Tangrams are simple seven-piece puzzles that build visual-spatial skills. Kids and adults alike enjoy manipulating the standardized pieces in the set, which includes a parallelogram, a square, and three sizes of right triangles. The pieces can be fit together to form a square, and in fact, when the puzzle pieces are made of wood, they are often stored in a square wooden frame. The real fun and thinking occur while moving the shapes around to form "pictures" or shapes. There is a real challenge in matching shapes that are already drawn out as puzzles to solve. Continue reading »
It's not part of the traditional curriculum in United States schools or homeschool families -- but playing chess is a part of the curriculum in about thirty countries around the world. According to Dr. Teresa Parr of MATCH, there are five significant educational advantages to chess for homeschoolers (and others) to consider. Continue reading »
Where can you find over 100 free high quality unit studies? Boy Scouts! The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program offers great merit badge materials to its Scouts, which my older sons used on their way to achieving their Eagle Scout ranks. Completing merit badge requirements was often a great addition to their study of science, history, culture, government, business, and technology, and they also learned some great life skills for staying fit and healthy, managing money, and dealing with emergencies. Continue reading »
In an earlier post, I described how hosting an international exchange student can be a benefit to a homeschooling family. Today I'd like to tell you a little more about the nuts and bolts of hosting a student in the United States. These details can help you to know what to expect when hosting an exchange student and can ease the transition for the whole family. Continue reading »
One of my favorite "instead of curriculum" titles is the book Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists by Joel Best.
This book is a great book for your high schooler to read. While it can be paired with a traditional study of statistics, it also works well on its own for kids who need to understand statistics from either a consumer point of view or for fact-checking research or stories in the media. Continue reading »
During my busy season helping families meet Virginia's annual evidence of progress requirement for homeschoolers, I enjoy seeing all the resources parents use to help their children learn. This year, one of the resources a child was most excited about was DIY.org.
At DIY.org, children can choose to complete challenges for different "Skills," earning both virtual and real embroidered patches (purchasing the patches is optional and is the only cost involved in the program), and developing a portfolio of videos and photos showing when challenges are accomplished. Continue reading »
Recently on TheHomeSchoolMom's Facebook page someone asked for recommendations for her soon to be 4 year old. It took me back to when I had a 4 year old and a 1 year old and had recently decided to homeschool. I. Was. So. Excited. What curriculum should I use? How should we schedule our days? (I bought Managers of Their Homes and carefully scheduled every moment of our days and then proceeded to never once use the schedule.) I made lesson plans and felt organized and believed that my kids were going to get the best education ever. And honestly, we had great fun with some of the activities. So after all these years (my kids are now 19 and 16), what curriculum would I suggest for a 4 year old? Continue reading »
What do you get when your child combines a unit study and notebooking with a blog? You get the homeschool version of a Virtual Learning Environment (a fancy way of saying learning that is enhanced by the Internet). In my role as a homeschool evaluator in Virginia, I teach about and encourage other uses of blogs—most commonly as documentation of learning—a blogfolio or electronic portfolio. The two uses are slightly different, because the blog as a portfolio is an evaluation tool (to be used by "others"), and the blog as an online unit study—a virtual homeschooling notebooking project—is actually a learning tool (used by the learner). Of course, sometimes there is a cross-over.
One of the most accessible basic logic books on our book shelf is The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning by Nathan and Hans Bluedorn. The book helps kids (and adults) spot errors in thinking -- logical fallacies often used in an effort to persuade others. Learning about fallacious thinking is valuable for academic reasons, but it's also important to being a good consumer (recognizing how advertising works) and to being a good citizen (understanding how political communication works). Continue reading »
Working with electronic circuit boards may sound ambitious or advanced, but my kids enjoyed playing with these as part of their science and technology learning when they were in their early elementary years. They learned many concepts about creating circuits from hands-on play, in particular by using a kid-friendly Snap Circuits® Kit from Elenco. Continue reading »
The kids had a bunch of boards, some old nails, a hand saw, and a few hammers. They also had the two most important ingredients, the desire to make something and the freedom to do so.
