of plants. It teaches about leaves, dissection types, flowers and more. There is also a free version that gives limited access, but could give you an idea of what this app is like before paying for it. Biology – Plant Handbook (free)
  • 12959863774_dc549a74db_s  Froguts Frog Dissection HD (iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire): This is a very realistic view of a frog dissection. It has male and female specimens and provides both dissection and 4 different practicum modes. It can be used either to help walk a student through a hands-on dissection (which is preferable to my mind) or could be used as an alternative to actual dissection (especially for those students for whom dissection might cause an ethical dilemma).
  •   12960082953_caf8cf0c31_sDK The Human Body App (iPad): This multi-award winning app is an amazing reference guide containing over 270 zoom-able illustrations, detailed videos, story pages and a testing tool. It covers all 12 systems of the human body: “integrated body, skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, skin, hair & nails, lymphatic & immune, digestive, urinary and reproductive.”

Earth Science:

  •  12960215463_ace9aa1707_sBack in Time (iPhone, iPad, Windows 8): This app gives an astounding view of the universe, allowing students to travel back in time to the moment of how scientists believe the Big Bang happened, through the vast stretch of time until the present day. There are animations, videos, timelines, and articles that discuss various phenomena. The one drawback to this app is that it takes up a lot of memory (over 600 MB), but the upside is that you don’t need to access the internet for the app to remain functional.
  • 12959577473_b668eea0f7_s Folds and Faults (iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire): This is a simple app that teaches students about the various types of folds and faults found in rock layers. It is a great little geology tool, especially if you are visiting an area that allows students to observe these in real life. It doesn’t have incredible depth or substance, but that is probably expected with its low price point.
  •  12959861594_fa38bfbc07_sWater Cycle HD (iPad): This is an audio-visual presentation of the water cycle. It includes photos, videos, and a Bloom’s taxonomy-based quiz function. This is one of the few apps in this list designed with younger students in mind.
  •  12959428475_a72b092a53_sSolar Walk (iPhone, iPad): This is another multi-award winning app. It serves as a 3D model of the solar system. You can view the galaxy as a whole, moons of other planets, interesting artificial satellites orbiting the earth, or a host of other databases. There are so many features available within this app that they are impossible to list in this short blurb.

Physics:

  • 12959862534_fd8ec85a94_s Monster Physics (iPhone, iPad): This app allows students to build and operate various types of vehicles. They must use their vehicles to complete over 50 different “missions.” Monster Physics Lite (free)
  •  12960646975_d88467148b_sBuilding Serial Circuits (iPad): Students will learn about circuits via 3D graphics and 2D symbols. They will build various types of circuits using wires, switches, batteries and light bulbs. This would be a great supplement or prelude to a similar hands-on activity. Building Serial Circuits Lite (free)
  • 12960646975_d88467148b_s  Building Parallel Circuits (iPad): Using 3D graphics and 2D electronic symbols, students will build simple parallel circuits by using wires, batteries, switches, and light bulbs. By constructing their own closed circuit with two light bulbs, they will develop a deeper understanding of series and parallel circuits and discover that electricity follows the path of least resistance. Building Parallel Circuits Lite (free)
  • 12959864634_ccb7c13a14_s Coaster Physics (iPhone, iPad): Students learn about physics while building roller coasters. You can create and ride all sorts of roller coaster tracks while learning how speed, acceleration, energy and g-force change at different points in the track.

Chemistry:

  • 12959577613_0479a3d14d_s  The Elements: A Visual Exploration (iPhone, iPad): This is a beautiful reference that takes students on a visual journey through the period table. You can read about each element and see a visual sample.
  •  12959429115_182c363938_s Molecules (iPhone, iPad): This app allows students to view and manipulate 3D models of various molecules. They can download simple or complex molecules as they need to view them. The one downside to this app is that it would be nice if there was a better catalog of available molecules that students could explore.
  • 12959864904_27138afc22_s  ChemLab (iPhone, iPad): This app tests students’ knowledge of chemical compounds in a fun setting. If you are creating carbon monoxide, then you must add one carbon and one oxygen to the formula. Get it wrong and things go “boom!” While formulas are given after the fact, a pre-knowledge of chemical formulas would be useful.
Jen jen_wW.– Jen is born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

Co-op Chemistry, by Cheryl

Mentos and diet soda, in cold weather

Science With Friends

 

My kids love doing science experiments! I really do too, but with everything else we do at home, the experiments sometimes get put on the back burner. I wanted to be sure that my eight-year-old science enthusiast had a year full of science experiments. To be sure I followed my plan, I signed up to teach a class for our co-op. I have never had so much fun with a group of seven, eight, and nine-year-olds!

We have spent the last two months studying the basics of chemistry. We have covered atoms; the periodic table; mixtures; four kinds of reactions; four types of evidence of reactions; polymers, and more.

Experiments we have done so far:

Mixing things found around the house to check for reactions: baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, salt water, egg whites, and milk. As we mixed items, we recorded what happened in a chart. The kids loved baking soda with vinegar and baking soda with lemon juice. Milk and lemon juice was another fun reaction. We looked for bubbles or precipitation in these experiments.

We also spent a week studying the pH of various household liquids by mixing them with red cabbage juice. Acids turned our juice from purple to pink, bases turned it green/blue, and neutral items did not change the color. We also neutralized the acids by adding bases to watch the color turn back to purple. The kids had a great time mixing things back and forth to watch the color changes.

We tested mixtures. Our first project was to make a cake. We made a nearly homogeneous mixture as we stirred the mix, eggs, oil, and water then we added giant drops of frosting to turn it into a heterogeneous mixture. I think this was their favorite experiment because we ate it! While that cooked we tried mixing oil and water based liquids to see what would happen.

We checked for starch in food items with iodine.

The second favorite experiment was making gooey putty. Mix equal parts liquid starch and white glue to create a polymer that is fun to play with!

Our final chemistry experiment was the “Mentos in diet soda” reaction. We read about the reason for the reaction, discussed what we thought would happen with different types of soda and then we went outside with eight bottles (four types of soda) and two flavors of Mentos. We had a soda fountain show! Our soda did not shoot as high as Mythbusters’ did. Our hypothesis is that the soda and Mentos (which sat in my car all night in the freezing cold) do not react as strongly when cold. We plan to test it again when it is warmer outside.

The kids have been introduced to some important foundational concepts of chemistry as well as the idea of the scientific method in experimentation. We are only halfway through our class. I cannot wait to get started on physics with these kids!

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her cherylwhole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.