They spent an afternoon planning their tree fort, enthusiastically arguing over whose plan was best. Their first few attempts failed spectacularly. They were undaunted, even bragged a little bit about the noise the boards made falling down. Several of them asked family members for advice. A few others paged through books and watched YouTube videos as they tried to figure out basic construction techniques. They started again, measuring more carefully as they built a frame. Continue reading »
A great activity for your homechool group or co-op is a library scavenger hunt. Working with your librarian, plan a gathering for homeschoolers that includes sending the kids throughout the library to find resources, so they'll get to know the library better. If the scavenger hunt is promoted by the library, you might even find some more homeschooling friends in your community if they show up at the scavenger hunt. You can organize the kids into pairs or teams (and have the youngest kids hunt with an adult), and send them out with a list of things for each child to find or do in the library. A sample scavenger list might ... Continue reading »
Hosting an international exchange student can be a great experience for homeschooling families. We hosted a student from Ecuador, and while the commitment can seem daunting, having Isaac José with us for a school year enriched our lives.
What are some of the benefits of hosting an international student? Continue reading »
"Bring me bad writing," I told my two homeschool co-op classes of middle school and elementary age writers. "Incorrect writing, wrong apostrophes, sentence fragments, typos, passive voice. Horrible stuff. Bring it."
The next week, they marched in with an array of bad writing they'd found on websites, on convenience store signs, on gas pumps, in a letter from a college administrator, in text books, in novels, and in their own journals.
They had snapped photos, hand copied passages, bookmarked pages, and printed screen shots. Continue reading »
Winter is a wonderful time to take Alphabet Walks with your children. In my part of the U.S., this means bundling up for the cold weather, but hunting for the ABCs in nature may be just the thing to get you and the kids moving on darker winter days.
The main object of an Alphabet Walk is to find letters that have been unintentionally formed in the outdoors. Perhaps crossing tree branches form an X against the blue sky, or a cat curved on your deck forms a perfect C. A front door wreath on your neighbor's house is an O. The brickwork above the windows in an old Main Street building creates a V. Continue reading »
Here are some of the hands-on tools homeschoolers use to help their kids make sense of the basic concept of multiplication as well as related multiplication facts. Give them a try! Continue reading »
You can drill and kill the times tables to help your kids learn multiplication facts – or you can play math games with them. Here are some of the math games that helped our sons practice multiplication painlessly. Continue reading »
When I was in high school and college, my mom clipped newspaper and news magazine articles for me. She left them for me on the steps to my bedroom or put them in an envelope and mailed them to me at with a handwritten note in the margin -- "Thought you'd be interested in this" or "What do you think about this news?" Today, I do something similar with my teen and twenty-something sons, only I do it electronically. Continue reading »
As regular readers know, I'm a big advocate of using accessible learning methods instead of curriculum. For some homeschoolers, this is in addition to their regular curriculum, and for others it's truly instead of any packaged formal curriculum.
I'm used to hearing that you can't learn math this way -- that's a common chorus among homeschoolers -- but I was in a recent conversation with a homeschool mom who was all for the "instead-of-curriculum" approach except for handwriting. And by handwriting, she meant printing--learning to print. Continue reading »
This year in my role as a homeschool evaluator, I met a number of tweens and teens who are interested in fashion. As we went through their portfolio of work and talked about their year, I was fascinated with the ways they had woven their interest in fashion with their academic studies. Two of the teens I met with had taken their interest in current fashion into the past -- studying the typical dress and accessorizing of women and men in earlier periods of history. They also took their fashion interest international -- studying the current typical dress of modern-day people in other parts of the world.
Both of these girls (who did not know each other -- they had arrived at this independently) had done extensive research to be able to portray the styles of other times and other places, and they could explain how the fashion reflected the culture, religious beliefs, gender roles, classes and roles in society, and daily life. They were articulate about the historical times and geography of the world as they discussed the observations they had made about fashion in these distant centuries and far-off places. Continue reading »